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Chasing pH - Is a certain PH level a REQUIREMENT?

Posted by CAE ,Mar 8th 2021

First off, this is not meant to be a definitive article on pH. I am assuming most people reading this already have a decent grasp on what it is and what it does. It is one of those aquarium parameters which can fluctuate greatly between lights on and lights off. It tends to go down at night when nothing is performing photosynthesis and utilizing the extra carbon dioxide and up in the middle of the day when everything is.

A lot of aquarists who closely monitor this parameter will find that their system won’t really achieve a level of pH that experts say is ideal. That level is around 8.3 to 8.4. There could be several reasons for this situation. A very energy efficient house tends to build up more carbon dioxide inside of it than an older, more leaky house. A lot of people inside the house help drive up carbon dioxide. A lot of fish in your tank help drive up carbon dioxide. Keeping a window open in the room that the aquarium is in at all times is obviously not practical. That’s how you get werewolf problems.

Jokes aside, aquarists have come up with many different ways to try to help stabilize and drive up their pH numbers. Methods like running the protein skimmer airline through a wall or window to the outside, running a well lit refugium on a reverse daylight cycle, using a carbon dioxide scrubber which is a canister that contains a media which will soak up carbon dioxide, all have their place and purpose.

Should you be eminently concerned if your pH is running more like 7.8 to 8.0 or so? Not really. First off I would say make sure that your pH probe is well calibrated and if you are using a colorimetric hobby grade test kit in order to check pH then just understand that that’s pretty difficult to get a real accurate number from. My question to you would be are you looking into the aquarium and seeing some sort of issue with the corals health or is it just the number that is freaking you out? 


I could show you many really nice reef tanks that run with a lower pH but don’t have any sort of major problems. Also understand that pH is only one of many parameters that you could freak out about and simply bumping the numbers up higher are not going to be a magic cure for whatever might be ailing your tank. It’s possible your tank is not doing well for a myriad of reasons. Hopefully it has nothing to do with werewolves.

I did not write this article in order to say that monitoring pH is fruitless and attempting to trend those numbers upwards is without merit. I also did not write this article in order to give you the definitive answer on what to do about it. Your biggest Takeaway should be to keep your windows shut so werewolves don’t get inside your house.

No but seriously, observation of your aquarium’s inhabitants, tweaking parameters gently and slowly and observing what they do to the corals over a long period of time, and tweaking things about your aquarium in order to make it a better version of itself are all part of the reasons this is an enjoyable hobby. If stuff like this really gets under your skin, then you might need to find a different hobby. It’s also possible that you might be trying to keep specimens that require a little bit more wisdom and you should be honest with yourself about that.

Don’t let a parameter like pH drive you nuts and make this is a chore instead of a hobby. It’s not necessary. If you turn this hobby into a chore then shortly your tank will suffer and your desire to keep an aquarium will also suffer.

Chasing pH - Is a certain PH level a REQUIREMENT?