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Thread: The use of baking soda as pH buffer

  1. #1
    Oyagoi Lam Nguyen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Portland, Oregon

    The use of baking soda as pH buffer

    I have heard of many hobbyists using it to increase KH and as pH buffer. I have also heard of many hobbyists who are against using it. Any thoughts on the use of baking soda as a pH buffer?

  2. #2
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    seattle, wa
    It's been my experience that in an emergency, it can make an immediate change for the better. But something more permanent needs to be made to act as a continual buffering as doctoring, monitoring etc on a daily basis get pretty old.

  3. #3
    Nisai MATTHEW's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Hey guys,

    OK....I use it. There, I stuck my toe in the pool But, let me tell you why. My source water has such a low amount in it, it is very difficult to test it. I also have a low GH, so I have to add GH to my pond to get it to the level of being able to test it. Dick and Lam both know me, and have seen my fish, but they probably didn't know I use baking soda until now. There you go, my secret weapon Seriously, I've been using it for years. Before I was using it, I was having a lot of issues with low PH, GH, KH and lots of swings. All resolved as soon as I started using the baking soda. I've heard people using oyster shells, but it requires such a large amount to make a difference. Now, on the other hand, I've never seen any pictures from Japan with a bag of baking soda in the background No expert but I would love to here how others do it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Baking soda revisited;

    The subject of using baking soda to raise pH has been around since the beginning of the aquarium hobby. No surprise as it is chemistry 101 and a quick solution to the issue of acid water.
    So as an emergency treatment for a pond crash, every hobbyist should have an unopened bag around the house to act as an emergency additive should you wake up some morning and the fish are at the waterfall and suds coat the sides of your pond! A pH of 6 will confirm that you have crashed!
    But in the case of koi and koi ponds, baking soda has a real downside that every beginner must know about.

    I will also provide an ounce of history to this subject at this point.
    Back in the early 1990s the old koi vet message board will filled with stories of pH crashes. And Dr Eric being a long time fish keeper, knew well that baking soda would reverse extremely low pH and bring the biofilter back from the edge again. This simple idea then went from an emergency technique to a mandatory daily ingredient in the pond after a while as newbies put everything and anything in their ponds that the internet recommended or even mentioned.
    It was at that time that NI saw the trend and stomped on it. Like many things in those days we all on NI took our lead from Waddington who pronounced that it ruined koi skin. Soon we all began jumping on Baking soda as an evil thing. And the board wars raged.
    Now I did indeed see the crummy skin on koi that were in baking soda dependent ponds. But something seemed to be missing in the conclusion? So when I wrote the water quality section in Koi Kichi 2 , I was careful to not vilify baking soda use too much but warned against it general use based on observations of fish in 'baking soda ponds'. After all it was just sodium bicarbonate!
    It was after my completion of the Koi kichi 2 section ( we were pressed for time and that book was never properly researched) that I came to a place of understanding regarding the use of baking soda and the greater dynamic of the buffering system of a pond.

    Today we still have the same truths regarding a closed system present that we had in 1995. That is, water under the ' influence' of koi's metabolic activities will do two things-- build with pollutants and two- become depleted of natural minerals, micro and macro nutrients.
    Secondly, koi are typically concieved and rasied in mellow water of Japan. In the case of surface water, it is soft and of a neutral'ish' pH. In the case of ground water it can be like ours in that the pH can be 7.8 and of a moderately hard composition. But koi do well ( non stressed ) when two things occur- 1) they don't experience a lot of 'change' in water parameters and 2) they can transfer and take in what's metabolicially needed in and easy fashion.

    So koi are very happy when they have ;
    1) a pH between 6.9- 7.6
    2) soft to moderately hard water
    3) oxygen saturation levels for temperature
    4) in a temperature range from 45F in winter to 84 F in summer. Idea metabolic ( most efficient) between 68- 74.
    5) when these paramters remain stable
    6) low bacteria count
    7) low nitrAte level
    8) undetectable ammonia and nitrIte levels.
    10) low DOC levels ( non detectable)

    This is all against the UNDERSTANDING that in a close system the koi ( and their stocking and feeding levels) are attempting to pull these parameters away from the idea.

    Punch line: Baking soda is harmless to koi and koi skin. But it is band aid. As such, it masks the underlying problem with the baking soda dependent pond. So just raising the pH so as to avoid a pH crash does ZERO towards correcting the underlying issues of the system. And that environment that requires baking soda is also one that will harm a fish's skin. How? in a dozen ways! the very THING that pulls pH down is also the thing that stresses the fish and punishes the fish metabolically speaking. High NitrAtes means 'old water' or an over active biofilter. This means that pH is also likley to fall. High DOC means lower pH and also high bacteria count and low ORP. And low oxygen. low pH could mean high carbon dioxide which is also common when there is low oxygen level.

    In short, baking soda is an enabler and should not reached for until and after you have properly stocked, not over fed and done your rountine maintenance ( water changes, sump dumps and maybe improved filtration).


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