Emergency! New house with extreme pH 8.8!

MUTT

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I just moved from Oregon to Tacoma, WA. My old house had tap water that was so acidic it barely registered as a 6.0 and new house water is off the scales hard at an 8.5+. I don't know what to do, it's such a drastic difference. I worked hard to keep my two beloved boys 60F for traveling out of state on a 100F day, and to keep the water cycle from crashing. But this was unanticipated. I was frantically trying to find solutions at 4:30am and decided to fridge them. I got two hours of sleep, and here I am! Chasing my tail. Desperate for options after searching online to no avail.

For now I could buy distilled water jugs by the gallon. They cohabit a 40 gal (they're wonderful roommates together) so that's a lot of water. But it could get them set up on something that's not the fridge. It's not truly a solution.

From what I've read ph-down and/or things like driftwood and peat moss can lower the pH but not to the levels I'd need. Every time I did a WC if I was using chemicals to try to stabalize it I may cause too much fluctuation anyway? I looked into reverse osmosis setups to distill water myself but they're prohibitively expensive. I was really hoping I could just gradually acclimate them for weeks over to the new pH, but everything I'm reading says a pH that high is too dangerous. Apparently my new city has had a lead-in-water problem and dealt with that by dumping something in the water supply that makes it crazy hard. Cloudy even. This is what I've just heard, anyway.

If I knew for sure that they could go to someone who would treat them right, I'd send them off free to a good home in a heartbeat, because I'm so worried about hurting them. But I just moved here and have no connections as of yet. I may start hitting up WA-state axolotl breeders/hobbyists I can find online. I don't know what else to do.

Sorry for the length and tone of this! I'll be the first to admit I'm stressed and overwhelmed. I just moved, and so much is going wrong but these boys are a higher priority than anything else right now. If you read this far, thank you for your time!
 
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Murk

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Oof, that does sound like an unpleasant situation.
There are solutions to this (an extremely good cycle, some peat or tannines should be able to bring even this pH down in small amounts) but all of those are very long term.
I'm not familiar enough with specific chemical reactions to give a safe answer on it. I know CO2 set-ups can bring the pH down (but for safety, you'd need growing plants to then use the CO2). I have heard about people diluting vinegar for pH balance, but I can't give any guarantees on that.

For now, do you maybe have acces to rain water, or even pond/river/lake water? The former can be a great solution in wet regions (which Washington is, if I'm not mistaken) but takes a while to set up (especially in summer, sadly). The latter is frowned upon (rightly so) with regards to safety (parasites etc.) and not always legal, so even if it is an option one should be careful with it.
 

MUTT

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I very much appreciate the reply, Murk! It calmed me down a bit in my mad scramble even just to hear someone commiserate with me. The rain water idea is intriguing, and I'm wanting to research it more. At the very least, for local/native animals.

In the meantime, for my boys, I've combined a ton of tactics and it's so far so good. I'm very thankful to have an old and well-established water cycle that didn't crash during the move (kept the sand in the tank wet with two inches of water in there, kept the lotls in huge Tupperwares full of their tank water, and sealed the filter media in tank water as well. It all got to go right back into their tank).

Now I'm keeping my 40 gallon at 20 gallons, and bought a new filter (old filter media in there) that's both for 20 gallons and hangs on the side rather than the back, for the lower water level. It's been easier to keep cool and to keep pH levels in check, with less water. The filter now also has a "water softening pillow" inside, and I bought new driftwood for the setup. The only chemical I'm adding at all is the recommended amount of SafeStart I always use. And just using one small jug of distilled for water top offs. The tank is currently about 1/2 and 1/2 old water and new tap water, and the lotls were gradually drip acclimated before adding them. It's been two days now and they seem to be doing just fine. My picky eater isn't wanting to eat much, but my ravenous eater is eating like a champ. That's pretty usual behavior. The pH is actually sitting at a comfy 7.0-7.5ish because of the half and half mixture.

I think I'll be doing smaller water changes for awhile, as all other water perameters are reading good, and the boys will hopefully become used to water that's a little harder, but never have to swim around in anything over 8.0, hopefully! We'll see! Again, this was so long and I apologize lol. But it helps me sort my thoughts.
 
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    They are about 2-3 inches long and I have them in a bare bottom tank
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    @MuggleMiChu I would say try live black/blood worms untell they are full or just turn there head away ( that's what mine do) if that does not work try to get some live brine shrimp and see if they eat that. baby axolotl prefer live food over frozen food as the frozen food is too cold for them or they can't eat it in one go( that's if you do the blocks) mine eat chopped up frozen thawed shrimp. as for them not eating from what I have experienced with my second axolotl, I got her when she was about an inch long and she ate every day, when they start getting 3-4 inches long they will gradually slow down there eating. and if you really want to do substrate I would do sand because if they do ingest a little bit it won't hurt them.
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    Thank you so much for the information and advice! They are eating again, they ate a lot today. I think it might have been stress from the move or digesting old food, I also noticed they ate some of the food left in the tank (I removed the rest). I’m going to keep the tank bare bottom.
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