The aim of this study was to determine the preferred pH in silver catfish Rhamdia quelen juveniles acclimated to different water hardness and the effect of shelters and infection by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Fish were acclimated for two weeks at different water hardness levels (4, 24, 50, or 100 mg CaCO3 L-1) and then transferred to a polyethylene tube with a pH gradient ranging from 3.5 to 11.7 and maintaining the same hardness. The position of the fish in the pH gradient was observed at 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 h after transfer. Acclimation to different water hardness did not change pH preference of uninfected silver catfish (pH 7.30-7.83), and the presence of a shelter at the preferred pH or outside this preferred pH did not change the chosen pH range, either. Consequently silver catfish favored the acid-base regulation over shelter seeking tendency. Juveniles infected with I. multifiliis acclimated to water hardness of 24 mg CaCO3 L-1 preferred alkaline pH (9.08-9.79). This choice is not explained by the higher Na+ levels at alkaline pH compared to neutral pH because infected and uninfected fish choose the same waterborne Na+ levels in a Na+ gradient with the same pH.
Behavior; Calcium; Hardness; Ichthyophthirius multifiliis ; Shelter