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Ph questions, etc.

Hello all...
I've been on the Aquatic Pants listserv for a few weeks and appreciate
all the information shared here.  Now I have a few questions:
I have a thirty gallon long tank with:

   * A two bulb strip light, one bulb came with and I replaced one with
     a blue actinic.
   * Tank has been established for only a few months.
   * No substrate, using small gravel from local quarry.
   * No CO2
   * Also using a hunk of store-bought driftwood and broken pieces of
     sandstone steps for decoration.
   * Running a Penguin emperor biowheel setup.  Neglibible ammonia or
   * Had forty neons and assorted kuhli loaches and otos very happy with
     the jungle val, java fern, cryptos, anubias and assorted swords.
     All are growing slowly but fine.  The tank has just reached the
     point where the plants are finally overtaking the algae.
   * Someone recommends I use "Amazon Rain" to soften the water when I
     purchase five rainbows.  After reading the label, it sounds like a
     good idea, especially with all of the tetras in the tank.
   * Also do a five gallon water change.
   * Within a few days all of the otos, kuhlis, and neons are dead
   * I had done the same thing with my 75 gallon...lost no fish, Ph in
     the 75 gallon is 6.8.  There is no sandstone in the 75 gallon.
   * Ammonia and nitrite in the 30 still OK (all the fish die off barely
     tweaked the readings - those biowheels seem to work very well...)
     but Ph at about 7.8.  Any suggestions on the culprit?  Five gallons
     of tap water?  Sandstone?

Thanks for any help - Jim