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Trouble with CO2

A few weeks ago I asked members of this group for advice on raising the KH
and using CO2 injection to adjust the pH of my freshwater tank (KH =1). I
keep discus and angels and have recently tried to grow plants. Normally, the
KH of the water is 1, so I was limited in how low I could get the pH using
CO2. When I raised the KH to 3 and turned up the CO2 the fish showed extreme
O2 deprivationčrapid breathing at the surface until exhausted. I never did
get the pH to less than 7.4. After a few days the membrane diffuser clogged,
so I replaced it with an air stone, but could not get the pH below 7.4 (most
of the time it was higher). I lost 2 baby discus and one of my angels almost
died. All the fish had difficulty breathing. Facing apparent disaster, I
turned off the CO2 and increased the air bubbles to increase the O2 level.
Today, the fish (those that didn't die) look better.

I bought another diffuser from m3 that goes in the tank with a power head.
It will come this weekend and I want to try to adjust the pH (6.8 to 6.4)
and the KH (3 to 5) again. If it doesn't work this time, my next message
will be to put the equipment up for sale!!!

Seriously, should I be surprised that the fish couldn't breath at a KH of 3
and a pH of 7.4 up to 8? In the past, a KH of 1 and a pH anywhere between
6.4 and 7.4 didn't seem to affect the fish. Also, sometimes I get the
impression that the recommendations I read on this site (and elsewhere)
refer to plants but are not good for fish, particularly discus. Is this
balancing act between keeping discus and growing plants more difficult than
with other fish?

Thanks again.

John Russo, Jr.