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post #1 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 01:14 PM Thread Starter
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some unexpected test results

OK, so I set up a new 75 gal 2 or 3 weeks ago. No fish yet, just (extremely miserable) plants. Finally sat down this morning to test the water to see how the cycle was going. THe cycle is going just fine, but that's not the issue. pH tested at 6.2. Water in my established tanks (and out of my tap) is about 7.8. Hmmm... what's going on here? Then I tested hardness, which in my other tanks is about 4dKH and GH of 12 drops (still not sure how GH should be expressed... maybe someone can help me out there.) Anyway, in the new tank KH is still 4, but GH was almost unmeasurable....it took 26 drops (using API test kit). The conversion chart with the test kit only goes as high as 12 drops. What the heck? And can that be why all the plants are turning various shades of black/brown/and grey? My lighting, substrate, and ferts are within normal ranges, I'm pretty sure. CO2 is small 1 liter DIY + excel (no, I'm not overdosing). Planning on setting up a pressurized CO2 this weekend. But puzzled about these wacky readings. Any ideas?
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post #2 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 02:40 PM
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What is in the tank?

substrate, decorations, ferts etc?
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post #3 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 03:22 PM
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GH is measured the same way KH is.

German degrees of hardness is the way API tests show. 1 drop = 1 degree of hardness. So 26 drops is 26 degrees. This is very hard water. Since it is so different from the tap water I would be looking for a source of calcium or magnesium in the tank or in your fertilizing schedule.
Any coral sand? Limestone rock or substrte? Are you doing any sort of GH Booster? Epsom salt?

KH of 4 degrees is nice, usually enough to keep the pH stable. It is not in your tank, though.

Can you test the tap water pH, and repeat the pH test on some tap water that has sat out for 24-48 hours. Sometimes the pH change is something to do with the tap water, not so much the tank.

Things that lower the pH are usually organic in nature, such as peat moss in the filter or substrate.

Please tell us all you can about your tank and how you are dosing things.

Nitrogen cycle does not always go too well when the pH is so low. The bacteria do not seem to thrive in such low pH.
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post #4 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 03:34 PM
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The most important missing information here is the lighting. What lights are you using?

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post #5 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 04:02 PM Thread Starter
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For lighting I have 2x54T5HO, so I think that should be pretty good. I'm surprised you're asking about that.... does lighting somehow impact pH or GH?

As for what's in the tank... all kinds of stuff. Substrate is about 3/4 inch potting soil/sand mix on the bottom, then a few inches of Aquariumplants substrate (equivalent of Turface, I have been told) with about half a bag of eco-complete thrown in. Lots of various rocks, but none that are limestone and none that I'm not also using in my other tank. I'm gonna do a test and put a couple in a bucket of tap water and see if the parameters change. No shells or coral or anything like that. Also, one big plastic fake stump bought from Petsmart.

I'm perfectly willing to believe something is lowering my pH, or raising my hardness, but I am completely puzzled about what could be doing both things simultaneously.....
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post #6 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, and for ferts.... I bought this dry PMDD mix from Aquariumfertilizer.com, which contains 1 part each of Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Plantex CSM+B. I have been dosing according to their instructions. Plus adding a miscellaneous teaspoon of liquid ferts (Flourish, Leaf Zone, etc) every now and then.

I am definitely having some algae issues. However, I figured this was because of my low CO2 (getting ready to set up pressurized any day now). I haven't thought that fert issues would have an effect on pH or GH. I was also hoping to begin to get some fish in there (algae eaters) pretty soon to helpm with that. But not until I figure out what's going on with pH and GH.
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post #7 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 04:40 PM
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No, lighting doesn't affect KH or GH.

With the hodgepodge of stuff in the tank it will be hard to isolate the problem. good luck!
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post #8 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 06:35 PM
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I asked about the lighting because it is the amount of light you have that drives almost everything else in the tank. You have high light, which means the plants need all of the nutrients, in non-limiting amounts, and good CO2 concentration. You aren't dosing any phosphates. When you don't dose phosphates, plant growth drops way down, and the plants are unhealthy. You don't have any CO2 to speak of - one DIY bottle is essentially no CO2 for that size tank. So, the plants have to find carbon somewhere else, and with that much light, they probably wont find nearly enough. Again, unhealthy plants, growing slowly, but with high light trying to force fast growth.

GH test kits, specifically the API kits, are not dependable. They may work well initially, but also may never work at all after that. I have had 3 of those, and every one failed to work very soon after I bought it. The failure was just as you describe - you add tens of drops and never get the color change. So, you very likely have normal GH.

A pH of 6.2 is normal, especially if there are some tannins in the water, or if you have good CO2 concentration, or if you have peat moss or other "softening" material somewhere in the system - the filter, the substrate, etc.

I think once you get a pressurized CO2 system set up, and use a drop checker to encourage you to raise the bubble rate high enough for it to give you reasonably good CO2 concentration, and start dosing some phosphates, like KH2PO4 or Fleet Enema, you will have healthy, fast growing plants, and you won't care what the pH, KH or GH are.

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post #9 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-06-2010, 08:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
GH test kits, specifically the API kits, are not dependable. They may work well initially, but also may never work at all after that.
.
So would this pretty much go for all liquid tests? what about KH tests? What would you suggestion on better testing?
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post #10 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-07-2010, 03:09 AM
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3/4 inch potting soil Often high in organic matter, may lower pH.
a few inches of Aquariumplants substrate (equivalent of Turface, I have been told) Removes KH from the water, but not GH. Can reduce the KH from 5 degrees to 0 degrees, and drop the pH to 'below the test limits' (been there, done that)
Eco Complete There is some that can affect water hardness, but I am not sure of the details.
various rocks, but none that are limestone...bucket test... Good to test in a bucket. One at a time, each of the things in the tank.
Also, one big plastic fake stump bought from Petsmart.I have seen some weird things from fake stumps and other decor. If the other things do not show where the problem is, figure out a way to test the stump.

Are you testing these things in the AM or the PM?
Plants will remove CO2 through the day, and it will build back up at night.
pH will show low in the AM, and climb through the day, unless you are adding enough CO2 to offset this. Then the tank will show acidic all the time.
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post #11 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-07-2010, 04:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nue View Post
So would this pretty much go for all liquid tests? what about KH tests? What would you suggestion on better testing?
I found GH test kits to be much less dependable than KH kits. The last time I wanted badly to know my tank water GH I used a kit I had purchased less than a year before. The kit didn't work at all. So, I purchased another one, and it didn't work the first time I tried it. Then I purchased another manufacturers kit (I don't recall which one it was). It worked poorly, in that the color was very faint. So, I bought a third manufacturers kit. It worked normally - how accurately I don't know. The next time I used that kit a few months later it still worked, but the color was much fainter. Apparently it is hard to make a good GH test kit.

Very few of us ever calibrate our test kits, so we just assume that the readings they give are correct. Since there is rarely a good reason to test anyway, the possible incorrect reading does little harm if any. That is one reason I almost never test my water for anything. If you really are going to depend on the test result for something important, like determining how much of something to dose, you should calibrate the kit before using it, each time you use it. Remember, most test kits use organic dyes to give the colors you see, and dyes are notorious for being unstable.

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post #12 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-07-2010, 03:36 PM
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Magnesium sulfate (in your list of fertilizers you add) will raise the GH.
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post #13 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-07-2010, 04:47 PM
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Don't mess with API hardness kits, they're junk for the reasons Hoppy mentioned.
Salifert has been plenty reliable for me, and I use it regularly (reef tank).
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post #14 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-07-2010, 06:34 PM
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I use the Hagen Nutrifin KH/GH test kit. It uses different solutions than API. They are a different color and they last longer than API's GH test kit. The kits work quite well. The results are in ppm. You can convert the results to dKH or dGH if you wish by dividing by 17.86.

Hagen KH/GH test kit
http://www.hagen.com/usa/aquatic/pro...01078300020101

If your GH is high enough, you can use Hagen's GH and Ca test kits to determine the GH, Ca and Mg concentration.

Hagen Ca test kit
http://www.hagen.com/usa/aquatic/pro...01078500020101

I use LaMotte's Alkalinity test kit too. It is quite accurate. It changes color three times. You have the beginning color, end point color and past end point color.
http://www.marinedepot.com/LaMotte_K...FITKAL-vi.html

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post #15 of 41 (permalink) Old 02-07-2010, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
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Great advice everyone, thanks. In my case I'm pretty confident that the API test kit is close enough. My test results for the water out of the tap matches the results on the report I downloaded form the water company. What caught my attention was how water from my established tank could be so far off from the water in the new tank. They both have pretty much the same stuff in them. But obviously something is throwing things off. Here are some thoughts re: your responses:

Hoppy: Phosphates... yep, you're right. There are no phosphates in the PMDD drops (not sure why...) Do I remember reading that in a mature tank fish food and wate is a sufficient source of phosphate? Since I don't have fish yet, the phosphate could be noticably absent. And yes, the relative lack of CO2 I know is a limiting factor (but I have been dosing excel...) So can I put in some fish food (rather than going out and buying an enema kit)?

As for plant performance in the tank so far: crypts are doing fine (miraculously, they did not melt). Hygro and hornwort are growing OK. Swords and java fern are doing terrible. Anachris and vals disintegrated completely almost upon first contact with the water. Can anything be deduced from that rundown?

Another question: could the crazy hard water be impacting plant health too? or are plants fine with that and it's just the light/co2/ferts I need to worry about?

Diana: to follow up on your comments on the substrate... Turface (the Aquariumplants stuff) can lower pH?? Really? Aaargh... I did tons of research and do not remember reading about that. For the potting soil, yes I was aware that could lower pH, but I didn't think the quantity I put in would lower it that much, and given that I was starting with 7.8, I figured it could stand to drop some.

GH: are there any common culprits I should be on the lookout for? Is there some way to "test" my rocks?? (Bucket test, yes that's underway now). And if it really is off the charts high, is that no big deal, or something I should worry about and really get to the bottom of? I do plan on making this a fish aquarium...

Thanks gang!
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