pH, GH, KH issues!! Help! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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pH, GH, KH issues!! Help!

I set up my 10 gal 6 weeks ago. When I do 25% wc the pH shoots up from 6.4 to 7.8 (tap water pH is 8.2) How do I lower my tap water pH to 6.4 before adding it to my aquarium? GH and KH are also very different.

pH: 6.4
GH: between 125-143 (adding Equilibrium as a fert)
KH: between 107-125
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite:0
Nitrate:30

Tap water:
pH 8.2
GH: 196-214
KH:161

No inhabitants yet, but will be betta, ghost shrimp, snail. I may add crushed coral to increase KH for invertebrates.
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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 02:13 AM
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Always include the units. I assume the GH and KH are reported in ppm? (same as mg/l)
Quote:
pH: 6.4
GH: between 125-143 (adding Equilibrium as a fert)
KH: between 107-125
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite:0
Nitrate:30

Tap water:
pH 8.2
GH: 196-214
KH:161
GH in the tank (7-8 degrees) is lower than the GH in the tap (11-12 degrees) by almost 50%. This is odd. How are you lowering it? Especially when you say you are adding Equilibrium, which raises GH?
KH in the tank (6-7 degrees) is lower than the KH in the tap (9 degrees) by about 25-33%. This is odd, how are you lowering it?
The pH in the tank seems quite low, too.

Anyway, to make the tap water = the tank water:
To raise the GH add Equilibrium. You could add Calcium sulfate and magnesium sulfate in the right ratios if you are adding enough Equilibrium already.
To raise the KH add bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) or potassium bicarbonate. If you add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 30 gallons of water this will raise the KH 2 German degrees of hardness. This will probably also raise the pH.
The water company often adds something to the water to keep the pH up. Low pH is bad for the pipes. I do not know how to get that out.
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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 02:19 AM
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With no inhabitants, how did you achieve a nitrate level of 30 ppm? Are you dosing fertilizers? Are you using peat? Like Diana, I do not understand why your tank has a low pH, especially if you are using tap as your water source. Are you adding CO2?

It is hard to make a diagnosis with the information you provided.

Mike
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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 05:01 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Always include the units. I assume the GH and KH are reported in ppm? (same as mg/l)


GH in the tank (7-8 degrees) is lower than the GH in the tap (11-12 degrees) by almost 50%. This is odd. How are you lowering it? Especially when you say you are adding Equilibrium, which raises GH?
KH in the tank (6-7 degrees) is lower than the KH in the tap (9 degrees) by about 25-33%. This is odd, how are you lowering it?
The pH in the tank seems quite low, too.

Anyway, to make the tap water = the tank water:
To raise the GH add Equilibrium. You could add Calcium sulfate and magnesium sulfate in the right ratios if you are adding enough Equilibrium already.
To raise the KH add bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) or potassium bicarbonate. If you add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 30 gallons of water this will raise the KH 2 German degrees of hardness. This will probably also raise the pH.
The water company often adds something to the water to keep the pH up. Low pH is bad for the pipes. I do not know how to get that out.
Thank you for the reply, Diana!

I think you understood it the other way around. My TAP water pH, KH, and GH are not low. They are high. So I'm trying to lower the pH of my tap water that will be added to the aquarium.

Yes, GH and KH are ppm. I am not doing anything to lower the GH or KH. YES THIS IS ODD and frustrating! My TAP water GH, KH, and pH are HIGH then plummet substantially when I add it to the aquarium (a few days after the 25% wc).

However, I do suspect the substrate (UP Aqua Sand) could be lowering the pH because the package says pH of 6.5-7.0. My other tank (a little 5 gal) has inert gravel and only 2 anubias with no pH issues (8.0, the same as my TAP water).

This is my 1st planted tank so I'm making newbie mistakes. When I initially set it up, plants kept floating out of the substrate. I battled this for a couple weeks until they took root. When I pruned dying leaves, the smallest bump would cause them to float out of the substrate. I have pruned a lot of dying leaves in 6 weeks. (I ordered my plants online and they were shipped for 5 days. I think that stressed them as well as being shoved back into the substrate repeatedly.) I believe the Nitrates are high due to dead plant matter I've been removing.

I was attempting to follow Sudeep Mandal's blog "How to set up a low-tech planted tank" based on Tom Barr's method. As long as it's heavily planted and growing well, no water changes are required. I thought "Great this will be lower maintenance!" Haha...WRONG! Things are going very wrong and require water changes. (Because I'm a newbie!)

Plants are not growing well. Regrowth is stunted, small, and pale. For ferts I do:
1/16 t. KNO3 1-2x/week
1/64 t. KH2PO4 1-2x/week
1/8 t. Equilibrium (except the past 2 weeks I bumped it up to 1 teaspoon)
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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 05:15 AM
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This is simply the buffering capacity of the soil reducing KH, GH and pH. It is meant to do this.

No need to adjust pH before adding to the tank. The tapwater pH will lower in the presence of the soil. This does not affect inhabitants in any way.

Nitrates may be leaching from the soil. Increase water changes until the soil stops leaching.
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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 05:38 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mredman View Post
With no inhabitants, how did you achieve a nitrate level of 30 ppm? Are you dosing fertilizers? Are you using peat? Like Diana, I do not understand why your tank has a low pH, especially if you are using tap as your water source. Are you adding CO2?

It is hard to make a diagnosis with the information you provided.

Mike
Hi Mike, thanks for the reply as well!

I was trying to be concise and only give information needed. I go into more detail with my reply to Diana if that helps.

I believe Nitrates are high due to dead plant matter. I dose ferts:
1/16 t. KNO3 (1-2x/week)
1/64 t. KH2PO4 (1-2x/week)
1/8 t . Equilibrium (Except the past 2 weeks I bumped it up to 1 teaspoon)

No CO2 (since it melts Vallisneria), No Peat, but I have cured driftwood. (I boiled it in water until the tannins came out and water is clear.)

This is my 1st planted tank (10 gal). Check out my picture! For more info check out my reply to Diana. Let me know if you need more details!

Christina

Quote:
Originally Posted by Straight shooter View Post
This is simply the buffering capacity of the soil reducing KH, GH and pH. It is meant to do this.

No need to adjust pH before adding to the tank. The tapwater pH will lower in the presence of the soil. This does not affect inhabitants in any way.

Nitrates may be leaching from the soil. Increase water changes until the soil stops leaching.
Thank you for the explanation. I don't understand how it could not affect inhabitants though. When the aquarium pH can fluctuate from 6.4 to 7.8, then back to 6.4 over a few days. I was certain inhabitants would be dead in 24 hours since they are so sensitive to pH fluctuations.

Also, 6.4 pH is too low for invertebrates (ghost shrimp, mystery snail). Would adding crushed coral be a good solution to increase it?

I have cured driftwood (I boiled the tannins out of it until the water is clear), but perhaps it could still lower the pH.

I posted a pic of my tank if that helps. It's a 10 gal upgrade for my betta and friends.

Christina
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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 06:48 AM Thread Starter
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Hmm... I'm a little confused. My substrate is UP Aqua Sand and buffers ~6.5-7.0, but UP Shrimp Sand buffers pH to ~6.5 and is intended for shrimp. I thought invertebrates don't do well below 7.0. For example, snail shells weaken and crack from acid erosion.
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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 06:48 AM
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To lower the GH and KH in the tap water before adding it to the tank blend the tap water with reverse osmosis or distilled water.
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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 12:02 PM
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You can also reduce the pH of the water going into the tank by blending with RO water.

My tapwater is 7.6pH, my tank is buffered by soil to 6.8pH. When CO2 is on, pH is around 6pH. I do a 50% water change each week, filling straight from the tap. Within hours my pH stabilizes at 6.8pH. My livestock are experiencing a -0.8pH swing at this point, but in reality they're tolerating a much larger pH swing of -1.6pH, factoring in the addition of CO2.

This kind of pH movement is common in CO2 injected tanks and is tolerated well by many critters common in the hobby.

My evidence is only anecdotal here, but I haven't seen any effect of this kind of pH movement on the 50+ species I've kept in CO2 enriched tanks, using the same tapwater, soil and water change method for many years.

In nature pH swings can be wild in areas with lots of plant mass. Overnight CO2 builds and pH drops, during the day CO2 is consumed by plants and pH shoots up. Swings of +/-1pH are common and many aquatic flora and fauna are adapted to deal with this.

All coming around to say.... forget about pH. Concentrate on more important things like making plants grow better and conditioning livestock to look their best with good food etc.
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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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I will try mixing tap with RO water from the grocery store.

As far as the pH being too acidic for snail shells long term I'm considering a liquid or dry calcium supplement.

It seems like a more reliable way to keep the level consistent rather than adding cuttlebone (1" piece directly to the tank) or crushed coral (bagged in the filter). I hear they are a slow release and over time have to replace it.

Any thoughts?
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post #11 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 06:31 PM
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I don't normally like hitting the chemicals. But, in this instance I would try Tetra Easybalance.

It should buffer the hardness, and hit that nitrate down a little.
Never tried it with a planted aquarium though.

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Hi. I'm back.
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post #12 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 07:18 PM
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You are adding only 2.5 gallons of tap water each time you do a 25% water change, so it would be very easy to get a 5 gallon bucket, fill it 2/3 full with tap water and let that stand for a couple of days before each water change. You may find the pH of the water drops in that time. If so, it is because of whatever your water company adds to raise the pH. Assuming the pH drops down into the 7.X range, I would just use that water as is for water changes. It is far better to use tap water without any added substances than it is to try to match the tank water with the replacement water. Each time you try to adjust the replacement water you are adding more TDS to the water, which is rarely a good idea. Your fish, shrimp and snails will almost certainly adjust easily to this routine.

Hoppy
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post #13 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
You are adding only 2.5 gallons of tap water each time you do a 25% water change, so it would be very easy to get a 5 gallon bucket, fill it 2/3 full with tap water and let that stand for a couple of days before each water change. You may find the pH of the water drops in that time. If so, it is because of whatever your water company adds to raise the pH. Assuming the pH drops down into the 7.X range, I would just use that water as is for water changes. It is far better to use tap water without any added substances than it is to try to match the tank water with the replacement water. Each time you try to adjust the replacement water you are adding more TDS to the water, which is rarely a good idea. Your fish, shrimp and snails will almost certainly adjust easily to this routine.
Do I need an airstone to degas water in the 5 gal bucket for a couple days? I let 2.5 gal of tap water sit in my bucket for 24 hours, then checked the pH. It didn't lower and was still 8.0-8.2.
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post #14 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 11:24 PM
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I you aready tested this, then it won't do more with a bubbler. If it changed at all it would happen faster if the water was circulated, but since it did not change in the first 24 hours it probably won't change.

Do you have some left over substrate? Why not add that to the bucket, circulate the water (even if this just means stirring it a few times, then use it when the parameters are right. Reuse the substrate several times until the effect wears off.

Coral sand in the filter in a bag will release minerals best in an acidic environment, so it might work to give the snails a bit more calcium.
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post #15 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-19-2016, 11:49 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
I you aready tested this, then it won't do more with a bubbler. If it changed at all it would happen faster if the water was circulated, but since it did not change in the first 24 hours it probably won't change.

Do you have some left over substrate? Why not add that to the bucket, circulate the water (even if this just means stirring it a few times, then use it when the parameters are right. Reuse the substrate several times until the effect wears off.

Coral sand in the filter in a bag will release minerals best in an acidic environment, so it might work to give the snails a bit more calcium.
From what I think I understand, since my TAP water KH is high: 9 drops (161 ppm), that is probably why the pH doesn't lower after 24 hrs in the 5 gal bucket.

Adding substrate to the bucket is a good suggestion. I could experiment with that, but if the substrate buffering capacity wears off too quickly after a few uses it would be too pricey as a long term fix.

Another thought is how would I let it dry after each use? If it stays wet without any beneficial bacteria or factors from a cycled aquarium, I can imagine it will growing harmful bacteria in weeks. What if I keep the substrate in the 5 gal bucket always submerged in water and replace the water 1x/week (when I do a wc)? (I'm a dental assistant and germaphobe of stale water growing biofilm after 24 hrs. Not a chemist.)
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