Did I make a mistake using Mg or do I need to add Ca?? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 10:33 PM Thread Starter
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Did I make a mistake using Mg or do I need to add Ca??

can anyone help me with this. I have been reading articles on it off and on the past three days. Either I need Ca and advice on what source to use, or I did the wrong thing adding Mg to my tank and need to rectify my mistake-

Details (sorry if this is repeating from some earlier threads I wrote): I have a 10 gal and a 38 gal, both low tech, 1/3 EI dosed weekly, safe-t-sorb and a little bit of gravel/coarse sand substrate. When I first set up the tanks I tried to soak the STS in ferts and baking soda to ameliorate how much it would strip carbonates out of the water, but maybe I didn't do enough.

I've always felt like my tanks were odd about calcium- hard tapwater gh is 10, yet the snails have pale/eroded shell tips and some plants (I thought) showed symptoms deficient in Mg- pale leaves w/darker veins. When I dosed some Mg (epsom salt) this symptom went away so I thought that was helping. I only did it once a month.

My usual dosing on the tanks-

38 gal has good number of fish. Tends to still have 10-20 nitrates end of the week. I noticed I got GSA and thread algae when nitrates were high, but BBA if nitrates were close to zero. On this tank I usually dose:
KN03 1/32- 1/16 tsp depending on how much ppm nitrates tested
K2S04 1/8 tsp
KH2P04 1/32 tsp
30ml Seachem Flourish Comprehensive for micros

10 gallon has one betta and some snails. Usually at end of week nitates are 5ppm or less. I dose
KN03 1/16 tsp
K2S04 1/32 tsp
KH2P04 1/64 tsp
Flourish Comp micros 4-5ml

but if nitrates are 10-20ppm I dose
KN03 1/32 tsp
K2S04 1/16 tsp
KH2P04 1/128 tsp (roughly)

Have I been doing it wrong?
I noticed when I just started using a bit of Mg recently, my rotalas and java ferns straightened up and the plants started pearling so I thought that was good for them. The color in the leaves evened out some. But now I see other things- newer crypt leaves have this rippled look and are more brown- is this what's called 'hammered' texture- is it desirable?

anubias leaves in my tenner are hooking downward severely

Edges of java fern leaves, some buces look wavy.


Hygro compacta, rotalas are starting to look a little puckered on their edges too. Way back when I had rotalas growing out new leaves with twisted shapes and I thought this was from too much micros? that's when I cut back on my micros. Now I wonder if it's too little or too much Ca? because I never dosed that w/the Mg - although I did have a piece of cuttlebone in the tank to add calcium, it's starting to crumble away

My tanks have come so far in a year- green and growing instead of stagnant and death- but now I feel like I don't know which direction to go. I tested pH today and surprised to find it was 8.2 in my main tank. Tap is 7.6, for a long time in the tank it had been 7.6-

Got the idea that Safe-T-Sorb was still sucking Ca and Mg out of the water and that I needed to dose it? (I never did gh booster because I don't use carbon) so this week I was thinking to get:

Gypsum- but the powder I find at home depot has five or six other substances in it so I don't know

Dolomite- I've read of people using this but again, the stuff I find at garden center seems to have a lot of extra stuff in it I don't know where to find it 'pure' just Ca and Mg

CaS04 from same source I got my dry macro ferts- but don't I already have plenty of S04 from the K2S04 and epsom salt, how would I alter my dose accordingly?

CaN03 also dry fert I could get but will this give me too much N03?

I am thoroughly confused. I thought w/my hard water I didn't have to worry about Ca and Mg but then I thought from symptoms I saw on snails/plants I do need it because the substrate might be sucking it up- but now maybe I did the wrong thing or not enough (needing Ca since I used Mg)

help! before I make a wreck of things

Maybe I should just go back to how I did it before- put a little piece of cuttlebone in and dose Mg once a month? I'm not sure if that was the right approach at all (If I were starting over I don't know if I would use STS again but it's what I got now so I want to make it work)


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Last edited by JJ09; 12-15-2016 at 10:36 PM. Reason: typo
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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I just tested pH in my 10gal- wondering about that. It's at 7.8


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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-15-2016, 11:49 PM
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Do you have a test kit for Ca?

Don't dose the MgSO4*7H2O while you're dosing CaSO4*2H2O

Gypsum can be found by the pound @ about $3 at a home brew type store.
Used as a water additive for brewing beer.

It's not very soluble but a little a day till you reach a target?


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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 12:10 AM Thread Starter
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No I don't have a kit to test Ca. I guess getting one will answer first part of my question: do I need it. Does a typical kit also test for Mg?

So if I'm using MgS04 I would need to use CaN03 or gympsum for calcium?

Bump: (I am not using anything for Ca currently unless you count an old piece of cuttlebone)


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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 03:04 AM
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I test for Ca occasionally using an API kit.
Don't have a kit for Mg but there is a calculation for testing of course you must know the Ca ppm.
((17.86 x dGH) - (2.5 x Ca ppm)) / 4.1 = Mg ppm
(ppm dGH - (2.5 x Ca ppm)) /4.1 = Mg ppm

Tanks with STS can easily deprive calcium from the water column.
It happened to me before and I dose CaCO3 or CaSO4 to reach desired KH.
Yeah it is really cloudy/milky for a day though.
Pretend it didn't happen and look the other way for a day.
This will effect your pH!

After many trial and errors with STS, 2lbs. baking soda to every 40lb bag of STS will saturate it.
About 20lbs per bucket pretreated for a week or two, stirred daily.
Then a good rinse to bring TDS down.

NilocG.com has a well rounded GH booster or you could make your own.
It is like 1:3:3 , MgSO4, K2SO4, and CaSO4 respectively.

Also a pH of 8.2 will not dissolve much cuttlebone either.
Maybe not a Ca deficiency with pH so high?
Do you know what is raising your pH by chance?
Maybe STS is saturated at this point and now water is no longer softened by it.

The buce and the crypt seem fine.
Tips pointing down on the others seem off to me.


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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 03:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
Do you have a test kit for Ca?

Don't dose the MgSO4*7H2O while you're dosing CaSO4*2H2O
Hi Maryland Guppy,

Do you have a reason why you shouldn't dose CaSO4*2H2O and MgSO4*7H2O together? I ask because Seachem Equilibrium using those nutrients, as does Tom Barr's GH Booster formula along with most of the other GH Boosters such as Aquariumfertilizer.com, GLA, and I believe Nico does as well.

FYI HOOT HOOT 4000 posts....I need to get a life!

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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 04:06 AM
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Hi JJ09,

If you don't have one pick up a KH/GH test kit, I use mine more than any test kit including a PH test kit. It will give you an idea as to what dKH and dGH you are dealing with so you can make better decisions as to what nutrients to add. I have tried several test kits over the years and the API KH/GH combination kit works fine for me (but be sure to purchase one that is not near its expiration date so the test reagents are fresh.

That said, the 'hooking downward' of the leaf tips is typically caused by a calcium deficiency. Normally Ca and Mg are dosed in a ratio of about 4:1 or 3:1 (Ca:Mg) in ppm; I try to maintain that ratio when dosing a GH Booster in my tanks which I have to do at least weekly due to our very soft water.

The "ruffled" leaves are normal for many species of plants, the new growth on your crytocornes looks good.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 04:20 AM
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Don't dose the MgSO4*7H2O while you're dosing CaSO4*2H2O
No reason other than the OP stated they had been dosing MgSO4 and their concern for SO4 accumulation.
Only proof to know if it is a Ca issue.
Which should not be a problem, hard to OD considering what's in GH Booster.


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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
....
Don't have a kit for Mg but there is a calculation for testing of course you must know the Ca ppm.
Thank you for the replies. I am getting Ca test kit today- but if I have overdosed Mg won't the calculation be off?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
Tanks with STS can easily deprive calcium from the water column.
It happened to me before and I dose CaCO3 or CaSO4 to reach desired KH....
That is what I thought happened- because I keep thinking I see symptoms of it-
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
After many trial and errors with STS, 2lbs. baking soda to every 40lb bag of STS will saturate it.
About 20lbs per bucket pretreated for a week or two, stirred daily.
Then a good rinse to bring TDS down.
I think I saw your other post on this. I did soak the STS in baking soda when I first set up the tank just over a year ago- I wasn't as precise as you- I dumped in baking soda and tested pH until it quit dropping severely. Maybe I didn't add enough?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
NilocG.com has a well rounded GH booster or you could make your own.
It is like 1:3:3 , MgSO4, K2SO4, and CaSO4 respectively.
So to make this I would just have to get CaS04, since I already have the other two components
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
Also a pH of 8.2 will not dissolve much cuttlebone either.
Maybe not a Ca deficiency with pH so high?
Do you know what is raising your pH by chance?
Maybe STS is saturated at this point and now water is no longer softened by it.
I don't know. I suppose it could be the STS is saturated, I was always wondering at what point I could tell that. But back when I had just started and only had inert gravel in my tank, I was always baffled how come the pH was higher in my tank than the tapwater. I thought the driftwood would soften it, then I thought the STS would soften it- which it did for some time. Usually it has been 7.5-7.6 w/the STS only just now when I test realized it has gone up again.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
The buce and the crypt seem fine.
Tips pointing down on the others seem off to me.
Well that's a relief to know. Tips hoooking down is in my smaller tank, but so are the buces. Crypts are in the bigger one- maybe that one isn't affected as much by what's going on.


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Last edited by JJ09; 12-16-2016 at 12:17 PM. Reason: too many words- made it more concise
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
Hi JJ09,

If you don't have one pick up a KH/GH test kit, I use mine more than any test kit including a PH test kit. It will give you an idea as to what dKH and dGH you are dealing with so you can make better decisions as to what nutrients to add. I have tried several test kits over the years and the API KH/GH combination kit works fine for me (but be sure to purchase one that is not near its expiration date so the test reagents are fresh.
I do have the API KH/GH test kit. Last time I used it GH was 10, I think KH was 3 or 4. All the more reason I'm confused why I might need Ca- unless the STS has been absorbing it all...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
That said, the 'hooking downward' of the leaf tips is typically caused by a calcium deficiency. Normally Ca and Mg are dosed in a ratio of about 4:1 or 3:1 (Ca:Mg) in ppm; I try to maintain that ratio when dosing a GH Booster in my tanks which I have to do at least weekly due to our very soft water.
Ok. Yes I thought that's what the symptom showed me....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
The "ruffled" leaves are normal for many species of plants, the new growth on your crytocornes looks good.
Thanks. Well I knew it was normal on my aponogeton crispus, and I like the look on the crypts (so the new growth seems to be responding positively to my addition of Mg??) but wasn't sure if the buces should show that.

PS: hello fellow Seattleite- I grew up there!


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Last edited by JJ09; 12-16-2016 at 01:06 PM. Reason: fixed a word
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 01:00 PM Thread Starter
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The more I think about this, the more I don't know what to do. Noticed this morning that my birds-nest fern which gets watered out of the tank, has warped foliage. Parts of it bending down and then up again, where they should be straight. I think it is suffering from Ca deficiency, or too much Mg, whatever is also wrong in my aquarium....

- Plants seemed better in some ways w/Mg added (definitely the nice appearance of the new crypt leaves happened right after I dosed Mg), so that make me think I need to just add Ca to balance it out, but won't that make my water harder?

- Is it possible I need to add baking soda? to buffer the STS

- If I overdid it on the Mg, water changes won't alleviate that since it's absorbed into the substrate? in that case, what to do

I am mostly just thinking out loud, here. About to start regular tank maintenance (Friday is Fish Day in my house!) I will test GH, KH and pH again, and Ca after I get that kit. I usually add ferts just after wc, but I am going to hold off doing that immediately today, in case adding a homemade gh booster is needed that might change what I dose of K2S04, right... ? I know somebody here who is an avid home-brewer, so I'm pretty sure there's a supply store where I can get the gypsum (unless he orders his stuff online, I never asked).

(I swear, keeping a planted aquarium has given me more of a continued education in science than anything else since high school!)


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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 01:44 PM
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keeping a planted aquarium has given me more of a continued education in science than anything else since high school!)
Science project all the way.
Ferts, bacteria, PAR, temps, when all we are concerned with is invisible to the eye.


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Last edited by Maryland Guppy; 12-16-2016 at 01:46 PM. Reason: edit
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 05:36 PM Thread Starter
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Here's the test results right before the usual 50% water change:

Nitrates- 10ppm
pH- 8.0
GH- 12
KH- 6 (or 7? turned green at 6 drops, yellow at 7)

Ca off the charts. Turned blue at 3 drops, I lost count at 50 and it was just going darker and darker blue, never turned purple. (but when I went to rinse out the test tube, the minute water slid into the tube, a nice purple)
It's not expired- regeant good until 2019. Should i re-test? maybe I did it wrong

If my Ca is really high then I guess the plant response was due to getting some Mg- but I don't know why it would be so high.

I had been putting API root tabs in once monthly for a long time, for the crypts and aponogetons. Didn't add any last month, they didn't look hungry. Maybe the root tabs running out started to balance something? but I don't think they have Ca or Mg- mostly iron... . . .

I'm doing the water change and then will test params again just because I'm curious

This is all on the 38 gal, i haven't got to the tenner yet today.


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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 06:34 PM
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pH- 8.0
GH- 12
KH- 6 (or 7? turned green at 6 drops, yellow at 7)

Ca off the charts. Turned blue at 3 drops, I lost count at 50 and it was just going darker and darker blue, never turned purple.
Doubt there is a calcium issue then.

Ca test turned blue @ 3 drops = 3x20 = 60ppm of Ca
Once it is blue it is done.


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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-16-2016, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
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Okay- so is it possible something is inhibiting Ca uptake?
or do I need to continue, perhaps increase, dosing Mg?
or not dose Mg at all, maybe I caused some kind of imbalance...

I am trying to think of other things that could be a factor here-
- a month ago added ceramic bio-cubes to my filter
- skipped putting root tabs in last time (so a month w/out)
- have tons of malaysian trumpet snails. Could the dead shells be increasing calcium excessively?
- last week I tried glueing moss onto plastic mesh. used krazy glue. That's supposed to be harmless


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