Tank still cycling but GH and KH dropping - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-21-2017, 03:43 AM Thread Starter
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Tank still cycling but GH and KH dropping

I'm new to all this. So first off, my tap water has practically 0 kh and 0 Gh. I added seachem equilibrium and seachem alkaline to get both up to 4 drops on the API test kit, so 4dkh. That was about 4 days ago and and I'm only 9 days into seething up the tank. It's a Fluval 15 gal Flex with Stratum as the substrate and planted bacopa caroliniana, staurogyne repens, anubias nana and flame moss. I placed a few seachem root tabs under the s. repen and bacopa, and have been dosing excel every other day and flourish twice a week per bottle. I have no fish as of yet

I re tested my Gh and kh today about both were at 1 drop again. What causes this? Do the plants, even though low light, consume the Gh? Do I just add more equilibrium and baking soda? This is new to me
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-21-2017, 04:42 AM
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KH dropping to 0 is totally normal with Fluval Stratum as it is a buffering substrate. The buffering effect doesn't last all that long though - probably 9 months to a year under normal use.

GH dropping should not be more than 1 degree. The difficulty is the resolution of our test is 1 full degree, so if you were at say 3.1 dGH and plants consumed .2 dGH, you'd suddenly be at 3 drops instead of 4.

Dropping all the way to nothing is very odd as I don't believe Stratum charges with nutrients our has a high CEC.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-21-2017, 07:50 AM
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plants, even though low light, consume the Gh?
When plants are growing well they do consume calcium and magnesium which are detected by the GH test. The KH test detects carbonate ions C03. However CO3 doesn't exists by itself it is always attached to something else. Most of the KH in tap water is in the form of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Plants will consume the carbonate and magnesium and calcium.

In the case of the Sachem Alkaline there website indicates it is based on sodium bicarbonate chemistry but the information is limited on their web site. If it is then the plants could consumthe carbonate and then leave the sodium in the water. This would lower KH and have no effect on GH.

So yes plants can reduce GH and KH. however, 4 degrees is equal to 71ppm. Given enough light, CO2, nutrients (other than calcium and magnesium) and time plants can do this. But it is highly doubtful that your plants can do this in 4 days in low light, excel, and root tabs. There are simply too many limitations in your aquarium for this to happen in 4 days.

My guess there is some sort of reaction going on between Alkaline and Excel. Or maybe a reaction between them and stratum. I would try discontinuing the Excel to see what happens. If you have enough water flow and agitation of the water surface you shouldn't need excel in a low light tank (there is a lot of CO2 in the air).

If the GH consumption drops by just removing excel then it might not be able to use it in your tank. If it has no effect and the Gh and Kh drop continues then it must be a reaction between the plants, substrate, and equilibrium and Alkaline. I don't know anything about stratum but if it is a buffering substrate you might want to then try eliminating the Alkaline for a while. Plant don't need the buffering effect of KH so it should be safe to do this before fish are added. Fish are more strongly affected by sudden PH swings and they do need some water KH.

I personally don't like Excel. When dosed correctly it will kill some plants. most others are not affect. But if dosed incorrectly it can tell everything, bacteria, fish, plants, in the tank. On some people it can cause skin irritation. It is very corrosive. In a low light tank with sufficient aeration you don't need it.

Also is there a reason why you are trying to keep your GH and KH at 4? In my medium low tech tank filled with 100% RO water I have only found that I need 2 degrees GH for shrimp to properly molt and it is more than enough for my plants to grow without any calcium magnesium deficiencies visible. Also I have a few old nail shells in the tank. These shells are primarily calcium carbonate. and they keep my PH avery close to 7 and they will easily last years before eroding away. My substrate is quartz gravel (inert). And the gradual consumption of my GH booster does very slowly increase KH. I personally don't see the need to continuously buy excel when CO2 is free, and adjust KH when a couple of snail shells costing almost nothing will last years.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-21-2017, 08:20 AM
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More of a correction (not to be a jerk), but most of what @Surf said is just wrong, especially the GH for shrimp and somehow thinking CO2 in the air is a replacement for gluteraldehyde (Excel). I can also tell you that gluteraldehyde does not affect GH/KH in this way.

The one thing he is right about is that a drop of 4 dGH over 4 days is not due to plant consumption.

What is the expiration date on your GH test kit?

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-21-2017, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone, now that I know the Stratum is bringing the kh back down, I will quit worrying about that one(assuming the bufferin of the Stratum will help hold the Ph.)

As far as the Gh, I added some more equilibrium to bring it back up to 4. No real reason for 4, i have just read that between 3-6 is acceptable range and one teaspoon brings my Gh up by about 3-4ish so it's an easy measurement. Test kit doesn't expire till 10/19. I'll test again tonight to keep an eye on it. Assuming it holds, maybe I'll stop dosing excel and flourish for a few days to see if it still holds and add back in to see if it changes
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-21-2017, 09:14 PM
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More of a correction (not to be a jerk), but most of what @Surf said is just wrong, especially the GH for shrimp and somehow thinking CO2 in the air is a replacement for gluteraldehyde (Excel).
What I said was all based on practicle experience. Other than a 1 to to month experiment with Excel I have not used it for about 4 years since I set up the tank and I don't have a pressurized CO2 system. The only aeration I have is that by spray bar is located 1/2 inch above the water surface and the water flow is straight down. When I have my fertilzier dosing right I can see my plants pearl at the medium light levels I have. CO2 from the air works very well.

As to shrimp I had several failures with shrimp and I concluded it was caused by not enough calcium. I purchased calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate and added that to the water at a 50/50 ratio. I didn't know until later that only 13ppm of both disssolve in water at 25C . That is just over 1dGH. Adding in the ammount in flourish comprehensive which I was using at the time my GH was about 2 degrees. The only source of water was my RO system so it was very soft water. From that point on I had no problems keeping shrimp. I had ammano, blue dream, and Singapore flower shrimp. They molted regularly.

Also the amazon river GH is typically between 0 and 3dGH and there are multiple verieties of shrimp in the river. Keep in mind GH measures calcium and magnesium in the water. But it cannot tell you how much of each you have. You could have 10dGH of magnesium and have dead shrimp and plants showing a calcium deficiency. Or you can have 10dGH of calcium and have happy shrimp and plants showing magnesium deficiency. Most fertilizers used in aquarium have no calcium but do have magnesium. In all likelyhood many EI aquarium have a substantial amount of excess magnesium in the water and are probably running very close to the calcium deficiency limit.

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I can also tell you that gluteraldehyde does not affect GH/KH in this way
I agree but something very strange is happening in his tank. Something is happening in his tank that most people never see. I just provided him with advice on how to determine what is causing the issue. One was to try going without Excel to see what happens. The second was to try going without the Alkaline to see if that had an effect.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-22-2017, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Awalls View Post
Thanks everyone, now that I know the Stratum is bringing the kh back down, I will quit worrying about that one(assuming the bufferin of the Stratum will help hold the Ph.)

As far as the Gh, I added some more equilibrium to bring it back up to 4. No real reason for 4, i have just read that between 3-6 is acceptable range and one teaspoon brings my Gh up by about 3-4ish so it's an easy measurement. Test kit doesn't expire till 10/19. I'll test again tonight to keep an eye on it. Assuming it holds, maybe I'll stop dosing excel and flourish for a few days to see if it still holds and add back in to see if it changes
Dear Awalls,

Why not start injecting CO2? I would stop dosing the excel either way.

With buffered substrates, it is advised to keep up with daily water changes for the first week, 2 days apart for the 2nd and 3 days apart for the third week. This will also remove excess organic matter, in great excess on a substrates initial period.

Do not add in Equilibrium nor Alkaline Buffer in to the aquarium over and over again to keep GH or KH at a level you desire. Instead, do a %50 water change with 4 kh 6 gh treated water to bring everything back to the desired values. After a while ( a month or 2 ) the substrate will only take your kh down to around 2.

Keep it stable and enjoy.

Have a look at Tom Barr's articles on Barreport. I find them very useful.

Happy Fish Keeping
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-22-2017, 04:36 AM
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Originally Posted by KeeperOfASilentWorld View Post
Dear Awalls,

Why not start injecting CO2? I would stop dosing the excel either way.

With buffered substrates, it is advised to keep up with daily water changes for the first week, 2 days apart for the 2nd and 3 days apart for the third week. This will also remove excess organic matter, in great excess on a substrates initial period.

Do not add in Equilibrium nor Alkaline Buffer in to the aquarium over and over again to keep GH or KH at a level you desire. Instead, do a %50 water change with 4 kh 6 gh treated water to bring everything back to the desired values. After a while ( a month or 2 ) the substrate will only take your kh down to around 2.

Keep it stable and enjoy.

Have a look at Tom Barr's articles on Barreport. I find them very useful.

Happy Fish Keeping
Except don't use water with any amount of KH unless you really don't want the buffering capabilities of the substrate...

I guess the question should be: do you plan to keep caridinas in this tank? If not, add a spoonful of baking soda and let it waste the buffering capabilities.
@Surf, the Amazon river is huge and has a huge range of hardness. The blackwater areas like Rio Negro do have almost no GH, but we do not keep anything from the Psuedopalaemon, Macrobrachium, Euryrhynchus, or Palaemonetes families. We keep Asian shrimp - mostly neocaridina and caridina. Those require much more calcium and magnesium. Your shrimp, if kept in 2 dGH, will die. There is no making up for that their diet, and molting is not a sign of good health. Ever see opae ula's in those bio-orbs? They molt just fine too, but every time they do, they actually shrink until they eventually die...

Also, if keeping shrimp in buffering substrates, use calcium sulfate instead of carbonate.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-22-2017, 06:40 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by natemcnutty View Post
Except don't use water with any amount of KH unless you really don't want the buffering capabilities of the substrate...
So that leads me to another question, my ph seems stable at 6.8 and 1-0 kh, so when doing water changes with my 0kh tap water and a higher ph, do I need to add a acid buffer to bring it down to the stratum levels?

Also, I don't plan on running CO2 as I'm want to make this low maintenance/ hence the low light plants.

Oh and I do plan on attempting CRS but they are not my main focus like the fish. I plan on attempting a few and making sure they don't get eaten before adding more.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 09-23-2017 at 05:16 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-22-2017, 07:32 PM
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I would never recommend using any kind of chemical to adjust pH, so I'd avoid acid buffer. They aren't stable and are usually temporary before the effects wear off.

The substrate will do all the work for you, and to avoid large swings, we just do smaller, slower water changes.

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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-22-2017, 07:38 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by natemcnutty View Post
I would never recommend using any kind of chemical to adjust pH, so I'd avoid acid buffer. They aren't stable and are usually temporary before the effects wear off.

The substrate will do all the work for you, and to avoid large swings, we just do smaller, slower water changes.

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Thanks! That's what I'll do, I'll add equilibrium to match the Gh when doing a partial water change
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