Hard Water That Tests Soft, Extremely Low Ph - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 12:11 AM Thread Starter
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Question Hard Water That Tests Soft, Extremely Low Ph

I am getting back in to fish after a long time and currently I have well water that comes out of the tap at pH 4.4 and leaves white mineral deposits on dishes and destroys copper pipes. We had a softener at one point and it did definitely work to soften the water (and make the showers extra slimy) but it is no more. Despite this hard water it shows as being soft on the test.

It tested at 25ppm total hardness at the petstore, and I tested it as well in which it shows around 1 degree of hardness on both GH and KH tests.

I am worried about using this water for my fish. I had originally used bottled water to stock my tank, but as the cycle starts and the fish are increasing ammonia I must now do water changes it is not possible to buy so much bottled water all the time.

• How can I test to find out what is making the water so hard, or possibly what is making the tests fail?


Thanks!


Other readings (ppm):
NH - 0.5
NO2 - 0.0
NO3 - 5.0
TDS - 95

Last edited by cds333; 03-12-2018 at 05:16 AM. Reason: change
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 12:19 AM
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pH up is basically potassium hydroxide and potassium carbonate. It raises carbonate hardness, not mineral content. Your water is not hard, it's really soft. You may have issues with nitrifying bacteria getting established in such acidic conditions. Does your home have a water softener by chance?
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 01:47 AM Thread Starter
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We did have a water softener; I did not test it before or after, but it made the shower water feel slimy, which is the usual result of softening hard water. We do not have one anymore.
If this is not hard water then what is leaving these deposits? (see attached picture)
And did you mean to say that this water, when adjusted to 7, will prevent bacteria from thriving? or if I do not adjust it?

Thanks!
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Last edited by cds333; 03-12-2018 at 02:02 AM. Reason: change
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 03:11 AM
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I'm only really guessing here, but both GH and KH are measuring pretty specific things, and they're both unique compared to each other. Since your water is coming out of a well, it could likely have many other minerals that the GH and KH tests just don't measure. Those other minerals could be leaving the residue...but for example, as long as your water isn't high in Ca or Mg then your GH reading will still be low. Same applies to KH. KH is measuring only certain compounds.

How did you raise the pH? That might explain why your KH increased. If you used a carbonate compound to raise the pH then it would effect your KH, but not GH.


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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 03:28 AM
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Honestly, if your GH / KH tests are accurate, then that isn't hard water build up. @ that PH, those mineral deposits don't sound like they're related to water hardness, it sounds like mineral build up. I don't want to turn The Planted Tank into well water analysis 101, but I would strongly suggest getting a mineral analysis of your well water, (make sure they test for sulfur), especially if you live any where near (25 miles) of a mine.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 03:51 AM
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The GH test only tests for calcium and magnesium. Well water may have a lot of calcium and magnesium as well as other minerals and the GH will show hard water. However you well has almost no calcium and magnesium but a lot of other stuff. Therefore you get a 1 degree harness reading soft. Most of the water stains you see are mineral deposits that don't contain calcium and magnesium. If your water has a lot of salt (sodium chloride) the GH test would not detect the salt.

The KH test only detects CO3 ions that are attached to a metal. Calcium and magnesium carbonate are the most common but there are other types of carbonates that the test will detect. Such as sodium bicarbonate.

A TDS reading of your water would give you a better idea of the mineral content of the water. However only a lab test of the water would be able to identify what compound are in the water which may be important. If your water has very high levels of iron or copper the water may not be safe for your fish even if the GH and TDS tests indicate soft water.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 11:40 AM
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You can have soft water and high ph and vis versa. With a low KH it's more likely to swing. What do you want to keep? Boosting the GH and KH to match what the fish you want to keep like and seeing what you end up with would be my advise. I expect your ph will then fall in to line. Trying to just adjust your ph is more likely to end up with water that isn't stable.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 01:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfb911 View Post
Honestly, if your GH / KH tests are accurate, then that isn't hard water build up. @ that PH, those mineral deposits don't sound like they're related to water hardness, it sounds like mineral build up. I don't want to turn The Planted Tank into well water analysis 101, but I would strongly suggest getting a mineral analysis of your well water, (make sure they test for sulfur), especially if you live any where near (25 miles) of a mine.
I don't live anywhere near a mine. I have no sulfur in my water. My neighbor however does. I do have liquid rock however being that this is Florida.

Dilution is the solution for the pollution.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 02:39 PM
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If you can give us as much info on the well and the area, we may be able to give you better ideas. One item that I might suspect is that the well is on top of a salt dome. This may be something that only effects a limited number of people as it can be a small area of only a few miles wide. Or it could also be other minerals as the earth is a really weird mix of things that have been churned and stirred in many different ways.
If it is in the US and there is a Home Depot or other big box store around, an easy move might be to take advantage of some of the free water tests offered by different companies. Be aware that they may want to sell you a water softener but that is a whole different thought.
But if you are in an area where softeners are the normal thing, there may be reason to use one. I grew up with hard water and did think it odd to feel slick after a shower in soft water. Felt odd!
But then when I learned more about softeners and moved to a house with one, I had to change my mind. The water heater failed and as I changed it, I had an awakening! One guy can lift a heater that doesn't have 40 pounds of limestone caked to the inside of the tank! Thinking of how much gas it takes to warm that layer of limestone before the heat gets to the water makes me think about what I'm wasting. My wife also likes less work of cleaning all that gunk off the dishes, shower, and faucets, etc.
So now I have adapted and learned to like the soft feel of not dragging bits of limestone over my body? I'll do that to make my water heater last twice as long and easier to change out!
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Question

My assumption of hard water was based on the fact that the water leaves deposits and destroys pipes and water heaters, but apparently acidic water can do the same things. I now learn that the house used to have bluish-green stains in the bathrooms before the remodel which would also be indicative of acid water. I mean clearly the water is acidic, the pH test confirms that- mainly I am confused as to why it is so extremely acidic. Apparently the well head is flush with the ground so this may contribute to rainwater getting into the well. I have never had cause to investigate this before since I did not have any aquariums here.

The water is super destructive, within a year of replacing a brass fitting on the well pump pressure switch thing, the brass had sprung a hairline crack and upon replacing the fitting I noticed it was caked in a rust colored substance. But there are no rust stains on the sinks which is weird.


@jaz419 - pH was raised using Kordon pH up; I could not find the data sheet for that, but API uses sodium carbonate in theirs, which would make sense.
@Surf - I did check the TDS, it is around 95.
@sfb911 - no mines around here afaik
@PlantedRich - I live in a suburb of a decent size city near DC, don't know many particulars about the well except it is residential and a few yards away from the street. We do have issues with ground water here as the drainage in this part of the neighborhood is terrible.


• What would be recommended to boost the GH/KH, instead of directly adjusting the pH, as tamsin suggested?

Thanks so much everyone for the responses thus far!

Last edited by cds333; 03-12-2018 at 11:01 PM. Reason: change
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-12-2018, 11:48 PM
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Well water can be pretty acidic for a number of reasons, and if the surrounding geology doesn't have buffer minerals, then it'll stay acidic unless it's treated.

I'm not sure if you'll have an easy time using your well water the way it is. I think I'd strongly consider an RO system.

To boost GH I use seachem equilibrium. Then to boost KH I use seachem alkaline buffer. And finally, I use seachem acid buffer to get my pH down to an appropriate level. Seachem has charts and even a calculator online to help with it. It's a very good system. That being said...I really don't think you'll have to worry about the acid buffer step. I use it because my water starts at a pH of 8 and if anything, those other two buffers will only increase that. For your particular situation, you need your pH up a bit, and I don't think you'll have a problem raising it too high with the first two steps.


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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-13-2018, 02:17 AM
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Okay, with being in the US and a metro area, I might think the water test route might be the easy way to get more info on what is in the water. Not up on the DC area but places where I hang out, the Home Depot/Lowe's often have a rack near the water softeners where you can get a test kit to send in for them to work on. Of course, their thinking is that the test will show all kinds of things that scare you into buying a softener, but that doesn't mean you have to!! Being a skeptic, I would want more advise than from folks selling me something but the info that it gives might help you decide on how to deal with the tank?
If the well is old and not well drilled or designed it may be getting surface water, rather than true underground water. Not uncommon when dealing with old shallow wells from 50-100 years ago. If it is letting surface water drain in, that can leave it prone to lots of wild swings in quality as each storm may bring a new set of problems.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-13-2018, 10:54 AM
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I'd second equilibrium. Without buffer (Kh) a little bit of something acidic will make the water acidic and vise versa - it can swing from one to the other. Once you've added GH and KH back in it should be more stable. A lot of common fish will cope well between 6.5-7.5pH (and even a bit more either way) and I expect you'll end up somewhere within that.

Doesn't hurt to learn more about the water if you want to.
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