Why so much K2SO4 in GH Boosters - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-10-2019, 08:22 PM Thread Starter
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Why so much K2SO4 in GH Boosters

While on another topic the discussion moved to the amount of K supplied by Seachem Equilibrium and the potential deficiencies that might be evident due to an excessive amount of K and the antagonistic effects it may have on other nutrients. I decided to check it and a couple other marketed GH Boosters and the results were eye opening to say the least.

It appears that adherence to recommended levels of macro nutrients (primary and secondary) limits the allowable "boost" to GH through the use of these products, due to the questionably large percentage of K2SO4 in marketed GH Boosters, which adds nothing to GH that I can determine.

To test this I ran Zorfox's Planted Tank Calculator to check the math.

I ran ZPTC using EI as a target. I set the size of tank to 10 gallons as the actual dose amount was academic. What was important was the resulting concentrations in ppm.

The EI default target for NO3 is 7.5 on ZOTC and it calculated just shy of 0.5 gram of KNO3 for a 10 gal to reach that concentration. With the NO3, KNO3 also adds K at a rate of 4.729ppm for the dosed amount into that volume.

Then I checked PO4. Using KH2PO4 ZPTC to the recommended 1.3ppm concentration It calculated a K contribution of over 0.535ppm. The total K so far was
5.264ppm leaving a un-supplied balance for the 7.5ppm recommendation of 2.236ppm. I used the three GH Boosters available on ZPTC to estimate the amount to add from each to reach the desired target for K and then noted the amount GH was "Boosted". The result wasn't much at all in any case.

GLA GH Booster - 0.267 °GH
Seachem Equilibrium - 0.195 °GH
NilocG GH Booster - 0.214 °GH

If one adds enough of any of the products to raise GH even by 1 °GH, the amount of K along for ride pushes K concentrations well above the target of 7.5ppm.

GLA GH Booster - 8.367ppm added, total of 13.631ppm, 181% of target of 7.5ppm
Seachem Equilibrium - 11.464ppm added, total of 16.911ppm, 223% of target of 7.5ppm
NilocG GH Booster - 10.458ppm added, total of 15.722ppm, 209% of target of 7.5ppm

I got similar results with RB but it's clear that something here isn't right. If K2SO4 doesn't add to GH then why add it to the product the point that it eliminates the capacity to reach targets for K while performing its function?
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-10-2019, 08:29 PM
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Hi @Cichlid-140,

Very good question! A lot of hobbyists here that are dosing EI mix their own GH Booster or just dose calcium sulfate (CaSO4) and magnesium sulfate (MgSO4*7H2O).
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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-10-2019, 09:53 PM
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I was talking about this years ago.
Unfortunately, some products don’t follow natural water mineral levels and ratios. For instance, the usual natural water Ca : Mg ratio is 4 : 1. Some products have ratios as high as 7 : 1 and as low as 2.4 : 1. Another problem is enormous K concentration. With 6 dGH you get 8 x the average tap K level. This 70 ppm of K concentration is unnatural and may be responsible with the unusual ratios for some aquatic plant problems.




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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 12:25 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
Hi @Cichlid-140,

Very good question! A lot of hobbyists here that are dosing EI mix their own GH Booster or just dose calcium sulfate (CaSO4) and magnesium sulfate (MgSO4*7H2O).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
I was talking about this years ago.
Unfortunately, some products don’t follow natural water mineral levels and ratios. For instance, the usual natural water Ca : Mg ratio is 4 : 1. Some products have ratios as high as 7 : 1 and as low as 2.4 : 1. Another problem is enormous K concentration. With 6 dGH you get 8 x the average tap K level. This 70 ppm of K concentration is unnatural and may be responsible with the unusual ratios for some aquatic plant problems.



Thanks @Seattle_Aquarist, @Edward For the confirmation. But I'm still curious why knowledgeable people would do something that goes counter to that very knowledge? It'll probably stay a mystery.

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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 12:37 AM
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I use dolomite gravel substrate, which is slow dissolving Mg Ca carbonate rock that maintains proper ratio of Mg and Ca plants need. Many garden lime is pulverized dolomite.
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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 12:55 AM
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I, too, agree with you, @Cichlid-140, that it's unnecessary to add K in those mixtures UNLESS one is concerned about re-mineralizing pure water. I do re-mineralize, but add my own mix of MgSO4, CaSO4 and CaCl for GH. I then add K, seperately, in tandem with KH via KHCO3.

I believe that the history is this: it started with Equlibrium as a one-size-fits-all approach to re-mineralization. Since the prevailing thought was, and seemingly still is, that 'excessive' amounts of K are harmless (now being challenged by some regarding antagonisms), it was decided to be generous with K to ensure sufficiency of this macro, because it isn't added naturally by fish the way that NO3 and PO4 are. Since Equlibrium is mainly used to target a GH level, if you target a very low GH level, then the K will not be below a pre-selected (by Seachem) minimum. So, it is designed to re-mineralize, which is viewed more than just the GH components of Mg and Ca, to include K, Mn and Fe. This is my memory of what Seachem told me when I asked a similar question of them about it many years ago.
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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 01:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Cichlid-140 View Post
I got similar results with RB but it's clear that something here isn't right. If K2SO4 doesn't add to GH then why add it to the product the point that it eliminates the capacity to reach targets for K while performing its function?
Ive been wrangling with this myself over the past couple weeks.

I've noticed my tank does better with more Equlibrium, but there are also other problems that may be caused by excess K, or by EDTA compounds binding with / removing things in high pH tanks.

I suspect there is a calcium deficiency in my tap (possibly caused by high pH) but when I use Equilibrium and proper EI, I end up with too much K.

Its a weird product, probably designed to work with other Seachem blends.

BTW, I don't believe that Equilibrium has K2SO4, but K2O (potash).
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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 01:54 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ChrisX View Post
Ive been wrangling with this myself over the past couple weeks.

I've noticed my tank does better with more Equlibrium, but there are also other problems that may be caused by excess K, or by EDTA compounds binding with / removing things in high pH tanks.

I suspect there is a calcium deficiency in my tap (possibly caused by high pH) but when I use Equilibrium and proper EI, I end up with too much K.

Its a weird product, probably designed to work with other Seachem blends.

BTW, I don't believe that Equilibrium has K2SO4, but K2O (potash).
From the Seachem site Equilibrium page:

Quote:
Derived from: potassium sulfate, calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate, ferric sulfate, manganese sulfate.
In the fine print it's stated that the Gov'ment requires reporting it in its K2O equivalent when sold as fertilizer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
I, too, agree with you, @Cichlid-140, that it's unnecessary to add K in those mixtures UNLESS one is concerned about re-mineralizing pure water. I do re-mineralize, but add my own mix of MgSO4, CaSO4 and CaCl for GH. I then add K, seperately, in tandem with KH via KHCO3.

I believe that the history is this: it started with Equlibrium as a one-size-fits-all approach to re-mineralization. Since the prevailing thought was, and seemingly still is, that 'excessive' amounts of K are harmless (now being challenged by some regarding antagonisms), it was decided to be generous with K to ensure sufficiency of this macro, because it isn't added naturally by fish the way that NO3 and PO4 are. Since Equlibrium is mainly used to target a GH level, if you target a very low GH level, then the K will not be below a pre-selected (by Seachem) minimum. So, it is designed to re-mineralize, which is viewed more than just the GH components of Mg and Ca, to include K, Mn and Fe. This is my memory of what Seachem told me when I asked a similar question of them about it many years ago.
Is the idea of the Antagonism relationships as new as that or is it that they are only recently gaining traction?

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Originally Posted by Tiger15 View Post
I use dolomite gravel substrate, which is slow dissolving Mg Ca carbonate rock that maintains proper ratio of Mg and Ca plants need. Many garden lime is pulverized dolomite.
I was told the process was pH dependant and with the fluctuation of pH with CO2 injection the natural moderation is interrupted. This, as I was told, would result in more Ca and Mg than is anticipated. So perhaps not a bad way to go with low tech tanks but problematic with high tech.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

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Last edited by Darkblade48; 02-11-2019 at 07:45 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Cichlid-140 View Post
Is the idea of the Antagonism relationships as new as that or is it that they are only recently gaining traction?
These things come in waves. Currently, here on TPT, there is strong interest in the possibility, but it is mostly based upon anecdotal evidence as well as studies of terrestrial plants. My opinion is that there is something to it, but I don’t know how much or if the terrestrial studies can be so readily applied to hydroponics. I haven’t, personally, seen strong studies in hydroponics that allow me to say that it can be applied with confidence to the plants we generally encounter in our tanks.

I am confident when I say that, if your potassium is zero, you will have problems. I wouldn’t feel confident if I were to say that ‘x’ ppm of potassium is going to block the uptake of nutrient ‘Y’ or vice versa. I suspect that, when we lard on the nutrients, there may be a higher likelihood of such antagonisms occurring, but this is my opinion.
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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 07:19 AM
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Quote:
Is the idea of the Antagonism relationships as new as that or is it that they are only recently gaining traction?
Quote:
These things come in waves. Currently, here on TPT, there is strong interest in the possibility, but it is mostly based upon anecdotal evidence as well as studies of terrestrial plants. My opinion is that there is something to it, but I don’t know how much or if the terrestrial studies can be so readily applied to hydroponics.
I am not sure if this chemistry is correct but for what it is worth:

For calcium carbonate there is only a weak bond between the carbonate and calcium. Calcium would rather be bonded with chloride, sulfate, or nitrate Ion. So whenever possible calcium will react with with another sulfate imolecule resulting in Calcium sulfate and a a new carbonate molecule.

Since most of the ingredients used in micro mixes consists of manganese, zinc, copper, manganese sulfates, many of the micros might be converted to carbonates which may not be soluble. So if this guess is correct calcium carbonate may reduce the effectiveness of micro ingredients. It is only a guess and I don't know how to confirm it.

These is one atom in fertilizer that is more reactive than calcium. The atom is potassium. Magnesium is similar to calcium but it is slightly less reactive.

As to why GH boosters have so much potassium I don't know. But it is curious that GH boosters also have way more sulfur than necessary, for plant growth. Normally plants need about one sulfur atom for each phosphorous atom they need. From my own observations if the aquarium has no KH a GH booster will make the water acidic (PH of less than 6). But if your water has Some KH the excess sulfate will reduce KH. Possibly preserving the micro nutrients.

Quote:
I was told the process was pH dependant and with the fluctuation of pH with CO2 injection the natural moderation is interrupted. This, as I was told, would result in more Ca and Mg than is anticipated. So perhaps not a bad way to go with low tech tanks but problematic with high tech.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
Take a glass OF carbonated water. Measure the KH and GH and record the readings. Then add some dolomite. and let it sit. A day later come back and remeasure GH and KH, They will be higher than they originally were. The same will happen with magnesium carbonate or calcium carbonate.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 02-11-2019 at 07:46 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #11 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Cichlid-140 View Post


I was told the process was pH dependant and with the fluctuation of pH with CO2 injection the natural moderation is interrupted. This, as I was told, would result in more Ca and Mg than is anticipated. So perhaps not a bad way to go with low tech tanks but problematic with high tech.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
Because dolomite is primarily carbonate, the ionic concentrations of of Mg and Ca is pH dependent. When the pH is low during CO2 injection, more ions go into the solution, and when pH is high off CO2, more ions precipitate out. Unlike SeaChem Equilibrium which is sulfate based, the ionic concentrations are exactly as dosed. But you don’t need precise concentrations, just more than enough concentrations at the right ratio of Mg and Ca during photo period. Dolomite is not only a kH buffer, but also a gH buffer. It’s not a strong buffer as limestone though because dolomite has much lower solubility, so there is no concern for exessive pH. Pure calcium Limestone can raise pH to 9, dolomite no more than 7.6 in all my high tech tanks. I’m not sure why not more aquarists use dolomite as it is a near perfect gH buffer that takes out dosing guess work.
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Because dolomite is primarily carbonate, the ionic concentrations of of Mg and Ca is pH dependent. When the pH is low during CO2 injection, more ions go into the solution, and when pH is high off CO2, more ions precipitate out. Unlike SeaChem Equilibrium which is sulfate based, the ionic concentrations are exactly as dosed. But you don’t need precise concentrations, just more than enough concentrations at the right ratio of Mg and Ca during photo period. Dolomite is not only a kH buffer, but also a gH buffer. It’s not a strong buffer as limestone though because dolomite has much lower solubility, so there is no concern for exessive pH. Pure calcium Limestone can raise pH to 9, dolomite no more than 7.6 in all my high tech tanks. I’m not sure why not more aquarists use dolomite as it is a near perfect gH buffer that takes out dosing guess work.
Thanks for the explanation. I'll do some reading into dolomite. The local utility doses hydrated lime for pH corrosion protection for the city's water pipes. How do you think the two will play together?

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post #13 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 12:37 PM
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Hydrated lime is Calcium hydroxide, very strong alkaline, sort like cement that contains calcium oxide that is hydrated to hydroxide. So your water company is dosing calcium, but not magnesium. There is more reason you need to dose Mg as your tap water source is apparently lacking gH. You can dose Epsom salt, MgSO4 for Mg, assuming your water company added enough Ca but you don’t know without testing. You can add Equilibrium for both Mg and Ca, but I would prefer adding dolomite to the substrate to eliminate regular dosing and guess work.
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Hydrated lime is Calcium hydroxide, very strong alkaline, sort like cement that contains calcium oxide that is hydrated to hydroxide. So your water company is dosing calcium, but not magnesium. There is more reason you need to dose Mg as your tap water source is apparently lacking gH. You can dose Epsom salt, MgSO4 for Mg, assuming your water company added enough Ca but you don’t know without testing. You can add Equilibrium for both Mg and Ca, but I would prefer adding dolomite to the substrate to eliminate regular dosing and guess work.
My tap is close to RO. KH 0-1: Gh 1-2: TDS 30
Standard macros and micros dosing somewhat lower than EI but above PPS

Dosing every other day:
NO3 - 3.8ppm
PO4 - 0.7ppm
K - 4.0ppm
CSM+B - .06ppm Fe
Iron DTPA - .06ppm

I started dosing Eq at water changes (50% weekly) to raise the GH and Baking soda to raise the KH. Gh now ~4° KH ~3°. This is adding 2.8ppm K; 1.17ppm Ca; 0.35ppm Mg; Not a lot of any of the three, I know.

Since adding Nerites for diatom control I've been concerned about Ca levels too low to support their shells but adding enough EQ pushes up the K a lot, prompting this discussion.

The substrate is in and planted. I'd rather not disturb it now.

Plants:
Swords (Amazon, Ozelot, Melon) ... These have targeted Osmacote+ root tabs
Jungle Val's ... These have area Osmacote+ root tabs
Anubias (Nana, Coffeefolia)
Java Fern

Fish & Snails:
Giant Danios - 9
Dwarf Gouramis - 2
Honey Gouramis - 2
Angels - 5
Nerites - 10

Plan to add Tues.
Sail-fin Mollies - 3
Electric Blue Acaras - 3
More Nerites - 12

The dolomite sounds attractive if I can move to it without too much trouble and if it's a good fit.

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post #15 of 34 (permalink) Old 02-11-2019, 01:41 PM
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My tap is close to RO. KH 0-1: Gh 1-2: TDS 30
Standard macros and micros dosing somewhat lower than EI but above PPS

Dosing every other day:
NO3 - 3.8ppm
PO4 - 0.7ppm
K - 4.0ppm
CSM+B - .06ppm Fe
Iron DTPA - .06ppm

I started dosing Eq at water changes (50% weekly) to raise the GH and Baking soda to raise the KH. Gh now ~4° KH ~3°. This is adding 2.8ppm K; 1.17ppm Ca; 0.35ppm Mg; Not a lot of any of the three, I know.

Since adding Nerites for diatom control I've been concerned about Ca levels too low to support their shells but adding enough EQ pushes up the K a lot, prompting this discussion.

The substrate is in and planted. I'd rather not disturb it now.

Plants:
Swords (Amazon, Ozelot, Melon) ... These have targeted Osmacote+ root tabs
Jungle Val's ... These have area Osmacote+ root tabs
Anubias (Nana, Coffeefolia)
Java Fern

Fish & Snails:
Giant Danios - 9
Dwarf Gouramis - 2
Honey Gouramis - 2
Angels - 5
Nerites - 10

Plan to add Tues.
Sail-fin Mollies - 3
Electric Blue Acaras - 3
More Nerites - 12

The dolomite sounds attractive if I can move to it without too much trouble and if it's a good fit.
Is dolomite the same stuff I just tried called "pelletized lime"? CaCO3 with MgCO3?


Its not clear that it dissolves readily in aquarium water. At least not with a higher pH.


I got the "Equilibrium Scare" last week when it was suggested I had a level of K that hurts plants. It appears that point is up for debate, and at least I KNOW it adds calcium.


The slow dissolving stuff... idk about how useful that is. If its largely undissolved and you do a water change, how much is still in the tank?
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