Using tap water with active substrate - KH range? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-18-2019, 08:20 AM Thread Starter
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Using tap water with active substrate - KH range?

Hi All,

So Iím about to rescape one of my tank that housed CRS that currently has a GH 8/9, KH0 and PH around 6.5.

Now, I know we have had many conversations on using active substrates with tap, so,Iím going to give it a go this time so, what sort of GH/KH should I aim for using my liquid rock:-

PH 7.5
GH 18
KH 9

I am going to do 50 TAP/50 RODI (0 TDS) water, which i assume will halve the above figures to:-

GH 9
KH5
PH7.5

Should I look to reduce the KH more, or let the ION exchange in the substrate do that? What would I expect the PH to be one settled?

I am tempted to buy a smaller bag of Tropica Soil to test out in a vase to see for myself, but am looking at the group experts for a pointer

Thanks,

Chris



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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 10:18 PM
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Hey Chris, the biggest issue with adding KH to a buffering substrate is that you will exhaust the buffering capability faster. Once depleted, your KH and pH will rise.

When keeping sensitive shrimp, we aim for long term stability, and swapping substrate is no easy task. It's much better to use RO with the proper remineralizer as you can control bacteria, toxins, and other unknowns of your tap.

Having said that, I keep CRS in both buffered/active substrate (Amazonia) and inert substrate (black diamond blasting sand). In my experience, buffering substrate is so much easier and has had far less issues with bacterial infections. The biggest issue is when parameters swing due to changes in tap, and I've lost 2 tanks to this so far...

I would highly recommend sticking with RO or be prepared for a lot of extra work and potential heartache
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 09:20 AM Thread Starter
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And thatís the bit I donít get.. call me dumb etc, but why do people like George Farmer etc use normal tap water in their Planted setups knowing that it will exhaust the substrate..

Let me ask another question, if I didnít have the RCSís would the answer be the same?

Is itís because we are looking after the water for the shrimp rather than the plants?


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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 05:09 PM
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And thatís the bit I donít get.. call me dumb etc, but why do people like George Farmer etc use normal tap water in their Planted setups knowing that it will exhaust the substrate..

Let me ask another question, if I didnít have the RCSís would the answer be the same?

Is itís because we are looking after the water for the shrimp rather than the plants?


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I did a bit of looking, and it appears George Farmer claims to have hard water. Unfortunately, that means different things to different people since there are actually two types of hardness. I'm sure you're familiar with this, but for the sake of others reading this, here we go

General hardness (GH) is a measurement of ions such as Ca++, Mg++, and Fe++. Other ions are pretty much inconsequential. This is what the majority of people now use to refer to soft or hard water - how much calcium and magnesium is in the water.

Carbonate hardness (KH) is the measurement of carbonates and bicarbonates, and this has a correlation with pH. Decades ago, this was what people meant by hard or soft water, so sometimes this gets confused by older literature or those who have been in the hobby for a long time.

Buffering substrates remove KH which lowers pH to a targeted pH. Most of the time this is a function of peat in the granules. We care about preserving this for sensitive shrimp, but it can also be helpful for plants as availability of nutrients *can* be better at lower pH.

George Farmer may not care about the lower pH beyond the initial startup of the tank. Once it is established, building up good mulm and bacteria, the buffering probably doesn't play as big of a role as the tank will slowly go acidic over time anyway. So to your question of having no CRS, it would only matter if you care about keeping the pH low for specific fertilizer or types of livestock.

The *advantage* of soil substrates is that they can bring certain nutrients into the root zone where plants can uptake easier and can prevent unwanted luxury uptake that leaves cannot prevent. In this case, it's not that soil is required or "better" than inert substrates like sand, but they offer a different way of maintaining your tank that could be more ideal than sand if done right.

The biggest key to all of this is "if done right". All the correct parameters and nutrient levels in the world won't help with poor tank hygiene, and guys like George Farmer literally write the books on good tank hygiene

Hopefully that helps, and all great questions!
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by natemcnutty View Post
I did a bit of looking, and it appears George Farmer claims to have hard water. Unfortunately, that means different things to different people since there are actually two types of hardness. I'm sure you're familiar with this, but for the sake of others reading this, here we go

General hardness (GH) is a measurement of ions such as Ca++, Mg++, and Fe++. Other ions are pretty much inconsequential. This is what the majority of people now use to refer to soft or hard water - how much calcium and magnesium is in the water.

Carbonate hardness (KH) is the measurement of carbonates and bicarbonates, and this has a correlation with pH. Decades ago, this was what people meant by hard or soft water, so sometimes this gets confused by older literature or those who have been in the hobby for a long time.

Buffering substrates remove KH which lowers pH to a targeted pH. Most of the time this is a function of peat in the granules. We care about preserving this for sensitive shrimp, but it can also be helpful for plants as availability of nutrients *can* be better at lower pH.

George Farmer may not care about the lower pH beyond the initial startup of the tank. Once it is established, building up good mulm and bacteria, the buffering probably doesn't play as big of a role as the tank will slowly go acidic over time anyway. So to your question of having no CRS, it would only matter if you care about keeping the pH low for specific fertilizer or types of livestock.

The *advantage* of soil substrates is that they can bring certain nutrients into the root zone where plants can uptake easier and can prevent unwanted luxury uptake that leaves cannot prevent. In this case, it's not that soil is required or "better" than inert substrates like sand, but they offer a different way of maintaining your tank that could be more ideal than sand if done right.

The biggest key to all of this is "if done right". All the correct parameters and nutrient levels in the world won't help with poor tank hygiene, and guys like George Farmer literally write the books on good tank hygiene

Hopefully that helps, and all great questions!
Thank you for writing this out because I fall into that category "for the sake of others"
Great info.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-21-2019, 09:03 AM Thread Starter
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Yep.. that makes perfect sense :-)

I fully understand that active substrates remove KH, but I still donít understand why people use tap water when using RO and remineraliser preserves the substrate.. unless they are worried about dropping the PH long term...

So, if I were to do another played tank with Tropica Soil, keeping RO would be the best way to go?

Iím going for fast growing plants, so donít think CO2 would be an option plus itíll be in a flex as the wife doesnít like open topped tanks...

Thanks for your patience and understanding, but think Iím getting there! Seems to be a topic thatís not that well covered on YouTube etc as itís more about the scape.. I also have a feeling they get torn down fairly quickly?


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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-22-2019, 07:06 AM
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I think the main reasons people use tap with buffering substrates is because they don't know better or because they don't want the added expense of RO/DI. It really is one of those things that isn't commonly talked about, so it's just not as widely understood.

Tropica soil does buffer, so to extend that ability as long as possible, RO would be best. If you are worried about pH with CO2 injection, don't worry about that and go for CO2. If you are worried about maintenance, then skipping CO2 is a good way to slow down growth

Oh, and you are asking great questions. Really wish I had asked many questions on here sooner. I think YouTube videos tend to focus on the glamorous parts rather than what may seem mundane. As for length of scapes being set up, I think it depends on the person and type of scape.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-22-2019, 07:10 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks and another great explanation! Youíve hit the nail on the head... maybe they see it as a hassle etc..

Mine is left over from the marine tank and use it to dilute my other community tanks...


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