Dosing HCL, post your experiences - Page 4 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #46 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 07:38 PM
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2 days ago was 24 hours after my first dose into my 20L, KH was 3. That was after 3 mL. I know my HCL concentration is lower than others less than 30% for sure. My KH may have also been higher and closer to 4 than 3 to start. I dosed 3 mL more in slow increments, to bring the total up to 6 mL. Last night I checked KH and itís down to 2. Last night I also dosed 1.5 mL and I think Iím going to stop there. From now on I will treat my tap water down to KH of 1 before water changes.

So far Iíve noticed some increased pearling overall, where I havenít seen much pearling at all before this. I am sure the lower overall pH is making some nutrients more available to plants. Color of macandra has also improved, new growth a bright pink. I have seen no change in the fuzzy green algae on old growth which I have been dealing with for a long time, Iím hoping as plants are healthier, this algae will also lessen. BBA has also lessened in the last week, I cannot attribute this to HCl since Iíve noticed a reduction even before I started lowering KH.


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Thank you for this thread. I may try experimenting with this myself. Have you taken note how much it raises TDS, if much at all?
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post #47 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 07:40 PM
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Maryland Guppy covered most of it, but:

HCl is dangerous only when concentrated. It leaves residual chloride, which is actually a minor plant nutrient. Very safe once diluted

It immediately converts bicarbonate to carbonic acid, which then takes a few minutes to break down to dissolved carbon dioxide. Then the dissolved carbon dioxide diffuses out of the water on a time scale of hours, unless you take special measures to aerate it. At first the pH drops dramatically. As the carbonic acid breaks down to carbon dioxide and diffuses out of the tank, the pH bounces back up, though not to its previous value. During this time, most dGH tests will not return reliable results. You have to try a dose, let it equilibrate with air overnight (or with an airstone), and then take your hardness measurement.

If I've done my math right, it takes about 168 milligrams per gallon of the usual 30% HCl sold as muriatic acid to remove a degree of carbonate hardness. That's a little less than three tablespoons to neutralize a degree of carbonate hardness in a 100 gallon tank.

Bump: Adding HCl swaps chloride for bicarbonate on a one-for-one molar basis. Cl weighs 35 grams per mole versus 61 grams per mole for bicarbonate. You'll actually reduce the total dissolved solids on a mg/l basis. But remember that TDS is a rather fuzzy quantity, and what's usually measured on an electrical meter is moles of ions per liter which is then converted to mg/l on the display based on some assumptions the meter manufacturer made about the actual ionic makeup. Since it's a one-for-one swap on a molar basis, the measured value should be practically unchanged.
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post #48 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 08:26 PM
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Maryland Guppy covered most of it, but:

HCl is dangerous only when concentrated. It leaves residual chloride, which is actually a minor plant nutrient. Very safe once diluted

It immediately converts bicarbonate to carbonic acid, which then takes a few minutes to break down to dissolved carbon dioxide. Then the dissolved carbon dioxide diffuses out of the water on a time scale of hours, unless you take special measures to aerate it. At first the pH drops dramatically. As the carbonic acid breaks down to carbon dioxide and diffuses out of the tank, the pH bounces back up, though not to its previous value. During this time, most dGH tests will not return reliable results. You have to try a dose, let it equilibrate with air overnight (or with an airstone), and then take your hardness measurement.

If I've done my math right, it takes about 168 milligrams per gallon of the usual 30% HCl sold as muriatic acid to remove a degree of carbonate hardness. That's a little less than three tablespoons to neutralize a degree of carbonate hardness in a 100 gallon tank.

Bump: Adding HCl swaps chloride for bicarbonate on a one-for-one molar basis. Cl weighs 35 grams per mole versus 61 grams per mole for bicarbonate. You'll actually reduce the total dissolved solids on a mg/l basis. But remember that TDS is a rather fuzzy quantity, and what's usually measured on an electrical meter is moles of ions per liter which is then converted to mg/l on the display based on some assumptions the meter manufacturer made about the actual ionic makeup. Since it's a one-for-one swap on a molar basis, the measured value should be practically unchanged.
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post #49 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for this thread. I may try experimenting with this myself. Have you taken note how much it raises TDS, if much at all?


TDS has been stable, checked last night after dosing micros and its right where it usually is, always increases with dosing ferts. I can check my holding tank to see if thereís a drop compared to tap.

My tap TDS usually 80-110 varies with season. Tank started off at 150 after W/C (Sat), as the week progresses usually ends up closer to 200. Last night it was 180.


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post #50 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 10:57 PM
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Store your HCl outside in a garage, not in your living space. It can fume and corrode your house and lungs. I use 20 degree Baume (about 31.5%) at work. When I open the storage tank on a humid day, the fumes will knock your socks off. I always stand upwind and the tank opening is only about 8".
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post #51 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-12-2019, 01:34 AM
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Say you want to remove enough KH to keep pH below 7.0 for the sake of micro nutrient uptake (iron, mainly), when you do water changes, do you add enough acid to treat the recorded amount of KH for the volume being changed or for the volume of the tank? Does adding it directly to a tank cause problems or should it be diluted first then added?
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post #52 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-12-2019, 02:13 AM
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I've still failed to test the HCl in my 33G tank, the weekend is coming!
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post #53 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-12-2019, 02:40 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by varanidguy View Post
Say you want to remove enough KH to keep pH below 7.0 for the sake of micro nutrient uptake (iron, mainly), when you do water changes, do you add enough acid to treat the recorded amount of KH for the volume being changed or for the volume of the tank? Does adding it directly to a tank cause problems or should it be diluted first then added?


You will only want to treat the volume being changed and I would recommend treating it a while in advance or add a bubbler so you can off gas CO2. pH can drop significantly and youíll get an increase in CO2.


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post #54 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-14-2019, 12:51 AM
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Finally tested in the 33G tank.
Started @ 7dKH, strange it has been creeping up.

19.5ml brought it down to 1dKH.

Tested pH of degassed @ 7.08 and 2 hour into photoperiod @ 6.02
Did not monitor pH during the dosing.
Was in a hurry so maybe not all of the way de-gassed.
Doing another sample with airstone for more than 5 minutes now.

Bump: Finally tested in the 33G tank.
Started @ 7dKH, strange it has been creeping up.

19.5ml brought it down to 1dKH.

Tested pH of degassed @ 7.08 and 2 hour into photoperiod @ 6.02
Did not monitor pH during the dosing.
Was in a hurry so maybe not all of the way de-gassed.
Doing another sample with airstone for more than 5 minutes now.


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post #55 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-14-2019, 01:41 AM
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WOW: I better NEVER see any proponents of this complain that glut is bad because it is used to kill germs in hospitals. I think that we should warn people that may read this thread, and then just throw it in their tanks, about the dangers. Muriatic acid is VERY caustic (30% HCL). It will corrode almost anything (including your clothes and skin), so don't put it in a container, other than what it came in, unless you really know what you are doing. It will also stain metal.

If you are going to use it, wear acid-resistant gloves and goggles and DO NOT breathe the fumes. If you want to really be be scared, do a search on what the vapors can do to your respiratory tract. If you spill any, hold your breath and run like hell ...or have a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and water standing by to 'douse' it. If handled properly and with protective gear, it can be used safely, but read-up on how to handle it.

Surely we can't be so desperate to lower KH that we are playing with this stuff so casually. A gallon of distilled water is about $1 and it will also permanently lower your KH. One muriatic acid spill and you'll wish that you had bought that RO unit.
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post #56 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-14-2019, 02:05 AM
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Actually it's a bit more than 30%, not much but a bit more.
Maybe 31.5% or so. 20į baume on the scale.

It does require some care, used in pools, diluted for etching concrete surfaces etc...
It is not for everyone by any means.

A better choice than nitric or sulfuric acid.
Not caustic but acidic!
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post #57 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-14-2019, 02:28 AM
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I will agree with @Deanna - not something for rookies to play around with. One thing I have learned... plastic syringes, like the 12ml medical grade "Normal Saline I.V. Flush Syringe" that I seem to have so many of, are very tolerant of the HCL. In my case, with some nitrile gloves, I can open the original container and fill the syringe with little threat of a spill. Then add how ever many ml are needed to the water.

"Maybe 31.5% or so. 20į baume on the scale" - this is the same stuff I am using. And as Dianna stated, you really don't want to breath in any of the vapors.

Something I did note - the chemical reaction when adding HCL to tank water does lower your pH alot! In the interest of your fish I would not recommend dumping a bunch in a seeing what happens.
For my 75g tank, today I lowered the KH by 1 degree. 9ml seemed to do the job. I added the HCL a few drops at a time just above the spray bar. Yes you can smell it. Yes if you look close enough you can see a vapor. And yes, the ph does drop! In my case almost a full point.

If you have fish I would strongly recommend not trying to drop the KH a lot all at once. I'm sure the chemists in this group could better explain the chemistry involved but it is my assumption that the drop in Ph is due to the rise in CO2 generated by the acid burning away at the Carbonite Hardness. Having air stones running during this process can help greatly to speed up burning off excess CO2, but I suspect it may not help enough if you were trying to drop the KH by say 5+ degrees.
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post #58 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-14-2019, 11:30 PM
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I will agree with @Deanna I'm sure the chemists in this group could better explain the chemistry involved but it is my assumption that the drop in Ph is due to the rise in CO2 generated by the acid burning away at the Carbonite Hardness.
You are removing a weak base Bicarbonate(HCO3-) from solution and lower pH.
HCO3- + HCL ====> H2CO3 + Cl-
H2CO3 <=> H2O + CO2
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post #59 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-14-2019, 11:38 PM
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You are removing a weak base Bicarbonate(HCO3-) from solution and lower pH.
HCO3- + HCL ====> H2CO3 + Cl-
H2CO3 <=> H2O + CO2
LOL, yeah, like that
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post #60 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-15-2019, 02:39 AM
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LOL, yeah, like that
Chemistry was never my favorite subject in HS. Then again, I have fogotten a lot of what I did learn in HS over the last 36 years
Sad to say after 8 years of research in Chemistry I have forgotten most of it as well.
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