GH and KH help? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-05-2019, 03:16 PM Thread Starter
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GH and KH help?

I have had two planted tanks going since probably February of last year, that I have been struggling with.

10 gallon shrimp-only tank
20 long with 15 cories and 1 betta

Both tanks are moderately/heavily planted, and have a sand substrate using DIY Osmocote+ root tabs.

I have been trying to go as natural as possible, but it seems that a nutrient imbalance has been at work for some time and it snuck up on me. Most of the leaves in the 20 long developed pinholes. The anubias have yellowing leaves and most of the rotala stems and Brazilian pennywort have significantly stunted, tiny leaf growth.

I don't have the ability to test every parameter right now, but here's what I do know:
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrates: am waiting for a replacement test kit to be delivered

KH: 20 (tap) and 25 (both tanks)
GH: Can't get a good reading. I tested 3 separate times, adding over 100 drops each time. Just got darker and darker blue. I then tried with just one drop, and really studied it - it looks greenish - maybe yellow? 2 drops still seems greenish. 3 and 4 start to get blue. Could my water really be that soft? We are on a well, which has very hard water straight from the well. After the softener and iron filter, I would still expect it to be somewhat hard, but these tests are not giving me any information.

for the last few weeks, I've been dosing with Flourish and Excel. The crypts seem to be doing better (no new pinholes). But the stunted growth and yellowing anubias are still a problem. Yesterday, I started dosing with Flourish Potassium as well (yellowing, frayed anubias seemed to match that).

Trial and error is sort of helping, but not really. I'm trying to be more intentional and learn the specifics of what is missing. Aquarium plant whisperers, help please!

EDIT: Forgot to add that I have NICREW lights on both tanks - they appear pretty bright, but I don't have a way to measure PAR.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-05-2019, 03:38 PM
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With a KH that high, your pH is also likely quite high. What is your pH?

My feeling is that your GH is too high for the kit to test, not the other way around, but will defer to other people's opinions.

Are you using CO2? Excel will only work for plants that require low CO2, like moss and ferns.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-05-2019, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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Waiting for my new test kit (for nitrates and PH) to arrive tomorrow. I'll have updated numbers then. I have a feeling you're right about the GH being high. The fish are all super healthy, and the RCS are multiplying like crazy, so high pH may be true, but at least it doesn't seem to be visibly affecting the fish.

I don't use CO2 - am trying to avoid it (time, money, trying to keep things natural). I just happened to have the Excel laying around, and thought I'd give it a try.

I have read about several ways to lower GH (and subsequently pH) but they seem tedious and/or costly. If the fish are happy, I'm hoping to figure out the imbalance and compensate for that. I also have read that hard water can cause trouble with other nutrients being buffered, but I can't wrap my head around the whole concept. What would be /would not be buffered? And, for those nutrients, would I just add more of them?
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-05-2019, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
KH: 20 (tap) and 25 (both tanks)
GH: Can't get a good reading. I tested 3 separate times, adding over 100 drops each time. Just got darker and darker blue. I then tried with just one drop, and really studied it - it looks greenish - maybe yellow? 2 drops still seems greenish. 3 and 4 start to get blue. Could my water really be that soft? We are on a well, which has very hard water straight from the well. After the softener and iron filter, I would still expect it to be somewhat hard, but these tests are not giving me any information.
Stop adding drops when you see any blue. So based on what you have written your GH is about 3 to 4 degrees. which is soft water. The water softener and iron filter should be producing soft water. The GH test only detects calcium and magnesium. your well water probably had a lot of Ca and Mg. However after leaving the water softener most it will have been removed and replaced by sodium bicarbonate (from the salt that you put into your water softener.

Quote:
KH: 20 (tap) and 25 (both tanks)
The KH test only detects carbonate ions CO3. Typically in natural water most of the CO3 is from calcium and magnesium carbonate in the water. However your water softener removes that and replaces it with sodium bicarbonate. So your high KH reading indicates your water softener is removing a lot of calcium and magnesium.

Quote:
for the last few weeks, I've been dosing with Flourish and Excel. The crypts seem to be doing better (no new pinholes). But the stunted growth and yellowing anubias are still a problem. Yesterday, I started dosing with Flourish Potassium as well (yellowing, frayed anubias seemed to match that).
Keep in mind that ones a leaf is damaged it typically will not repair itself. So just look at new growth. If the new growth is noramal you have no nutrient deficiencies. If you have no gowth or very slow growth you probably have a nutrient deficiency.

In most aquariums tap water, fish waist, and your substrate. However with your sand substrate is inert and has few if any nutrients. Your water softener and iron filter and also stripped any nutrients from the water water. In you shrimp tank you probably don't have enough shrimp waist to provide your plants with enough nutrients. It is difficult to tell if your larger tank has enough waist to make a difference. I am going to assume you don't have enough fish waist for your plants.

So basically your fertilizer needs to supply all the nutrients your plants need. Unfortunately most fertilizers don't supply everything plants need. Flourish comprehensive is formulated with the assumption that your water has most of the nutrients your plants need. So most of the nutrients listed on the bottle are present at very low levels that are typically insufficient for good plant growth. Osmocote is a fertilizer designed for potted plants. Many of its ingredients may wash out quickly in an aquairium and are removed with a regular weekly water change. Either fertilizer has enough calcium for good plant growth.

I would recommend using a better aquarium fertilizer such as nilocg.com thrive. it should have enough of most nutrients but like the ones you are currently using dines't have calcium. To insure you have enough calcium, magnesium, and sulfur for your plants, fish and Shrimp I would also use a GH booster. Again nilocg.com sells a good one. Addonly enough to your tank to increase your GH by 2 degrees. That should be enough without making your water overly hard and it also adds potassium sulfate. Continue to use excel. These changes should help.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-09-2019, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Update

Thanks for all the input - it is really helpful! I got in the pH kit on Thursday, but have been so busy, I didn't get a chance to do anything until yesterday. Apparently the nitrate kit is on backorder, I ended up cancelling the shipment. Not that I don't care about nitrates - I just highly doubt they are a problem. Fish are happy, so I don't exactly care. Should I? (I'm not being flippant - I'm asking for real).

So, readings in the tank yesterday (no water change, just top off):
gH: looks yellowish green at 1 drop, and at 2 drops.
kH: 24
pH: Somewhere between 8 and 9 (closer to 8, I think) according to the API color chart.

I also took some readings from the tap outside - that does not go through the softener. I got a GH reading of 28. So, the kit is working - I think our softener just makes for some super soft water (like, 1 or 2).

I am thinking this might be the root cause of my deficiencies. I was assuming plenty of iron because of the well. BUT, softener plus iron filter are stripping most of it out. I think my next step is to start doing water changes using the tap outside, and see if it makes a difference. And, still adding Potassium. I know I could go for something like Thrive, or maybe Aquarium Coop's all-in-one. But, I'd like to see what using the non-softened water does first. I have a feeling it might cause some algae, but hey - if it helps the plants, maybe I'm okay with a little algae.

New growth is hard to tell whether anything is working - on the sag, new growth is very light colored - almost white. This seems odd, given the amount of root tabs I put in. Maybe they just need more time.

I'll try to snap a pic soon - I know a pic is worth a thousand words.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-11-2019, 02:02 PM Thread Starter
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Here are pics from Sunday, in the 5 gallon shrimp tank. Am I right in dosing Potassium? Last night just did another top off with the non-softened water, and plan to do maybe a 10 or 20% change on Friday, to gradually change the parameters. Don't want to stress the inhabitants...

Ok - weird. I posted those pictures from my phone, and thought I was typing in the thread heading as my title. Didn't know you could add a title to posts on mobile within a thread. That was a computer only thing. This post has nothing really to do with GH and KH, other than the title.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 09-12-2019 at 12:41 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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