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post #16 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-17-2020, 09:21 PM
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Gh 8 kh 1 250tds

TDS is total of everything dissolved in the water...yes hard water will have higher tds then soft water if all else you have in it is water... but tds can rise for other reasons like if water changes aren’t done regularly enough or if there are other things dissolved in it like sodium. As far as how your plants will do with hard water I don’t have experience there because everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had soft water, but I would imagine it’s somewhat like fish, some will do better than others. Someone else may be able to chime in on that.

FYI You can figure out what 1 dkh equals in ppm on google, type in e.g. 8 dkh in ppm and it will give you the answer. If you test your tap water GH and Kh and add the ppm together, subtract from your tds, the remainder is something else or measuring error.


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post #17 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-17-2020, 09:27 PM
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Here’s a pic of my full tank, I do have several plants, maybe I’m under fertilizing :s


Awesome I love the raised beds in the back and the red plants, I lost all mine when my light fixture broke a while back and it took a few weeks to get another one in. Don’t forget that as plants get bigger they need more ferts...


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post #18 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-17-2020, 09:50 PM Thread Starter
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I was doing water changes every 2 weeks but lately I’ve been doing them every week since I started paying more attention to my water parameters. I read most plants do better in soft water, that’s prolly why you have no problems. But I’m still confused, can water be soft and still have a high tds? If so I don’t have to worry about tds so much, since what Im aiming for is soft water. Either way I’m slowly getting it down to 3 gh and that will lower my tds, but I’m curious if tds can be high but water still be soft, this is possible from the research I did but I like to hear different answers.

I’ll try that thanks 👍
And thanks, my Aquascape looked better cause I had Seiryu stone but I had to take it out cause it was raising my gh like crazy, and my tank lost form 😕 Have some dragon stone now but haven’t added cause I’m trying to figure out the problems with my plants first.
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post #19 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-18-2020, 04:24 PM
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Gh 8 kh 1 250tds

Yes technically water can be soft and have a high tds. But it probably isn’t particularly common for tap water.

When people say water is “soft” usually what they mean is that it’s low in Kh (carbonates) and or GH (calcium and magnesium). That is all those two tests measure for, those three components.

TDS = total dissolved solids. So this measurement is telling you the total of everything dissolved in the water, including the calcium, magnesium, carbonates, and a myriad of many other things that can be dissolved in water.

Let’s say you take a bottle of distilled water with tds of 0 and add a box of table salt. Will the tds go up? Yes, the more salt you add the higher it will go as long as it keeps dissolving. Anything dissolved in the water raises tds. Will the GH or Kh go up? No, because sodium chloride as we can deduce by the name has no effect on carbonates, calcium or magnesium, it contains none of those components so it cannot increase Kh or GH.

But in real life we have to look at what usually happens in regards to our water supply. If our tap water is coming from a deep underground reservoir which lies below certain types of rocks, as that water percolates down through the ground it can pick up things from the rock, for instance calcium, magnesium or carbonates. And often the rock that it gets these things from are high in other minerals too, for instance iron. So usually when someone has “hard” water, they are high in a lot of things, kh, GH, and other things too, all combining to create a high tds.

As a side note many people with very hard water use water “softeners” which lower the hardness but don’t lower tds because they way they work is by exchanging the minerals with something else like sodium. So the water becomes “soft,” but still has the same tds with the sodium increased proportionally to the other things being removed.

On the other hand, if our tap water is coming from a source above ground like a surface reservoir, or in my case a relatively shallow well in ground that has low amounts of dissolvable minerals in it, when the rain falls (which starts off essentially at 0 tds) it doesn’t have to percolate through a lot of rock first where it would pick up “hardness” before it’s pumped into the house. Therefore both the Kh and GH are low.

So in real life the characteristics of water depend mainly on the geology of the area and location the water is coming from before it gets pumped into your house, but we can see why someone who has “soft” water is likely to have a low tds also.

I don’t think tds per se has any particular effect on plants. I would say the problem is that for many the high tds is coming from sodium in the water. which is bad for plants.


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post #20 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-18-2020, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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That makes way more sense now, so I think gh and kh is more important than tds since tds can be from many things, and like you said it can come from sodium. I think my tds is mostly from the “good stuff” I’ve been fertilizing more and my plants are looking a bit better even after one day of increasing fertilizer so I feel I was definitely under dosing.
I really appreciate you taking the time to explain all this cause I like to know why we need to do certain things, not just do it because people say that’s the right way you know?

I think I just have one more question for now, I’ve been hearing iron reacts with some fertilizer but I forgot which one it is, and it was advised to add iron separately cause iron can react with it and plants not being able to absorb it, you know what it is? I’m not sure if it’s iron with potassium I forgot, I’ve been looking for that info and every time I look for it I can’t find it, just come across that info when not looking for it. I’m really trying to figure out the best way to add iron since I have a lot of reds.

Edit: nevermind, another question I have is, do you think the best reading for tests is looking through the tube or at the tube? I’m not sure if I should add nitrates or not, it looks yellow when I look at it but orange when I look through it.
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post #21 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-18-2020, 05:30 PM
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Iron and PO4 should be dosed at different times and should not be stored in the same container. In the case of Seachem's Iron, waiting an hour is sufficient before dosing PO4, but try to dose the Iron no sooner than a day after dosing PO4.

The API test should be read through the side of the tube (your second photo), which is showing zero nitrates (not good). Make sure that the test kit has not expired and that you have violently shaken that second reagent bottle immediately before adding the drops.

Don't worry about TDS. As long as it is between 100 and 400, you are fine. Being new to plants, I would suggest that you dose according to manufacturer directions until you gain a better understanding of the details. Some, such as NilocG, make good all-in-one packages and others, such as Seachem make good not-all-in-one packages. Since you like Seachem, I would suggest Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and Flourish as the basics. Seachems' Excel would also add some carbon.

Last edited by Deanna; 05-18-2020 at 05:42 PM. Reason: add
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post #22 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-18-2020, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the quick reply Deanna, wow my plants must be absorbing nitrates like crazy, I been Dosing generous amounts daily but I did see a video where they said they had to dose their tanks with a lot of nitrogen and iron, like crazy amounts cause the strong lights and co2.
I’ll start adding potassium and iron separately.
My test kit is new and expires until 2025. I’m assuming is my small bioload, and having co2 with strong lights is letting the plants absorb nutrients a lot more.
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post #23 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-18-2020, 05:59 PM
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Yes, the high light and CO2 (I didn't notice your use of CO2) will drive growth quite a bit. Be a little careful about overdosing the iron, although it is harder to overdose with Seachem's Iron. Reds don't necessarily come from iron. Since you are using CO2, no need to use the Excel, but make sure you are getting enough CO2. Another useful tool that many of us use for determining dosing is this: https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php. You can plug your Seachem product into it and know just what to dose for your situation. If it were me, I would start with the "Estimative Index" option and adjust downward when you gain more experience/knowledge.
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post #24 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-18-2020, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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I was thinking reds mostly cane from iron and strong lighting, what’s most important for red plants?
Yeah I only use excel for algae control but use very little cause how dangerous it is.
I’ll check that out 👍
I’m starting to learn how much to dose just by looking at the plants, I just wasn’t trusting my self at first for some reason but now with all the help and research I’m finding my thoughts were right.
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post #25 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-19-2020, 02:48 AM
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Originally Posted by CarissaT View Post
Yes technically water can be soft and have a high tds. But it probably isn’t particularly common for tap water.

When people say water is “soft” usually what they mean is that it’s low in Kh (carbonates) and or GH (calcium and magnesium). That is all those two tests measure for, those three components.

TDS = total dissolved solids. So this measurement is telling you the total of everything dissolved in the water, including the calcium, magnesium, carbonates, and a myriad of many other things that can be dissolved in water.

Let’s say you take a bottle of distilled water with tds of 0 and add a box of table salt. Will the tds go up? Yes, the more salt you add the higher it will go as long as it keeps dissolving. Anything dissolved in the water raises tds. Will the GH or Kh go up? No, because sodium chloride as we can deduce by the name has no effect on carbonates, calcium or magnesium, it contains none of those components so it cannot increase Kh or GH.

But in real life we have to look at what usually happens in regards to our water supply. If our tap water is coming from a deep underground reservoir which lies below certain types of rocks, as that water percolates down through the ground it can pick up things from the rock, for instance calcium, magnesium or carbonates. And often the rock that it gets these things from are high in other minerals too, for instance iron. So usually when someone has “hard” water, they are high in a lot of things, kh, GH, and other things too, all combining to create a high tds.

As a side note many people with very hard water use water “softeners” which lower the hardness but don’t lower tds because they way they work is by exchanging the minerals with something else like sodium. So the water becomes “soft,” but still has the same tds with the sodium increased proportionally to the other things being removed.

On the other hand, if our tap water is coming from a source above ground like a surface reservoir, or in my case a relatively shallow well in ground that has low amounts of dissolvable minerals in it, when the rain falls (which starts off essentially at 0 tds) it doesn’t have to percolate through a lot of rock first where it would pick up “hardness” before it’s pumped into the house. Therefore both the Kh and GH are low.

So in real life the characteristics of water depend mainly on the geology of the area and location the water is coming from before it gets pumped into your house, but we can see why someone who has “soft” water is likely to have a low tds also.

I don’t think tds per se has any particular effect on plants. I would say the problem is that for many the high tds is coming from sodium in the water. which is bad for plants.


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I live in a particularly odd place that has very soft water, but, out of the tap, it's at roughly 45 TDS because of tannins, Iron and Silicates.


Soft water Tetras love this water, but it's a challenge to grow plants in because of the lack of macro nutrients like Ca/Mg and the limited bio-availablity of the dissolved iron. A clean bucket filled with this water will have a 1/8" film of Diatoms if left in the sun for a couple weeks. It's crazy stuff, so I use my own mix of Gypsum and Epsom Salts along with my normal plant fertilizers. Generally I'm finding bringing it up to a TDS of 140 does wonders for plants, and doesn't seem to bother the fish.

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post #26 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-20-2020, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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That’s actually what I’m trying to do from now on cause I feel my tap water is high on calcium and low on magnesium and my mosses aren’t so green.
But I’m not sure how much Epsom salt to add, I see some people add around two table spoons in 50 gallon tanks once a week, the salt I bought says 493mg magnesium for each teaspoon, since my tank is 20g, wouldn’t even a teaspoon or half a teaspoon be too much?
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post #27 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-20-2020, 09:10 PM
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Gh 8 kh 1 250tds

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Originally Posted by Alien87 View Post
That’s actually what I’m trying to do from now on cause I feel my tap water is high on calcium and low on magnesium and my mosses aren’t so green.
But I’m not sure how much Epsom salt to add, I see some people add around two table spoons in 50 gallon tanks once a week, the salt I bought says 493mg magnesium for each teaspoon, since my tank is 20g, wouldn’t even a teaspoon or half a teaspoon be too much?


I’m just learning in regards to my tank issues about how Ca and Mg need to be in balance for best results, between 2:1 to 4:1 or thereabouts. So to get into balance first you need to know how many ppm’s of both you have, (as per above by doing a GH test and then a Ca test, subtract the Ca from the GH and that’s your Mg).

Once you know how far off you are with the Mg you can plug in your actual gallons of water and ppm you want to raise by, into the Rotala butterfly calculator. It will then tell you exactly how much Epsom salts to put in to your tank to get the desired results.

Epsom salts is MgSO4 btw

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post #28 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-20-2020, 09:32 PM Thread Starter
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It’s exactly what I’m trying to do but I can’t find the api calcium test kit, I only see the saltwater one. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to find freshwater test kits lol. So what I was trying to figure out is Around how much would a teaspoon of Epsom salt raise magnesium levels in ppm in a gallon of water. Idk if all salt contain the same amount of magnesium?
My gh is 8 and yes chances are there’s magnesium in there but something tells me is possible it’s mostly calcium, I was just gonna Keep testing my gh and try not to raise it Over 9 by adding salt.
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post #29 of 29 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 01:43 AM
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It’s exactly what I’m trying to do but I can’t find the api calcium test kit, I only see the saltwater one. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to find freshwater test kits lol. So what I was trying to figure out is Around how much would a teaspoon of Epsom salt raise magnesium levels in ppm in a gallon of water. Idk if all salt contain the same amount of magnesium?
My gh is 8 and yes chances are there’s magnesium in there but something tells me is possible it’s mostly calcium, I was just gonna Keep testing my gh and try not to raise it Over 9 by adding salt.
The saltwater Ca API kit is the right (only) one. Many "saltwater" kits are used in our planted, freshwater, hobby. The saltwater segment dwarfs the planted tank segment, so manufacturers gear their kits to that. However, many of them, like this Ca kit, can be adapted to our needs.

The term "salt" is used here in the chemistry sense of having two ions, not as table "salt" (which also has two different ions). Epsom salt is a combination of magnesium and sulfate. You can see what your dosing will do and/or how much to dose with this calculator: https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php
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