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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-05-2011, 08:49 AM Thread Starter
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Confused about test

Maybe I'm just really tired and not understanding this...

I have the Nutrafin GH test instruction book and I'm confused about this part:

4) Multiple the total number of drops by 20 to determine the General Hardness in mg/L (ppm) as calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

GH is salts/magnesium and calcium, right? So... if it only determines the GH as calcium carbonate (and not salts/magnesium), how am I supposed to know how much cichlid salt I'm supposed to use???
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-05-2011, 11:07 PM
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Why would you use any cichlid salt? If you are planning on having only African Cichlids, which need hard water to live in, I think you will want to get the KH higher, but not necessarily the GH. Most hardness test kits I have seen are designed to indicate in degrees of hardness, so the number of drops to the color change equals the hardness in degrees of KH or GH. Hardness in ppm is almost always expressed as ppm of calcium carbonate needed to get that hardness.

If you do need to raise the GH, use a GH builder, like Seachem Equilibrium or one of the generic GH builders from one of the on line fertilizer stores. The number of teaspoons of whichever one you use that are needed to raise the hardness by one degree is given on the package for the GH Builder.

If you need to raise the KH only, ordinary baking soda is the easiest way to do that - add a little, then recheck the KH, then add a little more, etc. until you reach the KH you want. But, don't be shocked if you find that the KH drops back to near what it was when you started, after a week or so.

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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 12:19 AM Thread Starter
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I need to raise ph, KH and GH for breeding snails. All of those three parameters are low in my well water. The cichlid salt has marine salt, magnesium and sodium bicarbonate so it covers all three aspects. I also add some Kent's calcium, whether they use it or not.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 12:20 AM Thread Starter
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But, I guess, my question is, how do I know if I'm using too much or too little epsom salts if it only gives the results in ppm of calcium carbonate?
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by captmicha View Post
But, I guess, my question is, how do I know if I'm using too much or too little epsom salts if it only gives the results in ppm of calcium carbonate?
I'd just get a KH test kit.. I had no idea you could multiply your GH by blah blah to get kh.
Either way, you could try taking a fraction of your tank water, say 1 gallon, test its parameters, and then try a 1/4 teaspoon of Epsom salts and test again to seee what happens.
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 01:58 AM
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A bag of shells, coral, limestone is all you need in your filter or better yet, use it as a substrate like the reefers.


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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 02:16 AM
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A bag of shells, coral, limestone is all you need in your filter or better yet, use it as a substrate like the reefers.
for a snail tank absolutely!


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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 03:41 AM
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That value, mg/L as calcium carbonate, is one common unit of hardness. It's because the test doesn't sort out how much calcium and magnesium you have, it only measures the combination of the two and gives the result as the standard value of CaCO3. So if you made a solution with the given concentration of CaCO3, it would have the same hardness as your water, regardless of the Ca/Mg mixture of your water.

The measurement you're talking about has nothing to do with KH in case you were wondering, and you can't convert GH to KH.

ETA: Here's a converter among hardness values.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 04:07 AM
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I may be wrong, but I don't believe that calcium in the water is available to the snails. I believe they get their calcium, magnesium, etc. from the food they eat. And, snail shells are largely protein, not calcium. If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will correct me.

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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 05:02 AM
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Calcium in the water will raise hardness and pH which is good for snails. Snails tend to have issues with their shells dissolving in low pH water.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 06:20 AM Thread Starter
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I'd just get a KH test kit.. I had no idea you could multiply your GH by blah blah to get kh.
Either way, you could try taking a fraction of your tank water, say 1 gallon, test its parameters, and then try a 1/4 teaspoon of Epsom salts and test again to seee what happens.
I already have the GH test, it arrived today and I already have a KH too.

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A bag of shells, coral, limestone is all you need in your filter or better yet, use it as a substrate like the reefers.
A lot of people say that it becomes useless when it becomes covered in bio-film because the water is no longer able to reach the calcium and leech it.

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The measurement you're talking about has nothing to do with KH in case you were wondering, and you can't convert GH to KH.
I know, I'm not the one that said that.

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That value, mg/L as calcium carbonate, is one common unit of hardness. It's because the test doesn't sort out how much calcium and magnesium you have, it only measures the combination of the two and gives the result as the standard value of CaCO3. So if you made a solution with the given concentration of CaCO3, it would have the same hardness as your water, regardless of the Ca/Mg mixture of your water.
I'm not sure that I understand this. Testing the water right out of the tap will get the same results testing it after I add the cichlid salt?

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Calcium in the water will raise hardness and pH which is good for snails. Snails tend to have issues with their shells dissolving in low pH water.
Exactly what I thought. Please correct me if I'm wrong but this is what I thought:

Kent's Liquid Calcium is Calcium chloride. So since calcium is a base, it will raise the pH and also the GH because GH measures calcium and salt.

And if I dissolved Calcium carbonate into the water, it would raise all three because KH is carbonate hardness.

Did I get that wrong?


But that brings me to a new question about a GH test. If GH is both salts and calcium, how do I know if I have enough salt or enough calcium since the tests don't differentiate between the two? Or does it only tell me how much calcium I have? And if it does, how I do find out about how much salt I need?
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by captmicha View Post
I'm not sure that I understand this. Testing the water right out of the tap will get the same results testing it after I add the cichlid salt?
That's not what I meant, sorry if that's how it reads. Suppose your tap water reads 100 mg/L CaCO3 according to the test. The test has no way to distinguish among the various chemicals it is sensitive to so it gives you a single value. In this case those are calcium and magnesium ions primarily, though hardness is caused by any ion in solution with a charge greater than +1, and I don't know whether the tests catch these or whether we care in particular about them as aquarists, at least in terms of hardness considerations.

If you were to make a separate solution of calcium carbonate by dissolving 100mg CaCO3 in enough distilled water to get 1 liter total volume, the two solutions (your tap water and the one that you made) should test the same, even though their compositions are probably different. You could do the same thing by dissolving 50mg CaCO3 and 42mg MgCO3 in enough distilled water to make 1L, or any other combination of Ca and Mg that provided the same total molar concentration.
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by captmicha View Post
Kent's Liquid Calcium is Calcium chloride. So since calcium is a base, it will raise the pH and also the GH because GH measures calcium and salt.

And if I dissolved Calcium carbonate into the water, it would raise all three because KH is carbonate hardness.
Calcium isn't a base. If you add calcium chloride in reasonable quantities, it shouldn't have much of an effect on the pH of the water at all and should fairly selectively change the hardness. Calcium hydroxide, which some saltwater folks use, is a base, as is calcium carbonate. And yes, calcium carbonate would raise pH, GH, and KH.

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But that brings me to a new question about a GH test. If GH is both salts and calcium, how do I know if I have enough salt or enough calcium since the tests don't differentiate between the two? Or does it only tell me how much calcium I have? And if it does, how I do find out about how much salt I need?
If you want to distinguish between calcium and magnesium (and various other dissolved substances in your water) you've got a couple of options. You can pay a lab to test your water. A very thorough test can cost a couple hundred dollars (unfortunately I know this personally, my wife has our well tested every couple of years...) and gives you a crazy amount of information about your water. If you are using a municipal water supply, they almost always provide some information online regarding the composition of the tap water. If you're lucky, they may have thorough test results, if not, they'll list just a few things in an annual mailer.

I'm not sure what you mean by salt. If you've got squeaky clean water you could add aquarium salt according to the instructions on the box and not hurt anything. I don't know that you would be helping anything either though, honestly.
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 05:00 PM
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It will most likely raise pH by increasing buffering capacity. Otherwise pH tends to be below neutral due to carbonic acid and other organic acids.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 08-06-2011, 10:12 PM Thread Starter
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I'm not sure what you mean by salt.
I meant Epsom Salt. What? You can't read my mind??

I was going to ask next how do I know how much cichlid salt I need to add but I guess this answers it http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/buffer_recipe.php.

But they say add a certain amount and test your water and maybe add more, yet on the very bottom of the page, it says to add a specific amount per every 5 gallons.
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