First thanks for a fabulous forum! Y'all are some of the smartest, most experienced monkeys ah have evah had the pleasure to encounter...
Okay - one week ago today I planted my tank! It's the 20 gallon (12x24x15) formerly known as PLASTIC. I have had the tank for about 2 years and have been quite successful fish-wise, just ready to take the plunge into the real deal. My lighting is totally inadequate - I'm afraid I got caught up in all the pretty pictures and didn't do enough homework in that particular area. A young man at the LFS told me that a Power-glo bulb would fit my 15 watt fixture and plants would do fine. I got a bit more technical (finally) in my studies and realized the error of our ways... So! I have a Jebo Odyssea 24# coming within the next 2 weeks! 2 65 watt bulbs - woo hoo! I realize that I will probably only be running one of them most of the time, maybe both for a couple of hours at high noon. I am going to get a Hagen CO2 kit to go along with it. My substrate is 1/2 Flourite - 1/2 small natural gravel. Plants are lots of fast growing stems and although they obviously aren't doing much, they don't look any worse for wear. The Ludwegia Repens and Rotala Rotundiflora even still show the pink they came with. I haven't started fertilizing yet, figured that would just bring on some major algae without adequate lighting and I'm hoping the Flourite will keep them happy for the time being. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!) I am running an Aqua-clear 150 with 2 sponges and Wal-Mart polyfloss. I kept the tank more or less cycled through the complete breakdown and substrate switch by keeping the filter running in another holding tank with the fish. Seems to have worked - the fish are loving their new house. Keyholes are even courting for the first time...
But I digress... Here is my dilemma. I have been using RO mixed with tap water. Which is softened and carbon filtered... I realize this is a bit dodgy, but the fish (and the plastic...) thrived in it. I also realize this is not great for the real plants and I'm looking for trouble with more light and CO2 and my lack of buffering capacity.
FWIW - here are my water parameters. (Nutrafin master test kit)
pH - 7.1
KH - 10 mg/L (ppm)
GH - 20 mg/L (ppm)
Nitrite - < 0.1
Ammonia - 0
I am out of "pillows" for my Nitrate test kit - hubby is in water treatment and getting me more.
I am assuming that my beautiful Mopani driftwood which insists on continuing to leach tannins in spite of 2 weeks soaking in hot RO and 2 trips through the dishwasher - no soap - is the reason why I have any hardness in the water at all? BTW - carbon seems to do exactly zero to remove tannin. (Hubby said it wouldn't) I don't like using it and pulled it out after 3 days and no results. The water is clear - just slightly tinted. No worries - it will go away - eventually...
I need to harden up my water right? I am trying to assimilate all the information out here and the only thing that keeps repeating in my head is the #1 rule of fishkeeping - "don't mess with your water or you're asking for trouble." Especially messing with the pH, which the CO2 will do. Although nobody here seems to have much trouble with it. Still a little scary to me. Please tell me exactly how to safely get the hardness up in the tank. And how high (I'm thinking around 6?) - so the tank is ready when the lights and CO2 come into play. Would RO Right do the trick? Or baking soda? And how do I do this without shocking my fish?
Also - since the Hagen CO2 kit can't be turned off and on, should I throw in my little bubbler to run at night when the lights go out? It seems most people safely run it all night, but pH fluctuations TERRIFY me!!!
I'm sorry this is so long and if you have made it through - THANK YOU! I have tried so hard to figure all this out on my own, but it still came down to these few questions that I really wanted to clarify. I apologize too if this is all TMI, but I wanted to try to answer any questions that might come up in advance!