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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-26-2012, 11:24 PM Thread Starter
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basic water question

I working towards getting back into the planted tank hobby. I've had mixed success years ago with low tech tanks, but from reading on here it looks like a lot has changed since then. (I used to spend a lot of time worrying about getting phosphorus to 0 and how much wpg I had )

My water comes from the city as KH 14 and GH 17. The pH straight from the tap is 7.8 and raises to 8.2 after sitting. I have an ion exchange type softener that drops the GH to 2 and doesn't affect KH (still 14).

Should go straight to an RO system to knock down the KH? I'm not shooting to grow the most difficult plants, I just want be able to grow the more common plants successfully (and fish too)

I've read some substraits can absorb KH. Is that good enough to help a KH of 14? How long does the ability to absorb last?

Mike
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 12:24 AM
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With GH and KH so high, just keep fish that like that sort of water.
Many livebearers, certain Rainbow Fish, Rift Lake Cichlids...
Most aquarium plants will be OK, grow just fine, and some really thrive in hard water.

To soften water like this I would use reverse osmosis water. Then mix back just a little tap water until the GH, KH and pH are a lot closer to your goal.
Then, if you want black water fish, run the water through some peat moss.

Turface and many of the ADA products will remove the carbonates, but not GH. With that high KH I'll bet the substrate gets pretty full pretty fast.
Your softener that removes the GH, is it a sodium exchange softener? (You have to keep adding salt) For every molecule of calcium or magnesium it removes it is adding 2 molecules of sodium to the water. Better to really remove these minerals, not substitute something else.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 02:47 AM
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Hi Mike, welcome to the forum and back to tanking.
Do want you choose (obviously) but the ion exchange 'softener' will cause you grief with both plants and fish. I have one on my current home.

Research what critters will thrive in the water you have without altering it or go ahead and get going with setting up an RO unit and product water reservoir. Water mineral content and trying to alter it by adding things is a tail chase PITA. (been there too)
Ultimately softer water means removing minerals.


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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 02:51 AM Thread Starter
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Ok, I think I'll head in the RO direction. I should be able to get a good balance with RO and tap mix without too much effort. Hopefully I won't have to buy anything other than maybe a trace solution?
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 03:37 AM
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Hopefully I won't have to buy anything other than maybe a trace solution?
A trace mix (mirco) and NPK (macro) Nitrate, Phosphate, Potassium or go with an enriched substrate type tank to support the tank weeds.

There are literally endless ways discussed in these day's of the internet information exchange to 'method' a planted tank. My personal choice is to use a potting soil type dirt mix as the primary base with an inert capping material. This is by no means a good choice for everyone and has a number of benefits but also compromises.
Going low tech or not I like dirt tanks and the rewards and trade off considerations suit me. Low cost and an easier maintenance schedule are fair to say across the board after the tank stabilizes.

Diana Walstad's book ended up being a must read and I added it to my library. Hopefully most are reading enough information first and thinking it through. Those that don't are the main group posting horror stories about using soil as an aquarium base.

Two HUGE considerations doing this.
Using 'natural' soils READ the contents on your bag of dirt! I know it contains dirt,,, (duh),,,
but NO COW POO! chemical ferts or wetting agents Small amounts of chicken waste or worm castings can work great. I avoid cow manure but others have achieved nice stable tanks using it in the mixture.

Also remember PLZ that while natural tanks (dirt base) and seeded filters can be stocked from day one go lightly with your first stocking list. Dirt goes through changes going from dry to saturated (submerged) and the rate of break down on the organics changes too. Sometimes it can be more than the tank and fish can handle.
For the first couple of months whether you want to or not test your water. Every couple of days and be ready to change it if the soil burps (it can happen). You might have a tank like mine that ran straight through the issues quickly and was trouble free from then on. Lots of plants (including floaters), no hard scape to trap the soil gases, control the light (a big key to dodging algae), watch things and let the tank settle (month maybe two). The capping material needs to be small enough to contain the soil yet allow the gas exchange to occur.

Attention starting out, more or less high maintenance in the beginning. Things can get busy if a bump in water parameters occurs. All the organic material and the bacteria that chew through it do give you free CO2 for a period of time.

The second major trade off you make is that rooted plants are there to stay. Removing plants with a good root structure is a HUGE PITA. I had an Amazon Sword that had to go. Cutting around the root ball directly under it I killed the plant taking it out and left all the root runners in place. Thinning a field of crypts means a water change and repairing the cap adding more material. Soil tanks are a set it and forget it type of tanking (imo). If you like to change things around, re-scape, swap out plants then NPT is not for you. If you want to top off the tank when the water gets low, trim to make room for the fish to swim and not dose for months it might be what your looking for.

A planted tank is more than a basic water, fish tank. If you want to tank plants they need to be fed if the system is to succeed.


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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 04:25 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, sorry I didn't mean to imply I wouldn't need macros.

If I mix tap and RO to get the desired KH and GH I shouldn't need any additional buffering chemicals?
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 01:40 PM
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I mix to minimums keeping the water soft.
above 2dKH pH remains stable both CO2 injected and non.
somewhere between 3-5dGH is I think the minimum not to become calcium deficient.
Shouldn't need added buffers beyond that (imo).


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 02:20 PM
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Water Chemistry

Quote:
Originally Posted by starquestMM View Post
I working towards getting back into the planted tank hobby. I've had mixed success years ago with low tech tanks, but from reading on here it looks like a lot has changed since then. (I used to spend a lot of time worrying about getting phosphorus to 0 and how much wpg I had )

My water comes from the city as KH 14 and GH 17. The pH straight from the tap is 7.8 and raises to 8.2 after sitting. I have an ion exchange type softener that drops the GH to 2 and doesn't affect KH (still 14).

Should go straight to an RO system to knock down the KH? I'm not shooting to grow the most difficult plants, I just want be able to grow the more common plants successfully (and fish too)

I've read some substraits can absorb KH. Is that good enough to help a KH of 14? How long does the ability to absorb last?

Mike
Hello Mike...

You don't need to jump through a lot of hoops to get stable water conditions. Unless you're keeping rare fish, you don't need to worry about pH, hardness or any of that kind of thing. Most freshwater fish will adapt to your tap water and a pH of 6 to even 8.5 is very tolerable.

Just treat your tap water for ammonia, chlorine and chloramine and that's all. I use Seachem's "Prime" and change half the tank water every week. The large, weekly water changes will guarantee safe conditions for your fish, because the water isn't in the tank long enough to get dirty.

Pretty simple.

B

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-28-2012, 02:56 AM
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Get a gallon of RO from the store.

Make a few mixes
25% RO + 75% tap (not from the softener)
50/50
75% RO + 25% tap

Whichever comes closest to the fish you want to keep is fine, or you can fine tune it to some exact number. Most hatchery raised fish will be fine in water that is a bit harder than their ancestors came from (perhaps a 50/50 mix or RO + your tap water), but they may not breed. If your goal is wild caught fish or breeding certain fish then research that species and target the optimum parameters for them.
If the fish you want are from black water river systems then filter the blended water (whichever recipe suits your fish) through peat moss. This will add the organic acids that your fish like.

When you set up the tank you will have to have that much prepared water, and for every water change you will need to prepare water. I use a Rubbermaid Brute, on wheels. (I actually have 3 water prep cans)
Top off with RO.

When you buy new fish always quarantine!
Set up the quarantine tank with water that matches the store. Then, gradually change the water so it matches your tank. This may take a month, and that is just fine. A month is a good time for the fish to be in quarantine so you are sure they are not introducing parasites or disease to the main tank.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-28-2012, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
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I've ordered a RO system. It will be nice to not be limited by my tap water anymore.

Now I'll just have to figure out where to put it. I have a blind corner base cabinet by my kitchen sink that has a lot of unused room. Might even be enough for a 20 gallon storage tote. Otherwise it could go in the garage by the washer/drier easily enough, but that area wouldn't be heated/cooled.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-29-2012, 01:56 AM
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You might ask the manufacturer if there is an optimum temperature for the RO unit.

Even if you keep the RO unit in the garage, I would suggest finding a storage place in the house for the water prep can.

You can hang an aquarium heater in the can to heat the water, but it uses a lot of power to do that. It is better at maintaining the temperature, if the water is already warm enough.
When I needed to warm a lot of water I would put it in large pots on the stove (gas stove, not electric).
Using electricity to heat things is not very energy efficient.
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