water starts out soft and becomes hard - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2014, 08:09 PM Thread Starter
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water starts out soft and becomes hard

Hi everyone. I hope you're not sick of me. You've really helped me in the past so I'm wondering if you might be willing to help me out again.

I'll try to make this brief so as not to bore anyone so I'm sorry if I leave any important information out.

I've had trouble keeping fish a live. Here is my stats:

39 gal tank
aprox 3 years old
0 ppm ammonia
0 ppm nitrites
5 ppm nitrates
7.6 pH
5 GH
7 KH
low tech/no CO2, no ferts
2 x coralife 18 watts 6700K bulbs
eco-complete substrate
mostly anubias nana and rotala and driftwood
6 ocelot danios
5 japonica shrimp
1 betta female (temporarily)
1 betta male in a breeder net (temporarily)

Here is the issue. I'm on a well. I live in a 200 year old farm house in NH. We have a lot of farm loam although this hasn't been a farm for a good number of years I believe. I have horses but no other farm animals. The ground is mostly clay/farm loam and if we have rocks they are granite.

There is a filter on the well but my dad assures me there is no softoner. The water coming out of the tap has a pH of 6.0 and for hardness: 5 GH and 2 KH. This agrees with the professional test my mom had done on the well a year or two ago. They tested the pH as 5.9 and called the water soft.

One might assume then that the CO2 is gassing off which is causing the jump in pH in my tank. And one might also assume I have something in my tank to cause the increase in hardness. Except 1) the only rock in the tank is a piece of slate, the only shells in my tank are of dead pond snails (I don't know if those can be a problem? They are small and hard to get out) 2) I have let water sit in an empty bucket and the pH and KH rise as they do in the tank.

So I really haven't any clue about this. I thought I had a system down where I was letting the water sit in the bucket for 3 days and when the pH was up to 7.6 I would use it to do a water change. So far the fish have been ok with this method. But now in the winter I'm finding it's taking a long time for the pH to come up in the bucket. Weeks. By the time it's 7.2 a lot of water has evaporated in both the bucket and my tank and then I end up having to just use it to top off. I'm always playing catch-up.

Thus I am thinking it would be easiest (although more expensive) to make the switch to RO water. At least that way I can control what is actually going into the tank. I guess I'm hesitating because I'm reading that people say if the water is ok to drink than it is ok for your fish. Except fish don't do well in my tank. The danios seem to be ok, but they're danios. And they're strong danios because when I first got them there was 10 and 6 of them kicked the bucket the moment I put a little of my tank water into the bag with them, it was like I had just put in poison). I've since gotten two more so now I have 6.

I'm just a little confused about what to do. I'm pretty sure my tank is cycled. I think my test kits are ok as I've had my water tested by LFSs as well to double-check. I'm fine with getting RO water although it would be a bit expensive since I will probably need to also by a pressure booster for my well in order to run an RO unit. It would be nice to figure out what is causing my water to be this way.

PS. My plants also don't do so well. I can only seem to grow very very easy plants. Even plants that other people grow no problem in their low-tech set ups, seem to struggle in my tank. I don't know if I just need more light or I need to user ferts (I bought some dry but still have to figure out the appropriate dossage and also waiting for my water to make up its mind about being soft or hard) or if it has anything to do with the water itself.

Last edited by ponyo; 01-24-2014 at 02:32 AM. Reason: fixed a mistake
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2014, 09:44 PM
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If your GH is increasing it's probably from a substrate or rocks in the tank leaching CaCO3 into the tank. Also this would increase KH and pH as well.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2014, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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Except this also happens in an empty bucket with nothing in it.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2014, 10:20 PM
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water starts out soft and becomes hard

Do you have a lfs near you? Take some of your water in and get them to run every test available.. Magnesium/calcium/ phosphate
Even get them to to run a salinity test in a refractometer..

Something's contaminating your water.. It could be something as simple as pesticides in minute doses but whatever it is you need to find out what that is..


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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2014, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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saltykisses,

I will try that. I'm going tomorrow actually to an LFS so I'll bring some water. I know the last place I went they said my water was hard enough to have cichlids and they endorsed the idea of RO water but they also sold RO water and they had a background in salt water tanks so...

thanks.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2014, 10:54 PM
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You dont have to let it sit in a bucket to de-gas CO2.

My well has high CO2 and i de-gas it by squirting it through a partially open hose nozzle.

When water is abruptly depressurized, the dissolved gasses come out of solution and become bubbles. Its the same process as what causes the bends in divers.

I fill my tank with a python water changer hose. I just crack the valve on it and adjust it for maximum noise, so the water is just slightly squirting through the valve. This results in an abrupt transition from high to low pressure and the dissolved gasses come out of suspension and become microscopic bubbles which float to the surface. At water change time, the fill water looks like milk with all the white bubbles in it. These then float to the top and dissipate.

Doing this does slow down a refill though because water flow through the hose is pretty low. Nowhere near what a fully opened valve would give.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2014, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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I will do some experimenting with that dmagerl. Thanks!
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 02:39 AM
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When my water has issues (too much dissolved gases) I will aerate it with a fountain pump.
Fill garbage can with water.
Put pump on bottom aimed straight up in the middle.
(Optional) add aquarium heater where it will not touch the plastic garbage can.
Turn on pump. Plug in heater.
Overnight is plenty of time, a few hours can be enough, if the pump is strong enough.

Remember to unplug heater before using the water!

Gases leave the water only when they touch the air.
When the water is very cold there is very little movement of anything (gases or otherwise) through the water. Heating it, and circulating it both help.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 02:39 AM Thread Starter
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So I tried to do as you suggested dmagerl. Maybe I didn't do it right. I have a python and I cracked the valve just a bit. The end wasn't submerged fully in the water... but that should make a difference right? I checked the pH and it was maybe just a bit higher... like 6.2.

Also I haven't been able to replicate the increase in KH in the bucket. I'm thinking I must have made a mistake. But I haven't had water sitting in the bucket for as long as I had that first time. The bucket I tested today had been sitting out for maybe 2 weeks. The GH was the same as the tap. The KH was about 1-2 degrees higher than the tap. So the tap was a KH of 2 and the bucket was between 3 and 4.

Is that a significant difference? Or should I start suspecting it is not my water and I made a mistake the first time and it's something in my tank? And if it is something in my tank what on earth could it be? Could Eco-complete cause an increase in carbonate hardness?? Driftwood?? Plants??

Last edited by ponyo; 01-24-2014 at 02:40 AM. Reason: typo
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 02:45 AM
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Long time ago EC made a substrate for hard water fish that would do this.
Then there was a problem and some of the regular product did that.

I think those problems are gone, but it would be a worthwhile test:
Put a handful of EC in some 'fresh out of the well' water, and in some water that has been stabilized in a bucket, but had not other treatment.
Then test GH, KH and pH. TDS if you have a meter.

I do not think driftwood contributes to rising KH. If anything, very slow decomposing might reduce it, but so slowly it is not a factor in this situation.

About half the plants we use in our tanks can utilize carbonates as a source of carbon. They only do this when the CO2 is depleted. But plants will lower the KH, not raise it, when they are doing this.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 02:51 AM
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Did I read that you topoff with tap water? If so, that is a problem. I may have misread though.

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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 03:01 AM
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It could be the eco-complete if it's from an old batch. There were reports of some batches being contaminated with high levels of calcium carbonate. I remember buying a bag of eco complete a while ago (about 8-9 years ago) and it would slowly raise the pH, GH, and KH of my tank water. The plants and the fish did alright though. If anything, you can do Diana's test with the eco complete and see if it alters your water parameters.

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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 04:55 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone once again for all your help.

I bought the substrate about 3 years ago. I have some left over I have kept so I could test out some of that in a bucket with water.

If it is something in my tank and then I just need to worry about gassing of the CO2 then I will try the method you describe Diana.

Aquasapien69-
Why would topping off be the problem? Just to clarify the water I use to top off my tank with is the water that is in the bucket. In the warmer months this wasn't an issue. I'd fill the bucket and let it sit for a minimum of 3 days and then do a water change using that water.

But now because of the colder temp it takes so long for the pH to rise in the bucket that I have to let it sit there and meanwhile my tank is evaporating like crazy (despite having a lid on it) so that by the time the bucket of water is close enough in pH to the tank, I don't have enough of it to do any kind of a water change, I can only top off.

I also tested my tap water again and this time is has ammonia in it. 0.50 ppm. I feel like I'm going crazy with it. It didn't have ammonia the last time I tested it which was quite a while ago. The tank has no ammonia to be clear. I added, not Prime, but another conditioner that says it takes care of ammonia. It was a small bottle I had to use up but I bought a big bottle of Prime to use I should have mentioned I do use a water conditioner. In the past I haven't used any because there is no chlorine in the water. But this past year I have started using a conditioner.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 04:21 PM
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The water that evaporates is pure water, no minerals. By replacing that water with water that has minerals in it, you are increasing minerals and whatever else is in the water each time. You should only topoff with distilled, deionized, or RO water. Make sense?

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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2014, 04:36 PM
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If I follow correctly , you tested water in a bucket and then retested a week or more later and found KH had increased? Is it possible to explain this increase due to the amount of water evaporating? Evaporation will reduce the water but leave the same amount of minerals so one might get higher PPM readings? Seems a bit extreme on the amount of evaporation but maybe something to consider. I'm not able to read the colors that well so maybe reading under different lighting led to mistakes in testing?
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