Setting Up New Tank/Help with kH - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-24-2014, 04:17 AM Thread Starter
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Setting Up New Tank/Help with kH

(TL;DR? Check the bottom paragraph)

I've had a betta fish for over a year now, most of that time being in a 3 gallon tank. Recently, I finally got around to getting the API water test kit. My ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates were all very low. For the record, I never cycled my tank which might make some people cringe.

The thing that made me nearly cry (ok maybe not really) was that my pH was extremely high. It was higher than the test kit maximum of 8.8. After doing some tests and research, I believe my kH to be the culprit. I don't have a kH test kit so I couldn't really be 100% positive, but it's the only explanation. (might be quick to test if I just stopped being lazy and got the test kit)

After doing some more Googling, it looks like RO water would help lower the kH. I don't have the money though to buy an RO filter, and for some reason I didn't find RO water at Walmart, so I was wondering if it would work just as well to mix tap water and distilled water, I'm thinking 50/50. (I know the difference between tap, distilled, and RO)

In a couple of days I'm going to buy the basic 10 gallon tank from Walmart and before I get it all set up, I wanted to see how I could lower the kH of my water since it's so high and buffering my pH. My java ferns haven't been doing well obviously because their max pH is 8. My anubias have been just fine though, maybe just growing slower than normal (which might not be saying much). Could I use 50/50 tap to distilled water for my 10 gallon? I've been slowly doing water changes and adding in distilled water to my 3 gallon, so I'm kind of preparing to do that, but I just want to see how to go about this. As long as there's enough minerals in the water, I should be ok right? Even better would be to just remove the carbonate, but how would I precipitate that out?

Sorry for the long post. Hopefully it's a simple answer! Thanks for any help you can provide. I'm still very much a noob at this.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-24-2014, 06:23 AM
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Ahoya,
if I read your post correctly, then your water in your 3G tank has a pH of 8.8? While it looks scary, it is really not too much of a problem. Provided that your ammonia level is low (sometimes the test is slow), the high pH is due to hard water. (perhaps you can find out what is in your tap water -> report from the water supplier) Look for "Hardness" or "calcium and magnesium" levels. Even though the pH of the your hard tap water can initially be 7, when you have plants growing in your tank they take out any CO2 they can get. As a result the pH goes up (possibly as high as 9) because the calcium ions are then less buffered.
The simplest way is really to get the pH down again is to restore the CO2 in your tank. Don't be shocked, but that can be done by just adding 5 mL of carbonated water ( from a Seltzer bottle) to your 3G tank.
Measure the pH after adding CO2, it will not go lower than 6.5. If you want to have fun, you can follow the changes to the pH values during one day. I predict that it will go up to ~ 7.8, at which time you can add CO2 again if you wish.
There are other methods of how you can keep the pH down permanently, but I suggest to discuss that once you have your 10G tank in place.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-24-2014, 01:45 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by g4search View Post
Ahoya,
if I read your post correctly, then your water in your 3G tank has a pH of 8.8? While it looks scary, it is really not too much of a problem. Provided that your ammonia level is low (sometimes the test is slow), the high pH is due to hard water. (perhaps you can find out what is in your tap water -> report from the water supplier) Look for "Hardness" or "calcium and magnesium" levels. Even though the pH of the your hard tap water can initially be 7, when you have plants growing in your tank they take out any CO2 they can get. As a result the pH goes up (possibly as high as 9) because the calcium ions are then less buffered.
The simplest way is really to get the pH down again is to restore the CO2 in your tank. Don't be shocked, but that can be done by just adding 5 mL of carbonated water ( from a Seltzer bottle) to your 3G tank.
Measure the pH after adding CO2, it will not go lower than 6.5. If you want to have fun, you can follow the changes to the pH values during one day. I predict that it will go up to ~ 7.8, at which time you can add CO2 again if you wish.
There are other methods of how you can keep the pH down permanently, but I suggest to discuss that once you have your 10G tank in place.
I figured there wasn't much I really should bother doing until I got my 10g anyways.

Stupid question, but last night I remembered my refrigerator has a filtered water accessory. I'll just have to test it when I get back from classes tonight, but do you think that would remove some of the 'hardness' from the water. I'll have to look at the book for the refrigerator to see what it says. Something tells me it would only remove some of the chlorine, but it might be worth looking into.

Thanks for your help. I hadn't taken into consideration the loss of CO2 from my plants.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-24-2014, 02:31 PM
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Distilled water and RO water are pretty much the same thing as far as aquarium keeping goes.

Get a gallon of distilled, and tests for GH and KH. (test strips are OK at this point, you are trying to get more or less in the right range, and quick, easy tests trump accuracy for now)

Make several blends of DI and tap water. Perhaps
25% DI + 75% tap
50/50
75% DI + 25% tap.

See which one comes closest to what your fish want.
GH is the most important, but test the others (KH and pH).

If the GH and KH are pretty similar, that is OK. If they are not within say about 50% of each other, then I would adjust the blend of waters until both are just a bit too low, then add whatever is needed until you get:
GH- suited to the livestock.
KH- fairly close to the GH.

Then the pH will at least be in the ballpark.
If you still need to drop it you can filter the water through peat moss. This will add the organic acids that many soft water fish like.

You can run these tests in a small volume (if you just buy 1 gallon of DI that is OK to start with).
Once you get the recipe correct you should repeat on a larger volume of water.

Sure, look into the fridge filter, but I think it is just a small one, not suited to running many gallons through it. You could look into counter-top water filters, though. A simple carbon filter is not going to do it, though.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-24-2014, 05:09 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Distilled water and RO water are pretty much the same thing as far as aquarium keeping goes.

Get a gallon of distilled, and tests for GH and KH. (test strips are OK at this point, you are trying to get more or less in the right range, and quick, easy tests trump accuracy for now)

Make several blends of DI and tap water. Perhaps
25% DI + 75% tap
50/50
75% DI + 25% tap.

See which one comes closest to what your fish want.
GH is the most important, but test the others (KH and pH).

If the GH and KH are pretty similar, that is OK. If they are not within say about 50% of each other, then I would adjust the blend of waters until both are just a bit too low, then add whatever is needed until you get:
GH- suited to the livestock.
KH- fairly close to the GH.

Then the pH will at least be in the ballpark.
If you still need to drop it you can filter the water through peat moss. This will add the organic acids that many soft water fish like.

You can run these tests in a small volume (if you just buy 1 gallon of DI that is OK to start with).
Once you get the recipe correct you should repeat on a larger volume of water.

Sure, look into the fridge filter, but I think it is just a small one, not suited to running many gallons through it. You could look into counter-top water filters, though. A simple carbon filter is not going to do it, though.
I'm not an expert, but I know that distilled water is more pure than ro water, so no, I wouldn't really think they'd be the same.

I went and ordered the gh and kh liquid tests from API so I'll have them in 2 days, and I'll run those tests to see what the perfect balance of distilled/tap water is. Thanks for your help.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 01:24 AM Thread Starter
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I don't mean to purposefully bump my own post, but as an addition to all of this, I just got home today from classes and saw that my betta made a nice bubble nest. He hasn't made one in months, so he must like that I'm softening the water and slowly bringing the pH down. It's nice to see that my efforts are being appreciated. :P
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 06:55 PM
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so Ahoya,
can you tell us how you lowered the pH to make your Betta happy?
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 03:46 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by g4search View Post
so Ahoya,
can you tell us how you lowered the pH to make your Betta happy?
Honestly, I've just been slowly adding in distilled water when I do water changes. I've also been using API's pH Down, which is just sulfuric acid. I give credit to the distilled water though, for diluting the kH so it isn't buffering as much. When I used pH Down on it's own, the pH would just rebound, but with distilled water, it has been staying more level, at about 7.8.

Tomorrow I'll be getting the gH and kH test from API in the mail and I'll let you guys know what my numbers are if you're interested.

I just bought that 10g tank tonight so I really want to know what a good mixture of tap water to distilled water is before I do anything with the tank. I've made mixtures with 25/75, 50/50, and 75/25 and I'll test those tomorrow to see which is best.

Side note, I just bought a 15lb bag of Seachem's Fluorite, and I'll be getting that in the mail next week. For the past year, I've just been using normal gravel. I figured since I don't have enough of that, I'd just buy a bag of higher grade gravel. I definitely don't want to try doing a dirted tank, especially with a micro tank, so this is as best as I'll go.

Thanks again for all the help guys! I appreciate it!

Any tips to share with a novice?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 07:20 AM
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Ahoya,

No tips really, I' m confident that you will figure it all out. ( Think nature, there is certain not much you can do wrong) The trouble will come much later
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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So I received the GH and KH tests today and went to work on testing different combinations of distilled to tap water. I found that 75% distilled gave me a KH of 107.4, so not too bad. When I went to test GH, I got absolutely nothing. So I tested my tap water and got nothing also. I knew we had a water softener, but we were told that only hot water was being softened. Well that was a lie. So this entire time, I might as well have been using straight up distilled water because with 0 GH, it's severely hurting my tank.

Knowing that the water that goes outside is not softened, I went to go test that. I got a KH of 322.2 and a GH of 465.4. Look at that, I got something. Knowing that, I went ahead and did a 75% distilled to 25% of the new water source and got a KH AND GH of 107.4, so about where I would like to be. And I tested the pH which was approximately 7.

When I set up my new tank, I want to do a 7 gallon to 3 gallon mix right away, so that will be a drastic change for my betta if I put him right in. Besides doing water changes to my 3g using the new mixture of water, is there anything else I can do to help him acclimate to the new conditions? I want him to be as happy and comfortable as possible transitioning into his new tank.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2014, 06:44 AM
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Do not make such a severe change for the fish.
Make the new set up GH and KH within about 10% of the current values, whatever he is used to.
Then, each week you can do a couple of small water changes that further soften the tank water by 10% each time. It may take a month to get him acclimated to significantly softer water. His metabolism needs to change, and this takes time.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2014, 08:49 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Do not make such a severe change for the fish.
Make the new set up GH and KH within about 10% of the current values, whatever he is used to.
Then, each week you can do a couple of small water changes that further soften the tank water by 10% each time. It may take a month to get him acclimated to significantly softer water. His metabolism needs to change, and this takes time.
That's what I'm doing right now with my 3g. I'm slowly adjusting that water. The substrate I bought won't get here until a week from Monday and then I want to let that settle and let the water adjust until hopefully only Tuesday. So I'm already working my way towards the appropriate parameters with my 3g.
My KH won't take much longer to adjust. Only a bit over what I'm aiming for. It's just my GH that was nonexistent at first that I need to raise.
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