Conditioning RO Water - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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Question Conditioning RO Water

Hello..,

I have just discovered a problem that may be killing some of my plants! The city I buy my plants from has GH, 100, KH, 100, and my water has GH, 10, KH, 30. The pH of the water is 7.0. My community uses RO, so this is how it comes out of the tap.

I am planning on adding CO2 to this system. Is there something I should be doing to raise the GH and KH before the CO2 is added?

How can I properly acclimate my plants upon bringing them home?

Low Nitrates: would adding more fish raise this significantly enough, or should I be adding nitrates as well? Adding more fish will take some time; I always quaranitne them for at least a month before adding them to m main tank, and it is not done being stocked.

Any advice you may have will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 06:22 PM
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Plants are very adaptable to a wide range of water parameters. Some may be a bit sensitive to large changes, but most will recover.

The plants do need a source of Ca and Mg, which are generally what are measured as GH. They don't need a lot, though, so there may be enough in your water as it is. Or, you could add a bit of GH Booster to bump it up a bit.

The amount of nutrients/co2 needed is dependent upon your lighting. Light drives growth, which increases the uptake of these nutrients. In low light settings, fish can provide sufficient nutrients. What type of lighting do you have?

Mike


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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 08:06 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, mpodolan..,

The lighting I have is the lighting that came with the tank. The bulbs are Eclipse bulbs with the numbers F15T8 after it; whatever that means! It is a 4ft long 55 Gallon tank, and there are only 2 bulbs that are 18" long each in the split hood. I am planning on doing a total overhaul of the system, one thing at a time. I have decided on the Hagen/Nutrafin CO2 system with bubble counter, but have yet to decide on lights. I have been trying to figure out if I can get enough lighting for this tank with only 2 18" bulbs, and looking at options of the bulbs themselves. In the lighting section I was recommended by everyone! to look at changing my tops and switching to one or two 48" bulbs instead of the 18s. I think this would be the way to go. The tank is 21" deep, so I'm also trying to figure out what type of lights would best penetrate this depth of water. I would like to be able to keep any equipment I might buy in case I am ever to upgrade tanks to something with more depth; perhaps a 75 or 90. This 55 has proved challenging both to light and to decorate, as well as limiting me to smaller fish.

I had absolutely no idea how complicated this could be, but that makes it all the more fascinating and fun for me. I am now finding out my worst errors have been to purchase the cheapest and easiest to find equipment, and now I have to try to fix it all on a small budget. There are so many things on my list, it's hard to know where to begin! These things are: Medium-Light Tank:
New Filter: Aquaclear 110- I need a filter that has options aside from carbon for the filter chamber. I have heard it is counterproductive to use carbon in the planted tank, but I'm scared to ask because I know it has been asked so many times before!
New Powerhead: (for my Loaches) Aquaclear 110
New CO2: Hagen/Nutrafin
New lighting: undecided
New Plants: Whatever I find that will be suited to this set-up
New Substrate: also undecided, but I need to find a compromise between something burrower friendly, and something good for plants
It all seems a little overwhelming, but in the end it will get done!
I also need to decide on the order in which I will do these things. Do you think the order is important?

Thanks a Bunch!
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 08:14 PM
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I think lighting is probably your biggest immediate concern. Keep the filter for now. Put another sponge in the carbon compartment, or if you can afford it put a bag of Purigen instead of a bag of charcoal. For CO2 on a budget, go DIY. I did DIY on a 4 foot 55 for years. It is a hassle, and you might have to run two bottles offset in time, but it is low outlay at any given time, so fits your budget well.


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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 08:33 PM
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Those are 15w T8 bulbs. This means you have low light. What is the bioload in this tank? The fish may be able to provide the nutrients at this light level.

It sounds like you want to do a number of upgrades, so I will make suggestions based on that. It all really starts with lighting in this hobby. Light drives plant growth. As this increases, the need for nutrients and co2 also increases. T5 lighting is very powerful. Compact fluorescent fixtures are also good. AH Supply sells retrofit kits which are excellent, if you are a bit handy. So, if you want faster growth, use higher light, along with good fertilization and co2. In higher light setups, there is more maintenance and things can get out of balance/lead to algae much quicker. If you want slower growth, lower light, fewer/no ferts/co2. This is the first decision that you need to make, IMHO.

As far as the other equipment, I'd recommend taking a look at canister filters. Eheim and Rena are two very popular brands around here. It is important to have good flow in planted tanks to help distribute nutrients and co2 evenly. Powerheads are good to add some extra flow and prevent dead spots in the aquarium

For co2, i wouldn't recommend the Hagen system. It is basically like a small DIY co2 system, and won't be enough for a 55g tank. You could run multiple DIY bottles at once if you wish, but it can be hard to keep this consistent. If you are going to increase your light, you will likely need good, consistent co2 (again, this all depends on the lighting. Low light setups don't really need co2). Pressurized co2 is ideal for medium/higher light setups, but is pricey.

As far as the order, it doesn't really matter, but it is important not to increase light significantly unless you have co2 and ferts. Otherwise, algae will have a significant advantage

Hope this helps a bit

Mike


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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Hello, Houstonhobby, and again, Mike..,

The fish I have are:
2 Adult Weather Loaches (6 and 8" long)
1 Juvenile Weather Loach
3 Oblonga Kuhli Loaches
2 Schistura Mahnerti (another kind of Loach)
3 White Tetras (they seem to enjoy the cooler water 73F)
2 Golden Barbs
In a quarantine I have 2 Redtail Garras and 3 more Gold Barbs, who will be added as soon as their quarantine period is up.
I am not done stocking, but it takes a long time because the QT is only 10G and I leave them in there for at least a month. I would like to add another top-dwelling species, perhaps Rainbowfish or Odessa Barbs, both species who enjoy cooler water conditions. I am also always on the lookout for more Garras and Loaches, but I don't usually go for the botiine species, as they like warmer water and some grow quite large.

As far as plants, I would like to try something of a middle-of-the-road approach. Low-Tech does not appeal to me because of the lack of maintenance involved. Having something a little more complex seems to be more involving and fun. I am trying to figure out if there is such an approach, and how to do it without things gettin too out of balance. Got to go.. my little girl is cauing a major ruckus!

Thanks..,
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 09:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leafshapedheart View Post
As far as plants, I would like to try something of a middle-of-the-road approach. Low-Tech does not appeal to me because of the lack of maintenance involved. Having something a little more complex seems to be more involving and fun. I am trying to figure out if there is such an approach, and how to do it without things gettin too out of balance. Got to go.. my little girl is cauing a major ruckus!

Thanks..,
leafshapedheart
It always helps to add CO2, even with a low light tank. CO2 will increase the growth rate even in low light tanks. And, with a low light tank, the CO2 isn't as critical as far as keeping the concentration high or keeping it as stable as is required for high light. So, I recommend you make the step up to a pressurized CO2 system next. Once you are comfortable with using pressurized CO2, you can look at increasing the light intensity.

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, Hoppy..,

This is good to know. If for now I can use the bulbs I have, or replace them with newer 18" bulbs, I can get the CO2 going first. I think my biggest problem right now is that I'm a lot more enthusiastic than my pocketbook allows me to be. I have made so many plans it is hard to prioritize. I would like to be sure to do things in the right order so they don't get out of balance. But being impatient will only cause trouble. That is how I ended up where I'm at with the tanks needing so much work. It's also why I have a closet full of second-hand clothes I don't like as much as ones I would have actually had to think about before purchasing! I once told my oldest daughter that you can have just about anything you want if you are willing to wait for it to come along within your means. Sales happen, and that is a very good thing!

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-04-2009, 11:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leafshapedheart View Post
Hi, mpodolan..,

.....I'm also trying to figure out what type of lights would best penetrate this depth of water. I would like to be able to keep any equipment I might buy in case I am ever to upgrade tanks to something with more depth; perhaps a 75 or 90...

While you might fare all right with compact flourescents, I would suggest that you go with a t5 fixture that has at least four bulbs. I believe that you'll get more intensity from those and more depth penetration than you would with compact flourescents. The thing to look for in a t5 fixure is quality reflectors for the bulbs. It's said that the best t5 fixtures have an individual reflector for each bulb, but there are fixtures available that are excellent without those, as well. Just as a point of reference, I have a good quality t5 fixture on top of my 21-inch deep 58-gallon planted tank and I had to add another two-bulb t5 fixture...but now I'm getting the kind of results that I wanted. The results I'm getting from the lighting I just described is far better than when I had power compact lighting on this same tank.


Quote:
Originally Posted by leafshapedheart View Post
New Filter: Aquaclear 110- I need a filter that has options aside from carbon for the filter chamber. I have heard it is counterproductive to use carbon in the planted tank, but I'm scared to ask because I know it has been asked so many times before!
I'd think that you'll be fine with the powerfilter that you're considering, but I agree with the recommendation of a canister. I use two Eheims on my planted tank and I find that it's very good for not losing any of the bio-filtration when I change on and let the other one go with alternating the cleaning. I never, ever, use carbon in my canisters and I don't think you should be concerned about not using it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by leafshapedheart View Post
New CO2: Hagen/Nutrafin


Here, I'd urge you to consider getting a pressurized CO2 unit. I resisted that for many many years and thought it was too expensive and too complicated but I finally broke down and bought one. There'll be plenty of help with how to use it here so don't be intimidated. The cost is higher than maybe you wanted to spend but it's just the greatest thing when it comes to success with a planted tank. By, the way, the Hagen/Nutrifin system is recommended for tanks of up to 20-gallons. So, if it's at all possible for you to get a pressurized CO2 unit, I think you'd be very happy in the end that you did.



Quote:
Originally Posted by leafshapedheart View Post
New Substrate: also undecided, but I need to find a compromise between something burrower friendly, and something good for plants
It all seems a little overwhelming, but in the end it will get done!
I also need to decide on the order in which I will do these things. Do you think the order is
As for the substrate, I'd recommend Eco-Complete. I'm very satisfied with it. I tried the Amano two-part substrate and it was a total disaster so I dumped that and got the Eco-Complete, which seems to be as you describe what you're looking for in a substrate.

As for the order of things, the substrate, lighting, CO2 go up all at the same time, I'd say...and after that you're on your way.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2009, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
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Hello, Avi..,

Thanks for the advice! I looked at the link you provided in the other post for the CO2 from Aquacave. I was very impressed. It looks like it's a good quality and reasonably priced; only about twice as much as the Hagen; or actually the same if I'd have to get 2 Hagens for my size tank. Here again, you might be right that it would be best to get the pressurized CO2 or not use it at all. You can now easily see a good example of a "frugal" purchase I would make and be unhappy in the end. Better to wait until I can afford a good one. Thank-you for helping me to make this decision, because I think it's a good one

Filters; It might be better to get a canister, but this again is longer waiting. I have noticed most power filters only go up to tanks of a certain size. If I plan to upgrade tanks one day, it might be a wiser choice as well. I like the looks of the Lifegaard filters; they have three smaller separate canisters. And I don't think you can go wrong with Eheim.

Powerheads: I was so disappointed the other day when I visited an LFS and they had Aquaclear 70 Powerheads on sale for $39, but they were all gone!! I could have cried, and almost did! I think this one cannot be underemphasized because of the fish I like to keep, who all enjoy a faster water flow. This will pose some design challenges because I will need to make sure the plants and substrate don't get blown away by the current. Perhaps I wll direct the flow at some rocks strategically placed to allow for higher and lower current areas.

Substrate; Have you ever used Laterite? I added some to my tank the other day for the meantime until I can change the entire substrate. Eco-Complete might be good, though I have also considered Seachem Black Sand. The idea of soil appeals to me, but maybe not to my burrowing friends! I have also considered pool filter sand with Flourish Tabs. I wonder if sand and something like Eco-Complete could be combined to good effect?

Lights: I have decided to replace the bulbs I have with better 18" ones, and get the CO2 and powerhead first. Then I'll be able to look at getting a whole new lighting system. Thismight be a little expensive, because I am going to eventually replace the tops with glass tops and get 48" strips.

I could certainly collect all items and get them going at the same time. They may take awhile to assemble, but I think it'll be worth the wait!

Thanks for all your help, everyone!
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2009, 06:30 PM
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Suggest you look at the Hydor Koralia powerheads. The Koralias have a more diffused flow pattern than a conventional powerhead like the Aquaclear. The flow from conventional powerheads is concentrated in an intense stream and can be more disruptive to the plants and fish. Pet Mountain currently is selling the Koralia 1 (400 gph, same flow rate as the Aquaclear 70) for $19.99. For a 55 gallon tank you could also consider the Koralia 2 rated at 600 gph.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2009, 07:01 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, Captain Bu..,

I saw one of those Koralia Powerheads the other day, at the ame time I saw the Aquaclear 70's. I almost bought it, but it looked a little small and almost fragile, so I had some doubts as to its functionality, as well as its durability. It looked so simple and easy to use I almost found it too good to be true. Hearing something positive about it is always a plus for me. I would take your opinion into account much more seriously than someone at the store who only wants to sell it to me. A more diffused flow pattern is definitely something I would want as opposed to a concentrated stream, which may be hard to control. As much as I love living in Canada, shopping here can be a bummer. It is so huge, and all the major cities are so far away from eachother that finding what you want at a good price can be hard. The smallest Koralia powerhead at this particular store was $44.99, and for some reason I doubt I could find a better price without ordering from online. I have never ordered from online before, but I might have to start.

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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2009, 08:43 PM
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I dabbled with laterite many years ago when the notion of even using a plant-oriented substrate was first developing. Laterite was used as a supplement to ordinary aquarium gravel which was what almost eveyone used at that time. So, the laterite definitely brought something positive to growing aquatic plants. Nowadays, there are many substrates available for aquatic plants and they don't cloud the water even when the tank's first set up. Adding sand to Eco-Complete might work but, for me I don't see the point, really. I can honestly say that I found nothing wrong with Eco-Complete "right out of the bag," and though I might like something with a slightly different color, the results I get from it as it is calms my need for experimenting with other substrates.
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2009, 10:37 PM
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Sounds like you were looking at the Koralia nano not the full sized Koralia. Online is definitely the way to go for most hardware unless you can find a good enough deal locally. This is an expensive hobby and it pays to shop around. Plenty of info on these forums about the Koralias, do a search. They are pretty popular.
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