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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 12:53 PM Thread Starter
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Hello everyone,

While I have been doing water changes, I thought it was a waste of time to test my tap water because of course I condition it with prime, I make sure the temperature is good-ish with finger touch (but I will be moving to a more accurate system with a thermometer, if you guys advise in this direction), and I add it in slowly with a siphon from the bucket on top sitting on the tank ... dumb idea not to test it as I tested it this morning and was shocked with the results.

I noticed that the last time I did a large water change ~ 40% (prior to this I was doing smaller ones around 10-20%), my fish shrimps huddled together in the corner and all of my fish (5 furcata rainbows) had rapid gill movement; I noticed immense stress from one, who I lost the other day (there are other contributing factors to this death, but this WC may have been the straw that broke the camel's back).

Note:
Tank is 5 gal.
I dose ferts up to a tailored EI ish.
Livestock: 4 furcata rainbows, 4 amano, some RCS, nerite snail.
Plants: Amazon swords, anubias, crypt, rotala indica, marsilia hirsuta, some java moss, ludwigia, amazon frogbit, red root floater.
no Co2 but I do dose excel.
Driftwood + cholla wood.

My tank parameters the day after the WC:
GH ~ 140 ppm
KH ~ 20 ppm
CA ~ 40 ppm
Relative Mg ~ 9.7 ppm ... giving me a 4:1 (Ca:Mg) ratio
Nitrate ~ 10, nitrite 0, ammonia 0
pH ~ 7


My tank parameters today (4 days ish after the WC)
GH ~ 160 ppm
KH ~ 20 ppm
Ca ~ 60 ppm
Relative Mg ~2.4 ppm (this is not good as my ratio of Ca:Mg is now very bad ... 24:1)
pH ~ 7
Nitrate ~ 10, nitrate 0, ammonia 0

MY TAP WATER:
GH ~ 60 ppm
KH ~ 10 ppm
Ca ~ 15 ppm
Relative Mg ~ 5.4 ppm ... excellent ratio 2.4:1 for Ca:Mg
pH ~ 8.4 ... uh ... wow
Ammonia .25 ... uh ... wow

My question: What is going on in my tank? I take this soft water ... with a high pH (which is bizarre to me), make it harder (is this my dosing? I cannot understand this), use up all of the magnesium (with my plants and shrimp I am guessing), shock my fish with a pH swing and hardness change, convert the ammonia (with the bacteria - I get this one), my driftwood reduces the pH? How is this ecosystem converting this water? More importantly, how do I fix my water change water so that it does not stress my fish and kill them all --> I saw very little of these symptoms when I did 10-20 percent changes, but I still want to be putting in relatively close parameters water into my tank.

Note: I have had about half an inch of evaporation ... if this concentrates my water any more than the day 1 test, I am not sure.


A picture of the tank is uploaded.

Last edited by Tuister; 08-06-2019 at 06:07 PM.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 01:36 PM
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Your nitrates seem high for the plant biomass, but I suppose the stocking with that tank size could make it so. Your tap water is really hard, you might try using RO from your LFS for a couple water changes and see if that helps. If it does, long term I'd consider putting an RO/DI unit in, or collecting rain in a barrel and using that.

The ammonia levels in your tap water doesn't surprise me, lots of people have ammonia in their tap water. The Prime should take care of that no problem.

The temperature swings might be your biggest issue. One or two degrees difference won't matter, but if you're doing a 40% change with water that is even 6-7 degrees difference can make a huge impact on the fish. I'd work on that first.

I have MTS
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 01:50 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjbacon View Post
Your nitrates seem high for the plant biomass, but I suppose the stocking with that tank size could make it so. Your tap water is really hard, you might try using RO from your LFS for a couple water changes and see if that helps. If it does, long term I'd consider putting an RO/DI unit in, or collecting rain in a barrel and using that.

The ammonia levels in your tap water doesn't surprise me, lots of people have ammonia in their tap water. The Prime should take care of that no problem.

The temperature swings might be your biggest issue. One or two degrees difference won't matter, but if you're doing a 40% change with water that is even 6-7 degrees difference can make a huge impact on the fish. I'd work on that first.
Thank you for the response.

You mention my tap water being hard, but my tank water is harder at 160 ppm for GH. Can you explain what is causing this pH difference to me —> specifically how I have harder water with a lower pH.

Also, as my magnesium level depletes, I had a thought to dissolve Epsom salts into my water change water to increase hardness and restore that balance of Mg in my tank - thoughts?

Note on nitrates: it usually resonates around 5-7 but I put 10 just because I have seen it get that high - working on getting a consistency here.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 02:27 PM
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More info on the tap water source may help as it may involve some treatment done at the supplier end.
Terms like hard water are always a relative term, but I would not consider 60 PPM as being hard but soft!

My step one would be to get a far better method of testing the new water temp as using a finger is really iffy as it will vary depending on what we have been doing before we use the finger. A warm body of exercise will give a much different "reading/guess" than a colder body from coming in from cold weather or just setting relaxed. Smallish tanks require much closer watch to avoid major swings.
I don't find Mg lack as being a major problem with fish but it does bother my plants as I do have lots of Ca with a GH of 300+ PPM.
But to get better ratio for better plants, I would go for trying some epsom salts as a very cheap and easy thing that does not seem to present any downside, if done with some reasonable care. If there are any gardeners in your house it may already be on hand! We use it all the time on plants outside and potted.
PH/GH/KH are related but not truly firm as changing one does not always change another, so I suspect there are items in the tank which work to raise GH while part of some treatment is gradually dissipating after it comes from the tap.
But that is very close to guessing without knowing what the tap is, as being from a supplier will get different answers than private well water. If treated with chloramine, it is not unusual to find a test of .25 after treatment with Prime as the Prime doesn't "remove" the ammonia but they term it as "locked up". I understand this means it is converted to the less dangerous ammonium but our hobby grade testing shows it as ammonia! No harm to fish and the plants do use it as a form of food.
More info needed?

Last edited by PlantedRich; 07-24-2019 at 02:30 PM. Reason: added
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
More info on the tap water source may help as it may involve some treatment done at the supplier end.
Terms like hard water are always a relative term, but I would not consider 60 PPM as being hard but soft!

My step one would be to get a far better method of testing the new water temp as using a finger is really iffy as it will vary depending on what we have been doing before we use the finger. A warm body of exercise will give a much different "reading/guess" than a colder body from coming in from cold weather or just setting relaxed. Smallish tanks require much closer watch to avoid major swings.
I don't find Mg lack as being a major problem with fish but it does bother my plants as I do have lots of Ca with a GH of 300+ PPM.
But to get better ratio for better plants, I would go for trying some epsom salts as a very cheap and easy thing that does not seem to present any downside, if done with some reasonable care. If there are any gardeners in your house it may already be on hand! We use it all the time on plants outside and potted.
PH/GH/KH are related but not truly firm as changing one does not always change another, so I suspect there are items in the tank which work to raise GH while part of some treatment is gradually dissipating after it comes from the tap.
But that is very close to guessing without knowing what the tap is, as being from a supplier will get different answers than private well water. If treated with chloramine, it is not unusual to find a test of .25 after treatment with Prime as the Prime doesn't "remove" the ammonia but they term it as "locked up". I understand this means it is converted to the less dangerous ammonium but our hobby grade testing shows it as ammonia! No harm to fish and the plants do use it as a form of food.
More info needed?
Thank you!

I will be grabbing two more accurate thermometers 1 for the aquarium and 1 for the WC.

How much epsom salt would you add to 1 gallon (I have some at home for baths lol)?

How could I go about bringing this pH closer to neutral?

These changes should help with:
Temp swings
Hardness swings (addition of mg)
PH swings still need help addressing.

Thanks! All help is appreciated.
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 05:41 PM
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How quickly are you adding the water to your tank? As adding it quickly can result in shock aswell. For me 20litres normally takes me about 2 hours. Iv done it faster before and my shrimp dart to the other side of the tank. For water temp reading. You can get yourself a TDs and temp pen. There like 6/$4 from eBay. Super cheap and really easy to use

Best of luck 👍
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 05:42 PM
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Sorry didn't know no links allowed. You can get TDs and temp pens for like 6/$4 online
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 05:54 PM
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I read some of what was responded to you but not all, so if this was already said I apologise.
Can you please fill a bucket and leave in overnight with an air pump diffuser running inside to create surface agitation.
Take PH test immediately after filling and compare 24hrs later. I concur that your water parameters sound soft, so one would tend to think of a lower PH being present.
Give this a go and post your results. I would think you'd see some PH drop over that time sufficient enough to reduce shock to the fish and shrimp when completing a change.


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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 06:04 PM
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PH swings may be something which changes as the water sets and gas is released, so one way to go might be to test tap after it has set for 24 hours and see if that gives a different answer. Sometimes it is practical and sometimes not but it may be worthwhile to try storing some water for changes as it can do both the offgassing and also let the water come to room temp. That's one of those things that may/may not work, depending on location?
For how much of any fert to use, I go to this calculator and then often adjust as I see how it fits for that tank as each tank is different:
Rotala Butterfly | Planted Aquarium Nutrient Dosing Calculator
This calc makes it a bit over 1/8 teaspoon (1/8 + 1/16??) so I might suggest starting at 1/8 a couple times a week as a way to "trial" it and watch for change.
Being from a farm background, where how to best treat the land is a constant question, I'm very much prone to testing, trying, and then adapting as I see what works. Plants are very forgiving and slow to actually die, while fish are less so.
Meanwhile, smaller and even slower water changes are one way to deal with sudden swings. Slow water changes are not my favorite thing, so smaller but more often fit me better. I keep sturdy (hard to kill!) fish and how to do things is always a matter of what fits each of us, so look at doing something like keeping a gallon jug full of water but open to air and maybe each day while waiting for morning coffee to brew? That gets you 20 % over a five day and things usually are not so critical that skipping a weekend is much problem, but look it over and maybe do more, less often if it feels right?
Good thing to watch how the fish/shrimp, etc. act and knowing what is normal is a really good thing as they are much more important clues than testing. If the test says it good and the fish say it's bad, trust the fish!
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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First, thank you to all of the responses. For some reason my thread wasn't updating so I did some "cool" stuff that I will share after I comment on the responses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Broly25 View Post
How quickly are you adding the water to your tank? As adding it quickly can result in shock aswell. For me 20litres normally takes me about 2 hours. Iv done it faster before and my shrimp dart to the other side of the tank. For water temp reading. You can get yourself a TDs and temp pen. There like 6/$4 from eBay. Super cheap and really easy to use

Best of luck 👍
I suspect I am adding 1 gallon (4 ish litres of water) much quicker than that. The water change itself probably happens over 5 minutes at most? I do have my WC bucket sitting on top, a siphon into it (backwards set up for the vac) and into my tank so it is slow - but not that slow. The change would be more gradual, I suspect, if I slowed it down more --> what is everyone else's flow rate?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamo33 View Post
I read some of what was responded to you but not all, so if this was already said I apologise.
Can you please fill a bucket and leave in overnight with an air pump diffuser running inside to create surface agitation.
Take PH test immediately after filling and compare 24hrs later. I concur that your water parameters sound soft, so one would tend to think of a lower PH being present.
Give this a go and post your results. I would think you'd see some PH drop over that time sufficient enough to reduce shock to the fish and shrimp when completing a change.
That is a great idea - I had thought of "aged" water, but I thought this was just to remove chlorine ... I will try this and post my results.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
PH swings may be something which changes as the water sets and gas is released, so one way to go might be to test tap after it has set for 24 hours and see if that gives a different answer. Sometimes it is practical and sometimes not but it may be worthwhile to try storing some water for changes as it can do both the offgassing and also let the water come to room temp. That's one of those things that may/may not work, depending on location?
For how much of any fert to use, I go to this calculator and then often adjust as I see how it fits for that tank as each tank is different:
Rotala Butterfly | Planted Aquarium Nutrient Dosing Calculator
This calc makes it a bit over 1/8 teaspoon (1/8 + 1/16??) so I might suggest starting at 1/8 a couple times a week as a way to "trial" it and watch for change.
Being from a farm background, where how to best treat the land is a constant question, I'm very much prone to testing, trying, and then adapting as I see what works. Plants are very forgiving and slow to actually die, while fish are less so.
Meanwhile, smaller and even slower water changes are one way to deal with sudden swings. Slow water changes are not my favorite thing, so smaller but more often fit me better. I keep sturdy (hard to kill!) fish and how to do things is always a matter of what fits each of us, so look at doing something like keeping a gallon jug full of water but open to air and maybe each day while waiting for morning coffee to brew? That gets you 20 % over a five day and things usually are not so critical that skipping a weekend is much problem, but look it over and maybe do more, less often if it feels right?
Good thing to watch how the fish/shrimp, etc. act and knowing what is normal is a really good thing as they are much more important clues than testing. If the test says it good and the fish say it's bad, trust the fish!
Perhaps I should store water for top ups as well -- your post coincides with the recommendation from @Jamo33. Today, I think I'll put out two buckets ... one with an air stone and one without and test pH before and after for each (maybe just in the morning, then again at night). The only thing this should affect is pH, is that right? ... one thing is, then I will have to heat this water back to the temperature of my tank?

Great advice on trusting the fish.

NOW for the crazy thing. I dusted off the old chemistry textbook and tried to determine what amount of epsom salt would actually garner a 2 ppm change in a 5 gallon tank - Over 4 days, my tank used about 7ppm of Mg (since the initial water change), so 2 ppm seemed like a good call. So, I wasn't sure how it would affect GH etc so I dosed some into 1 litre of water to about 250ppm of GH ... my GH test just kept going ... the dosage worked ... blew my mind. After a bunch of chemistry (which I can post if anyone is interested), I came to the following:

0.3809100408 g of epsom salts will move my tank up by 2 ppm ... so I am like HOW do I measure that... I pulled out my kitchen scale and of course it can't measure it so I go to the tsp ... 1/16 of a tsp .3125 ish g was close enough for me.

Then I said hmm, I wonder if Rotala has epsom salt, they do, and I got EI dosing to be 2ppm Mg and the epsom salt to be 1/16 ... well lol -- I honed in on my chemistry skills and I can say that I confidently trust rotala butterfly for a calculator now.

PS

Here were the problems:
1) pH in WC water (hope to reduce by letting water sit and/or adding an air stone the sitting water -- will test both)
2) Hardness (dose epsom salt ... could dose Calcium in a different ratio, if I notice some calcium deficiency ... it turns out that GH booster is just 3:1 or 4:1 calcium sulfate to magnesium sulfate ... I have no link just reading... might be worth calcium carbonate dissolved in to help with KH buffering ... becoming a mad scientist)
3) Temperature (bought two thermometers one for my tank, which I didn't have ... was relying on my heater being good ... I topped up my water today ... with an epsom salt dose ... and there were no adverse effects) FIXED
4) Flow rate -- thoughts?

Hope someone reads my novel above!

Thanks all!

I will update the two bucket test with pH ... I'll also test ammonia because I suspect that the one with the air stone will reduce it more.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 08:47 PM
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Good way to get the right measurements when dealing with a low amount. Add say 100ml of water to 1g of whatever you need to add. Say you only want .3g. you know to only use 30ml of the liquid for the amount required. That's what I always do. It may give a little less then desired. But a little to little is better then a little to much lmao
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 10:58 PM
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I no longer do much work to get my amounts exactly right for a very simple reason!. We are talking EI and that is Estimative Index, so how far does one go to get an estimate exact? I start with the idea that it doesn't do much other than get me into the parkpark range and then I try to fit the amount into some form that I can repeat without much trouble as that gives me a stable/steady answer when I watch what the "estimate" does for me.
While a more exact answer can be done, I do not bother to get exact with something that I might change next week or two. I tend to differ on the thinking of overshooting as being bad, due to the main idea of EI being that we add far more than we expect the plants to use and then remove that excess and reset the tank parameters with a major water change--if we follow the EI routine all the way through. I find the ferts are not too prone to causing trouble if overdosed as long as we don't get into doing it full time and do keep nitrate and nitrite lower.
Low effort way to bring water to more than room temp if given time? Set the container next to the computer CPU! On top is even quicker but may be too hot and I don't like the idea of leaking.
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 11:07 PM
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I think there is some good info in here Nd some good advice that you are doing well to use.
A quick caution and I am sure you know this but it's worth saying anyway.
We always want to change things and get the problem fixed, but with things like this it is best to change slowly.
Incorporate one truly chemistry changing thing at a time and give it an opportunity to take. Such as GH shift etc.
That way if something odd happened then we can identify the last thing that caused the issue.
Awaiting results. And good work mate


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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 11:24 PM Thread Starter
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Great method for approximating the dose - forgot about doing that.

Dosing is such an art, but I found I was focussing on that more than getting down the basics - I.e proper water change and several other interconnected things, especially with keeping these sensitive furcatas.

I have been thinking about this aeration/letting water sit method. I think that my high amounts of ammonia in the source water may actually cause an increase in the pH. This aeration will remove co2 and chlorine I think from the water —> will this affect ph (I think the co2 will)? But how can we effectively remove ammonia from tap water (without throwing it into a cycled aquarium). ... is this where people get into mixing distilled or RO (which one is better) water with tap water during water changes?
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 11:29 PM
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In regards to your tank water hardness...

If you are positive you are measuring in ppm and NOT dkh, then 20ppm is only slightly over 1 dkh. That's very soft water. 20dkh, however, is insanely hard water.

How are you measuring?

Edit:
Also, can someone that knows better than i do, comment on the idea behind a Ca:Mg ratio? @DaveKS maybe? @Greggz? @Asteroid?
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