pH, Buffers, CO2 and the wild world of plants. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 05:19 PM Thread Starter
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pH, Buffers, CO2 and the wild world of plants.

I'm new to the hobby, still trying to feel my way around, and since I started my first aquarium 2 months ago in May, I've been getting conflicting information about pretty much every aspect of the hobby. That said, I also found out a few days ago that the pH test I've been using is bad. My first tank, the 10g is cycled, my second tank, a 50g isn't cycled yet and is showing a decent amount of algae growth. Now that there's a little background, time to get to the meat of my problems and questions:

1) I've been using Seachem's Neutral Regulator pH 7.0 when I do water changes. This was recommended to me by my lfs, and I figured that since they also do planted tanks that I could take their advice, regardless of what was on the bottle. After more research and reading, I don't think this was good advice and I think I want to control my pH with CO2 and more natural means if possible. My tap water pH is at least 7.6 (though testing it on my high pH, which I don't trust since it was in the same kit as the bad low pH test, is about 8.4), the kH is 0ppm (if I can trust my kit) and the GH is 30ppm (again, if I can trust my kit). I'm thinking I should move away from the Neutral Regulator things and start using Stress Coat (to remove chlorine), and Seachem's Liquid Acid Buffer and Liquid Alkaline Buffer to lower my pH instead of phosphate based products. Is this the right approach?

2) Secondly, my water in the 50g is somewhat golden green, I think part of it is the tannins being released from the bogwood I have in the tank, but I also know that there is a fair amount of algae. I noticed in the first month with my 10g tank that was also happening, but it has fallen off as my Hygro Ceylon started growing pretty rapidly. Currently my CO2 solution for the 50g tank I think is woefully inadequate (Nutrafin cannister and ladder) and I'm looking at getting a CO2 system (this one to be specific). My main concern with that system is, is it expandable to be able to hook up a pH controller and make it fully automated at a later date? Next, I know that CO2 can lower the pH of a tank, should I use it in combination with the above products or should I use a higher CO2 output?

I think that's all my questions, thanks for any info.

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 05:30 PM
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Do not use that product. There is no need to use a pH equilibrator.
I would use Prime when changing water to remove chloramine and chlorine.
You seem to be focusing too much on pH and not enough on CO2 and nutrients. Forget about pH, get pressurized CO2, got to www.rexgrigg.com and get some fundamental knowledge and go from there. I don't have the specifics of your setup like wattage and gal size and components, but right off the bat, I can give you this advice.
Also for tannins you can use a Carbon filter until it is gone, and if it is just Green water algae, consider a UV sterilizer for transient use, or let it cycle itself out. It will; however, only cycle out if you get CO2 in there and dose some fertilizers, but again, I don't know your plant load and lighting. Check out Rex's pages and then come back.....remember, some LFS just want to sell things...
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 05:47 PM Thread Starter
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My signature links contain all the information I have of my tanks.

Also, I read Rex's site, which got me to this point. The only reason I'm worrying about pH is that I don't want to kill the fish I already have in each of my tanks.

In reference to some of Rex's info, my kH being 0ppm would lead me to believe that I also have 0 degree kH measure (again though I don't necessarily trust my test kit for hardness, so any recommendations of good tests would be appreciated). So, that said, I should raise my kH at least 3 degrees by adding baking soda, doing that though will raise the pH as well I believe, I can't find this explicitly stated on Rex's site, but I do feel I'm approaching "chasing the dragon," as he phrases it.

My GH on the other hand is 50ppm, which is almost 3 degrees GH. I should probably add some epsom salts and calcium to the tank to bring it slightly above 3 degrees.

My main concern about that is, since I have used buffers, what is the safest way to correct my earlier flaw. 50% water change in each tank and dose? Or will the pH spike too much and kill the fish? Will that even be enough to reduce the traces of buffers I've already set in place?

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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Final question I think.

I want to try to maintain a pH of 7 in the tank. Looking at Rex's CO2 chart it seems that I would want to maintain a kH of 9.0 and about 25ppm of CO2 to keep the tank neutral. Is that regardless of my starting pH? I'm also using Chuck's Planted Aquarium Calculator to come to pretty much the same conclusion.

Tanks:


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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 09:38 PM
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Fresh newby was right. Don't worry about pH. Add some bicarbonate of soda to raise the KH to above 2, and if you wish, add some Flourish Equillibrium or Greg Watson's Barr GH booster to get the GH up a bit. Then add CO2 until the pH drops about 1.0 from the degassed value. If that pH is 5.0 or 7.5 is not a problem for the fish or plants. PH is a problem only if it is caused by some excessive dissolved solids in the water, not by CO2. And, whatever you do, don't start playing with acids to control pH.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 09:54 PM
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Sounds like you have some nice source water there. Its chlorinated?
Although I agree with Fresh_Newby about not using the pH product I would look into a carbon block filter to remove chlorine instead of using Prime.

I use crushed coral to buffer my tanks water.

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 10:00 PM
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Don't bother with the Acid Buffer. I'd say for now use baking soda (or Alkaline Buffer if you've already got it) to raise your KH to at least 3. Make sure it's zero though. Your tap pH is a little too high to have zero KH. Increase your CO2 by whatever means necessary. Don't put an extreme amount of weight on the KH/pH/CO2 relationship now, especially with whatever buffers are present in the Neutral Regulator. They are still in your tank, and will be for quite some time.

I don't think you need to worry about a pH spike. I get one every water change. Fish don't seem to mind at all.

I don't break up my lighting period. I've heard it's pretty stressful for the fish, and hasn't been shown to help with algae. With the amount of light you have, you may want to increase your photoperiod once your tank stabilizes.

You're going to want to dose macros as well, especially if/when you get a pressurized CO2 system (which very few on this forum would steer you away from).

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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 10:30 PM Thread Starter
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Great, thanks for the info. My plan as it stands right now is wait for my CO2 system to come in the mail. I'm also picking up a more reliable kH/GH kit tonight to make absolutely sure that those levels are true. If that's the case, then I'm going to wait till my next water change (next thursday) and hook up the CO2 and start adding a bit of baking soda each day till my kH is 3. Then just keep an eye on KH until my tank has fully finished cycling. In that time I'll follow up on reading this thoroughly (http://www.aquatic-plants.org/articl...st_index2.html) to figure out a trace dosing plan.

Does this sound like a reasonable plan?

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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 10:56 PM
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A well planted tank often does not cycle. Go back to Rex's guide for more info.

Since you have dumped a lot of chemicals into the water, I would start a campaign of water changes now. Figure ~20% minimum and ~50% if you go with EI (see sticky).

For now you can upgrade your DIY CO2 with larger bottles.

A fixation on numbers and values often gets in the way of reading plants to figure out what they need.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebikus
Then just keep an eye on KH until my tank has fully finished cycling.

Moved to Tucson.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-13-2006, 11:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebikus
I'm new to the hobby, still trying to feel my way around, and since I started my first aquarium 2 months ago in May, I've been getting conflicting information about pretty much every aspect of the hobby.
How true that is, welcome to the world of forums.


Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebikus
2) Secondly, my water in the 50g is somewhat golden green, I think part of it is the tannins being released from the bogwood I have in the tank, but I also know that there is a fair amount of algae. I noticed in the first month with my 10g tank that was also happening, but it has fallen off as my Hygro Ceylon started growing pretty rapidly. Currently my CO2 solution for the 50g tank I think is woefully inadequate (Nutrafin cannister and ladder) and I'm looking at getting a CO2 system (this one to be specific). My main concern with that system is, is it expandable to be able to hook up a pH controller and make it fully automated at a later date? Next, I know that CO2 can lower the pH of a tank, should I use it in combination with the above products or should I use a higher CO2 output?
Yes that regulator/solenoid will connect to a PH monitor/controller (a Milwaukee SMS-122 should run you less than $100; you can get a regulator/solenoid/monitor combo kit). You will need a check valve, (the milwaukee regulators do not have a built in check valve, the jbj's do) do not use a check valve that is meant for air line. Look around for that regulator, do a search for a milwaukee 957, all you need is the regulator/solenoid, use a DIY reactor instead of a diffuser, (my design is at the DIY section in my sig and rex has a model too) use CO2 tubing like this http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewIt...product=CO1511 , silicone is a waste of money for a pressurized system. I use 100% RO water and do not add anything but ferts. Tannins do not hurt anything, they actually lower the PH naturally.....DC
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-14-2006, 12:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brilliant
Sounds like you have some nice source water there. Its chlorinated?
Although I agree with Fresh_Newby about not using the pH product I would look into a carbon block filter to remove chlorine instead of using Prime.

I use crushed coral to buffer my tanks water.
The carbon idea takes out some of your traces...better to use Prime IMO
Also, coral is fine, but there is now way to control it quantitatively.
dweebikus...IMO you don't need to add anything to boost your KH, you can be sure it isn't absolute zero. Your GH has some substance to it, so leave it at that. Getting your pH to 7 should NOT be your goal, seriously. I used to think that too, but I was dead wrong. Read this thread, it may help some of your worries.

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/ge...h-without.html
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-14-2006, 12:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fresh_newby
The carbon idea takes out some of your traces...better to use Prime IMO
Also, coral is fine, but there is now way to control it quantitatively.
dweebikus...IMO you don't need to add anything to boost your KH, you can be sure it isn't absolute zero. Your GH has some substance to it, so leave it at that. Getting your pH to 7 should NOT be your goal, seriously. I used to think that too, but I was dead wrong. Read this thread, it may help some of your worries.

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/ge...h-without.html
Your right I am so fishtank biased.


I can control the coral with my special powers.

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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-14-2006, 12:41 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
You will need a check valve, (the milwaukee regulators do not have a built in check valve, the jbj's do) do not use a check valve that is meant for air line.
I'll probably place an order with Rex then for an inline check valve.

For the other things you mentioned such as RO water and diffuser, would this setup work for now? I have a HOB style filter so I'm assuming I wouldn't be able to use a reactor without a cannister filter, same with RO system. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Quote:
IMO you don't need to add anything to boost your KH, you can be sure it isn't absolute zero. Your GH has some substance to it, so leave it at that. Getting your pH to 7 should NOT be your goal, seriously.
I'm picking up a kH/GH kit tonight just to verify my levels and probably get back to reading the thread you just posted fresh.

Tanks:


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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-14-2006, 12:41 AM
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Start off by doing 5 50% water changes over the course of 7-10 days. This will eliminate most of the crap you have been pouring in your water.

Seattle, like Portland has a mountain fed water system that is very pure. The kH and gH out of the tap are normally less (much less) than one degree. Like others have said you are focusing way too much on trying to maintain a certain pH. Stop that nonsense.

Add baking soda to your water to bring the kH up. This will also raise your pH so if you have fish in the tank do it slowly over the course of 2-3 days. Then when you change the water in the tank add enough baking soda to bring the water change amount up to whatever level you are keeping. And/or add some crushed coral to your filter to help maintain your kH and gH.

I use primarilary crushed coral. When I change the water this does create a drop in the kH, gH, and pH. The fish are fine. Unless you have some extremely sensitive fish you will also be fine.

Think really hard about building your own regulator. You will be much happier in the long run.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-14-2006, 12:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dweebikus
I'll probably place an order with Rex then for an inline check valve.

For the other things you mentioned such as RO water and diffuser, would this setup work for now? I have a HOB style filter so I'm assuming I wouldn't be able to use a reactor without a cannister filter, same with RO system. Correct me if I'm wrong.



I'm picking up a kH/GH kit tonight just to verify my levels and probably get back to reading the thread you just posted fresh.
I use an Aquamedic 1000 with a Rio powerhead works well.

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Last edited by Brilliant; 01-07-2007 at 03:06 AM.
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