Alkalinity and well water - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 03:05 AM Thread Starter
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Alkalinity and well water

Okay I posted last week about my plants not flourishing and wondering why. First of all I realize I needed to calm down and expect some "die off" from newly planted plants. Secondly I did more research as suggested and bought a test kit (Freshwater API master kit and test strips for Kh and Gh). I want a drop tester for Kh and Gh but until then this is what I have. Nitrates are hard to read so 10-20 ppm. Ammonia 0-.25, but I put in another 20 lbs of Ecocomplete today so the fish may be stressed. Water change tomorrow. Gh is near 0, but alkalinity is showing off the charts around 300. The past few days I've been using a product that converts alkalinity into CO2 to lower ph and i've dropped it from 8.3 to 7.8. I have neons and realize they desire lower ph. I've read that as long as the ph is stable it doesn't really matter the value; however, it seems most hobbyists have their ph near neutral or acidic. This is probably due to CO2 injection but that will have to wait for a bit. I cannot find anything that says high alkalinity is bad for plants; only for fish in the long run but again most hobbyists keep their alkalinity much closer to zero. My thoughts are just converting to RO water and adding minerals for subsequent water changes to correct this possible problem. Any thoughts or recommendations?
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 03:16 AM
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Well, my first comment is that GH is really the first concern. Make that right for the fish is the first step.

After that, the KH. Not because the fish seem to mind, but because it is a buffer for the pH. As a VERY general guide, most fish that come from soft (low GH) water, also prefer a lower pH. The range is usually quite wide in pH tolerance, as long as the GH is right. I generally try to keep the KH roughly the same as GH. That way the hard water fish also have high pH, and the soft water fish have low pH. It may vary some, but it will pretty much always be at least in the right range.

With well water that is so different, low GH, high KH, I would want to remove the KH. Blending well water with RO, and adding some minerals for the right GH would be one option. You could test this by buying a gallon of RO or distilled water and running some tests.
Try different blends of well water + RO until you get a KH under 100 ppm (4-5 German degrees of hardness). Perhaps 25-30% well water + 70-75% RO.
Then add some GH booster until the GH is around 3 degrees (50+ ppm).

If you want to keep black water species, then filter the water through peat moss to add the organic acids these fish need.

That sort of blend will probably be really good for pretty much all the soft water fish. You might need to fine tune it if you want to breed certain fish, or keep wild caught.

Totally the other way:
Use well water and add a lot more GH booster, then keep hard water fish. Many Rainbows, most Live Bearers, Rift Lake fish (not just the Cichlids).

Most aquarium plants will tolerate either end of the spectrum of hard to soft water. There are a few specialist plants that really do require certain water, but these are not very many.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 06:53 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply. The well water is softened so I guess that's where the Gh is being lowered (not sure). As for the Kh, mixing well and RO water is exactly what I was thinking for mineral content and lower Kh as well as Ph. Thanks for the clarification on German degrees. I kept seeing a value of 4 for Kh so i thought it was near zero or some other standard of measure that wasn't matching up to the test kit as it apparently is. I converted the tank over from a fish only tank that had guppies that constantly reproduce as well as Angels. Both thrived. The neon school is new and they are doing well as of now but I wanted to change the water chemistry for more ideal conditions. I assumed lower kh meant lower ph. Will visit the store tomorrow for GH booster and try mixing methods. Thanks again
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 02:32 PM
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First off, many of us have well water and are successful growing plants without resorting to RO mixing. I tried that for a year and it was a real pain doing weekly water changes. I saw no difference in plant/algae growth, making it not worth the effort.

My KH is around 20 gdh, slightly higher than yours. I'm on a well, have a softener, and use GH booster to remineralize the water.

I assume your problem is using Eco Complete without any additional fertilization. You dont mention if you are dosing ferts. Also, what is your lighting?
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-07-2013, 02:48 PM
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My first thought runs along the KISS theory. When first starting it is very easy to be confused and water changing is one area where we can easily do more harm than good. My first thought would be to look for the easy way rather than get into trying to work out the wide range of pitfalls that changing the water can bring. Have you looked at getting water that has not been softened. Quite often the outside faucets are raw water and it is much better to use as well as cheaper and easier. Depending on how the well is plumbed, there may also be a faucet installed in the wellhouse that is before the softener or a pipe where a tap could be done easily.
In my case, I found the softener was just through the wall from the fishroom so with a tee and a couple feet of pipe, I have raw water in the fish room! I recommend looking for the simple way before getting involved in the tricky/tedious stuff of mixing water.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 01:13 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks again. using pre-softened water is really out of the question; maybe in the summer time. The outside facets I believe are hard water directly from the well, but it is impractical in Michigan winters where the temperature is near zero right now. I am currently dosing Flourish as recommended on bottle and added API fert tabs once a month. This was just recently though. Most plants are beginning to look better and growing new shoots, but the leaves of my Amazon sword near the top of the tank have some brown areas. They almost look burnt. That plant came from a tank with NO lights so maybe it's just an adjustment period. I think after advice I am going to stay with a RO and well water mix but remain at something close to 50/50. (really still undecided) The extra effort isn't much considering I need to get RO every week for my reef aquarium anyways; just more now. Is there a brand of GH booster that works best? I'm doing a water change tomorrow and any more advice would be appreciated. So far it seems that I should stay with the well and condition it with GH booster which I would need to do in either situation, but what about the alkalinity and ph? I would either have to do a mix of RO and well or keep well and use that product that converts alkalinity into co2 which I'm not very sold on. Please advise.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 01:25 AM
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If your outside faucets are pure well water, then all you need to do is find the piping inside your house that supplies them. Kill the breaker to your well pump, drain the lines from a sink, cut the pipe leading to the outdoor faucet and install a tee. From the tee you can either put a spigot or run a line to wherever is most convenient. After that, turn the well pump back on and turn a sink on to get rid of the air. This way you will have pure well water year round.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 10:02 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Highlander. Something to consider but probably not a weekend project I'm going to get done right away. I realize that would correct the GH problem but I would still have high alkalinity and ph. I guess correctly those would still result in an RO mix or alkalinity to co2 ph down and gh booster.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 02:01 PM
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From what I have read, if you get a buffering type of soil like AS, it will lower your kH. For your ph, CO2 will lower that. Also, unless you are keeping some very sensitive fauna then I would just leave it alone. Stability for your fish is more important than swinging the parameters around. I am also on well water and I have my GH at 1 and KH at 11. I am setting up a tank with Amazonia and going for my first high tech. I would like to be able to keep neo shrimp so we will see how it goes.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2013, 03:09 PM
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It's easier to adapt the fish and plants you want to your water than is is to change your water to "optimum" specs. I use to live in Virginia Beach and used well water in all my tanks with no issues. My well water there was high in iron and very hard (worked great for african cichlids) but with a little attention to acclimating I was able to keep most plants and fish.Where you may have the most problems is with the softener, most use salt to soften the water through ion exchange, which in turn increases the salinity of your water. This may be why you are seeing some issues with your plants. I agree with everyone here in saying to install a raw water tap before your softener.


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