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Discussion Starter #1
Hi All!
I really want to get into planted tanks, but my water parameters don't seem to be plant friendly. Note: For the following measurements I've used the API Freshwater Test Kit, and Tetra Test Strips for the things the API kit doesn't cover.

pH - 8.4
GH - 0 ppm
KH - 300 ppm

Ammonia - 0 ppm
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate -15 ppm

The tank these were taken from has approx. 25lbs of Manzanita and has been up and running 9ish months now. This also was taken the day before my weekly water change.

From my research, it appears that my pH and KH are too high, and GH is too low (though I don't fully understand how I can have a GH of 0 with an insanely high pH and KH... and this is how my water has always tested, even right out of the tap). I do realize that there are African plants that suite these parameters. But, if I want a larger variety, should start integrating RO water with my tap during water changes to bring them down? How should I raise the GH without affecting the other two numbers? Is it even important to bring the pH and KH down and GH up? Or will most plants adapt?

Thank you in advanced for your time and knowledge!
 

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Of course, we are assuming accuracy in testing. Your pH is high because your carbonates (as indicated by KH) are so high. This has nothing to do with GH, which is based upon calcium and magnesium. I would tend to want to bring the KH down by, at least, half. Many of us, including me, run at about 20 ppm, but we also use RO/DI water. Plants also tend to absorb nutrients best when the pH is in the 6-7 area. To do this, without CO2 injection, you will need to get the KH down into the 30 ppm region. Distilled/RO water is the way to do it. Having said this, however, you should still be able to grow plants,where you are, just not as robustly. Fish may be a different issue.

Regarding GH: yes, you will need to bring it up (which is also good for the fish). You can target anywhere from 30-150 ppm as a decent range. I'd suggest using a GH booster such as NilocG's or Seachem's products. These will also give you potassium, which is needed by plants.

Depending upon your fish load, you may also need to add nitrates and phosphate. You will certainly need to add traces, which are also available from these companies. There is much more to learn, but this answers your question and then some. You might want to consider getting the guide here on this forum.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Of course, we are assuming accuracy in testing. Your pH is high because your carbonates (as indicated by KH) are so high. This has nothing to do with GH, which is based upon calcium and magnesium. I would tend to want to bring the KH down by, at least, half. Many of us, including me, run at about 20 ppm, but we also use RO/DI water. Plants also tend to absorb nutrients best when the pH is in the 6-7 area. To do this, without CO2 injection, you will need to get the KH down into the 30 ppm region. Distilled/RO water is the way to do it. Having said this, however, you should still be able to grow plants,where you are, just not as robustly. Fish may be a different issue.

Regarding GH: yes, you will need to bring it up (which is also good for the fish). You can target anywhere from 30-150 as a decent range. I'd suggest using a GH booster such as NilocG's or Seachem's products. These will also give you potassium, which is needed by plants.

Depending upon your fish load, you may also need to add nitrates and phosphate. You will certainly need to add traces, which are also available from these companies. There is much more to learn, but this answers your question and then some. You might want to consider getting the guide here on this forum.
Thanks for the response! I really appreciate it. This is much more helpful than what I've previously found online. The main question I have after this is: would decreasing the KH that low possibly have any adverse effects on my fish who have lived in this water for 1.5+ years? I'd definitely take a LONG time to gradually bring these down, just wondering if they'd have a hard time adjusting to the lower KH and pH.
 

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Too much of a change always has the potential to stress fish. The easiest way to measure potential for stress, IMO, is to measure TDS (TDS pens are inexpensive). Avoid changes in TDS more than 50 ppm or 10%, whichever is greater, in a 24-hour period.

Incidentally, there are substrates that will lower the carbonates. I'm not that familiar with them, so i can't advise as to how much they will actually pull out.
 

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I forgot about the fact that we use a water softener haha. I tested the pre-softened water and the GH tested as 300+ppm. I then looked at my cities water parameters, and they did show that the Hardness is ~376ppm. Although I don't know if they are listing the GH or KH values. I'm guessing it's probably GH.
 

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I forgot about the fact that we use a water softener haha. I tested the pre-softened water and the GH tested as 300+ppm. I then looked at my cities water parameters, and they did show that the Hardness is ~376ppm. Although I don't know if they are listing the GH or KH values. I'm guessing it's probably GH.
Yes, my water is virtually identical to yours. Pre-Softener is listed at 380 ish ppm of CaCO3 - so Ca and CO3 "hardness" gH and kH.

After the softener I have 0 gH but tons of kH still.

If you have access to pre-softened water, it will be worth while to use it instead.
 

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I forgot about the fact that we use a water softener haha. I tested the pre-softened water and the GH tested as 300+ppm. I then looked at my cities water parameters, and they did show that the Hardness is ~376ppm. Although I don't know if they are listing the GH or KH values. I'm guessing it's probably GH.
Perfect! That puts you around 21-22 dGH which is still quite high, but I'd prefer that over no GH and extreme KH/pH.

If you have a way of cutting the pre-softener water with half RO / DI, you would be in a very acceptable range. Many plants will do fine even at 22 dGH, but dropping to half of that may open up more options for plants and shrimp ;)
 

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So, you have several options. I think, in your case though, I'd still use the softened water and cut it with pure water to your KH liking. By doing so, you will have the ability to move your GH to better levels more easily, via the GH booster, plus get the potassium that you will need to add as it generally will not come in your tap. You could also tailor your GH and potassium dosing, but the booster packages make a KISS result possible. The little bit of sodium that sneaks through from softeners is inconsequential in it's effect upon plants.
 

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Perfect! That puts you around 21-22 dGH which is still quite high, but I'd prefer that over no GH and extreme KH/pH.

If you have a way of cutting the pre-softener water with half RO / DI, you would be in a very acceptable range. Many plants will do fine even at 22 dGH, but dropping to half of that may open up more options for plants and shrimp ;)
I think it'd be a bit tricky trying to cut the pre-softener water 50/50 with the RO, my water softener is downstairs and my RO unit is upstairs. Maybe it'll be a future project of mine.


So, you have several options. I think, in your case though, I'd still use the softened water and cut it with pure water to your KH liking. By doing so, you will have the ability to move your GH to better levels more easily, via the GH booster, plus get the potassium that you will need to add as it generally will not come in your tap. You could also tailor your GH and potassium dosing, but the booster packages make a KISS result possible. The little bit of sodium that sneaks through from softeners is inconsequential in it's effect upon plants.
I think I'll go with this suggestion for now, that way I can keep everything upstairs since my largest tanks are all upstairs. What do you mean when you say "a KISS result"?


Thank you all for your advice :smile2:
 

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I think I'll go with this suggestion for now, that way I can keep everything upstairs since my largest tanks are all upstairs. What do you mean when you say "a KISS result"?Thank you all for your advice :smile2:
KISS = "Keep It Simple, Stupid", i.e.; an easy approach.

Incidentally, since you have an RO unit, why not just use all RO water and re-mineralize both the GH and KH to your liking?
 

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KISS = "Keep It Simple, Stupid", i.e.; an easy approach.

Incidentally, since you have an RO unit, why not just use all RO water and re-mineralize both the GH and KH to your liking?
Ahhh, that makes sense, thanks for the clarification. And I would if I had smaller tanks, but the RO unit is one of the under-the-sink ones meant for drinking, and I think it only produces 3gpd. Which isn't enough for my 40 Breeder experimental tank, unfortunately.
 
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