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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't think we have great water here. I know we have a lot of hardness, but I'm not exactly sure what we have in terms that are used in aquariums. We have a lot of buffer capacity in our water, it takes a lot to change pH. We have high alkalinity. Out of the tap the water is in the 8-9 pH range. I believe our hardness is almost completely bicarbonate and very little carbonate (almost none). Not sure how we sit on TDS, but I think it is fairly high just from the hardness. I've got this information from the potable water system where I work and a general knowledge of the area, its from the same river the city water plant operates from and I don't believe they do any softening/etc. The test kit I have now just does pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, it doesn't have KH/GH or CO2 or anything else, I'll be looking at picking up some of them later.

Over the course of a day I see virtually no change in pH. I've used both good quality pH strips as well as the API dropper for pH. I've added some driftwood (mopani I believe) to my tank, and it seems to be lowering the pH, but its been there a few weeks and with normal 10-15% water changes (in a 55g tank) I've seen only very minor drops in pH. Maybe 8.1 to 7.9, if that.

The tank I've set up now doesn't have any plants, but I'm going to be setting up a planted tank soon (my brother has an unused 55g I'll set up next month). From what I've read I'm not going to have a lot of luck with plants in my normal tap water, and it will be virtually impossible to breed most fish (something I want to try, but not until I get everything established and running well). I'm looking at sand as a top layer, and I haven't decided what I'm using for the plant substrate yet.

So I've been trying to decide what I need to do to get my water a bit softer and lower my pH. I've looked at peat, and I have a canister filter to add it to, or I could try filtering a single bucket at a time. Not sure how well that really works or how much peat I would need to adjust my water.
The other option is RO, which seems like it is used a lot more in salt water then freshwater. Kind of an expensive option, but if it would work well I could justify it, especially considering that I won't go through filters that quickly since I'm not going to end up using a huge amount of water per day/week. Depending how well the freshwater tanks go I'm thinking about trying saltwater, but thats probably a year+ down the line, but if an RO unit is a must there I could get one now if it would help here too.

As for fish, I'm not totally sure yet there either. I'm researching them more now. Looking at probably some loachs, some gouramis, and rainbows, though what I actually get will depend on what I find with compatability.

For lighting I'm currently working on a home made LED system. Probably not enough for a full 55g tank, but I'll expand it after I have the power, mounting and heat dissipation figured out. If the prototype system doesn't work out well then I'll go with the plant CFL lights.
I'll also set up a DIY yeast reactor for CO2 when I get to that step.

Basically looking for general advice, especially considering the water chemisty issues.
 

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Just some comments i have:

I living in Baltimore and the alkalinty in our water is wicked. The pH of tap comes out at about 7.6+. I havent checked the hardness or anyhting like that, however, i have noticed that driftwood and stuff like that doesnt lower my pH at all. The only thing that gets it down is my pressurized CO2 setup, which drops it from 7.4-.6 to about 6.7 (expected). My fish have never showed any ill expects of high pH -- they are all very healthy, but i dont have very picky fish (loaches, barbs, rose line sharks). I wont comment on the hardness of your water because im not too educated on that.
I know if you want to lower your pH, amazonia substrate apparently does that, but im not 100% positive.

The DIY CO2 reactor for a 55G wont work well if at all. You will need A LOT of yeast to dissolve enough of it in a 55G that it wont be economical. I would just wait till you can afford a pressurized CO2 system. Plants will grow slower and youll have to limit your light (or else youll get so much green spot algae).

Hope some of that helps
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Welcome to TPT!

9x out of 10, I recommend that people don't mess with their water parameters, and just use what they've got- most plants and fish are able to adapt just fine to "other than ideal" parameters, as long as they remain stable.

Your water MAY be on the extreme, though.

Since you indicated you may be interested in breeding fish down the road, I think a good RO unit probably will be the direction you want to go.

Bravo on wanting to give LED a go... but from what I've read so far, there aren't many LEDs that are high output enough to support plant growth, and those that exist are pretty pricey... so definitely give it a try if that's something you can afford, but it's probably not going to be an economical way to go on a big tank until those quality LEDs come down in price.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Well the sheet I have for river water shows a bicarbonate hardness as CaCO3 ~160mg/L and an alkalinity at about ~150mg/L. Which I think would be about 8KH, which is a little high but not too high.

If that is indeed the case then is my high pH pretty much just a case of very little CO2 in the water? So adding a CO2 feed should do a lot to bring my pH down? If so I might experiment with that, I just don't have a tank without fish to experiment in, though I should in about 2 weeks.

As for the LEDs, I've read a bit about some DIY projects, and I have a lot of electronics knowledge so I figured I would give it a try. I've got a dozen Cree 3W 100-250lumen (depending on power) white leds in the mail, as well as 2 dozen blues and a dozen reds, the blue and reds are the smaller types, a fair amount less lumens, but more wavelength appropriate lights. Once I get them I'll see how bright they really look and see if that is enough for a full tank, or maybe just use all of them for half a tank and compare to another light source for the other half, at least until I know how well they work. Right now I have about $50 worth of high power leds, about $10 in the low power, and another $30ish power supply and control circuits, so probably 2-3 CFL grow lights worth.
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Ah, well if you've already got some Crees in the mail, go for it and let us know how it works out for you, too!

CO2-induced pH changes don't have much if any impact on fish, they're more affected by TDS-related changes.

I think you'll do better measuring your CO2 concentrations using a drop checker with a 4dkH solution, those are favored here anyways.
 

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A dozen of those Cree LEDs won't be enough for a 55 gallon tank. I use 24 of those for a roughly 40 gallon tank, fitted on a heat sink that is 9" x 24". You would want a heat sink about 40 inches or so long, so you would need about 39 LEDs to get the same low light intensity I have. I could get more light by running my LED current higher, but not enough more to get to high light intensity. The smaller red and blue ones won't add much to the intensity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The water chemistry measurements I have right now are from a sheet we have at work for the river water, I would expect city water to be close but not exact. I don't yet have any way of taking the other measurements yet. Though I'm going to be purchasing a test kit for them shortly.



As for the LEDs, which binning LEDs do you have? The range of lumens from various versions can be 20-50% less the others. Also what power are you running them at? I'm getting the Q5s. I figured between the blue and reds they will only make up about 1-2 worth of output compared to the high powered ones, hoping that since they are more optimal wavelengths they will make up a bit for not being as bright.
I got a dozen because I figured it would be a good place to start, see what sort of light coverage I get from a single light, how much heat I'm going to have to worry about, get the electronics down, etc. Once I have them in hand and have a better idea of what I have to work with then I'll look at scaling up the design if it seems practical. If at this point I only use it for half the tank, then I can expand it later if it works well, and if it doesn't seem worth it I'm not out too much.
I'm not looking for a high brightness setup, I was more going for moderate light and growth rate plants.

I've also got a square flat 20g tank coming (extra my brother had) that is only about 12" deep, so I figured if nothing else the LEDs should work well enough on that and I can use that as either an acclimation tank or to try and breed.
 

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Thoughts on changing water: A waste of time and resources. You don't know what will grow yet, you haven't tried. Don't waste time buying test kits, save up for a real CO2 setup. If you can afford RO, you can afford CO2.

Thoughts on LEDs: reds and blues put out plenty of PAR as I understand it. Visibly bright has nothing to do with plants growing as far as I know. Q5's are pretty blue already though, it might get kinda colorful with more blues. Spacing is sort of experimental from everything I've read. The only thing I learned from a week's reading is that the reefers with emitters every 3" end up running under 700ma but I think they're smaller tanks. Close spacing blends in the blue emitters they are using. I read hoppy's thread and I don't think he's running anywhere near 700ma either. How few emitters you could use running more amps is something I have not read about at all. I want to experiment but China is not cooperating.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thoughts on changing water: A waste of time and resources. You don't know what will grow yet, you haven't tried. Don't waste time buying test kits, save up for a real CO2 setup. If you can afford RO, you can afford CO2.
Well after a bit of checking, pressurized CO2 looks like a lot better option then I first though. Everyone was talking about how expensive they are, but they aren't really compared to everything else you need to run a good tank.

When I called a local beverage company and found they refill CO2 for $0.75 a pound then there is no way the DIY method could come out much ahead in price over time.

If those hardness numbers I had earlier are right then I'm not too worried about it. Its just that everyone here says our water is really hard, but from that it looks like its a little on the hard side but not too bad. If that is the case then I'm not going to worry about an RO system. I was just wanting to get everything ready and in place before I start rather then finding out I'm missing something I need and having to wait two weeks for it to show up while stuff dies.
 

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I had the same concerns about my tap just as what Erloas described. I Currently have a low tech tank just to sustain life in some plants and live stock till I settle with an actual project tank.

I too have heard of using peat under the substrate to help reduce ph. Also as I know driftwood releases tannins which also drops ph and acts as a sort of buffer. (Is that correct?)

My question is If I do a tank with just only RO water. Wouldn't I need to introduce some elements back into the water? How about maintaining ph? wouldn't RO water have a low ph?
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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I wouldn't use straight up RO water. Both fish and plants need some trace. I'd reconsititute it, with tap water, one of the many products on the market (I tend to like Seachem products, personally), or with GH booster (fertilizer).
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Ok, one last question. I don't yet have a test kit for KH, I'm also not yet feeding CO2.

From what I've read the primary way of reading CO2 is by measuring the pH of water with a known hardness.
I've also read that without CO2 addition and with normal aeration and circulation CO2 will equalize at about 3-4ppm.

So if I assume I have 3-4ppm CO2, and I measured 7.9-8.0pH, I should be able to use that formula backwards and calculate a KH value. Which would be somewhere between about 8 and 13. A fairly large range, but I can't know CO2 exactly, and the pH is clearly not 7.8 and its clearly not 8.2, it looks a bit less then 8.0 but anything like that is hard to say for sure.

Is that a reasonable assumption to make?
Which does at least come close to the bicarbonate reading I have from the river. It should at least be enough to know what I'm working with until I can get a real KH test kit.
 

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My water is similar to yours...depending on my set ups, ph 7.6 to 8.1, kH 9-10, gH 5-7 (well water). I've been keeping fish in this house for over 14 years. The only fish I can honestly say has a hard time with my water are discus. I can keep them, just can't breed them, the eggs don't develop. I agree with lauraleellbp, don't mess with your water too much. C02 would be OK, but trying to get your Ph down to low will cause more heartache than it's worth. Just my opinion...
 
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