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Discussion Starter #1
Does a gh of 8, kh 1 and 250 tds Sound possible? I just found out my tap water has a gh of 10 and kh 3, Lately I’ve been using Ro water in my tank when doing water changes since my gh was very high at 14, I’ve been slowly lowering it and now gh is 8, but I realize my kh is only at 1 now, but tds 250ppm, I’m trying to figure out if the tds Meter is at least a bit accurate since it was reading 19ppm on drinking water.
Btw I just ordered some Seachem alkaline to raise my kh. I was thinking my tap water had a kh of 10 since the gh is 10, and I just kept trying to lower my gh, was this ended up making my kh very low 🤕
 

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Nothing wrong with dKH of 1 and dGH of 8 (so long as you have a good balance of Ca and Mg in that GH reading). No need to raise the dKH, unless you are targeting a specific ph level, e.g.; I try to maintain a certain pH level for snail reasons. If not, leave the KH where it is. For plants, many prefer lower KH readings, such as yours. For that matter, your tap is fine as it is although, as/if you get deeper into this hobby, you may end up pushing those tap numbers down as you are now doing.

TDS reads total dissolved solids and the 250 reading is aligned to a dGH of 8 when you also consider the other dissolved solids in your tank. Your tap TDS reading was an error of some type. Make sure that you calibrate your TDS meter.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
That’s good to know, I was thinking a kh of 1 was dangerous. Idk if I need to calibrate the tds meter or it’s a cheap one, also I thought when gh was high there was A lot of calcium and magnesium in there for sure, I’ll need to buy a test kit but I only see one for calcium from nutrafin, I’m not sure how accurate it is, can’t find any for magnesium.
 

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That’s good to know, I was thinking a kh of 1 was dangerous. Idk if I need to calibrate the tds meter or it’s a cheap one, also I thought when gh was high there was A lot of calcium and magnesium in there for sure, I’ll need to buy a test kit but I only see one for calcium from nutrafin, I’m not sure how accurate it is, can’t find any for magnesium.
GH/KH: API or Sera (modified: use 5x the water, then divide results by 5)
Ca: API (modified: 50 ml sample water, add 20 drops of reagent #1, each drop of reagent #2 = 2ppm)
Mg: easily derived from the formula: (GH ppm – 2.5 x Ca ppm) / 4.1
 

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I’m trying to understand your post but I don’t honestly. For example you’re saying to add 2 drops of reagent #2 and each drop of reagent #2 equals 2ppm, am I going by color? I’m completely lost. I’ve never heard of reagent #1 or 2, did a search and just saw some product that says reagent #2 I’m thinking it’s that.
 

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That’s good to know, I was thinking a kh of 1 was dangerous. Idk if I need to calibrate the tds meter or it’s a cheap one, also I thought when gh was high there was A lot of calcium and magnesium in there for sure, I’ll need to buy a test kit but I only see one for calcium from nutrafin, I’m not sure how accurate it is, can’t find any for magnesium.


GH is total of Ca and Mg. If you test for Ca and GH you will be able to figure out how much Mg you have. It’s easy to add if need be, just use Epsom salts. But with a GH of 8 dkh likely you already have both. Calcium is especially important if you have snails or other invertebrates that need it for their shells/ exoskeletons. My water is very soft so I throw in some calcium chloride every water change for my snails and it’s helped them a lot. My experience with a cheap tds meter is that it’s temperature sensitive. You have to know what temperature it is accurate at. If you try warm and cold water you might get different readings.


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I’m trying to understand your post but I don’t honestly. For example you’re saying to add 2 drops of reagent #2 and each drop of reagent #2 equals 2ppm, am I going by color? I’m completely lost. I’ve never heard of reagent #1 or 2, did a search and just saw some product that says reagent #2 I’m thinking it’s that.


The way the Ca kit works is that you first put in the reagent #1. Then you add reagent #2 drop by drop. As soon as solution turns color, that’s when you know your reading.


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I’m trying to understand your post but I don’t honestly. For example you’re saying to add 2 drops of reagent #2 and each drop of reagent #2 equals 2ppm, am I going by color? I’m completely lost. I’ve never heard of reagent #1 or 2, did a search and just saw some product that says reagent #2 I’m thinking it’s that.
As @CarissaT mentioned, there are two reagents in the API calcium test kit, which will be obvious to you when you receive the kit. The color will turn from pink to blue when you reach the correct calcium level.

You will also need something like this: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BKR7JKR/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1, to hold the 50ml for the calcium test and 25ml for the GH test, as the vials and instructions supplied in the test kit are for much smaller quantities. The larger test quantities that I suggest are to greatly increase the accuracy of these test kits.

It seemed that you wanted to do your own testing, which many of us do. However, if your water company reports your Ca and Mg levels, that may be good enough for you, although these can shift throughout the year. They may post it on their website but, if not, should be able to supply it by contacting them.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks so much for the help everyone. I understood way better now. Thanks for the link too. I’ll look into those, I’m just trying to do as much tests as possible cause I want my tank To improve, I’m not a total noob, I actually started with saltwater tanks and reefs, but freshwater can be tricky imo.
My tank is a 20g with a fluval 206 canister filter, co2, been fertilizing almost daily but still loosing leaves and some turn brown then fall off, I’ve done so much research, I read it can be high nitrates but I checked and they’re never above 10ppm, my phosphates are around 1ppm, I haven’t checked iron or potassium cause is so hard to find a good test kit. I spend hours and hours doing research I always end up finding the iron test kits aren’t so accurate so idk what to do, saltwater has all kinds of test kits, freshwater doesn’t and the ones they have, have terrible reviews. I feel I add a lot of iron, but idk if my problem is not having good soil, I used a mix of sand and a bit of fluval soil from my previous tank so it prolly didn’t have much fertilizer left, but I put root tabs, maybe I didn’t put enough? I ordered some Amazonia soil cause this is making me go crazy. Please check my pic, you can see the brown leaves already floating. Today I dosed two full caps of potassium, idk if that’s a lot but idk what to add anymore.
 

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Since you are adding CO2, make sure you get a pH drop of 1.0-1.5 from your degassed tank water (a sample that has been allowed to sit out a few days - until pH stabilizes) to your fully gassed tank water (several hours after the CO is turned on - if you ever turn it off). Make sure you do it slowly, over many days, to avoid killing fish.

I read it can be high nitrates but I checked and they’re never above 10ppm, my phosphates are around 1ppm, I haven’t checked iron or potassium cause is so hard to find a good test kit.
Try to keep nitrates in the 10-30ppm area. Too much lower and you risk running out. PO4 can inadvertently run out, as well, if you are too low. I run PO4 in the 2-3ppm area.

Tests I like, and use for K and Fe are:
K: Salifert FRESH water potassium kit
Iron: Nutrafin (may be labeled under the Fluval name)

I ordered some Amazonia soil cause this is making me go crazy. Please check my pic, you can see the brown leaves already floating. Today I dosed two full caps of potassium, idk if that’s a lot but idk what to add anymore.
The Amazonia is going to provide quite a bit of the nutrients you are now dosing, so there will be some adjustments needed. Read up on what to expect when this is added. In either case, root tabs are unnecessary and can cause problems due to uncontrolled release of nutrients.

You didn’t mention it, but I assume you are also dosing traces.

I also assume that you have good lighting.

There is much to the whole picture that will come into focus for you pretty quickly once you gain a little more knowledge and experience. I’d suggest that you start a journal and describe your setup. This will bring a lot of comments to help you, particularly when you have problems. To start, make sure you include info such as the following:

- Light (make & model): ideally, PAR and PUR reading at the substrate and photoperiod?
- CO2 setup (if any) and how you measure CO2 levels in the water if you do inject CO2?
- pH difference between fully de-gassed and fully gassed?
- Current NO3, PO4, GH, KH, pH and TDS readings?
- What you are dosing (product and quantity) and how often?
- Substrate type and how long has it been in place?
- What is your filter setup?
- Cleaning regimen (filter and water change frequency and amount)?
- Circulation: surface rippling and are all plants gently moving from top to bottom?
- What is your water source and do you use a water softener?
 

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I use tests very rarely. I know I have soft water so for the most part if I want anything I have to add it. I think the simplest way to work is figure out what your tap water is and then add what you need and with plants usually more is better. I find pmdd the simplest way to do this when it comes to fertilization.

My experience with a lot of tests is that they aren’t worth relying on for regular use. They are often inaccurate, or the solution gets old and it stops working (nitrate does this I know for sure). And the fact is that plants need a lot of different nutrients so it’s impossible to test for every single one of them anyway. I mix up pmdd for dosing micros and macros so I already know I have roughly the right ratios, and just add more or less solution depending on plant reaction. I occasionally use a nitrate test kit basically to determine if I have “some” or none. If none, I know I’m dosing too lean on macros. I have inert substrate and don’t use root tabs. Just pmdd. I don’t use co2 anymore because I had too many issues with my setup and fluctuating co2 is far far worse than none at all. Especially for creating algae issues. So I scrapped it and after an adjustment period where I lost a lot of plants things turned around.

Recently I had a problem where older growth was dying (developing algae) although I continued to have new growth. After getting some advice it seemed I was probably too lean on micros. I started dosing micros daily and saw results within 5 days.

I guess my point is, test kits are good for figuring out where you are starting with your tap water. After that, it’s probably easier to just add what you know you need based on your tap water results, in the right proportions. And pmdd solution is great for that, you know what’s there and can calculate that adding x amount of solution will raise x number of gallons, x ppm of nitrate or iron or whatever. If you’re doing co2 you definitely need to have a drop checker because if that is fluctuating that will make your life a drudgery no matter what you are doing with fertilizers.


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Discussion Starter #12
My co2 goes on 2 hours before the lights go on and around an 1 hour and a half before the lights turn off. But I’ll do that test.
Yeah I’m gonna stop dosing certain things, maybe everything once I get the Amazonia. I read it lowers gh as well.
Yes I’m dosing trace minerals, not sure if I’m under doing it.
And I have 2 30w floodlights cause my plants were growing good in my smaller tank with them, and I saw some youtubers growing plants with them, but I got more plant species now and I ordered a Radeon xr15 g5 In case that’s the problem.

My co2 set up is a 5g tank, fz regulator, I do use a drop checker to measure co2. Inline diffuser. I would say it’s around 3 or 4 bubbles per second.
Yesterday my gh was 8 and kh 1, today my kh is 3 for some reason, I didn’t add anything to try to buff that. I’m gonna test my gh soon.

Since I was assuming my tank was low on fertz, I added more and now my tds is reading 295ppm, how do you all keep it low with all the fertz added?
I have lily pipes for circulation.
My substrate sucks, is some black sand that I think is meant for goldfish, I thought adding root tabs would be good, I used this since I liked the look and I couldn’t find any sand that looked the same and was good for planted tanks, maybe this is the main problem.
But yeah not testing is where I’m trying to get at lol.
Btw I use Seachem fertz, been dosing around a cap of iron daily, a cap of potassium daily, today I did 2 caps, I hope is not too much. Also nitrogen I been doing around a cap a day as well since it always reads below 10ppm. Phosphorus a cap daily too, so pretty much almost one cap of everything daily, and Around 12 ml easy life profito twice a week
 

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Simple answer is you can’t keep TDS low. 8 dkh of GH is 142 ppm, 3 dkh of Kh is 53 or so, you are at about 200 before you even add anything else. At the same time I don’t know why you would need to keep it low if your fish are ok with your hardness levels.

It’s going to be a constant battle if you modify your tap water...unless you really want to keep fish that need soft water, it seems like a lot of unnecessary hassle. But if you were into saltwater you are no doubt used to modifying your water regularly. I got out of it to do all freshwater and that’s one thing I definitely don’t miss, getting water ready all the time. Right now I siphon out three 5g buckets, dump, then fill up with Python right out of the tap. Add ferts and some calcium to the tank and I’m done. If I had to get RO and store it and then measure out the right amount each water change I would get lazy and not do enough water changes. But hey that’s just me. :)

P.s. if you want to raise Kh you can just use baking soda

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I just want whatever is best for my plants, I’m trying to get to the point where my plants flourish, where mosses are bright green and not dark green, So I was looking into lowering my tds because of that, I read most plants prefer soft water, so I thought having a high tds meant having hard water, but Im reading tds can be high and water still be soft. So if plants can thrive like this Ofcourse I don’t care about changing it. I only have 7 neon tetras and 2 galaxy rasboras.
I’m just really into plants, rare colorful plants and trying to get the best colors out of them.
That’s funny cause my saltwater tanks were actually less maintenance than my planted tank lol, everything pretty much worked itself out once it was mature. There’s times when I would go a month without water changes and everything kept alive and healthy
 

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TDS is total of everything dissolved in the water...yes hard water will have higher tds then soft water if all else you have in it is water... but tds can rise for other reasons like if water changes aren’t done regularly enough or if there are other things dissolved in it like sodium. As far as how your plants will do with hard water I don’t have experience there because everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had soft water, but I would imagine it’s somewhat like fish, some will do better than others. Someone else may be able to chime in on that.

FYI You can figure out what 1 dkh equals in ppm on google, type in e.g. 8 dkh in ppm and it will give you the answer. If you test your tap water GH and Kh and add the ppm together, subtract from your tds, the remainder is something else or measuring error.


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Here’s a pic of my full tank, I do have several plants, maybe I’m under fertilizing :s


Awesome I love the raised beds in the back and the red plants, I lost all mine when my light fixture broke a while back and it took a few weeks to get another one in. Don’t forget that as plants get bigger they need more ferts...


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Discussion Starter #18
I was doing water changes every 2 weeks but lately I’ve been doing them every week since I started paying more attention to my water parameters. I read most plants do better in soft water, that’s prolly why you have no problems. But I’m still confused, can water be soft and still have a high tds? If so I don’t have to worry about tds so much, since what Im aiming for is soft water. Either way I’m slowly getting it down to 3 gh and that will lower my tds, but I’m curious if tds can be high but water still be soft, this is possible from the research I did but I like to hear different answers.

I’ll try that thanks 👍
And thanks, my Aquascape looked better cause I had Seiryu stone but I had to take it out cause it was raising my gh like crazy, and my tank lost form 😕 Have some dragon stone now but haven’t added cause I’m trying to figure out the problems with my plants first.
 

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Yes technically water can be soft and have a high tds. But it probably isn’t particularly common for tap water.

When people say water is “soft” usually what they mean is that it’s low in Kh (carbonates) and or GH (calcium and magnesium). That is all those two tests measure for, those three components.

TDS = total dissolved solids. So this measurement is telling you the total of everything dissolved in the water, including the calcium, magnesium, carbonates, and a myriad of many other things that can be dissolved in water.

Let’s say you take a bottle of distilled water with tds of 0 and add a box of table salt. Will the tds go up? Yes, the more salt you add the higher it will go as long as it keeps dissolving. Anything dissolved in the water raises tds. Will the GH or Kh go up? No, because sodium chloride as we can deduce by the name has no effect on carbonates, calcium or magnesium, it contains none of those components so it cannot increase Kh or GH.

But in real life we have to look at what usually happens in regards to our water supply. If our tap water is coming from a deep underground reservoir which lies below certain types of rocks, as that water percolates down through the ground it can pick up things from the rock, for instance calcium, magnesium or carbonates. And often the rock that it gets these things from are high in other minerals too, for instance iron. So usually when someone has “hard” water, they are high in a lot of things, kh, GH, and other things too, all combining to create a high tds.

As a side note many people with very hard water use water “softeners” which lower the hardness but don’t lower tds because they way they work is by exchanging the minerals with something else like sodium. So the water becomes “soft,” but still has the same tds with the sodium increased proportionally to the other things being removed.

On the other hand, if our tap water is coming from a source above ground like a surface reservoir, or in my case a relatively shallow well in ground that has low amounts of dissolvable minerals in it, when the rain falls (which starts off essentially at 0 tds) it doesn’t have to percolate through a lot of rock first where it would pick up “hardness” before it’s pumped into the house. Therefore both the Kh and GH are low.

So in real life the characteristics of water depend mainly on the geology of the area and location the water is coming from before it gets pumped into your house, but we can see why someone who has “soft” water is likely to have a low tds also.

I don’t think tds per se has any particular effect on plants. I would say the problem is that for many the high tds is coming from sodium in the water. which is bad for plants.


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That makes way more sense now, so I think gh and kh is more important than tds since tds can be from many things, and like you said it can come from sodium. I think my tds is mostly from the “good stuff” I’ve been fertilizing more and my plants are looking a bit better even after one day of increasing fertilizer so I feel I was definitely under dosing.
I really appreciate you taking the time to explain all this cause I like to know why we need to do certain things, not just do it because people say that’s the right way you know?

I think I just have one more question for now, I’ve been hearing iron reacts with some fertilizer but I forgot which one it is, and it was advised to add iron separately cause iron can react with it and plants not being able to absorb it, you know what it is? I’m not sure if it’s iron with potassium I forgot, I’ve been looking for that info and every time I look for it I can’t find it, just come across that info when not looking for it. I’m really trying to figure out the best way to add iron since I have a lot of reds.

Edit: nevermind, another question I have is, do you think the best reading for tests is looking through the tube or at the tube? I’m not sure if I should add nitrates or not, it looks yellow when I look at it but orange when I look through it.
You can see in the pics.
 

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