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GH & KH Help

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I'm trying to understand this stuff, but need help.

I have softened water. If it's not softened, it's basically liquid rock and iron. In my 10 gallon, cycled tank, my GH (using the API test kit), goes from orange to green in 2 drops. My KH, on the other hand, takes 12 drops to go from blue to yellow. My pH is 8.0.

This is after having this tank running for awhile with Mopani wood in it. When I first set this tank up, the pH was 8.2, the GH was 1 drop, and the KH was 17 drops.

I am trying to understand the conversion chart in the instructions, but I'm not having luck.

Can someone explain to me what having such a difference in hardness means for my aquariums, if anything?

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· Administrator
12,197 Posts
The conversion chart is likely going from German degrees to ppm (or mg/L). They are just different units used to express the same thing (like how inches and centimetres both are dimensional measurements).

· Registered
492 Posts
Here is what Tom Barr says about testing & water hardness.

Using tap water

Tap water is cheap and water changes take less time than the testing (salt water is the exception perhaps, salt mixes cost a fair amount money). Water changes also cost less than test kits/testing and are more fool proof method of estimating the nutrient levels in your planted tank when dealing with NO3, Fe and PO4. It's also simpler and requires less knowledge of chemistry and testing against known standards. Plants are most often starved of nutrients and inaccurate test kits are largely responsible. Many people feel tap is unsuitable for plants, this is simply not true. Old myths still abound claiming excess PO4 in tap water causes algae, this has clearly been shown by many hobbyist to be patently false. The tap water has nutrients in it, then you do not have to dose these nearly as much, this is actually a good thing! Why take something out and then add it back again?

Have hard water?

Great, you do not have to add any baking soda and GH builder to your tank. Adding enough GH to bring the levels to 3-5 GH degrees will address higher light tank needs over a week's time. You can use SeaChem Equilibrium for this or a mix of CaCl2 (or CaSO4 although it is not as easy to dissolve into water) and MgSO4 at a 4:1 ratio to increase GH. You can add this without knowing what your GH is by adding 1 degree's worth after a weekly water change (or slightly less with less frequent water changes)

Plants prefer soft water? Not so, neither myself or other experience aquarist have found plants that are soft water dependent, although there may be a few exceptions out perhaps 300 species, it is safe to say that plants prefer harder water and there is research to show this is true, (Bowes 1985), (T. Barr, C. Christianson observations of clear hard water springs in Florida, USA and in Brazil). A few plants, about 5 or 6 or so species do seem to prefer softer water, but this is due to KH, GH seems to have little bearing as long as there is enough Ca and Mg. So the GH can be dosed a little higher if in doubt or if you want to check to see if that is causing an issue or not.
KH on the other hand does seem to influence these specific plants(most are not affected) to about 5-6 degrees. There is really no limit on how low the KH can be for good plant health, but it can make CO2 measurements trickier. There is a way around that though. Still, any plant can be grown at a KH of 5 and a GH of 5-10, or less. This would not be considered "soft" water, actually it would be ideal. Thus unless you desire to grow a few eclectic species, there is no need for RO, nor DI, carbon filtration of the tap water, but doing so will do no harm to the plants as long as there is enough GH for the plants and KH to determine CO2.

My tap water is quite hard too but it appears that that is a good thing when it comes to PH stability. Your PH reading of 8.0 is well within what Tom is saying is acceptable for plants. I have also read that the cheap KH test kits are not actually measuring KH at all but rather PH. API kits are definitely in the cheap category.
I'm no expert when it comes to this stuff so I try to read a lot and if I'm understanding what I've read properly then, with the exception of certain plants & fish, you shouldn't have a problem with your water as is. Do make sure that you don't have anything in your tank such as limestone that may be effecting the water.
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