I recently set up what I wanted to be a planted 20 g blackwater riparium. I took a PH, GH, and KH test. Ph is 7.4 (I'll be lowering that with catappa leaves and detritus) which I know is a little high, but the KH is 2 and the GH is 12! my city tap water is GH 9 so I know my tank is probably raising it (using sand and rocks, those are definitely a factor) but even still the GH is way too high for the tank. I'm planning on adding neons to it. How do I go about lowering it? I know RO and distilled are the ways most use but I don't really have access to that for cheap at all. I heard the API water softening pillows would do this? I can top off the tank evaporation with distilled water since that's not too expensive (and will help reduce the amount of waterchanges since the GH won't raise as quick) but a full waterchange/ whole tank full of distilled will be a good bit of money for me. Would the almond leaves I'm putting in reduce the GH too? I'm frustrated because the GH is so unbelievebly high and I can't find much to solve my problem.
Also off topic but the water is cloudy even though it's been set up a few days which is making me a bit uncomfortable too, since usually anything in it that is floating should have settled by now. I am not dosing ammonia or anything and have added a whole mature filter sponge to it so I know it's not in the middle of a cycle. Waterchanges don't seem to help with it either which is annoying as hell.