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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My water is very soft (2 degrees GH and KH out of the tap, and pH is 7.4). I'm working out ways to increase the general and carbonate hardness to safer levels. My tank is brand new (5 days old), so it's still cycling (ADA Tropica substrate), so I'm kind of in "prevention/preparation" phase.

I could add Seachem Equilibrium (or I guess other brands make equivalents...) to buffer my GH. That contains K (23%), Ca (8%), Mg (2.4%), Fe (0,11%), and Mn (0.06%). I could add a plant fertilizer; for example, Aquarium Co-op's Easy Green contains: N 2.66% , P 0.46%, K 9.21%, Mg 0.7%, S 0.80%, B 0.015%, Cu 0.00%, Fe 0.13%, Mn 0.036%, Mo 0.00%, Zn 0.072%. Obviously these are very different ratios...but something tells me I don't need both.

If I had to guess, I'd say that plant fertilizers don't contain sufficient minerals to substantially increase hardness, and chemicals like Seachem Equilibrium don't contain all the trace minerals that plants need. That would be a reason to dose both. I'm not in favor of just adding things willy-nilly to my aquarium, so I'd love to know others' thoughts on this matter.
 

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Your tap water is very similar to mine and I could have written this at some point.

You should be aware that your aquasoil is going to reduce your KH. This is intentional, though its ability to do so will eventually wear out and any carbonates you add to your water will make that happen faster. I know a lot of the tips for beginners suggest that you want to have a KH of 4 to 6 to prevent pH crashes, but lot of people run stable tanks with 0 dKH with no problem. I wouldn't fight your aquasoil at any rate.

As for GH, I think the reason most all-in-one plant fertilizers don't come with a lot of Ca and Mg is because people have very different water and different goals so it's better to be on the low side and let the end user choose if they need to add more. I remineralize to ~6 dGH and I initially bought Equilibrium to do this, with the idea that I would rely on fish waste for the rest of my fertilization. My nitrates kept bottoming out though, and I realized that Equilibrium is more K than Ca and Mg, so I switched to dosing with Thrive and remineralizing with epsom salt and calcium chloride. There are GH boosting products out there that might work better for you, but I happened to already have those in my house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks so much! I'm so glad I made this post and my other on KH dropping today. The answers saved me...otherwise, I'd be dosing sodium bicarbonate every day and basically chasing my own tail, and wearing out this pricey ADA substrate. I feel like I read everything about ADA Tropica, planted tanks, etc., but I'm still learning stuff. I got into difficulty because it seems like the parameters to cycle a tank efficiently (higher temps, higher or at least neutral pH, not-too-low KH) are not the same parameters that are necessarily found in a healthy, cycled planted tank. I wasn't planning to add a heater at all, but I threw one in to set the tank at 75F so I get the cycling process moving along. But with my acidic pH, it looks like I have to accept the nitrifying bacteria working at around 3-50% efficiency. As long as I can keep them reproducing, I'm fine with the cycling tanking several months. I'm not planning to add fish until Spring anyway. I got nervous that not having a cycled tank would burn my new plants (I have some tissue - like Dwarf Baby Tears and Eleocharis 'Belem'), some potted plants (like anubias...won't be potted for long but I'm hoping there's starter bacteria in the rock wool that can seed my tank), and some stem plants (including hardy Hydrocotyle sibthorpiodes).
 

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I'm happy to have helped. Planted tanks have a lot of moving pieces and it takes time to get a good understanding of what you're supposed to be doing conceptually and then even more time to turn that into actual practice, but that's part of the fun.

I wouldn't worry too much about optimizing your tank cycling, especially if you aren't adding fish soon. Your bacteria needs food and non-extreme water parameters, but otherwise they will do their thing eventually - no need to bump up the temp or change the pH or worry about seeding from other sources. Good luck!
 
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