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I am posting this to share my experiences and also hopefully answer some questions about this all encompassing parameter.

I purchased a TDS meter (Hanna Primo) about 3 years ago when I decided to undertake the task of breeding L-183 Starlight plecos. I knew I needed soft water to get them to breed so I figured it would help. Now after three years and keeping TDS ~100ppm they breed pretty prolifically.

I used the meter on my high tech 37g because I have soft water species in there (L.Pantanal, various eriocaulons, tonninas, syngonanthus, etc.). When I first began testing on the tank my TDS were in the low 100's. Then I had some deficiencies appear and started dosing GH booster and Epsom Salt. Over the course of following the correct dosing amounts for NPK, GH booster and Epsom the TDS rose to almost 700ppm! I know its due to the ferts and salt but WOW that was a shock.

All of the plants are doing wonderful so I have no specific issue I'm just trying to figure out the best possible way to determine actual water hardness in the tank. I hate liquid kits and I do not have a high end liquid kit for hardness. I would also assume that since the TDS is effected by dosing the GH would also be affected and perhaps also the KH because of the salt???
 

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I would also assume that since the TDS is effected by dosing the GH would also be affected and perhaps also the KH because of the salt???
Yep, if you dose GH booster, the GH will go up. :D KH not so much, it reflects mostly carbonate hardness, shouldn't be affected by adding GH booster.

TDS measures all ions dissolved in water, so it includes also things like sodium that don't contribute to water hardness.

The whole hardness/alkalinity thing is pretty confusing since some terms are used interchangeably. Add in TDS, EC, buffering capacity, and perhaps some phosphates, and it makes your head spin.
 

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So what exact measurements would one need to determine the hardness of the tank water without being thrown off by the ferts we add.
Water hardness, much like TDS, is produced by a variety of ions. In the case of TDS, all ions increase it. In hardness, calcium and magnesium are the main contributors, though iron and manganese are also counted. So it is directly changed by adding fertilizers.

The "gold standard" for measuring hardness the most accurately would be to measure the concentration of each ion, convert to CaCO3 equivalent, and add them up - you could use an ICP-OES instrument for this (fastest - it measures all the ions at once - but costs about $125,000).

If you just use a liquid hardness test kit you get results very close to those of the expensive instrument. There are also calcium ion-selective electrodes (and maybe Mg, not sure) that could help - but the liquid test is usually better.

If you want a really cheap way (but less accurate) - use a dilute soap solution. Count how many drops you need to add to 10ml of water to get soap bubbles after shaking. Initially it will form soap scum, so no bubbles. You'd also have to calibrate this with a known hardness solution.

Kevin
 

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So what exact measurements would one need to determine the hardness of the tank water without being thrown off by the ferts we add.
So what OTC test kits would someone need to calculate hardness without having skewed results from dosing, or is that even possible?
Define "hardness"...

You could measure the tap (or RO/DI) water you use for water changes. That would be your starting point without added fertilizers.

The answer to your question is most likely "not possible". Epsom salt is Magnesium Sulfate, and when you measure hardness, you measure Magnesium (among other things), so that's really a part of the measurement, not "throwing off" or "skewing" it. If you need soft water don't add GH booster...
 

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Define "hardness"...

You could measure the tap (or RO/DI) water you use for water changes. That would be your starting point without added fertilizers.

The answer to your question is most likely "not possible". Epsom salt is Calcium Sulfate, and when you measure hardness, you measure Calcium (among other things), so that's really a part of the measurement, not "throwing off" or "skewing" it. If you need soft water don't add GH booster...
Epsom salt is Magnesium sulfate.

Just use the hardness kit. I suppose one way would be to precipitate out all the minerals in a set volume of water and take the mass. But this would mean some serious number crunching and a scale that would cost like 12 grand. As far as we're concerned test kits are plenty accurate. Just simple titrations are good enough for us.

And at the above person. That' easier said than done. And not very relevant to the discussion...

TDS is one of those pointless measurements IMO. Sure you don't want like 10000 TDS. But in the wild TDS are much much higher than what we have in our tanks with their fancy mechanical filtration. Many soft water fish are found in waters with TDS as high as 1200. Don't bother with it...

One use for TDS meter: Checking if your RO/DI system is still good. That's all.
 
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I thought that the soft water one spoke of when refering to blackwater and other soft water species, was the KH, carbonate hardness, and not so much GH. I don't know for sure.
API makes a very affordable KH test, I picked one up for $7 dollars.
 

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Epsom salt is Magnesium sulfate.
Whoops you are right. Been a long day.

And at the above person. That' easier said than done. And not very relevant to the discussion...
Why not? B is wondering how to maintain soft water and still grow plants without deficiencies...

TDS is one of those pointless measurements IMO. Sure you don't want like 10000 TDS. But in the wild TDS are much much higher than what we have in our tanks with their fancy mechanical filtration. Many soft water fish are found in waters with TDS as high as 1200. Don't bother with it...

One use for TDS meter: Checking if your RO/DI system is still good. That's all.
Interesting info. I thought typical softwater fish are found in waters with very low TDS. Are you saying fancy mechanical filters filter out those dissolved solids? Resulting in lower TDS figures?
 

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I used to track gh/kh of my tanks. The plants have all been doing just fine so I started thinking I was wasting my time testing and stopped worrying about it as long as they were healthy. Haven't looked back since.
 

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Whoops you are right. Been a long day.



Why not? B is wondering how to maintain soft water and still grow plants without deficiencies...



Interesting info. I thought typical softwater fish are found in waters with very low TDS. Are you saying fancy mechanical filters filter out those dissolved solids? Resulting in lower TDS figures?

TDS is a measurement of not only dissolved minerals but also dissolved organic compounds. Imagine those muddy black waters most fish come from. The TDS in those waters is sky high. Or filters get rid of the majority of organic solids be they molecular (chemical filtration) or macroscopic (mechanical filtration).
 

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So what exact measurements would one need to determine the hardness of the tank water without being thrown off by the ferts we add.
The only way would be with gH and kH test kits.

Your TDS is also going way up because of all the potassium contained in gH boosters.
 

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A jump of 600ppm though? That would take some heavy, heavy dosing. I add epsom salt and calcium nitrate to my water in addition to the regular dry ferts, and CSM+B, and have never seen the EC meter (Hanna Primo is an EC meter) get above 250 (Starting point is around 150) and that requires sloppy fert measuring (Measuring ferts with a gram scale? Get real.) and being a few days late with the WC on my part.

If you're hitting 700ppm, then the minerals you're dosing aren't being used by the plants much, if at all, which makes me think you don't really need them, or it's time to get new reference solution. Make sure you rinse out the probe with distilled water between uses also, or mineral deposits left behind can invalidate your next reading.

EC meters don't measure everything. There is actually more than 700ppm of dissolved solids in your tank water. Many organic compounds and anything with low conductivity have little or no effect on the reading.
 

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If you're hitting 700ppm, then the minerals you're dosing aren't being used by the plants much, if at all, which makes me think you don't really need them, or it's time to get new reference solution. Make sure you rinse out the probe with distilled water between uses also, or mineral deposits left behind can invalidate your next reading.
Sharkfood's idea is a good one, especially considering that your meter is 3 years old.

I don't have the Hanna meter, so I'm not familiar with the particulars of it, but another thing to consider is that it probably isn't correcting for the higher summer tank temperatures. Conductivity is greatly affected by temperature and you'll always get higher readings once the tank temp exceeds the 75-77 degree range.
 

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I actually have the 1382 calibration packets and the readings im getting are from the calibrated meter.

When I dose the GH booster/Epsom salt I have not even been dosing the recommended amounts according to normal EI dosing regime either.

This tank is very heavily planted with some stems and also with some slower growing plants with 96w of T5HO in a fixture that is sitting on legs over the tank. My Co2 is also up very high as well. So it would be very hard for me to think that either one of those variables (Lighting and co2) is holding the plants back from taking in nutrients. Also all of the plants in my tank are growing about as well as I could believe they could.

As of late the TDS reading has been around 300ppm. This is because I have only put a fraction of the GH booster and Epsom salt and have started using Rootmedic liquid ferts for Macro and Micro and not my normal dry NPK and modified CSM+b mix.
 
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