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So currently I have set up my first tank, a 10 gallon low tech planted tank, with amazon sword, java fern and anubias with fluval stratum as a the substrate. It has been set up for about 2 weeks no fish of course because I have not cycled it. However, I have bought an api master test kit and have been testing the water, other than about 0.50ppm ammonia, which I suspect is from the leaves melting back and decaying in the water although I've cut of the dead leaves now (Not sure if I should do a decent water i.e 50-60% change to remove that.) One thing I have noticed though is that the ph is unstable jumping around between 6.0ppm and 6.4ppm throughout the day. I know that the fluval stratum does lower ph to a significant degree. The water source I use, primo brand purified RO water 5 gallon jugs meant for water dispensers
its 6.8ppm ph (I let is sit out for 24 hours then tested it, Kh is 0 and Ph 6.8 and GH is 0. Now of course there's not going to be any gh and kh because its rodi but I didn't realize it was rodi at the time of adding water to an empty tank

I used this because my tap GH is 180ppm + KH around 80 (I did not intentionally use RO water I just needed a water source that wasn’t my tap) I used api test strips to measure the GH and KH . So, my question is, should I do a very large/100% water change with different water? I don't think I should use my tap as a the GH is so high. Although not changing the water source from the primo rodi will prolong the issue. Any help is appreciated
 

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What's with all the spammy redirect links in your post? I removed them. Please don't do that.

What kind of critters do you plan to keep? Sensitive shrimp? Fish that thrive in acidic water? What? That'll determine how you should proceed. But in order to get your tank stabilized, you'll need some minerals in that water.

Your tap hardness isn't that high. That's gH of about 10 and kH of about 4.

If it were me, I'd just use your treated tap water and keep species that will work in that hardness. Unless you have an RO/DI filter and want to remineralize, that is, and have your heart set on something requiring soft water.

But to get started, just swap out 50% of that water (save it for top-offs while cycling) with treated tap. Add ammonia til you hit about 3ppm. Then keep it at that level until nitrites spike, disappear, nitrates appear. Once the tank can process that amount of ammonia in a day, you'll be good to go.

When it's "cycled," just do a 100% water change with treated tap. Wait a day and see where your kH settles. Fluval stratum will buffer/absorb some carbonates to a certain degree but not generally enough to be extreme. It also exhausts pretty quickly. Water parameters will remain pretty stable if you only swap out 10-20% each week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
What's with all the spammy redirect links in your post? I removed them. Please don't do that.

What kind of critters do you plan to keep? Sensitive shrimp? Fish that thrive in acidic water? What? That'll determine how you should proceed. But in order to get your tank stabilized, you'll need some minerals in that water.

Your tap hardness isn't that high. That's gH of about 10 and kH of about 4.

If it were me, I'd just use your treated tap water and keep species that will work in that hardness. Unless you have an RO/DI filter and want to remineralize, that is, and have your heart set on something requiring soft water.

But to get started, just swap out 50% of that water (save it for top-offs while cycling) with treated tap. Add ammonia til you hit about 3ppm. Then keep it at that level until nitrites spike, disappear, nitrates appear. Once the tank can process that amount of ammonia in a day, you'll be good to go.

When it's "cycled," just do a 100% water change with treated tap. Wait a day and see where your kH settles. Fluval stratum will buffer/absorb some carbonates to a certain degree but not generally enough to be extreme. It also exhausts pretty quickly. Water parameters will remain pretty stable if you only swap out 10-20% each week.
Apologizes I’m not sure why there were redirect links as I wrote this directly in the forum post text box, although I did copy it and paste it into another forum site and that may have added the weird link.

First of, I apologize if I restate things that may seem obvious here, I just want to make sure I get the info right as I this is my first tank and this has all been a bit of a learning curve. So I just want to make sure I understand what your saying. Your suggesting that I should do a 50% water change and change it with water from the tap as soon as a can (Of course I would condition it first) aswell as saving the tank water? For reference tap ph is 7.4 tank ph is 6.0-6.4 and the ro water ph is 6.8. Also I’m the sure the stratum will effect the ph level regardless of the tap ph but it does have minerals unlike the ro water.

I plan to keep a single honey gourami and maybe some cardinal tetras down the road, but the honey gourami is the main focus I’m must say glad I had enough understanding that I need to cycle the tank before adding fish. This is all a learning experience for me and on the bright side atleast I didn’t add fish right away.
 

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Since you'll need some minerals in your tank water to get things going (you technically don't but you should have them, so the bacteria that grow will be able to immediately thrive in parameters close to what you plan to use - and so there's kH/hardness to stabilize things), yep, swap out about half your tank water with treated tap. That'll give you minerals, hardness, that sort of thing to get things stabilized.

You could do a 100% water change with treated tap if you want. I was just thinking of what would be easiest - could store half the existing water in a spare 5gal bucket and use it so it doesn't go to waste.

Save the water you remove from the tank, since it doesn't have minerals in it, to use as top-off water during your cycle phase. Top-off meaning you'll need to replace water that is lost to evaporation over the course of a few weeks. When tank water evaporates? It leaves behind all the dissolved solids. So to avoid unnecessarily increasing your solids/hardness/minerals, most tend to use RO/DI water for top-offs. RO/DI has nothing in it and won't add to the solids in your water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Since you'll need some minerals in your tank water to get things going (you technically don't but you should have them, so the bacteria that grow will be able to immediately thrive in parameters close to what you plan to use - and so there's kH/hardness to stabilize things), yep, swap out about half your tank water with treated tap. That'll give you minerals, hardness, that sort of thing to get things stabilized.

You could do a 100% water change with treated tap if you want. I was just thinking of what would be easiest - could store half the existing water in a spare 5gal bucket and use it so it doesn't go to waste.

Save the water you remove from the tank, since it doesn't have minerals in it, to use as top-off water during your cycle phase. Top-off meaning you'll need to replace water that is lost to evaporation over the course of a few weeks. When tank water evaporates? It leaves behind all the dissolved solids. So to avoid unnecessarily increasing your solids/hardness/minerals, most tend to use RO/DI water for top-offs. RO/DI has nothing in it and won't add to the solids in your water.
Hello,

A bit of an update

It has been about a day since the water change and I tested it with my api master test kit and the GH/KH test kit. my pH is 6.4ppm right now measured it at a 6.6ppm this morning, so definitely lacking stability. the KH is 0ppm GH is 125.3ppm. Now from my understanding of fluval stratum, it is designed to strip KH and lower ph, so atleast we know it’s doing what it’s supposed to even though it’s not ideal lol. My question is, would it be wise to add something like crushed coral or seachem akaline buffer to raise the KH or possible do very frequent water changes (every few days) to add more KH back to lower the substrates buffer effects overtime? I’m not sure as I’ve heard the buffer effects take a while to “die off”. I’m also contemplating switching to something like eco complete if trying to fiddle with these levels will be very tricky as I’m still new the hobby and I’m not sure if I’m well seasoned enough to deal with a task as such. Although I’m always up for a challenge.
 

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pH naturally fluctuates a bit throughout the day. 6.4 to 6.6 doesn't mean much when it comes to the kind of test kit you're using. Don't worry about it. Though, note that API test strips for gH & kH are unfortunately not reliable. If you can get a liquid test kit, you'll be better off and will feel better about things.

Yes, the substrate will naturally absorb/bind/pull/however you want to think of it carbonates from the water, lowering kH. As long as you aren't trying to chase parameters and you focus on stability, you'll be fine. If you use 100% treated tap, the substrate's buffering ability will be exhausted much quicker. But I don't think you should worry a whole lot about it.

Have you read much here on the forum about water parameters? I encourage you to do so. It'll be supremely helpful, as you still have a lot of basic questions.

Eco Complete doesn't provide anything for plants. It's inert. Just crushed lava rock. Overpriced for what it is. If you like the look of it, get it, but not for any other reason. If you want inert substrate, there are tons of other great options.

Adding crushed coral could help a bit but you'd still just be chasing parameters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
pH naturally fluctuates a bit throughout the day. 6.4 to 6.6 doesn't mean much when it comes to the kind of test kit you're using. Don't worry about it. Though, note that API test strips for gH & kH are unfortunately not reliable. If you can get a liquid test kit, you'll be better off and will feel better about things.

Yes, the substrate will naturally absorb/bind/pull/however you want to think of it carbonates from the water, lowering kH. As long as you aren't trying to chase parameters and you focus on stability, you'll be fine. If you use 100% treated tap, the substrate's buffering ability will be exhausted much quicker. But I don't think you should worry a whole lot about it.

Have you read much here on the forum about water parameters? I encourage you to do so. It'll be supremely helpful, as you still have a lot of basic questions.

Eco Complete doesn't provide anything for plants. It's inert. Just crushed lava rock. Overpriced for what it is. If you like the look of it, get it, but not for any other reason. If you want inert substrate, there are tons of other great options.

Adding crushed coral could help a bit but you'd still just be chasing parameters.
The reason I am concerned about parameters (ph in particular) it’s because of the difficulties of cycling a tank with a pH under 7.0ppm. Although, I have read that some have been able to cycle tanks with lower ph, It just takes a little more patience and time. So maybe it shouldn’t be a concern. To test my GH and KH I did actually use the liquid test kit, although again the KH came back at zero ppm but that was to be expected.
I will go ahead and read up on water parameters as a definitely do need to do some more reading on it. I do plan on keeping the stratum as it does seem to work really great for my plants.
Thanks again for the help.
 

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It's honestly not difficult to get a tank cycled with a pH below 7. I can't tell you the last time I cycled a tank above 6. My shrimp tanks are almost always 5 to 5.5. Only takes about a month - same as any other tank. Though, I tend to run/"cycle" my tanks another month or two in order to let everything mature prior to adding livestock.

I wouldn't worry much about getting your tank cycled. You're for real well on your way. Just being set up means bacteria are already multiplying. The tank will be ready before you know it.
 
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