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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys! Was out of the hobby for a while due to moving around, but in the last ~8 months I've returned to it. Currently in an area with well water that has some interesting parameters and can't seem to grow even the easiest of plants. I guess I’m a born again newbie :)

Tank: 75g
Substrate: PFS
Lighting: Planted+ 24/7
Filter: Fluval 404
Plants: Anacharis, anubias, crypts, java fern, hygro, duckweed
Fish: Callichthys callichthys, Megalechis thoracata, giant danios
PH (at tap): 7.2 - test done by water testing lab
PH (in tank, personal test kit): 8.5
Nitrates hover between 10-40ppm
Ferts: PPS Pro from GLA + Glut dosing
Light duration: 6 hours at full strength

All of my plants either gradually die off, or the old growth dies as new comes in. Turns brownish green, transparent and then disintegrates. New growth is also very slow but looks nice/isn't deformed.


Had my well water tested at a lab for the full suite of stuff (heavy metals, bacteria etc). I don't have the readout handy, but this is more or less what I'm looking at;

Hard (over 240)
Extremely high iron (something like 3x the expected for the area?)
High manganese
High calcium
Small amount of sodium
Negative for heavy metals (mercury, lead etc)

I've tried longer lighting - just makes the algae go insane. Less light curbs the algae and doesn't seem to have much effect on the abysmal plant growth. I added some almond leaves to give the cats something to hide under but they don’t seem to have impacted the PH much if any. I’ve tried stopping the glut; no changes. I’ve stopped the PPS Pro for 1-2 weeks to see what happened. Situation didn’t seem to change either.

At one point I thought maybe it was the light intensity so I added two of the LED Satelite lights on either side of the Planted 24/7. Nothing but more algae (and oh god, so much of it).

I was never a master at planted tanks, but I had a couple years ago that I was proud of with lots of lush crypts, swords, bolbitis and whatnot. Now I can't even get duckweed to survive more than 2 weeks when before I had trouble getting rid of it. Snails (MTS and Nerite) as well as the fish are thriving.

I feel like I'm missing something really obvious here.. Any ideas what to do? I realize the info I gave may not be complete enough to form a whole picture of things but I can try to fill in any gaps. The fact that the dickweed gradually turned transparent and died out was really alarming as it’d been a nuisance in my tanks that were running on Austin, TX city water years prior.

Am I destined for a RODI + water storage setup? Shall I buy a more focused suite of test kits to try to get a better handle on what’s going on?

Any help/ideas are appreciated. Thanks!
 

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You know what the lab says your pH is. I don't see where you tested your tap with your kit. What is giving you the higher pH in your tank? or is your kit inaccurate?
I'd try putting a plant or two into a pot with top soil in it and put that into the tank. Every plant in my 90 I did that way. I've got pea gravel 3-4" deep with net pots buried in that. Growth is about where I expect it to be. Do you have any equipment on your well? Softener? Chlorinator?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh, sorry - the API test kit shows roughly the same out of the tap as in the tank. We've got no equipment on the well and I use Prime when doing water changes.

I have a few swords and crypts that are still holding on I can try the potted thing with. Thanks!
 

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Well except that Glutamate works best with slightly acid conditions. It would be interesting to see what would happen to the iron if you could dose a straight chelator like ETDA. Also, what is your natural phosphates level, as it can take out of solution dissolved iron?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelation
 

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I could very well just be having a massive brain fart, but I'm really confused. I don't understand how a pH can go from 7.2 from the tap to 8.5 in the tank. The high iron and such is in your water and you're using that water to put in your tank. If you paid for this water test, I'd be on the phone talking to them about this. Explain to them what's going on and see what they say.

The difference in the pH isn't huge, but it isn't small either. If their testing is bad, it is going to be impossible for you to problem solve as you can't make a solid decision of what to do and or how to treat your tap water if you should decide to keep using it.

Edit: I don't have hard water so I have no experience with it and planted tanks. Do plants die off like this with really hard water? Everything that I've heard has suggested yes and people with liquid rock for water have to either cut their tap water with RO or they just use RO and reconstitute it.
 

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Quote:
the API test kit shows roughly the same out of the tap as in the tank

Is this something I'm missing what you are saying or is there conflict with what you test the tap and what the "official" test shows at 7.2 vs 8.5? If you are saying you test the tap and the tank both at 8.5, I would expect that to be an error. We are in an area of pretty close to liquid cement but then 8.5 is higher than I ever see so I would accept the other test to be more correct. No cement décor items in the tank?
High iron content will be likely to show in several ways that are easy to spot. Check things like the toilet bowl for stains or lift the top of the toilet tank and see if it is rust colored. This could be true and come from natural sources or be from rusty iron piping. Just something to get closer to finding the right test results.
But then I never fully agree with water being the final answer when several plants are failing since lots of plants do grow in the local water. I might guess more a combination of several small things is working against you.
 

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I could very well just be having a massive brain fart, but I'm really confused. I don't understand how a pH can go from 7.2 from the tap to 8.5 in the tank. The high iron and such is in your water and you're using that water to put in your tank. If you paid for this water test, I'd be on the phone talking to them about this. Explain to them what's going on and see what they say.

The difference in the pH isn't huge, but it isn't small either. If their testing is bad, it is going to be impossible for you to problem solve as you can't make a solid decision of what to do and or how to treat your tap water if you should decide to keep using it.

Edit: I don't have hard water so I have no experience with it and planted tanks. Do plants die off like this with really hard water? Everything that I've heard has suggested yes and people with liquid rock for water have to either cut their tap water with RO or they just use RO and reconstitute it.
It could be as simple as dissolved CO2 coming out of solution from aeration or from the plants using it up. With this water being pretty close to liquid rock, I'll bet there's a fair amount of CO2 in solution, it's not uncommon for well water to have extra CO2.
 

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Quote:
Edit: I don't have hard water so I have no experience with it and planted tanks. Do plants die off like this with really hard water? Everything that I've heard has suggested yes and people with liquid rock for water have to either cut their tap water with RO or they just use RO and reconstitute it.


In my tanks, this is not true. I do not alter my water at all before the tank and I do have really hard water. This basic idea would seem to be missing the point that areas with super hard water still have many plants living in that water. I will agree that there are likely to be some plants that require soft water but then there are also those which may like the hard water better. The folks who start stories like hard water kills plants really need to get out more.
Many springs are hard water as the underground streams are holes in limestone. For a view of plants growing in natural hard water, check this video?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFWLrvLTA7w
The water starts out acidic due to falling and running through surface debris and plants but as it works it's way through the limestone, the acidic nature dissolves the limestone and adds hardness. Any area that has limestone (karst) underground will often have lots of plants growing where there is light.
Florida's springs for instance.
 

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I don't understand how a pH can go from 7.2 from the tap to 8.5 in the tank.
Like others have said, well water can have a good deal of co2 in it.

My well water comes from the tap at 6.75, and degasses at 8.25ph.

It does go through a softener, and I don't use RO water. KH is always at 20, and GH is at almost zero from being softened. I add GH booster after a water change.

I haven't found too many things I can't grow, but some plants are sensitive to KH levels, and I just avoid them. There are plenty that will do well.

Barring anything really wacky with your well water, I would focus more on the balance of light and ferts. When I had low tech planted, it was pretty tricky. Too much light = algae, too little = plants dying. Same with ferts. I needed very little if any with low tech.

Also, I had my best low tech results when heavily planted. The more the better.

Good luck and I hope you work it out. Looking forward to hear where you go with this.
 

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Like others have said, well water can have a good deal of co2 in it.

My well water comes from the tap at 6.75, and degasses at 8.25ph.

It does go through a softener, and I don't use RO water. KH is always at 20, and GH is at almost zero from being softened. I add GH booster after a water change.
I too have well water. It comes from the tap with a pH of around 6.0 and stays there. It has nothing for a buffer, but has a okay GH. I can dig around in my backyard for days and find nothing but sand.

There is this notion within the hobby that all well water is always liquid rock. I'll be the first to admit that it drives me a wee bit crazy because all well water is local. People that live in farming areas with wells have their own issues as well due to run off. I digress.

In this particular situation, if gassing off is the problem along with CO2 levels, the lab should be able to figure that out.

I hope OP can get to the bottom of this issue and have the tank he wants.
 

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I too have well water. It comes from the tap with a pH of around 6.0 and stays there. It has nothing for a buffer, but has a okay GH. I can dig around in my backyard for days and find nothing but sand.

There is this notion within the hobby that all well water is always liquid rock. I'll be the first to admit that it drives me a wee bit crazy because all well water is local. People that live in farming areas with wells have their own issues as well due to run off. I digress.

In this particular situation, if gassing off is the problem along with CO2 levels, the lab should be able to figure that out.

I hope OP can get to the bottom of this issue and have the tank he wants.

Our well water is a combination of surface and subsurface stream water. It's always really soft, but can have varying amounts of tannics, Iron and silicates. If I grow anything really well here it's diatoms. My plants need to be cajoled along, I still haven't dialed in what makes my plants do best, seems I grow Java fern and Cryptocorynes well. Others not so well.

Work to my strengths instead of trying to fight to grow everything.
 

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Our well water is a combination of surface and subsurface stream water. It's always really soft, but can have varying amounts of tannics, Iron and silicates. If I grow anything really well here it's diatoms. My plants need to be cajoled along, I still haven't dialed in what makes my plants do best, seems I grow Java fern and Cryptocorynes well. Others not so well.

Work to my strengths instead of trying to fight to grow everything.
I completely agree with your thoughts of working with what you have. I spent a few years trying to make my tanks into something they were not meant to be. All it did was make me miserable and not want to have tanks at all.

There are things I can't grow either, but I don't know if it is something I'm doing or not. It hasn't been a pressing enough issue for me to figure out the reason with the exception of moss. I have zero problems killing it, and since I really like it, I'm going to give it one more honest try. If I can't make it work this time, I can live without.

The other night a slapped together a nano tank. I had a 2.5- 3 gallon cookie jar sitting around, so I'm trying that out. It has a petite anubias, some bulbs that I've never tried along with Dwarf Hair Grass which I've never been able to keep alive. So far so good, although the cookie jar may be replaced as I don't like the distortion from the glass. The anubias looks like it has been shot up with steroids. That and hubby insist that I put a betta in there even though I've told him time and time again that this was supposed to be a critter-free project.
 

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Check your pH out of the tap, then place the water in a small container and hit it with a good amount of air for a while and then recheck pH. If your pH rises your driving off CO2, its not uncommon for well waters to change pH when aerated.

There are simple cartridges that can be placed in a filter housing that will strip some of the hardness out, Ca, Mg, Na.
 

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I saw mention of the idea that well water is the same and expected to be hard. That is also one of my personal bugs. A short study of how our planet works has lead me to be amazed at how our old world has been. And it is still not settled. The ground we walk on is in constant turmoil even though we don't sense it much of the time. It's more like making a smoothie than solid ground! That is why we have many of the different minerals that we use.
For the same reasons we find coal, oil, copper, iron and salt, we should expect to find water varies from well to well.
 

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I saw mention of the idea that well water is the same and expected to be hard. That is also one of my personal bugs. A short study of how our planet works has lead me to be amazed at how our old world has been. And it is still not settled. The ground we walk on is in constant turmoil even though we don't sense it much of the time. It's more like making a smoothie than solid ground! That is why we have many of the different minerals that we use.
For the same reasons we find coal, oil, copper, iron and salt, we should expect to find water varies from well to well.
Simple geography should be telling of many things, but that never seems to enter the equation.

In my experience with this 'well water is the same everywhere' argument, it is often comes with accusations of chasing the perfect pH.

Granted, there are people that do spend far too much time playing around with their pH which can lead to a tank crash, but I'm not one of those people. I want my tanks to be stable which I don't think it too much to ask for. If my fish and plants are happy and I'm not having any issues to speak of, I must be doing something right.
 
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