Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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IntelligentDesigner 04-07-2008 08:12 PM

Water Hardness
I'm brand new to the aquarium world, but I tried taking all the steps and getting all the right chemicals and stuff. I got these 5-in-1 test strips for Ph, Nitrate Levels, and General Water Hardness. I dipped in the strip today and all the readings came low (where they should be according to what I read) except the general water hardness. I got chemicals to raise and lower Ph and Nitrate balances, but how do I reduce the reading for general hardness? Do I have to buy filtered water?

Pasfur 04-07-2008 08:18 PM

You need to buy a buffer. My favorite is a product called Proper pH, which you can order on most internet sites or find at the LFS. By testing your hardness on a weekly basis, you will quickly identify how frequently you need to add this buffer. Proper pH comes in 6.5, 7.0, 7.5, and 8.0, if my memory is correct.
Attempting to raise the pH without the use of a buffer is fruitless. Avoid products which claim to raise the pH, but do nothing for your buffer system.

Elahrairah 04-08-2008 11:25 AM

I believe the buffer will only increase the KH. Which is not General Hardness

To lower GH, I know of two, use Reverse Osmosis water....which has a GH of you have to mix it with your tap water in the proper ratio to get the GH you want...careful, RO water also has a KH of 0 so your pH may not be as stable.

Two: use Peat moss (go to garden store and some pet stores), which from what I hear it has the ability to take the Calcium and Magnesium ions out of the water, making it will also lower the pH and make your tank a bit "blackwater" which I like.

I use both methods. My tap water is 19DH which is very hard. I want 4 so I use a ratio of 75% RO 25% tap water....then I add a 1/2 Tablespoon of Baking Soda to raise the KH about 2DH (about 15 gallons of water changed). I then put about two cups of peat moss in my canister filter (in a nylon stocking) and let it run (I change this out about every two months)..... The water turns brown for about 3 days, then clears up 80% or so and gives a very light brown natrual effect (I don't like that crystal clear look as much) pH stays stable at about 6.8 with this method....all fish are happy and healthy.

Pasfur 04-08-2008 11:48 AM

I misread the question. I thought you were trying to raise pH. My appologies.

To clarify, however, baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate. It adds carbonates to the water to raise hardness. General hardness is a measure of the carbonates that make up the buffer system, one of which you are introducing with Baking Soda. Baking soda, by definition, is a buffer. If you read the labels, many commercially labeled buffers are in fact, sodium bicarbonate. (KH is a different measure of the buffer system, more often used in marine systems.)

I like the technique in the prior post for adjusting pH, because it makes you think! However, if you are using RO water, a commercially prepared buffer such as Proper pH 6.5, makes the entire process easier.

Elahrairah 04-08-2008 02:41 PM

You may be right. I try to keep both the KH and GH at 4.

I have heard that Proper pH is not good for plated tanks, which I have.

Flashygrrl 04-08-2008 06:13 PM

Let's address this one thing at a time.

1. Your choice of testing materials wasn't a good one. Might have been cheaper, but not worth the paper it's made out of. Please get a liquid kit.

2. Using chemicals to raise and lower ph is asking for trouble and a waste of money. Unless your raising a fish that needs very specific ph you don't need to be worry about it, and if you want to lower it you can always try peat, if you want to raise it you can try filtering over crushed coral. Try the natural route first.

3. The only way to safely get rid of excess nitrates is good old fashioned hard work....yes, I'm talking about those darn water changes and some plants will help. Using chemicals to cover up the problems will not eliminate them.

Chemicals+Chemicals+Chemicals=Out of control very quickly unless you're an expert.

okiemavis 04-08-2008 09:10 PM

Could I ask why you are messing with your water chemistry so much? Unless you've got some crazy extreme, or are raising very delicate fish with specific needs, there's really no need to change it. It just creates instabilities in the long run.

herefishy 04-08-2008 10:14 PM

I must agree with okiemavis. why are fretting over total water chemistry. I would not believe that the fish you will be keeping are wild caught, so no need to replicate original native conditions.

The reason for buffers and salts being added to water, is to create an environment that supports the creatures you place into the tank. Tap water contains salts and buffers. RO and DI water do, not they are void of any chemicals, salts or buffers. Hence, you are actually creating the chemistry of your water.

Do yourself a favor, unless your water contains chlorine,, nitrites, nitrates or some other evil chemical that is dangerous to fish. Leave it alone. There may be times when you want to lower pH, use peat. You may want to raise pH, use dolomite, crushed coral, or aragonite. Don't use the bottled chemicals. Natural is always better.

Get a good liquid test kit. I wouldn't walk across the street if the were giving test strips away for free. You will find that a good test kit is your best friend in the hobby.

Pasfur 04-09-2008 12:17 PM

As you consider my following point, keep in mind that Crushed Coral is so effective because the tap water usually has an elevated pH. The crushed coral provides stability by buffering against a pH drop. Remember, pH stability is the ultimate goal.

Peat will soften your water, allowing the pH to settle at a lower level. Unfortunately, the pH drops within the aquarium, settling at the level that corresponds to the amount of peat being used. Adjusting the pH to the proper level prior to adding water to the aquarium is much less stressful. If you are going to use peat, treat the water in a separate container overnight, prior to adding it to the aquarium.

Peat is an old school solution to the problem of softening water. Fortunately today, we have tap water purifiers available at very low costs. For this reason I disagree with the prior posts, and i consider the use of a measured buffer to be the more "natural" solution.

Interesting, as I started to post this response, i went to google to find supporting evidence. The 5th hit on google was an article that I wrote many years ago. I believe it was around 1994. In that article, I actually disagree with my opinion today. I have changed my mind, so to speak, now that technology has advanced within the hobby. So, by definition, i am wrong one way or the other!-)

- Mark Lehr

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