Needing to raise my water hardness; using crushed coral?
My Mollies' health problems are plummeting. I thought they would adapt to the soft water (I use gallon jugged filter water, not tapped) but it seems as soon as I get rid of one problem, another problem arises. My first molly who I've had for over a month now has constantly had problems since she gave birth. She just got over pop-eye, ich and now I noticed her with the shimmies last night. Today I noticed my male dalmation molly with the shimmies as well. I'm starting to lose my ability to afford all the medications I need, I've gone through bottles of ich treatment back to back. I'm hoping raising my water hardness will help with their health and lessen the stress.
i read that filtering water through crushed coral or dolomite will help raise the water hardness; does anyone have experience with this method? I have an AquaTech 30/60 filter, so I'm wondering how I would even go about putting the coral in there; maybe using media bags? Any input would be appreciated, I would love to know the right thing to do before I make any unnecessary purchases.
By the way, my tank is stocked with mollies, platties and an albino rainbow shark, so I've checked that they are all compatible with hard water.
Livebearers, especially molly, cannot be kept in soft water. They may "survive" for a time, but as you have noticed, health issues keep occurring. And I can guarantee these are almost certainly the result of soft water. The fish must have mineral from the water.
So, how to get it. You don't mention the hardness and pH, so it is difficult to suggest amounts. But the easiest and safest way to increase the hardness and corresponding pH is with calcium and magnesium. Dolomite gravel is ideal since it has both, and a little goes a long way. Crushed coral, marble, limestone also work with respect to calcium which is the most important of the two. Magnesium can be added easily with pure Epsom Salt. And "Salt" here is not common sodium salt like table salt or aquarium/marine salt.
I have used dolomite to achieve hardness. A small amount in the filter (use one of those filter media mesh bags) is the easiest method, or it can be mixed in with the substrate. But the latter has to be done slowly as you don't want too much too suddenly. There is no formula I am aware of, as the effect depends upon the initial hardness of the water and to a lesser degree the tank's biology.
Crushed coral also works fast. I am presently starting this myself in my 115g [can't get dolomite locally]. Same method, in the filter.
Magnesium sulfate is simply the salts of magnesium and sulfur and can be added after the water change. Here again a little goes a long way, and it depends upon the initial hardness and biology. You can buy a bag of Epsom Salts (make sure they are pure, no additives) in drug stores, probably grocery stores. I mix a teaspoon in a small jar (with a tight fitting lid) of tank water by shaking it until it is fully dissolved, then pour it in. If you can get dolomite, you need't bother with ES as the magnesium will be in the dolomite.
You don't mention your tank size but there is no formula anyway, so go slow. A couple tablespoons of the dolomite in the filter using a mesh bag might start it, then measure the hardness over a week (the API liquid hardness kit for GH is all you need). As you have livebearers the hardness really won't cause problems if it should be a bit high, but raising it slowly is preferable.
I was going to wait to mention my water parameters after I got some sort of advice(which I did, thanks!). Also, I haven't been able to locate any dolomite either, and crushed coral seems to be more readily available.
My tank is 30 gallons, the hardness is at 75 ppm and pH is somewhere in the middle of 6.8 and 7.2. I use the Jungle 5-in-1 Test Strips which go by the color chart, and it's a light orange, so you can never really pinpoint.
I would try 2 tablespoons of crushed coral in a mesh bag in the filter, and 2 teaspoons of magnesium sulfate (dissolved as previously mentioned). Do this at the next water change. Measure the GH daily for the week and see how much it rises; it will, guaranteed. My GH is around 1 dGH (yours at 75 is about 4 dGH) and 1 teaspoon of magnesium sulfate in 30 g raises the GH one degree. It might likely be a bit more starting from 4, this I can't say. I don't know about the calcium from the coral, I have just started using this (without the MS). I did try it once some time back, and if memory serves me a couple tablespoons raised the GH a couple of degrees. As I said, with livebearers this is less critical as they like it hard. But we don't want to go too quickly.
Thank you so much, I'll be trying this in the next couple of days!
Now, when I get the water to the desired hardness level, do I take the mesh bags out? Same as if I were to use it as gravel, would I have to eventually take it out at some point?
The coral stays permanently in the filter. It will maintain the hardness at the level for a long time; the more coral, the higher the hardness, but it stays at that level. Now, i don't know how long; my dolomite worked for years, 10 or more, before I noticed it giving out. And this was obvious because the pH began to lower. For 10+ years I maintained a pH of 6.2-6.4 in a 115g tank with about 2 tablespoons of dolomite in the filter; the tap water pH was down around 5. I wasn't measuring hardness back then, but the tap water was 1 dGH, so it was probably up around 4-5 to maintain that stable of a corresponding pH.
MS you have to add at each water change, but not as much. In a 90g I found that 2 teaspoons every water change maintained the hardness around 4-5 dGH. Here though you need to test and monitor.
You can see why I prefer dolomite; less fuss, less testing, less expense... oh well.:-)
I did everything you said yesterday evening, and today I haven't noticed much change. Do you know how long until i start to notice changes?
Ok great, thanks! i mostly needed a time-frame estimate so i know how long to stretch out the last of my test strips.
PS. get a liquid test kit. Strips are unreliable at best, sometimes flat out wrong.
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