how soft is too soft?
I did some more water testing yesterday to find out that my 55g planted tank is also having some chemistry issues. Tests revealed the ammonia and nitrite to be 0, nitrates of almost 80, Ph below 6, Kh non existant, and GH of 6 degrees.
I wouldnt worry if these were SA Cichlids, but there are swordtails in this tank (that produce babies, which helps subsidize the cost of this mess lol) and live plants, which are developing brown spots and holes. The water is even too acidic for the congo tetras I wanted to add.
Everyone across the internet has a billion and one ways to increase, and maintain Ph, and more importantly kh. Im not in love with the idea of mixing powders in every time I do a water change, and more importantly, buying powders periodically. Is there a one and done solution for kh that can last... forever? or for a long time?
What's your source for water changes? RO/DI or tap?
If it's RO/DI, that explains your low hardness values and lower pH. Is your tap from reservoirs or from ground water? Groundwater wells should be relatively hard water.
If you haven't already you could try a 50 / 50 tap / RO mixture to introduce some dissolved minerals to raise your hardness. You could also consider adding Limestone / Marble and or Crushed corals to your tank which would help to raise your pH and KH.
I have this same issue, except my tap water is near zero GH and KH. I have soft water wild caught fish so that is not the issue, but it does affect the plants. The brown blotches you are seeing is due to insufficient calcium, which causes plants (ironically) to take up more iron and use it in the cell structure in place of the calcium, resulting in an excess of iron that causes the brown dead spots that will increase until the leaf and then the plant is dead. Potassium may also be deficient too, I gather this frequently occurs.
There are two solutions, one works for the plants, the other for plants and fish when this is needed, as it is with all livebearers. Without minerals, livebearers will not thrive, and will have shorter lifespans. Molly are especially prone to this, but all livebearers need medium-hard water, meaning both a higher GH and pH above 7.
So for you, the solution is simple and inexpensive. Add some calcareous gravel/sand, either in the filter or mixed in with the substrate. I use CarribSea's crush coral gravel with aragonite. I have two tanks that I like to keep the pH above 6, and about half of cup of this gravel in a mesh bag in the filter does this; with one cup the pH jumped to 7.4 (from a normal of 5), it doesn't take much. And it lasts years. I used to use dolomite, and about half a cup in the 115g gave out after 12 years; I went to the aragonite because I could not find dolomite locally. Both contain calcium and magnesium, the minerals that primarily control hardness.
In your case, with livebearers, you want hardness and it can be high so I would experiment to get the GH around or above 12 dGH and the pH in the high 7's, above can't hurt. Putting some in the canister filter is easier to control, since once it is in the substrate it is difficult to remove.
In my other tanks to get some GH without affecting the pH I am using Seachem's Equilibrium. But this has no effect on pH, and livebearers need a pH above 7.
A 10lb bag is only 7 bucks from marine depot, I guess it doesnt get any easier than that!
My tap water, barbman, has GH around 6, very very low KH, which is why I assume the ph drops so low over a short period of time. It might as well be RO water!
I had looked at equilibrium, but like I said, its such a turn off to have to mix stuff every water change, since I use a garden hose to fill my tanks (one of the nice things about having non chlorinated well water). Ill grab some of this in a 10lb bag and add it to a filter bag little by little over a couple weeks till the ph climbs above 7. I dont want it TOO hard, as I do plan on putting congo tetras in this tank. Unless I miss my mark I should be able to find a happy medium in hardness and ph for the swords and the congos. I think 7.2 would be a good place to start, with hardness up around 10 degrees. My swords only live around 2 years without complications, so anything has to be an improvement!
Thanks for the input guys :)
Help! Have to use bottled spring water, usual not in store and only availale right is 0-GH and 3degrees KH. Must change my little tank now. The tank is at 7 degrees both on GH & KH. I am concerned about messing up the PH by water change. It is my 10gal hospital tank and Nitrite is at 1 Nitrate at 5. (API tests). AM 0, PH 7,4. What should I do??? I have neon tetras being treated for ich, with Krodon Ich Attack (Hebal) and heat up to 86 F. Also have 2 corries and 2 glofish in with them but they show no signs of ich. (I may have neon tetra disease but not sure!). Neons 3 out of 6 have wite spots on fins, no color loss and each has one or 2 tiny bumps under skin, no color loss! Sorry I have more than one thing going on. Also have Wisteria and Lutea well established in tank. For now I need info on the super soft bottle water to do 2 gal water change. I ask about neons when I know what to do about water. THANK you ahead of time for any input!! :)
gupgram, I would be concerned most about the nitrites. Maybe a couple more plants would do the trick, in the meantime something like seachem prime that detoxifies nitrites might be a better choice. As far as Ph, the wrong ph can cause health problems, but an unstable ph is far worse. The fish will not be in the hospital tank long term, so I would keep your ph where it is until the fish are better. I have always treated ich with freshwater salt, but alot of people handle it alot of different ways. Hang in there.
as for my hardness issue, I found some crushed coral with aragonite at one of my LFS' which is notorious for not having much of anything. Score! I grabbed a small media bag too. I have less than 1/4 cup in the bag, on the effluent side of the filter pad in my whisper filter. Ill check the ph and gh all week to monitor its progress.
beetlebz, I suspect getting your nitrates low will also help keep your pH up. Why are the trates so high in a planted tank?
Aww, too bad I didn't see this earlier...
Crushed dolomitic limestone sold in garden stores is much better (DO NOT GET 'LIME'. Get the stuff that looks like white sand). It acts exactly the same way, but will not increase the ph beyond 7.5....
nitrates are high coming out of the tap, mina. Ive really just started adding fast growing plants.. The plants that have traditionally done well in that tank arent nutrient suckers.
Nitrates will be next on the list. Im following Abbysdad closely with his nitrate filter.
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