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Re: Lowering pH when adding hard water nutrients to soft water

Many thanks for the responses - a lot of food for thought, and some good 

Bob Dixon:  The hydrochloric acid is a good idea - the vinegar was 5% acid, 
and it makes sense not to have the other components in there!  I will also 
keep the KH lower - had got the impression that GH and KH were "supposed to" 
be equal, am happy to keep it lower.

George Booth wrote:
>Based on the what you've listed above, the Equilibrium does not add 
buffering. I >don't know if that list is complete. I would suggest you lower 
your KH to around >2 (KH of 4 to 5 is recommended with CO2). You will still 
have a pH above 7 but  >don't worry about it. Note that calcium, magnesium (or 
GH) does not affect pH.

I reply:  that's good to know, I was thinking that maybe they did; it was 
probably just the Soda Bicarb and the "No-Salt" I was using to add Potassium 
initially, although I only used a pinch at a time!

The list of ingredients I gave was the total list on the label for the 
Equilibrium, but in its instructions, it says to add sufficient to give a GH 
of 3-6 degrees, so it must have some other component to cause the rise.

>Stick with a small amount of sodium bicarb to get about 2 dKH and accept the 
pH >that results. Nothing really "needs" a pH of 7.0; a stable pH without a 
chemical >soup is much more desirable.

I was trying to get some pearling happening, which I thought needed the lower 
pH level??

Off-list, Patricia Ceger wrote:

>Here in Durham, NC I have a similar problem. The water comes out of the
>tap at a pH of 6.5, and the water has virtually no carbonate hardness. I
>suppliment my tank with 2 ml Flourish and 2 ml Flourish iron once a week
>and add 500 mg calcium, and a teaspoon each of potassium chloride and
>magnesium sulfate. This is in a 55 gallon tank. The plants do extremely
>well. I am currently growing amazon swords, ludwigia palustris, ambulia,
  >watersprite and rotala indica. All of the plants are healthy and have good
>color. You are right, measuring out amounts small enough for your tanks might 
be >a pain. However, you could make a separate solution that contained all of 
your  >fertilizers and then just dilute that fertilizer to the strength you 

I am already pre-mixing the Equilibrium, so that's ok.  Maybe I will try the 
Flourish etc after all, and avoid whatever buffer substance is in the 

Darrell Roze wrote:

>You are in luck. Vancouver is a great place to grow aquatic plants. You
>indicate that the soft water is problematic, but it is a considerable
>attribute. I never had a problem with the lack of calcium in the water
>there, but I also never had a tank under 10 gallons.

I didn't think I had a problem either, until the plants started looking pale 
and weak, or the Crypts basically vanishing, except for 1 or 2 very miniscule, 
stubby leaves, which according to a post on deficiencies I found at 
http://teak.wiscnet.net/~radar/aquatic-plants/nutrient-deficiency.txt, from 
Pete and Kelly Schmidt, which says "severe calcium deficiency - new growth 
almost entirely white; leaves are tiny deformed stumps.Growing points for both 
shoot and leaves die."

>If you are sure that calcium is a problem for you, dissolving dolomite in
>your tank is probably a terrible choice. It dissolves too quickly to
>control. Perhaps putting a small shell in the filter would be more
>workable. It is easier to grow plants in soft water, so, if you must add
>calcium, moderation is the key. Also, don't use anything that will bring
>your pH over 7; a pH of around 6.7 if fine.

I agree about the dolomite, which is why I laboriously picked it up again from 
the substrate - I think it was part of what sent the pH up constantly in the 
inital phase of this situation.  Will a shell in the filter provide sufficient 
calcium?  Even with the dolomite in the tanks, my reading for Calcium was 
always below 20 ppm, which was probably because the plants were taking it all 
up as quickly as possible.

>Use a good aquatic plant fertilizer in the water. Consider using pmdd as
>per the articles at http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/Fertilizer/. This will
>help ensure balanced nutrients and less algae.

My concern with non-hardwater nutrients in the water is that I will get lots 
of algae, especially since I am trying to get the plants growing strongly 
to out-compete the thread algae I do have in the 6 gal.  That's why I went the 
soil substrate route initially.

>Do Eclipse tanks have filter wheels?

Yes, but I took mine off when changing over to a soil substrate, likewise the 
standard carbon filter cartridge - I just use filter wool in a bit of 

>Change your water fairly frequently. With your small tanks, changing 1/2 tank
>per week is not too much.

Have been doing at least that, probably twice a week, thinking that the plants 
have a bit of catching up to do, nutrient wise, so I have been replacing 
"used", high pH water with what I thought was balanced water at a lower pH, 
and adding in some extra bits of acid/proper pH to try to keep the pH down a 
day later.

David Youngker wrote:

>I envision a "low-tech" approach as an attempt to stabilize the aquarium
>environment to conditions that would "naturally" support themselves with
>minimal intervention.

Exactly what I am trying to achieve!

>The ratio of carbonates you're providing to an ambient level of carbon
>dioxide won't support a neutral pH. If you enter the CO2-KH-pH Table at a KH
>of 4 you'll find that the only way to support a pH of 7.0 is with a CO2
>content of around 15 ppm. This level of CO2 will not sustain itself within
>the small confines of the aquarium - you'd either have to supplement or have
>very stagnant, organic rich water undergoing massive amounts of decay. The
>former is out due to your personal preference, while the latter isn't
>exactly everyone's goal in a home aquarium.

OKAY!  where do I find a copy of this table?

>You _can_ achieve neutrality by carefully controlling the amounts of
>compounds dissolved in the water, using the actions of one to offset the
>other. In our case, we look to carbon dioxide and the bicarbonates, both
>naturally-occurring and readily available. Returning to the Chart and
>entering on the CO2 side of things, you'll find that at ambient levels of
>CO2 a KH of 1.5 is required to maintain a 7.0 pH. That's almost 1/3 the
>level you're trying to "force", and since the ratios are too far out of 
balance >you find yourself in a constant battle to keep it there.

Thank you!  I will certainly give this a try.

>The only mention of fish you made was that you didn't have room for the J.
>floridae. Is this because the tanks' bioloads are already "maxed", or are
>these plant- only tanks? Basically, I guess I'm asking just why a pH of 7.0
>is deemed so important? Being off a little one way or the other isn't a
>major concern with fish, and most plants would prefer soft, slightly acidic
>conditions. Is the natural pH of your water system too far out of line?

I have 4 male guppies and two small zebra danios in the 6 gal (the danios may 
have to go back to the LFS soon, they are starting to be too territorial), and 
1 male dwarf gourami in the 3 gal.  I said no to the J. Floridae because I 
don't think they will combine well with the guppies!  I have already tried at 
different times two small platies, 4 Cherry Barbs, none of which worked with 
the guppies after a short period; the danios I had from about 1/3 inch size in 
an even smaller tank, but moved them when they grew into the 6 gal.  I am 
going to just stay with the guppies and the gourami until I get a bigger tank 
when we move to California in a few months (can't wait to get a bigger tank!).
 Until then, I would like to keep these small tanks going.  Good training, and 
also good maybe for hospital/quarantine tanks in the future!

>You can increase calcium and magnesium without affecting pH, especially if
>all you need are trace amounts for "nutrition". There may already be enough
>of these compounds available in the water - everyone from the Vancouver-
>Seattle area always seems to report some very fine water conditions. Is it
>possible to alleviate all of these headaches by simply increasing the
>frequency of your water changes?...

No, already tried doing that re daily water changes; and the water for my 
little community comes from a stream in the mountains, and the lack of 
hardwater nutrients is painfully obvious in the way my plants looked - white 
leaves that were more vein than leaf, or creamy yellow with green veins, the 
crypts virtually disappearing, the ceratophyllum back to stumps, or gone 
completely.  With adding the Equilibrium for just under a week, at least I 
have green leaves, the pinholing has stopped, Anubia, Amazon sword and 
hygrophila are putting out new leaves, and the crypts and ceratophyllum are 
showing a suggestion of growth!

Thanks again for all the very helpful responses,