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Altering tapwater chemistry with peat

Hi all

A letter which recently appeared in a UK fishkeeping magazine advocates the
use of Irish Moss Peat from the garden centre as a means of altering the
chemistry of tap water to make it favourable for growing plants.  His method
is pretty simple, he puts filter floss in the bottom of a leaky bucket,
fills it with peat and then runs tap water through it.  He claims that pH
drops from 8.3 to 5, and KH from 13 to 3.  He then adds untreated tap water
to get his desired parameters.

I can see how pH would be reduced by the (humic?) acid contained in the
peat, but can someone explain what brings about the change in hardness?  I
always thought of hardness as the amount of disolved minerals contained in
the water (KH is carbonates, GH is carbonates + everything else, yes? (god,
I probably just totally humiliated myself there, never mind, it wouldn't be
the first time)).  So whats going on, where do the minerals go, does the
peat absorb them, does a chemical reaction liberate them somehow?

Can anyone say anything for or against this method?  I'm currently getting
together all the stuff for my first serious attempt at a high-ish tech
planted tank and will gratefully accept the 200 saving from not buying an
RO unit if its any good.

By the way, my tapwater has a pH of 7.4, I havent got around to measuring
the KH yet, but I figure its going to be higher than ideal.  I'm going to
inject CO2 24hrs a day (cant/wont afford a controller) so I figure at least
the hard water would guard against a pH crash.  Are my chances of success
going to be seriously hampered if I use the tapwater with nothing but a bog
standard water conditioner like stress coat?  I have an old tank in my
garage complete with filter which I could use for holding new water for a
few days before I use it - could this remove the need for using a
conditioner too?  All the conditioners availabe here claim to bind heavy
metals which I've read on the list isn't such a good idea.

The budget for this project is spiralling way out of control, but I'll think
about stumping up for the RO unit if the consensus of the list is that I
need one.

Viva Dan Quackenbush!

Wayne S, Nottingham UK