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HNO3 in Planted Tanks?

Paul Sears wrote:

>As Steven says, if the KH is 2, you have no problem, and you 
>can probably use less.  What a large KH _does_ protect against is the
>effect of adding strong acids.  If HNO3 is generated in your tank,
>then it will use up the KH, and when it runs out......

Under what conditions would nitric acid be generated in a tank?  Is this due
to the natural hydration of our ever-present nitrate ions?  The reason I am
asking is that I recently set up a second 20 gal long (to replace my 10
gallon with the Hygrophila corombosa growing out the top...had to trash those
plants due to bad mealy bug infestation :(    Anyway, because the fish
population is very low in this tank, I started dosing with KNO3, though
somewhat haphazardly.  My LaMotte nitrate kit indicated a nitrate limited
tank and I indeed noticed immediate improvement in the plants and the
disappearence of some algae after dosing.  The problem has been my fish.  For
the first time in the year and a half that I've been dabbling in planted
aquaria, I've had an outbreak of ich, especially on my black neons.  A few of
my glo-lights have actually died, although they do not show any signs of ich.
 I can only assume that I stressed the fish by perhaps  adding too much KNO3,
too quickly, although the LaMotte still shows no nitrate residual in this
tank either upon dosing or in the evening (I dosed in the morning).  I know
that the kit is working because It does show nitrate residual of a few ppm on
my older 20 gal which has a much higher fish (and snail) population.  I do
not use KNO3 in that tank because the fish are supplying adequate nitrates,
and both the plants and the fish, including about a dozen cardinal tetras,
are happy and healthy.  I did notice, however, that the KH in that aquarium
falls noticeably after about a week (I do weekly water changes).  I assumed
that this was due to the snails removing calcium carbonate from the water to
make their shells.  Is it more likely that the buffer is being used up by

Jonathan in Maryland, where I've been so busy I haven't had time to post much

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