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Making friends with new water

> Rebecca Allbritton wrote:
> My water out of the tap here in Bryan, Texas has a pH > 8, 
> KH ~ 27+ degrees, GH can not be measured with Aquarium Pharmaceuticals
> test kit (it's that low.) I am used to Houston water, with pretty much the
> opposite type of hardness, and apparently so were the plants I brought
> here, because all of my riccia has died, and my java ferns melted. They're
> coming back, though, but with the weird tips that I see on the Krib
> indicate calcium shortage. 

27dKH and 0.0dGH? Wow, Rebecca!  The standard rule is to use CO2 to lower pH
without buffering, but in your case you might consider dropping pH and KH
into the right neighborhood with a non-phosphate acid buffer like the
Seachem product, then fine-tuning with CO2.  Others with more experience
than I may dissagree, of course.  

I've had very good luck with finely granulated dolomite (CaCO3 and Mg2CO3)
in a nylon bag in my sump.  I test GH after a water change and if it's
dropped I shake the bag until some of the grains make their way through the
mesh.  CaCO3 is difficult to dissolve.  Oyster shell is rich in CaCO3 as
well.  Both are inexpensive at your local garden shop.

> I am adding RO water more and more to different tanks to lower the pH, so
> what would be something that would fix *any* water? All recommendations
> considered, especially if they fit a student's budget (although a student
> who spends way too much money on plants and fish.) 

You might be able to avoid the expense and inconvenience of RO water if you
can raise your GH.  Focus on the Calcium before you add any Epsom salts, as
Calcium is tough to dissolve.  If you add Epsom salts your GH will raise,
but not due to Calcium so your plants won't be getting what they need.

michael rubin 
mrubin at visa_com
1(650) 432-4685