Introduction & Question

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by AverageWhiteBloke, 11 Jan 2010.

  1. AverageWhiteBloke

    AverageWhiteBloke Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Location:
    Cumbria
    Firstly Hello, as this is my first post I thought I'd introduce myself & my setup.
    I've been a member of the forum for a while but spent a lot of time reading the articles before posting. I used to have a decent planted tank back in the day but due to work commitments away from home reverted back to just a standard commoner garden tropical tank with some easy growers for ease of maintenance. Now I'm home working for the foreseeable future my new years resolution is to get back into it.
    Interesting how opinions have changed from the reading I was doing back then!

    My set up
    Aqua One 850 approx 165L with built in filtration.
    Lighting 2 x 30in 25W 1 x 23.5in 20W roughly 1.6 per ltr
    Substrate Gravel & Sand mix
    Ferts Dry powders
    Co2 through diffuser
    Drop checker

    My aim is for a long term as oppose a show tank. I have ordered some new mostly Discus tank friendly plants to mix in with the washed out looking ones as the design of the tank and my house keep the tank pretty warm, usually hovers at about 27 deg without the heater ever being on.
    The lighting although sufficient wattage may not be the best for plants but I'll see how they go for now.

    Question is the tap water from my mains is devoid of any minerals, generally I have to double the water in the test kit to get any KH reading roughly between 1/2 and 1 KH. I know there is a lot of debate in here and other places, people saying they have no probs with no KH and some German tanks having liquid concrete.
    Just wondering what UKAPS members currently think on the subject? The books I have (quite old) reccomend no less than 4 KH and the Red Sea drop tester I have says it will not give an accurate reading below this! I do add Aquapur which increases KH/GH at supposedly the right levels as it is used for re-mineralising RO water but with no exact science involved usually with water changes based on the theory that its has at least got some in.

    Thanks
     
  2. zig

    zig Member

    Messages:
    686
    Location:
    Dublin Ireland
    Hi mate welcome aboard, good on you doing your research. The KH of my tap water is 1 KH, Gh is 2 Gh or something close to that. Personally it has never caused me any problems. I did add a Gh booster to add more Gh for a while and it did improve certain plants no doubt, ferns and crypts in particular but tbh it was to much hassle and I stopped doing it. I think chasing certain water parameters is a lot of work and you are probably better off to work with what you have IMO.
     
  3. AverageWhiteBloke

    AverageWhiteBloke Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Location:
    Cumbria
    Thanks Zig that seems to be the case with most people. Some of my books have techy information about the co2 not being able to dissolve and bind with such low KH but I guess that they might be confusing the issue of CO2 diffusing with stabilising PH. :? I suppose the addition of the Mag Sulph with the ferts will inevitably increase the GH slightly as well.

    What do you think on the accuracy of the drop checker? I don't suppose that the fluid used in my product should be any different from any other out there so if others give accurate readings then at the end of the day that should be the case for mine, as its measuring the amount of co2 in the air above the fluid I can't really see how the mineral content of the fluid/water mix would be affected as long as it was of the same make up of the tank water.
     
  4. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    Messages:
    2,498
    Location:
    Bromley
    Welcome aboard :)

    I have experimented over the last year with letting Gh and KH drop independantly in a dry dosed, low light, no co2, no water change tank.
    I found it affects plants growth, albeit only very slightly, from a nutrient perspective.
    Do not worry at all about it causing instability with the water.

    GH, 'general hardness' is hardness made up of calcium and magnesium.
    KH, 'carbonate hardness' I think of as hardness made up of carbonates.

    I do not understand them much, but know enough to know that from a dosing\deficiency perspective KH and GH are separate beasts.
    James C's excellent site: http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/ has more info on the chemistry and what\how much to dose to raise GH and KH. I mention this just for info - it is not somehting that you have to know to get going.

    Dropcheckers are very good when used with a reference solution, not with tank water.
    Check out the article section on here, it has a fantastic article on dropcheckers.
    If oyu are going for a CO2 planted tank, then CO2 is the thing I would invest time in researching\learning.
     
  5. AverageWhiteBloke

    AverageWhiteBloke Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Location:
    Cumbria
    Ahh so more accurate results can be achieved using the a 4KH fluid and ph drops mentioned, yet another school day for me I was always under the impression that the water in the drop checker needed to be the same as the tank water.
    At the moment I have the Red Sea version which will do until it runs out, I'm trying my best with the equipment I already have at the moment intending to replace these with more appropiate equipment as and when they need replaced already ordered a better diffusser as the ladder type I already have is a bit wastefull of co2. I know a reactor gives better results but unfortunately the wet & dry system built into the tank would need a lot of modifying as it just as a sort of fanned outlet built into the lid so would possibly need extra pumps of some description to power a reactor.
    As my tank is not excessively lit and the water very soft I'm hoping that my new one should suffice even as the new plants are added.
    I take it that the fluid can be used in any vessel, So for instance it would be just the same using it in my Red Sea dropper?
     
  6. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    Messages:
    2,498
    Location:
    Bromley
    It is lots of school days with this hobby! They do pay off. For me that is one of the things I like about it :) Also more time spent thinking equates to less time spent spending with me :lol:

    Yes, you are correct the 4KH fluid can be used in any drop checker.
    It is possible you can use your existing reagant as well (some work some don't depends which chemical they use, from memory the article has that info).

    You are correct again - if you limit the level of light then you lower the plants CO2 requirement (and in turn the fert requirement).
    This is a very good starting point for a tank: lower light levels, and a short photoperiod (say 6 hours of lights on each day). Then as plants establish you can start extending the photoperiod bit by bit (up to 10-12 hours) and then, if you are inclined, the light levels as well (I keep mine low though, as I am not after fast growth). If at any point your Co2 supply can not keep up then curtail the lights.
     
  7. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    8,256
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    Your very soft water is perfect for Discus, the rio Negro etc, where they are native, have acid "black water" with no detectable hardness.The problem comes when you add CO2, as you don't have any buffering (KH) the small amount of added carbonic acid H2CO3 (when the CO2 dissolves into the water) can cause the pH to decline to very low levels. The KH buffering is reservoir of carbonate/bi-carbonate ions, which counteract the extra H+ ions.

    Carbon dioxide dissolved in water is in equilibrium with carbonic acid:
    CO2 + H2O ⇌ H2CO3

    with 2 disassociation constants for H2CO3 and HCO3 (you need the same number of H atoms/H+ ions on either side of the equation)
    CO2 + H2O ⇌ H2CO3- + H+
    &
    HCO3− ⇌ CO32− + H+

    If you wanted a a biotope aquarium you could use your sand/gravel substrate, dead wood planted with epiphytic mosses, leaf litter and a floating layer of Pistia (Nile Cabbage) or Limnobium (Amazon Frogbit). These will do well with out any CO2 or fertiliser addition. You could also grow Amazon Swords (Echinodorus spp.) etc., particularly if you added some nutrients to the substrate. A lot of successful breeders of Discus and other SA cichlids use this approach coupled with regular small water changes. The low fertility, conductivity and hardness of the water aid egg development and fry survival (and this would be my suggestion as the optimum approach).

    If you want to go down the EI added CO2 route, as suggested earlier you need to raise the KH. KH is carbonate hardness, and is a measure of the presence of carbonate (CO3--) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) ions. So it is calcium carbonate (and magnesium carbonate) that raise the KH or temporary hardness levels by disassociating to Ca2+ (and Mg2+) and CO3-- ions (you could also use sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) for Rift Valley cichlids etc.). The GH is a measure of all the salts in solution, so for example sodium chloride (NaCl) disassociates to Na+ and Cl- ions, which raise the conductivity and GH, but doesn't effect the KH.

    cheers Darrel
     
  8. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    Messages:
    2,498
    Location:
    Bromley
    This can be done by adding calcium carbonate. JamesC's site linked earlier has dosage levels.
     
  9. AverageWhiteBloke

    AverageWhiteBloke Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Location:
    Cumbria
    Thanks, took all this on board. My tank currently has an Amazonion theme the plants being mainly amazons other than a few scruffy looking crypts at the front. The inhabitans are neon tetra, one blue Angel fish, a pair of rams and a couple of panda corys. I was just about at the end of my tank hobby before I decided to get back into it this year so the stock and tank were pretty run down and I didn't replace any fish losses.
    I'm looking to get the planted side of things going and add another angel and tetras at some point further down the line. Hopefully my plants will come this week and I can get scaping. 8)
    The ferts I ran out of are already here so I'm good to go as soon as I work out best measures :D I've read up the articles about dosing but not sure how low-ish light but high temps will affect the amount :? trial and error I guess while monitoring the effects.
    Not that I'm aiming at high temps thats just the nature of the beast, the hood is badly designed IMO and my temp rarely gets below 27% because of insufficient ventilation in the hood.
    I did have a mercury vapour lamp back in the day when halides were well out of my price bracket but my wife went nuts because it faded the wall paper, some people have no sense of humour. :rolleyes:
    Anyway the plants I ordered were Discus friendly so hopefully they should cope a little better with the higher temps and blend in nice with my accidental biotope.
     
  10. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    Messages:
    2,498
    Location:
    Bromley
    Pretty much trial and error :)

    Other variables incude plant density, co2 levels, what is in your tap water, and fish stocking levels (fish waste is a great source of ferts).

    I would not worry about over ferting - IMHO\E levels have to be ridiculously high to cause problems.

    A strategy you can employ is to pick a dosing level (see the EI guides for these starting levels) and stick with it for 3 weeks.
    Then if you see no deficiencies at the end of that time you can reduce the amounts, and try at that level for another 3 weeks.
    Keep doing that until you see deficiencies in the plants, then crank it back up one notch.

    Trying it with less than 3 week intervals is too tricky to see what is happening as plants may appear fine at first but are actually just using up their reserves.
     
  11. AverageWhiteBloke

    AverageWhiteBloke Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Location:
    Cumbria
    Thats the plan the only worry I have is going to be the phosphate, from what I can remember when I thought test kits were more accurate/important than they are my levels were 2mgl from the tap but realtively low in the tank. I have got some dry phos to add to make sure I can keep the tank at the right levels while doing a 25% change every two weeks.
    I don't suppose its worth buying a po4 test kit just to confirm the tap levels so I'll just assume that the 2mgl is prob still the case. I think its with coming from the lake district the high levels due to agricultural ferts in the water not sure.
     
  12. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    Messages:
    2,498
    Location:
    Bromley
    I would not try and second guess the level in the tap, just assume there is no phosphates in your tap water, just to make it easier to work out a starting point for your fert dosing.

    I have slipped in the past and added what was probably around 50ppm of potassium phosphate to my tank in one go with no ill effect. Did not do any water changes or anything. The only concern is it is a waste of ferts :lol: Not that I would recommend doing this, it is just to illustrate that a few ppm here or there does not matter too much.
     
  13. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    8,256
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    This is definitely not true if you want your Discus to breed, high levels of conductivity inhibit both egg fertilisation and fry survival.
    cheers Darrel
     
  14. AverageWhiteBloke

    AverageWhiteBloke Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Location:
    Cumbria
    Hi DW I appreciate where your coming from with your comments but to be fair I have no intentions of breeding anything in this set up. To me planted tanks and breeding projects just don't mix. The only reason I keep referring to Discus set up is as I mentioned the design of the aquarium, if I were to knock my heater off permanantly at the coldest point first thing in the morning my temp would be between 26/27 deg, at night when the heating is on in my house it hovers around the 28 mark.
    Trying to work with what I have it seems reasonable to assume the best approach would be to go with an Amazonion type set up as the plants and fish metabolisms are a bit more adapted to these warmer temps without having to use expensive coolers, in summer I even have to open my patio doors and lift the lid on the tank to get some air round rather than turn off any lights as I'm on minimum wattage to start with. Thats not to say I've been forced into this by my tank as this would be the set up I would have done anyway as I like the fish and plants from the area.

    My Rams quite happily spawn and raise fry to free swimmers which the parents manage to defend for about 2/3 days before they succumb to the other inhabitants or get sucked into the filter. If I were to want to keep any fry I would swap them into a smaller bare tank with very low lighting, minimal sponge air driven filters and a couple of floaters where I would avoid dosing of any sort as water stability is key to the fry survival and any sudden changes could wipe them all out.

    I'm thinking of poss adding a couple of Discus when I get my plants routine somewhere near purely for aesthetics I just like the look of them and same as mixing red plants with dark/light greens they make a nice contrast in the tank.
     
  15. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    Messages:
    2,498
    Location:
    Bromley
    Good point, to me this highlights that the ferts themselves are non-toxic to fauna, it is rather the resultant TDS\conductivity that may impact your tank depending on your goals (breeding, keeping certain species, etc).

    I have noticed in recent years people referring to TDS more and more when mentioning ideal water parameters for breeding which can only be a good thing IMO.

    I measured my TDS at the point my Crystal red shrimps started breeding (have only had them a few months) and it was 700. It was a pleasant surprise as I thought this might be too high for them :thumbup:

    Sorry to harp on about breeding TommyLee :oops:
     
  16. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    8,256
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    suggests that your water is pretty good, as they like similar water to Discus.
    cheers Darrel
     
  17. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    8,256
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    Interesting, particulalry as most other people have suggested low conductivity water is best, probably they are a lot more tolerant than has been reported. TDS (and hardness) are very much "horses for courses" scenario's, as much for shrimps as fish, if you look at the cichlids you would have fish inhabiting water all the way from black water cichlids like Apistogramma diplotaenia to fish living in highly alkaline soda lakes like the tilapia Oreochromis alcalicus in lake Natron, and shrimps from fully marine down to pretty soft waters.

    Even fairly unpromising situations can have crustaceans, this is about the Malaysian blackwater prawn Macrobranchium oxyphilus which was collected from a large peat swamp forest. http://www.repository.naturalis.nl/document/150422 "....The waters flowing from and through the swamp appear black when viewed under reflected light and is dark tea-coloured under transmitted light. The pH was between 3.3 and 3.8 (average 3.5) The presence of a Macrobrachium species in waters as acid as those in the peat swamp forest of north Selangor is rather surprising, especially since the taxon is obviously breeding in the waters there (three ovigerous females were obtained). The eggs of M. oxyphilus are ovoid and large (ca. 1.6-2.0 by 1.1-1.2 mm), and the brood is relatively small (one of the females (RMNH D 42023) had 104 eggs)... flourishes in waters of pH <4.5 and in the absence of detectable calcium in the water...."

    cheers Darrel
     

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