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Living with really high EC/TDS

Ravenswing

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14 Dec 2012
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Finland
It seems that we are exeptional blessed with high electrical conductivity here in my hometown. Usually EC here in Finland is pretty low, 100-200uS but we... We do have (tap)around 600uS, wich is more than in lake Tanganyika as far as I know. Sometimes I feel a bit lonely when landmates talk about breeding sofwater species and their water problems (what problems?? "pH7,0insteadof7,2whatshallIdoOMGmy fisharedying"). If I have understood correctly, at least in London there is quite hard water, isnt it? So maybe Im not that alone?!

When I restarted this hobby here in our new home two years ago, we mainly had soft water species. Have always had them...Elsewhere. Water from the tap is (measured today, fluctuating bit) GH 4, KH2, pH 7,2 but EC... 620uS. As I bought my EC-meter just couple of months ago, I lived before in a dream that our water is so called soft. We have had some problems with some soft water species, I lost some just after introducing then to their new tank but the rest seemed to do just fine. I had a feeling it might something to do with the water since my maintenance routines has always been good. Or thats what I thought. I did 25-50% (50% in EI-tanks) WCs weekly and thought thats all I can. Some fish scratched themselves and still do it, but after buying hard water rainbows for the first time I saw the difference. How well they did from the very beginning! No scratching! That really made me interested in whats going on or whats the meaning of water parameters for fish. I read about the EC-meter and bought it. At first I was quite confused about it but then I found it a pretty nice tool instead of using drop tests.

There is couple of questions twistin in my head: when looking GH, pH and KH-values of our water it is considered as soft but EC indicates something else: the water must be very rich in minerals but wich minerals? I could call the waterworks but the gentelman there is not very helpful. Actually hes quite rude when asking about our municipal water. So what do you think, is it hard or soft? What on earth makes the EC so high? I see it hard since I think soft water has little minerals, hard is rich in minerals regardless what KH/GH-tests show.

How do you manage with really high EC-water? I mean do you have some totally no-no species or have you found out how to manage with them better? Some other tricks? I have for example Honey and Dwar croacking gouramis and Checkboard cichlids (which are my all time favorites!) in Tanganyika water...Abusing them? Nowadays I do large WCs or few smaller in a week, keep the water as clean as possible and spent hours to adapt new fish to their new water because I know they are coming from water of 100-200uS. These methods has been a great succes, nowadays we have not any problems even with these sensitive species either. Well, being honest, nowadays I buy just hard water fish or those soft water species that are known to do fine in our tanks. RO-water is out of question and things are well so this is really not an issue, Id just like to hear how do other hobbyists with high EC in planted tanks (no Malawies or Tanganyikas) are doing or just the same as with low EC? We have lost all our shrimps after weeks or months, I wonder if this has something to do with that high EC? Tried them many times in different tanks with the same result: all dead. Kids are really upset because of this. I guess our EC must have been around 1000uS in some tanks with such a small WCs I used to do earlier. So sorry for fish!
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
It is a bit strange, a question I would ask is "is there any chance that your water may have high sodium chloride (NaCl) levels?", another possibility is the addition of sodium hydroxide (NaOH), although this would tend to raise your pH much higher.

Your water is really still soft, and almost certainly more suitable for the long term maintenance of soft water fish. The dKH value is a measure of the carbonate buffering, and because this is low, your water is very different from either London or Lake Tanganyika.

The lack of carbonate buffering means that pH can decline to very low levels. Have a look a this post on Apistogramma forums <ok | Apistogramma.com>

cheers Darrel
 

Ravenswing

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14 Dec 2012
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Finland
Hi Darren!

What a informative link you gave, thank you very much! I really have to read it with a lots of time (and not being this tired...) but it seems to include tons of thinking about.

Im not sure why but parameters from tap have come down from pH 8,2, KH5, GH7 where they stayed for years. Im a bit confused whats next and will keep eye on it. In tanks prams tend lower too, so I have been considering to raise KH(/pH) a bit. Im not so worried because I dont mess with CO2 anymore but Iv used to keep it at 4-5. I use DIY-Equilibrium to keep GH at 4-7 depending on tank. I do one ca 50% WC or several smallers in a week so values keep pretty stable nowadays.

Oh yes, you are absolutely right...Embarrasing to say as former small Tanganyika owner, that there surely is a difference between KH/GHs in our tap and in our Tanganyika tank... But that was so long ago. But but... If Id like to establish Tanganyika tank again and would rise pH, KH and GH, my EC would jump to hights (or would it? I didnt had EC-meter at that time), is that something to become worried about? If I remenber correctly, lake Tanganyika is especially rich in carbonates? Handling this EC-GH-KH-otherminerals-stuff from many point of views can made us understand quality of (aquarium)water better. What means what for fish and what does not mean. What to focus on and what to not? Well, as far I as have learned nothing from trial and errol, keeping water clean and plants happy is a target number one.

Holy cow, better to stop now, Im so tired.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
.... keeping water clean and plants happy is a target number one.
That is really the answer, growing plants are the single factor that most influences water quality.
  • If you have growing plants,
  • a complex environment,
  • clean water and
  • good food,
  • nearly all fish become "easy to keep".
Tanganyika
I'll start with the disclaimer that I've never kept a Tanganyika tank, but I'd largely ignore conductivity, as long as it was always well over 500 microS.

Have a look at this post: <British Cichlid Association • The place to talk about the Cichlids in our Aquaria> and from the post:
These are the lake chemistry figures (from Brichard's "Fishes of Lake Tanganyika"):
Na2CO3 ............125
KCl................... 59
KNO3................ 0.5
Li2CO3............. 4
CaCO3.............. 30
MgCO3............. 144
Al2(SO4)3.18H2O.. 5
K2SO4............... 4
Na2SO4............. 1
FeCl3.6 H2O....... 0.5
Na3PO4.H2O...... 0.4
Na2SiO3.......... 13.5

You can make up your own salt mix, and you could loosely replicate the lake chemistry with a ratio of: 4(NaHCO3):2(KCl):4(MgCO3):1(MgCO3+CaCO3)

I think it is easy to get lost amongst the minutiae of "I need this pH, this conductivity etc", but for stable alkaline water with a pH above pH7.8, you need alkalinity (which you can add with dilute hydroxides NaOH or KOH (some risk involved) or with sodium or potassium bicarbonates (NaHCO3 or KHCO3)), carbonate buffering, both soluble (NaHCO3 + H20 --> NaH2CO3+ + OH-) as bicarbonates and a source of carbonates that isn't in solution (CaCO3 or limestone, ideally as the more soluble biological aragonite form (from oyster-shell grit or coral sand)) rather than the less soluble calcite from harder limestones. Aragonite adds both dGH (from the Ca2+ ions) and dKH (from the bi-carbonate ions (HCO3-) in solution. At atmospheric CO2 levels the carbon dioxide ~ carbonic acid ~ bi-carbonate ~ un-dissolved carbonate reservoir equilibrium is stable at about pH7.8, higher pH values can only be achieved if we remove CO2, or add stronger bases (like OH-). I suggested fine ground "Oyster shell chick grit" because it has a large surface area and therefore will show a quick response to added acids, and is more environmentally friendly than coral sand.

Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika has both similarities and differences from hard water in the UK (like the spring fed chalk trout streams). The similarities are that the water is very low in organic matter and pollutants like nitrates, and has high visibility and dissolved oxygen levels. The difference is mainly that it has high magnesium, rather than high calcium, levels which supply the dGH, and there are more sodium and potassium salts (hydroxides, carbonates, chlorides and sulphates). Because of this, even if I had alkaline buffered tap water and limestone rocks in the tank, to replicate the water I would add magnesium, potassium and sodium. Only Tang keeper can tell you whether bespoke "Lake Tanganyika" water offers much practical advantage over generic Rift Lake salt mixes.

cheers Darrel
 

Ravenswing

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Your water is really still soft, and almost certainly more suitable for the long term maintenance of soft water fish.

Hi Darren and thanks for your reply, I found it too very informative! Could you please explaint this ^ a bit? I have always been thinking that the most (?) important factor with soft/hard water species is how they are evolved to handle salts=the osmotic pressure between cell walls. The problem is, Iv been thinking, with soft water species is that they become more stressed with not used to handle stronger (=more salts) water than species that are used to mineral rich water. My own experiences support this assumption but Im (always) definetly ready to change my mind when someone represents good arguments! Its really hard to find reliable studies of this so Im really keen on to hear more.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Your water is really still soft, and almost certainly more suitable for the long term maintenance of soft water fish.
Could you please explaint this ^ a bit? I have always been thinking that the most (?) important factor with soft/hard water species is how they are evolved to handle salts=the osmotic pressure between cell walls. The problem is, Iv been thinking, with soft water species is that they become more stressed with not used to handle stronger (=more salts) water than species that are used to mineral rich water.
Sorry for not having replied earlier. Unfortunately I don't know much about fish physiology, but we have a had a couple of threads on "Apistogramma Forums", where people with more appropriate knowledge and experience have answered.

<ok | Apistogramma.com>
<Ca, Mg and hardness | Apistogramma.com>

cheers Darrel
 

Ravenswing

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No problem. OK, thanks. I have to take a closer look that forum with plenty of time. Iv already red some of the links you gave and, hopefully, learned something. This is a bit confusing subject. Sometimes I wonder why on earth we generally give water parameter recommendations for fish species if nothing matters. Well, I mainly take them as information in what kind of waters species tend to live in their natural habitats, but one say KH does not matter, other say GH does not matter, either pH or EC doesn`t matter... What matters? Is it so that some species are more sensitive to parameters and just cant adjust to different/"wrong" ones (and their natural habitat is much more constricted because of that?) whereas some species can tolerate (almost) anything if they are given much enough time to adjust? And we keep fighting what`s the right pH for neontetras...Well, stability and cleaness of water are keys for at least something but how about water parameters?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Iv been reading Apistogramma.com now for an hour, absolutely fantastic forum thou we have only few so called soft water species nowadays. I have already found a lot of aswers and tons of information
I usually ask any more problematic questions either at UKAPS (plant related) or Apistogramma forums (fish related), because they have posters like Mike Wise, Mark Breeze, Ted Judy etc on AF. My default is if I'm not sure I go with whatever Mike Wise recommends.

Have a look at the "Skeptical Aquarist" <The Skeptical Aquarist> as well, great for descriptions of nutrient cycling, biofilms, ion exchange etc.

cheers Darrel
 

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