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Water chemistry question with a tiny rant about Wonder Shells and a shout-out to the new Aquarium Co-Op test strips

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I understand that KH is desired to buffer swings of pH. I have none in my water. Thanks to the new test strips (200 for less than $17!), I feel like I can afford to test more often. And because it tests for chlorine, I like testing my tap water for it. I have only one small tank and so I keep enough water in gallon jugs hoping the chlorine will evaporate when it comes time for water changes. It usually does.

I tested one of the jugs just now, curious about chlorine. I thought to have my husband eyeball the test, because I struggle with the GH blue/purple colors. He confirmed what I thought it said.

Week old tap water:

Nitrate between 0-10 ppm

Nitrite 0 ppm

GH 25 ppm

KH 0 ppm

pH 6.4

Chlorine 0 ppm

My tank sometimes registers even lower pH, 0 KH and super hard water, thanks to Wonder Shells and my shaky understanding of chemistry. (Attaching a photo of current water parameters, as read by ACO test strip.)

I have low pH loving fish, so it isn't terribly problematic … or is it? I didn't understand that the Wonder Shells was just a calcium raising product and was a bit gob-smacked by what it did to my GH and what it didn't do to my KH. I am a tad frustrated by the lack of an ingredient list on the package but also my lack of understanding.

The tank always tested high in nitrates when I was using the API tests—or rather, I always suspected it did as the degrees of orangeness was hard for me to read. Likewise, the API KH test kit always befuddled me, as I was never sure what the yellow was supposed to look like. My water would turn from a very pale blue to a very pale yellow in two to three drops. I don't own an API test for GH. I bought the KH test at the local big box. They didn't have a GH test and now I can't seem to find just the GH test. (My title didn't have room for itemizing the whine.)

I have added quite a few plants and my nitrates don't seem to test as high as they once did, so I am trying not to do as many water changes. But I sometimes see a fish flashing against the plants. Am I wrong to worry? Besides a slow creep downwards, I don't think my pH is drastically swinging.

I do have crushed coral, but I only just read that it takes more than I have been using. Why can't I just dose with a pinch of baking soda? I've looked at the akaline buffers out there. It sounds like it is essentially that, researched and measured and to be used as directed.

As for the photo, the colors look pretty true to what I am seeing in real life, except the nitrate is a tad blown out. I'd say it was between 25-50 ppm.

Thanks for any and all advice or assurances. 🙂



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 What are Wonder Shells Made of?

Our FRESH Regular Authorized AAP/Weco Wonder Shells Contains Calcium Carbonate/CaCO3+ cations (a VERY important element for proper Osmotic Function in fish as well as Redox Balance, more important to fish health than parameters such as exact pH!).
ALL minor and trace elements in the exact ratio (with the exception of calcium) as found in the ocean.
Useful for Important Mineralization/Electrolytes, Calcium Carbonate, Water Hardness Control, & more.

A few other elements found in minor & trace amounts include: Magnesium, Chloride, Sodium, Sulfate, Potassium, Bicarbonate, Bromide, Borate, Strontium, Fluoride (there is NO sodium thiosulfate despite poor search result claims).
Based on our extensive experience with 1000s of aquarium in our decades of professional aquarium maintenance, the use of AAP Wonder Shells (often at only fractional doses) is superior to other methods of minor & trace element/GH maintenance including over SeaChem Equilibrium (which is still an excellent product, it simply does not provide the continuous mineral Cations to battle oxidative stress)!

Calcium and magnesium have been proven to help fish (and humans) during stress and to help prevent disease due to acid buildup in the brain/body. Important for the prevention (& treatment) of Columnaris and Saprolegnia/Fish Fungus.
These positive mineral ions play a part in prevention of Columnaris by lowering oxidative stress and improving osmoregulation.

Can aid in prevention and treatment of Livebearers/Molly Disease such as "shimmies" and "wasting away" (not from Fish TB) whose general cause is the lack of these important elements.

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If you have tropical fish, 0KH is not a problem, nor is fluctuating pH. A fluctuating KH and/ or GH would be a problem. That said, if you want to increase KH, I would highly recommend potassium carbonate, but you can use baking soda. Just be aware the salt, from baking soda, will build up and has no real benefit to the tank. Just shoot for 1 or 2KH and call it a day and monitor it weekly.

Fish flashing is a cause for concern and flukes are most likely the cause. Are these new fish, or were new fish added recently? I've never seen a fish flash from a specific pH or pH swing. Maybe, a quickly rising GH would cause flashing, but i haven't seen that either. It's possible, but I would imagine other indicators would show from osmotic stress.

Raising GH is pretty easy. You, ideally, want a 2:1 CA:Mg ratio. The wonder shell may only have Ca in it? Seachem sells 2 products, Equilibrium and Alkaline Buffer. Those would both increase GH Ca/Mg and KH and is probably the simplest solution. Probably worth some research if you're bored.

As far as all testing. Personally, I just use them to determine direction. Are nitrates rising or lowering, and so on.... I've just learned to trust my dosing.

Edited by Mmiller2001
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The fish don’t flash often. It’s only occasional. I don’t have gill flukes. 

I’m concerned that I will get old tank syndrome or otherwise have a crash, because I have no buffering going on. Everyone I have read or listened to says I should build some KH in my tank. 

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