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Extremely low kH with very high gH


Krys
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We have a 40g planted tank that has been up for a month. Currently, it has 1 mystery snail, 1 amano shrimp, and 4 neocaridina shrimp. We also have a rice sized pea puffer who is in the quarantine tank, since I wanted to dose it for parasites. Puffer is going in his own tank (that has yet to be set up). 

The water parameters are as follows:

pH: 7.5
gH: 300ish? (co op test strip)
kH: 40ppm (2.25~dkH) (both coop strip and API kH test)
nitrates: 5ppm (might be due to fertilizer) 
nitrites: 0
ammonia: 0 

According to the water company:

gH: 289
TDS: 410
pH: 7.8

We have cast iron pipes and get water mostly from surface water and ground water (from what I can research, but Ohio makes it REALLY hard to find information about your specific water source when you live in an apartment).

I noticed over the past several weeks, that the pH drops an entire point with nothing in the tank but plants over the course of a week and from my research, it seems all fish but especially inverts are sensitive to pH fluctuations, but many also need higher kH than I have. I read mixed reporting about using baking soda to raise kH (as it is claimed it doesn't raise pH). I attempted to raise the kH of my tank (before adding the shrimp) to 6dkH, but it most certainly rose the pH of my tank to 7.8. I did a 75% water change to get the parameters back to normal. 

The stock we have has been here for 8 days. From the initial stocking we have lost 1 amano shrimp and a bamboo shrimp. After the 1st amano died, we haven't seen the second, however I haven't had any ammonia spikes so I have chosen to closely monitor the water rather than stress out the shrimp looking for the amano.

Should I be concerned about the lack of kH? Is there something I can do to help stabilize my kH and pH without making it higher than it already is? I have been doing water changes every few days because the pH drops. What pH stabilizer would you recommend? 

To note, the pea puffer in quarantine has no live plants, substrate. etc in order to facilitate cleaning and making sure not to complicate things further (for me, the new fish keeper). This pH flux doesn't happen, nor does the kH deplete quickly. 

Any and all help is greatly appreciated!

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Unless you are looking to add livebearers to your tank (platies, guppies, mollies, endlers, swordtails) and want them to breed, I personally would not try to change the kH. You have some buffer and your shrimp, once they settle, will do fine with that level of alkalinity. Follow a regular water change schedule and monitor parameters. You're going to plant the tank, and a lot of planted tanks thrive in a lower kH level. Anything that you use to raise the kH in your tank (like crushed coral in the filter/substrate) will also raise your pH and GH over time.

I know Wonder Shells can add calcium and other great minerals to the water for snails and shrimp, but they will raise your gH over time. Again, I don't think you really have to do this unless you want to raise livebearers!

For feeding shrimp and growing biofilm in the tank, I like using a little bit of GlassGarten Bacter AE (dose WAY LESS than the container says) two times weekly and supplement their algae diets with Shrimp King shrimp food. Bamboo shrimp are filter feeders so they like powdered granules in the water column.

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On 7/29/2021 at 4:26 PM, Mmiller2001 said:

If KH rises, pH rises. What water parameters are you trying to achieve?

I have no idea. All the "information" online as to what individual species need is extremely inconsistent. 

On 7/29/2021 at 4:55 PM, laritheloud said:

Unless you are looking to add livebearers to your tank (platies, guppies, mollies, endlers, swordtails) and want them to breed, I personally would not try to change the kH. You have some buffer and your shrimp, once they settle, will do fine with that level of alkalinity. Follow a regular water change schedule and monitor parameters. You're going to plant the tank, and a lot of planted tanks thrive in a lower kH level. Anything that you use to raise the kH in your tank (like crushed coral in the filter/substrate) will also raise your pH and GH over time.

I know Wonder Shells can add calcium and other great minerals to the water for snails and shrimp, but they will raise your gH over time. Again, I don't think you really have to do this unless you want to raise livebearers!

For feeding shrimp and growing biofilm in the tank, I like using a little bit of GlassGarten Bacter AE (dose WAY LESS than the container says) two times weekly and supplement their algae diets with Shrimp King shrimp food. Bamboo shrimp are filter feeders so they like powdered granules in the water column.

It's definitely been a pain to try to figure out. I was trying to avoid adding crushed coral / wonder shells / anything that raises pH/gH because it's pretty clear that the water is already densely packed with minerals.

I wish the information was more consistent.

Perhaps the question should really be how much can the pH fluctuate before it's dangerous for the fish?

To maintain the current pH, I have to water change every 3/4 days, and I don't even have fish in it. With fish I feel like I will be doing water changes daily to prevent a pH crash.

 

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On 7/29/2021 at 4:36 PM, Krys said:

I have no idea. All the "information" online as to what individual species need is extremely inconsistent. 

It's definitely been a pain to try to figure out. I was trying to avoid adding crushed coral / wonder shells / anything that raises pH/gH because it's pretty clear that the water is already densely packed with minerals.

I wish the information was more consistent.

Perhaps the question should really be how much can the pH fluctuate before it's dangerous for the fish?

To maintain the current pH, I have to water change every 3/4 days, and I don't even have fish in it. With fish I feel like I will be doing water changes daily to prevent a pH crash.

I live in the wichita kansas area.  Our well water come out of the ground at 44 dgh and 41 dkh. 8.6 ph.    I had this exact problem, even using reverse osmosis water.  My solution was adding a de ionization unit to the ro and build my water.  I have 2 tanks under 7ph and 3 dgh/kh.   If you need to keep a calcium source in your tank without raising the kh, my experience has been using just cuddle bone.  It gives shrimp and snail a calcium source that doesn't devolve away as fast as wondershell. And its cheep.  Keep in mind. This has been my experience. Yours may vary 

 

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Personally, I don't see any harm in adding some crushed coral, whether it be in the substrate or in a filter like a HOB. At the 7.8 you are at, I don't really think it would dissolve very much at all (and in turn raise your PH from 7.8), unless there was a PH drop....in which case it would be a bit of a safety net against a large PH crash/drop.

Peace of mind is valuable.

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On 7/29/2021 at 6:00 PM, quikv6 said:

Personally, I don't see any harm in adding some crushed coral, whether it be in the substrate or in a filter like a HOB. At the 7.8 you are at, I don't really think it would dissolve very much at all (and in turn raise your PH from 7.8), unless there was a PH drop....in which case it would be a bit of a safety net against a large PH crash/drop.

Peace of mind is valuable.

See, this is good. I have a high KH So I have no clue how to work these KH balancers. Crushed coral works by dissolving slowly in acid, right? So if you don't have any acids in the water/the ph isn't threatening to downswing, it won't do much. 

EDIT to add: Cuttlebone is also a great option!

Edited by laritheloud
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Somehow I have managed to successfully keep fish without worrying about GH or KH and with only a passing knowledge of what the PH of my water is. I am confused as to what this thread is about.

So you might  say "HH Morant, why are you posting anything here?" Good question.

I would refer you to a couple of articles on aquariumscience.org called "Carbonate Hardness" and "KH and Cycling." The writer is a chemist and I have found his writings on other subjects very valuable. I hope you find these two articles informative, and I wish you good luck.

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I didn't know anything about GH or KH when I started in the hobby. I didn't really even know what my water parameters were out of the tap. I kept reading "the fish will adjust to your water" over and over.

So I decided to follow that advice, and just went for the first type of fish that I liked, which was mollies. Heck...they'll adjust to whatever water I have...right? The internet said so.

Needless to say, I had to learn about hardness pretty fast (and molly shimmies), given that the water out of my tap ended up being VERY soft, with very low GH and almost no KH. (Mollies did not seem to thrive when the PH crashed below 6 with a KH of 0.)

I really wish I read "pick the fish that best suits your water parameters" at the time.

Edited by quikv6
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On 7/29/2021 at 6:54 PM, quikv6 said:

Needless to say, I had to learn about hardness pretty fast (and molly shimmies), given that the water out of my tap ended up being VERY soft, with very low GH and almost no KH. (Mollies did not seem to thrive when the PH crashed below 6 with a KH of 0.)

I really wish I read "pick the fish that best suits your water parameters" at the time.

Wow, quikv6, sounds like you have some unusual tap water. Fortunately for those of us with more common tap water, fish are tolerant of ph levels well outside their native range and we don't have to worry too much.

I think you have the right idea when you suggest picking fish that can live with your water parameters rather than trying to change water parameters to suit your fish.

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On 7/29/2021 at 4:10 PM, Krys said:

Should I be concerned about the lack of kH? Is there something I can do to help stabilize my kH and pH without making it higher than it already is? I have been doing water changes every few days because the pH drops. What pH stabilizer would you recommend? 

I have similar water but even less KH. It’s 0.5 dKH and 8 dGH. I’m on a well and this is what I have to work with  

Most of my tanks average about 6.6 to 7.0 Ph.

I don’t keep fish that require a high Ph except those in dedicated tanks where I add aragonite sand substrate and other KH boosters.

All my other tanks have some, but not a ton of, crushed coral in their filters.

Everything does AOk.

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On 7/29/2021 at 7:54 PM, quikv6 said:

I didn't know anything about GH or KH when I started in the hobby. I didn't really even know what my water parameters were out of the tap. I kept reading "the fish will adjust to your water" over and over.

So I decided to follow that advice, and just went for the first type of fish that I liked, which was mollies. Heck...they'll adjust to whatever water I have...right? The internet said so.

Needless to say, I had to learn about hardness pretty fast (and molly shimmies), given that the water out of my tap ended up being VERY soft, with very low GH and almost no KH. (Mollies did not seem to thrive when the PH crashed below 6 with a KH of 0.)

I really wish I read "pick the fish that best suits your water parameters" at the time.

This is the mindset pushed by, who I now perceive as, those who are more interested in making money than helping you keep your fish alive. When I was at my "LFS" (which is actually owned by a big box disguised as a LFS with horrifically inflated prices) I asked them for THEIR water parameters (the store) and despite asking several people who work there, even though most of them said they kept fish at home themselves, they repeatedly told me "water parameters don't matter" and even started to shame me for looking up stuff about the fish. "I've been keeping fish for 4 years, I know better than what the internet says, you're just being gullible, are you this dramatic about everything? its not that big of a deal, god." etc. 

The kicker is this: They have a 48 hour return policy (as in they will give you a new one). When I called after the amano shrimp died within 24 hours, they wanted me to bring in a water sample to prove my water parameters were good, and bring them the dead shrimp. They have 4 1/2 stars on google, but if you go through the very few 1 star reviews, its people saying they never honor their 48hr policy. 

I am even more determined than ever to get this to work now LOL But I will never purchase anything from them again. I felt like I HAD to because they are the only place locally other than petco and walmart, and I was afraid of shipping fish but I think paying for shipping for healthier fish is going to be worth it plus most places have a DOA policy.

I also think they completely lied about their fish being bred in the US. It seemed like one of the guys was really pushing me to believe they buy all the fish states-side, but I know that's literally impossible. Some fish are ONLY wild caught, and some of them are not bred in the US.

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On 7/29/2021 at 8:18 PM, HH Morant said:

Wow, quikv6, sounds like you have some unusual tap water. Fortunately for those of us with more common tap water, fish are tolerant of ph levels well outside their native range and we don't have to worry too much.

I think you have the right idea when you suggest picking fish that can live with your water parameters rather than trying to change water parameters to suit your fish.

I agree! I am choosing fish that, from my research, can live in my water. The problem is that the pH drops very quickly, and currently I need to do a water change every 3rd day to prevent the pH from dropping. By the end of 7 days, the pH drops by almost a full point, which I thought would kill the fish - or the water change would kill the fish when it is suddenly higher again. Therefore, I am looking to stabilize the pH, really, not.... change anything.

Maybe I am lazy, haha, I sort of don't want to need to change the water daily.

 

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I have the same exact problem with my water, crushed coral is your best friend, my GH is over 300 while my KH is only 3 drops on the api test,  like 30 ppm on the tetra strips and same on the coop strips. 
 

crushed coral is able to supply the plants with enough they don’t crash the ph anymore and you will want the crushed coral in order for your mystery snail to be happy otherwise you may notice his she’ll get brittle 

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On 7/29/2021 at 11:55 PM, GardenStateGoldfish said:

I have the same exact problem with my water, crushed coral is your best friend, my GH is over 300 while my KH is only 3 drops on the api test,  like 30 ppm on the tetra strips and same on the coop strips. 
 

crushed coral is able to supply the plants with enough they don’t crash the ph anymore and you will want the crushed coral in order for your mystery snail to be happy otherwise you may notice his she’ll get brittle 

Thank you! We have very similar water, then! It is always helpful to have several people confirm especially because aquarium stuff on the internet is overall inconsistent at worse and vague at best, so I get excited when several people agree on something. It is definitely the plants! The quarantine tank's parameters have been completely stable this entire time with no plants or substrate. I thought crushed coral would boost my pH so high it was uninhabitable so I hadn't even considered it.

I was also worried about the mystery snail. In the week we've had 'em, he's grown a half-inch of shell! I am very worried since some things say they need 0dkH, but others say they need at least 80ppm! I am... very confused. I would rather be safe than sorry. Plus, the bamboo died with a failed molt. I read that water changes can force a shrimp to molt prematurely, but typically if the water parameters are good for the shrimp, it should be able to molt properly. Husband really wanted a bamboo shrimp, so I would like to get him a new one and keep it alive this time.

@quikv6 @tolstoy21 When you put the crushed coral in your HOB, how much do you put in there? And, ah, if the pH climbs higher than desired, could I not just take the filter bag out of the HOB? I would presume that it would get kicked back down when I do a water change. Do you try to keep your water changes smaller to make sure the kH/pH doesn't drop too much? I'm also worried about shocking the tank with a water change and killing everything.

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On 7/30/2021 at 12:21 AM, Krys said:

When you put the crushed coral in your HOB, how much do you put in there? And, ah, if the pH climbs higher than desired, could I not just take the filter bag out of the HOB? I would presume that it would get kicked back down when I do a water change. Do you try to keep your water changes smaller to make sure the kH/pH doesn't drop too much? I'm also worried about shocking the tank with a water change and killing everything.

 

I'll start with the TLDR  version of my response . . . .

Don't over think it. Put a small media bag of crushed coral in your HOB and replace it when needed. If your fish look happy, don't worry about routinely measuring things like Kh, Gh, Ph, etc. If the tanks seems off, take some measurements. Feed your crustaceans food with calcium in it (zucchini, hikari crab cuisine, mineral junkie, etc. stuff like that) and they will be fine. Do a couple "test" bulk water changes, and see what the Ph looks like before and after, and watch your fish. Try to keep things as simple.

Ok, now for the longer response  (I like being wordy). . . .

Crushed coral is dissolved by acidic water, so once your Ph rises and the water is no longer acidic, it stops dissolving. In my experience, it equalizes the water to about 7.4-ish Ph, then stops raising it any further. The amount has no bearing on how high the Ph raises, it only affects how often you have to put more in. But to be honest, I have had about 2 pounds in a sump 150 gallon system for over a year and its still in there. 

I change a lot of water a little at a time, as I have most of my systems on auto-water change drip system. (A lot of my tanks are grow outs and very over-stocked). If I need to do a bulk water change, I have water staged in a barrel that has crushed coral in a bag in it. So any bulk changes tend to match the water already in the tank.

The only reason I stage water is because I can't use my "tap" water. The Ph of my water straight from my well is 5!  This is pretty corrosive on my home's pipes, so we have a filter that boosts the Ph for our drinking and bathing water. The Ph from this filter can be anywhere from 7 to 9, depending on when I've last added media. Not to mention our water softener strips out all the Gh, so I bypass both of these and get "raw" well water for my aquariums.

In general, my aquariums all run between 6.6 and 7.0 with an average Kh of 1. With my frequency of water changes, the coral never has a chance to boost the Kh anything higher than 1.

I know this is a long response, and it sounds like i chase numbers. But the truth is, I really don't think about this stuff any more or at all, except when addressing it in posts. My only real goal is to have some Kh in the water, anything more than zero.

I keep a lot of barbs, apistos, tetras, rasporas, corys, etc. and they seem happy and healthy. My auto-water change system drips very low Ph (5), and very cold water into my tanks all day. It just comes straight from the ground and goes right into the tanks. But this is at a slow-ish rate and has minimal impact on the system as a whole.

Edited by tolstoy21
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Great, thorough response by tolstoy21. I agree fully on the fact that there is a point where the coral stops dissolving.

Krys...judging from your initial PH numbers, I can envision it not raising your PH at all, and simply preventing a drop, by slowly starting to dissolve as your water turns "acidic-enough" to do so. Personally, I have a decent sized medial bag of crushed coral in a HOB (aquaclear 110), and quite a bit mixed into the substrate.

I have found that the media bag in the filter does need to be replaced every 5-6 months or so. There's a point where I think you can only extract so much from it. In the HOB, the fast water movement passing through it seems to accelerate its lifespan, for lack of better term.

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Alright, y'all have convinced me I will make a youtube video on how water chemistry works. It seems mostly to be the interactions between different parameters that confuse people.

 

It may take a while to condense everything and not necessarily dumb it down, but make sure that you don't need to attend a chemistry course at your local community college.

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Thank you so much, everyone! I have ordered a bag of crushed coral and media bag from the coop's site and am going to try putting it in the HOB (I think when I set up another tank, I will put it in the substrate. I want a desktop cube nano tank for breeding shrimp for the pea puffer to eat in my studio eventually, that one will rely on it). I think it was good timing too because one of my shrimp is berried and I want to make sure the new baby shrimp develop properly. 

 

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