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Increasing water hardness?

Discussion in 'Fish & Aquaria' started by Moozillion, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    It looks like I need to add more plants to my turtle tank because my nitrates are off the charts (although ammonia and nitrites are ZERO). My local water is apparently "Very Soft" according to my tests on both GH and KH. It's my understanding that plants in an aquarium NEED nutrients that are part of the "hardness" in order to do well. So it seems like I should increase my water hardness.
    I have no fish in my tank right now- just a small eastern mud turtle, but I am going to upgrade her to a bigger tank soon (either 40 breeder or 55 gal) and I really want to add some fish. I know they're much more sensitive to water parameters than my turtle is, so I want to get this fixed well in advance.

    So how do people increase water hardness? I've seen all sorts of things, including adding oyster grit to the filter along with baking soda, Epsom salts and salt substitute! :confused: :confused: :confused:
  2. Speedy-1

    Speedy-1 Well-Known Member

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    I think they have commercially made water hardeners , and test kits for aquariums . I know what you mean about "soft" water , I lived in Slidell for many years and the water was so soft it almost felt like the soap was still there after rinsing off in the shower
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  3. JoesMum

    JoesMum Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    What's the kH of your water Bea? Ours is very soft as we have a water softener installed our fish have done fine over the decades
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  4. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    The kH is likewise very low- the lowest my test kit would register. It’s an API test kit, do I think it’s supposed to be pretty good.:)
  5. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    WHOA!!!!! SLIDELL??!?! We were neighbors!!!!!:). I’m in Covington!
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  6. JoesMum

    JoesMum Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    That soft... It's like that where my grandmother is soft. Much softer than ours then
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  7. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    Have you tested the tap for nitrates? Just curious.

    In most fish tanks, elevated nitrates mean you need to do more water changes. Either more frequent or larger volume.
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  8. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Yes. The nitrates IN THE TAP WATER were ZERO. But the nitrates in the tank were as high as my test kit could register, which is 160 ppm. Ammonia and nitrites were both ZERO. o_O
  9. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    When I change the water, I do a total water change
    I was thinking of the plants. If I need plants to help keep my nitrates down, i've read plants do badly in soft water tanks because they don't get enough nutrition. :confused:
  10. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I will do a total water change (which is what i always do) tomorrow and test again. o_O
  11. JoesMum

    JoesMum Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Don’t change all the water in one go. That messes with the chemistry and the healthy bacteria in the filter. Forty percent absolute maximum.

    Then do it again in a week
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  12. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Oh, Wow! I didn’t know that!
    I’ve always changed out ALL the water when I clean her tank! Oopsie!
  13. JoesMum

    JoesMum Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    There’s a build up of healthy bacteria in the filtration system that keeps the water clear. For his reason you only change some of the water and only some of the filtration media. So if there are 4 sponges, change 2 and then next month change the other two. You might change the water more often.

    If the sponges aren’t being swapped out, you rinse them in a bucket of water you have taken from the tank (never under the tap which kills the bacteria) and then replace them.
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  14. Team Gomberg

    Team Gomberg IXOYE 5 Year Member

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    Nitrates are at the end of the nitrogen cycle, so it makes sense that you'll be low on ammonia and nitrites but high on nitrates. Those need to be physically removed from the tank.

    You were given great advice, you only change a portion of water at any given time.

    I think you'll notice the improvement in your water quality once you alter your water changing routine and some time has passed to allow the good bacteria to reestablish.
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  15. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    OK. I did a 50% water change and re-tested my nitrates. They're slightly better, but still very high.
    Last time they registered 160 ppm, but that is the highest the test will register. The color of the water in the tube changed IMMEDIATELY when I added just 1 drop of the testing reagent, so I tend to think it was even higher than 160 ppm.
    Today the color remained yellow for a while, but darkened to red over the 5 minutes you are instructed to let the color develop. It seems to be half-way in between 160 ppm and 80 ppm (so maybe, 120 ppm? :confused:)

    But I feel encouraged! :)
    Do I have to wait a whole week to change water and retest? @JoesMum and @Team Gomberg

    JoesMum: My filter doesn't have sponges. It just has a grill over the intake. Inside the body of the filter are 2 chambers: one with a bag of charcoal and the other with the little ceramic cylinders to grow the beneficial bacteria.
  16. Team Gomberg

    Team Gomberg IXOYE 5 Year Member

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    My favorite amount to change is 25% weekly. So, I'd say do a 25% next week and test again.

    The charcoal bags are chemical filtration. It'll absorb the "bad stuff" and like a sponge, it can only get so full before it stops absorbing. Make sure to change it as recommended.

    The ceramic cylinders are biological filtration. Nitrosomonas and nitrobacter (the good bacteria) will live there and do their job in the nitrogen cycle. Don't clean them, dont change them, dont replace them.

    What it sounds like you're missing is mechanical filtration. This would look like a sponge or other type of physical barrier that catches debris and junk. It keeps the pieces of 'whatever' trapped on the media until you rinse it out. Good bacteria will establish here, too which is why you only clean them in tank water. Having more than 1 of these is ideal so you can alternate cleaning them.

    Hope this helps!
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  17. JoesMum

    JoesMum Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    What type of Pump do you have @Moozillion? Brand and Model. How much water is in the tank? (I’m exploring whether your pump has enough power for the job)

    It is very important that those ceramic cylinders just get rinsed in tank water when you clean the tank. They mustn’t go near clean tap water.

    We change the carbon every 6 weeks. We have 2 bags, so one gets changed every 3 weeks. (Our pump is a Fluval 306 ... we upgraded from the 206 supplied with the aquarium)

    We do 15% water changes every 3 weeks (fish, not a turtle).

    When recovering from the disaster caused by the failed heater while we were away, the chemistry got well and truly wrecked and we went to weekly changes of 15% for about 6 weeks.
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  18. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Thanks so much for your help, Linda and Team Gomberg!
    Jacques' tank is 20 gallon long, it has about 1 and 1/2 inches of sand in the bottom and is half full of water:

    IMG_8382.JPG

    I honestly don't know the brand of filter I have because it was very kindly given to me, brand new and unused, by a forum member. He like to use off brands and claims the ones from China are just as good as the more expensive ones. I did not recognize the brand when i received the box- it was about 2 years ago.

    IMG_8380.JPG


    Here's the intake:

    IMG_8381.JPG

    The pump does seemed quite strong when I first started up the tank, and made a really loud splashing noise returning the water through the spray bar, so I hung a mesh bag with 2 sponges over it to temper the force. But after about 6 months it seemed to get weaker and seems pretty weak for the past year.
  19. mark1

    mark1 Well-Known Member

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    i think the sand bottom as is , is a poor choice , without water and oxygen circulating through it , i'd think it'd be a source of anaerobic bacteria ..... i'd also think if the nitrates were as high as your test tells you , you'd be having trouble with algae ?
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  20. Moozillion

    Moozillion Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I know that gravel on the bottom is a bad idea because Many tortoises accidentally ingest it with their food. Our rivers and bayous all have sandy bottoms (well, sand underneath the plant debris!) so I figured that would feel most natural to her.
    I don’t seem to have much algae at all. Some in the filter intakes/outflow tubes and a bit on the glass, but not much that I can see...
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