Need help with GH and KH

Rammsteinfan

I have a 20L tank that I’m cycling. Right now my Ammonia is 0ppm, nitrite is .25ppm, and nitrate is 5.0ppm. Now when it comes to the GH I had to add 2 drops but the KH I had to add 11 drops. How do I go about adjusting the GH and KH?
 

Salem

GH and KH generally dont need to be adjusted unless youre working with fish that have been brought up or previously lived in a tank with drastically different levels.
I personally would advise against attempting to alter either. It takes a lot of time to fully understand it and you really need to know and be confident in what youre doing. Additionally it can get really expensive as you generally will need to buy additional additives to be used at every water change as well as testing daily until you reach the desired levels. Most people who want specific levels opt to use a RO/DI unit (up to 300$ in my country and province) and then re-mineralizing the water.
 

Rammsteinfan

Would it be alright to put African driftwood in the tank or live plants?
I also forgot to add that we have well water that goes through a water softener. Would that cause any problems? Our bypass valve I have learned is stuck.
 

Salem

Either should be fine, the softener should be fine though it's probably a good idea to continue to monitor it alongside pH just to make sure everything is stable. Driftwood can lower hardness levels and cause pH to drop in tanks with very soft water but seeing as your KH is fairly high this shouldn't be an issue. It may cause a small shift but unless its an absolutely massive chunk of wood in a very small tank I don't think it would be a huge change.
 

georgelee1000

Don’t do anything drastic. Most fish adapt fine to parameters. Usually it’s the wild caught fish that have a hard time adjusting. Stability > parameters. Your GH is not that high anyway. With a high KH I doubt adding a driftwood would do anything. What’s your pH?
 

Rammsteinfan

PH is an 8
 

MacZ

The water softener lowers GH (which will be much higher directly from the well) and raises KH (via ion-exchange, so in your well water it will be much lower). pH of 8 is to be expected. Neither driftwood nor leaf litter will have any impact on hardness and pH, not even peat will significantly alter it.
I'd try and see whether it's possible to bypass the watersoftener and test the well water itself. Depending on the results I would consider options like a DI filter or a RO-unit. Both would be probably an option for a far bigger tank, but for a 20 liter...

Any fish that would usually count as soft water might have problems with the KH and pH long term. The life expectancy may be lowered by a few years, no chance of successful reproduction, but no immediate impact.

Instead of changing the water I would probably simply choose animals according to the parameters. There is not much choice when it comes to fish anyway, besides a single Betta or a single Dario dario I wouldn't keep any fish in it, but both are technically rather on the soft water side of things.
 

Marlene327

I'm so happy to see your question and these answers. As I'm starting another new shrimp tank, I wanted to see what mine were. I also use a water softener and for the last 3 years it's all be good using the water from it in my tanks. My Gh is 3 at the tap and 5 in the new tank, and my Kh is 7 both places. The first time I tried testing my Kh, the color wouldn't change, it was up to 30 drops when I quit - I will never know what happened, but it's been 2 weeks and it only took 7!! Many MANY of us are confused by these numbers so it's good to ask.
 

Rammsteinfan

I’ll check my water without the softener to see what it is.
I had a guppy tank a very long time ago and decided to get tank for my son. We had to find his rabbit a new home due to all of us having bad pet allergies.
Here are my results when I got water from the hose that doesn’t go through the softener.
pH 7
GH 14 drops
KH 11 drops
 

RayClem

Water that has been treated with a ion exchange water softener is not ideal for fish. The softener removes calcium, magnesium, and iron ions which are needed by fish, invertebrates and plants and substitutes sodium ions which are not needed and may be harmful to live plants.

You would be better off using water pulled off the line prior to your water softener, even if it means adding a valve specifically for that purpose. The only faucets I have that bypass the softener are outdoors and they cannot be used in winter. If you do add a valve, make sure all local plumbing codes are satisfied. A check valve to prevent backflow might be required.

A GH of 14 dGH is considered very hard (mine is super hard at 20-29 dGH). An alkalinity of 11 dKH is moderately alkaline.

Because my water is so hard, I have to use a water softener for the water used for washing clothes, showering, etc. However, I have an Reverse Osmosis unit that provides water for drinking, cooking, and aquarium water changes. I do not want to drink water with high sodium content. However, because the RO water contains a very low level of minerals, I have to insure my diet includes necessary minerals. I also have to add minerals to the water used for aquarium water changes.

There are a number of commercial products designed to remineralize RO water. One is RO Right by Kent Marine. Another is Salty Shrimp gh/kh+. I use a product from Seachem called Equilibrium which contains minerals needed to raise GH, but contains no carbonates, bicarbonates or phosphates needed to raise KH. You can use carbonate or phosphate buffers or even baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to raise KH.

BTW: If you are replacing water lost due to evaporation, you add plain RO water with no added minerals.

A suitable GH and KH depends entirely upon the types of fish you intend to keep in your aquarium. If you want to keep common livebearers like guppies, mollies, swordtails and platys, they will do quite well in your water prior to the water softener. African Rift Lake cichlids should also do well.

If you want to keep South American species that like soft, acidic water, your softened tap water will be suitable for the GH, but you will need to do something to reduce the alkalinity/KH.

It is often easier to select fish that will work with your water than it is trying to adjust water parameters to suit your fish, but either is possible.
 

MacZ

I was wanting to have maybe some type of rasboras, cherry shrimp, and either kuhli loaches or cory fish.
Hmm... in a 20 liter you can keep the shrimp, but fish-wise... even without the problem with the water parameters... at best a handful of rasboras (e.g. chilies). Otherwise you will be changing 10 liters of water two to three times a week.

But still, the water is far from ideal for these species. Maybe try the shrimp first, if they are not doing well, the fish won't either.
 

Rammsteinfan

Thanks for the help. Would if help any if I used a couple gallons of distilled water when doing water changes?
 

RayClem

For a combination of rasboras, cherry shrimp, kuhli loaches, and corydoras, you want water that is moderately soft and moderately alkaline.

Your untreated water is harder than ideal.

Your softened water is softer than ideal and more alkaline than ideal.

If installing an RO system or purchasing RO/distilled water is not an option, you might consider mixing the treated and untreated water to come up with something that will be more suitable both in GH and KH.
 

MacZ

you might consider mixing the treated and untreated water to come up with something that will be more suitable both in GH and KH.
Erm... Ray? That would mean GH and KH both go up, as you add the levels without real dilution at these levels.

Would if help any if I used a couple gallons of distilled water when doing water changes?
Several downsides:
You will have to do EVERY waterchanges with that stuff. If you forget to buy more you might have to postpone waterchanges.
I don't know how much you pay for distilled water, but even with this small tank and using the cheapest RO unit, said unit will pay off within less than 3 months. On top, making RO yourself doesn't produce the amount waste as buying canisters of distilled water.
 

RayClem

If you mix 1 liter of untreated water (14 dGH, 11 dKH) with 1 liter of treated water ( 2dGH, 11 dKH), you should end up with 2 liters of water with 8 dGH, 11 dKH). That is the average of the values.

A sodium ion exchange unit removes calcium, magnesium, iron, etc. and replace those ions with sodium, it should have no impact upon anions. Thus, the dKH should not change going through the water softener. Test results confirm that.

A dGH of 8 is far more suitable for many species of fish than a dGH of 14. Furthermore, blending the water sources will give you an average of the sodium concentration.

Using remineralized RO water is preferable as you have a stable source water. Since the untreated water will fluctuate with rainfall, etc. and the treated water can fluctuate based on where you are in the resin bed recharge cycle, blending water is not ideal, but I still think it is preferable to using either treated or untreated water alone.
 

MacZ

Using remineralized RO water is preferable as you have a stable source water. Since the untreated water will fluctuate with rainfall, etc. and the treated water can fluctuate based on where you are in the resin bed recharge cycle, blending water is not ideal, but I still think it is preferable to using either treated or untreated water alone.
Agree.
 

Rammsteinfan

I got the problem taken care of. My FIL lives down the road from me and has better water that isn’t softened. I was able to just get water from him. He doesn’t mind filling me up water for changes either.
Thanks for all the help. I may eventually either get my kitchen line taken off the softener or a RO system. I realized how much salt it puts in the water.The plumber said it was fine to drink but my son drinks over a gallon of it a day.
 

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