pH, GH, KH, and TDS

Matthew Slater

Hello Everyone,

I am setting up a new planted tank with neons, eventually. I have buffered my tank to read:

pH 7.1
dGH 3
dKH 4
TDS 225ppm

Currently going through fishless cycling (Day 1) and want to keep the pH at or very slightly above 7 and keep it that way for when the tetras arrive next month. My tap water conditions are as follows:

pH 6.8
dGH 1
dkH 2
TDS 51ppm

I elevated my general hardness slightly for the Baby Dwarf Tears I am keeping and the Java Fern. Also, I elevated the KH with a non-phosphate-based buffer to avoid fluctuations in pH for the tetras.

However, I have a TDS meter and it reads 225ppm. That being said, after subtracting the 4 KH and 3 KH (total of 125ppm), there is still 100ppm of solids unaccounted for. I tested the meter on RO water (0), so it is accurate. Maybe the liquid API reagent test kit for the GH and KH is inaccurate. Could it be phosphate, even though the Seachem Acid and Alkaline buffers I used contained none? Could it even be the ammonia I added today, but it is only at a concentration of 3ppm? I definitely want to keep TDS at 130ppm max for when the fish arrive. I haven't even added my plants. Maybe when they arrive and begin to consume the inorganics in the tank, I will remeasure and see where we are with the TDS count. I will also remeasure tomorrow and check back in to see if anything changes.

Overall, I'm not too worried because I just started cycling and haven't added plants. The cycling process will also bring down my KH, so that will reduce TDS by means of carbonates, which I don't really want! Also, when I am done cycling and preform a water change, that should also bring the TDS count down. Any advice or reassurance (eek!)?


A few things...

TDS is a rough measure of everything in your water, aside pure H20. It is not 100% accurate with those meters, but it is a good rough estimate.

In my opinion, you are worrying about all your numbers too much. I'm a firm believer that less is more, especially with aquariums. All the buffers and stuff you are adding is worse than just letting your plants and fish adjust to your natural conditions. If you continue to add all that stuff, you will be playing the match game forever, constantly trying to match your new water with the old. All the while continuing to add more and more "products".

Your tap water seems perfect, many people would kill for those numbers. The plants won't matter too much, and the Tetra's do better with a lower PH anyways. Since your KH and GH are low, you will need to make sure to add a micro/trace fertilizer mix to make sure things are good, but you would probably need to do that anyway. Flourish Comprehensive is a good fertilizer as it is a mix of everything the plants will need. If you have root feeding plants than you will need a nutrient rich substrate or some root tabs anyways.

Bottom line, in my opinion, I would stop adding all the buffers and just go with your natural water. Don't over think things. Keep it simple.

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