Understanding pH, KH, GH in Home Aqauriums

iZaO Jnr

Understanding pH, KH, GH in Home Aquariums

Hey guys ,

Before I start off, I would like to warn anybody reading this that this involves, to a degree, some involved water chemistry. By all means not advanced as I will try my best to keep it as simple as possible, while helping others understand the topic much better...

I see that there is many threads and links around that tell you what pH, kH and gH is safe for your particular fish, as well as how to increase, decrease etc. these numbers. What there is a lack of, is an understanding of these numbers, and what they have to do with you or your fish. Hopefully this will help you out and understand your fish better. After all, is that not what you want to do? I will explain the importance of the essential minerals in your fish’s life, using the pH, KH, GH values

We've all unfortunately come across the poor guy who bought a new tank and straight off worried about pH... We've all done this. I know I did: "Bought 2 bottles of pH down and pH up. The pH was 8.2 from the tap so I put pH down and the next day it was at 7.4... GREAT!!! Next day it's back up to 8.0 so more pH down with a double dose to be sure it's safe. pH plummets to below 6.0 the next day, so pH up at half dose and the pH is at 7.2... GREAT!!! Next day it's back up at 8.0"

By the end of the day, we've spent a pocket-full, got no results, broken any chance of a cycle having the possibility to start, have a handful of dead fish, very milky water and some staining of everything in the tank. So there we are with less money, less fish, less chemicals and less quality in terms of water. I believe that these chemicals can be used safely in the home aquarium without these hassles, but if you do not understand what it is, or how it works, then unfortunately you will end up with a tank like my first one! ... Nobody wants that. Nevertheless, this can and unfortunately will get tricky, but here goes... ... ...

When it comes to water chemistry in aquariums, there are two big sections to consider. These are Water Parameters and Water Quality.

Water Quality is defined by how safe your water is for fish. These are things like Ammonia/Ammonium, Nitrite and Nitrates. The less of these, the higher the water quality is essence. That's quite simple right, yes right...

Water Parameters is defined by a reading of a specific "thing" of your water. Naturally, these do not affect water quality direcly, but are just as important to good fish health. These are things like temperature, pH, KH, GH, conductivity, viscosity, volatility... believe me, and the list will never end. The ones we will focus on, because they are mostly relevant to our aquariums, are:

1) pH (also known as per Hydrion or percentage hydrogen)
2) KH (also known as Carbonate Hardness)
3) GH (also known as General Hardness)
4) Temperature (not also known as ;D)
5) How to safely adjust these values

Now, Fish have a specific bodily function which we call Osmoregulation, which in simple terms is the fish's function that regulates it’s intake and expulsion (balancing) of minerals and water throughout its body. A healthy osmoregualtion system goes like this: Water goes in through the mouth, out the gills, out the skin and excreted; this is then replaced by minerals taken into the skin, or “drank” through the gills so to speak, and vice versa. Without this system a fish would either suffer from lack of the correct balance of minerals, or too much of one mineral, resulting in some form of deficiency. This is often what is believed to lead to the disease of fish not properly acclimated, which is why the “floating bag” method is so widely discouraged by the more experienced nowadays Fish osmoregulation is needed by fish because although we as humans get all our nutrients and minerals through food, fish live in an environment where these are readily available to them, which is why the correct balance of your water parameters is so important to your particular fish.
Note: Freshwater fish and Saltwater fish systems work on a different level and are not the same. The basics however, as I will explain further, are the same.

1) pH - per Hydrion... "I've never heard of that" Well here's your lesson. Per Hydrion refers to the amount of hydrogen, in its ionic form "Hydrion", that is in a solution, in our case, tank water. The pH scale is a logarithmic scale, and therefore means that 6.0 pH is 10 times more acidic than 7.0 pH, and 5.0 pH is 100 times more acidic than 7.0 pH . Now to understand how hydrogen changes pH, we need to understand what makes your water acidic (below 7.0 pH) or basic (above 7.0 pH). "H+" ions make water acidic; "OH-" ions make water basic. You may notice that with those two together, there are two hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen - yeah that’s right... Water, H2O. That is why pure water is the most neutral substance in existence, exactly 7.0 pH... The unfortunate fact is that pH in aquariums isn't stable without other minerals as I mentioned above, such as Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Iodine, Chloride, etc etc... These are what KH and GH measures are partly for.

So how does any of this help my fish? Well that's where the other parameter's come in. But before we go into the heavy detail stuff, I would like to mention this:

- Besides very specific fish, such as African cichlids, most fish will live HAPPILY in water that has a pH of between 6.6 and 8.2. Fish are very adaptable creatures, and as such can easily adapt to these conditions. The most important factor to keep in mind is, even at the very extremes of the pH scale, it is more important to keep the pH constant than at a precise value.

2) KH – Carbonate Hardness... The reason this is called carbonate hardness is because it measures the amount of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) that exists within your water. Again, in a very complicated way, this is what prevents your pH from having the ability to “crash” or even budge. If you are aiming to lower your pH, you need to lower this value in order to do it. Calcium is the most abundant mineral within water, and is especially important in the lives of marine, brackish, or even rift lake fish. A fish that has a “hard water” or “soft water” requirement to keep, simply means that that fish has evolved/adapted it’s osomregulation pattern over many generations to take up a certain amount of minerals from the water in a given time, which is categorized by whatever body of water that fish has lived in...
Hard water fish – take more minerals up in a given time
Soft water Fish – take less minerals up in the same given time
That would then very simply explain why soft water fish are easier to adjust to hard water than it is to do the reverse. Soft water fish are able to still take up minerals in the water because there is an abundance of it in hard water, whereas hard water fish struggle because they need to take up minerals, which simply aren’t there in soft water. This is not to say that soft water fish can live fully comfortable in a hard water environment, because hard water tanks have a higher pH than soft water tanks, and the same for the reverse situation This is the one of two (but not only 2) prime reason why it is important to know your KH value in your aquarium. Calcium therefore plays an important role in the tank in that 1, it stabilizes the pH (but also raises it) and 2, it plays the one of the biggest roles in fish osmoregulation.
Calcium as we all know promotes good bone growth, teeth quality... The usual. What it also serves to do however, is regulate blood flow, helps immune system functions, aids in metabolism and is required in its free ionic form for necessary and quality heart function. Think it’s important yet?
Now you may ask, but why does calcium carbonate make my water more basic? Well, good question. The Calcium carbonate is broken up in water into Calcium (Ca) and Carbonate (CO3). Carbonate is extremely unstable so it will match up with “H+” ions. Remember now that these make your water acidic, but because there are now less of them, it will make your water basic.
So as you can see, KH is a very important value in your aquarium, even more important than pH IMO, simply because on most occasions, the value of KH is almost a direct correlation to the value of your pH.

3) GH – General Hardness ... Luckily for us, we have a measure that can tell us the amount of all the minerals dissolved in our water! While Calcium is important, without other minerals that the GH value measures, it is useless, some even claim it is more dangerous as such. Your GH test kit measures the amount of all minerals in our water, including, but not only Carbonate Hardness like KH. This is also helpful as water does not only have calcium for fish. These other minerals (at least the most important ones) are:
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Chloride (Cl) (NOTE: NOT chlorine (Cl2))
- Sodium (Na)
- Sulphur (S)
- Potassium (K)
Beyond these there are many others, but are not really measurable without extensive testing. The main reason GH is also important in home aquaria, is because it measures the very important Magnesium. Magnesium performs the same ideal function as Calcium. Fish need it for osmoregualtion, just as they need Calcium. Magnesium serves to aid in digestion, improves immunity, aids in growth (of both bones and muscles) and development of the gills. See why this is also important? I sure do!...
Magnesium therefore is also important to your fish’s development, just as is Calcium, and the other minerals. This is why there are also other water parameters to consider rather than just temperature and pH. There are many things that will change your pH, such as Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate – hence why many say that it is pointless to test pH during a cycle.

4) Temperature – Boy this is a tough one... After all your study on pH, KH, GH, electrolytes, minerals, fish function... Now you have to deal with this... Okay so here goes. Temperature – Keep it constant... Wow okay glad that's done ;D... moving on now...

5) How To Safely Adjust These Values – Nowadays, it is easy to access equipment or supplies that will aid in adjusting pH, KH and GH (and temperature – new tech called a heater ;D)...

- How to raise pH – In order to raise your pH, you must increase your kH value, and preferably your GH value as well. Remember how I said that in most cases your pH value is a direct correlation of your kH value? Well yes, your kH or buffering capacity will increase your pH as it increases itself. The following methods can be used:

1) Aquarium Buffer – Whether bought or home-made, make absolutely sure you do your research here. This can cause many issues if not played well, but if executed correctly can be a great pH buffer (by adding minerals to your water thereby increasing your kH and GH values). If you do not have a full understanding of redox potentials/electrolysis in aquariums then I urge you not to try homemade mixes.

2) Aragonite/Crushed Coral Substrate – This is commonly used in hard water aquariums because the substrate leaches minerals into the water. I note that these do not leach all the minerals required but do serve as a good starting point to raising pH correctly.

3) Crushed Coral Filter – This is helpful when combined with method #2, because the combination provides all necessary minerals for FULL healthy osmoregulation of hard water fish. The crushed coral leaches predominantly calcium into the water, but also other trace elements.

4) Addition of Aquarium Salt – This is dependent on what salt we are referring to here. Marine Salt mix, yes, it is a great source of the necessary nutrients in hard water, but be careful on the dosage. You are aiming to add minerals to the tank, not overdose it. Regular aquarium salt is a no, no. Good treatment in diseases yes, terrible aid in raising pH safely.

- How to lower pH – In order to lower your pH, you must decrease your KH value, and again, preferably GH too. Be careful though. It is safer to keep a soft water fish in slightly harder water than to keep a soft water fish in a very soft water environment. The reason being: Harder water holds its pH value much better than soft water. pH crashes and inconsistent pH values can be attributed to KH every time. Not sometimes, EVERY TIME. Note that you will not be able to lower your pH without lowering your carbonate harness.

1) Aquarium Buffer – Same as above, research is essential. I suggest using the buffer to lower KH and thereby lower pH, and combine this with a tiny amount of shell in your tank, or small amount of crushed coral in your filter to simultaneously buffer the water, which means that your pH will remain lower, but relatively stable because of the buffer being released by said shell or coral. Homemade mixes include potassium salts. Stray away from these as they will only temporarily lower your pH, then “jumping” it back up which will be more stressful to the fish in any case.

2) Carbon Dioxide Dosing – Carbon Dioxide serves to lower your pH and is a great plant nutrient. 30 ppm of CO2 will lower your pH by 1 degree - I.e. from 7.0 ph to 6.0 pH. Be careful of homemade mixes as the CO2 isn’t constant and can therefore play with your pH, resulting in stressed out fish.

3) Peat/Clay Substrate – This will leach minerals into the water that will bond with the Carbonate thereby preventing it from bonding to the “H+” ion we discussed much earlier, thereby lowering KH and subsequently pH. This is a good method for planted tanks as the nutrients can also be used by plants.

4) Peat Filter – Same as the substrate version pretty much, just that it has a higher flow through it and therefore leaches faster. Be careful not to use too much.

5) Reverse Osmosis / De-Ionized Water - This method is commonly used because RO/DI water has effectively 0 Hardness (both KH and GH). When mixing this with other water, it can have an overall "softening effect" and thereby lower you pH safely. Be sure not to use too much RO/DI water as you still want some value to water hardness (again both KH and GH) in your tank. Distilled Water can also be used as above.

Lastly, I note that it is important to buffer your water very slightly while trying to lower it. This will allow your KH levels to drop but not to plummet, and thereby keeping you pH relatively constant, even in a soft water aquarium

It is however, important to note that pH is EQUALLY important compared to KH and GH. I am not aiming to promote that you forget about pH entirely, but to consider why your pH is where it is, or why there are problems etc. Remember, a fish that lives in 8.0 pH waters will not do well in 9.0 pH... Remember why??? No? Don’t forget that 9.0 pH is 10 times more basic than 8.0, so it isn’t just a “1 point pH jump”, it’s a big change to have. Imagine you living in 60 degrees your entire life, and then over the time of 2 hours adjusting to living in 600 degrees (it is 10 times extreme afterall?).

This is to serve an even further purpose as to why minerals (especially calcium and magnesium) are so important in your fish’s lifetime and why it is so important to keep your pH stable, and guess what? You can provide your fish with the necessary minerals while doing it! ;D

I hope that you, reader, have found this interesting at the least if not useful. Good luck and happy fish keeping!
Please if you have any questions or queries do not be afraid to ask If you have anything to add to this, please do speak up and I will be happy to include it!

Acknowledgments

Thanks to my friend Josh McDonald for all his help in writing this article.
 

matt6765

Thank you for writing this. It really clarifies a lot of things. I have one question. I have a R/O system and when I use this the pH of my water drops from 8.0 to 6.0 or below(my test kit only goes to 6). You said pure water is neutral so why is the pH so low?

Thanks,
 

iZaO Jnr

This is a fantastic question... something that applies really well to the above.

RO/DI water, as it is, removes everything (99.9%) inorganic from the water source. The inlet before the RO unit already removes organic material from the water (via water board etc.) therefore leaving you with as pure water as possible. Remember though that while water is pure 7.0 pH, there are many outside factors that control various factors here. If it is consistently pure, it will constantly shift in huge volumes between basic and acidic because there is nothing that makes it stable, like CaCO3 (there are other ways but this is the most usable). So in theory water can at one moment be 6.0 and the next 8.0 without anything to stablize it.

The removal of this inorganic minerals (Calcium and Magnesium being of most importance to us) means that the Carbonate harndess has no value. This means that it cannot hold a pH value all that well, meaning that it is very unstable. Now you're thinking, well yeah but why does it drop and not go up. Well, as I said above, Carbonate from CaCO3 forms with the "H+" ions and therefore make it more basic. Well without this calcium, the predominance of our pH drops to below most tap water sources. because without the CaCO3 the water IS in a more pure state. Beyond this, there are more ions, atoms and compounds in free contact with the water (such as air, tubs, buckets etc etc) that will bond with the "OH-" ions before "H+" ions, causing it to be more acidic.

Unfortunately some of the topics here go way past what I have studied before, and even explaining them can be so tricky. But this is the simple cut version that should make sense. Hope it helped, if not please tell me
 

dannyboy

Awesome Great write up, very informative!
 

matt6765

This is a fantastic question... something that applies really well to the above.

RO/DI water, as it is, removes everything (99.9%) inorganic from the water source. The inlet before the RO unit already removes organic material from the water (via water board etc.) therefore leaving you with as pure water as possible. Remember though that while water is pure 7.0 pH, there are many outside factors that control various factors here. If it is consistently pure, it will constantly shift in huge volumes between basic and acidic because there is nothing that makes it stable, like CaCO3 (there are other ways but this is the most usable). So in theory water can at one moment be 6.0 and the next 8.0 without anything to stablize it.

The removal of this inorganic minerals (Calcium and Magnesium being of most importance to us) means that the Carbonate harndess has no value. This means that it cannot hold a pH value all that well, meaning that it is very unstable. Now you're thinking, well yeah but why does it drop and not go up. Well, as I said above, Carbonate from CaCO3 forms with the "H+" ions and therefore make it more basic. Well without this calcium, the predominance of our pH drops to below most tap water sources. because without the CaCO3 the water IS in a more pure state. Beyond this, there are more ions, atoms and compounds in free contact with the water (such as air, tubs, buckets etc etc) that will bond with the "OH-" ions before "H+" ions, causing it to be more acidic.

Unfortunately some of the topics here go way past what I have studied before, and even explaining them can be so tricky. But this is the simple cut version that should make sense. Hope it helped, if not please tell me

Thanks! That was a great explanation and now I understand
 

iZaO Jnr

No problem

After speaking to someone about the mix of RO/DI water with their well water an argument came up. This is the research that I found after clearing up the issue with the mixes with pH. For reference by her and anyone else that may find it helpful

To add further:

When mixing RO/DI water with tap/well water, pH does not necessarily meet at the ratio you are looking for, or that many will tell you. The actual value after the mix should be tested as well, as the calculations can be very involved because of the logarithmic nature of the pH scale. The safest way to ensure you know your pH value is to actually test it IME.

These calculations also cannot be entirely true because the pH value is also dependant on various factors you cannot control from within the sources of water. A hard water volume mixed with a RO/DI volume will not necessarily change according to those involved calculations. Therefore my message here is:

Don't assume your pH to be what you think it is. If you aren't 100% sure, test, test and test again!

 

MatildaLjungberg

Awesome post! I hope the mods decide to sticky this because I think it's great information & not hard to understand. I think pH is more than "throw some crushed coral in your tank & you'll be fine."

I had issues in my tanks before I discovered that the water in my area is VERY soft. I did some research & decided on a Seachem product, "Gold Buffer" that stabilizes my KH & I use Seachem Replenish for the GH as well as Wonder Shells. My goldie is happy & my little tetras & guppy are doing great! Plus having the calcium & minerals should be good for my new little nerite snail friends.

Once again, awesome post & thank you very much for the great write-up.
 

TedsTank

Thank you, an excellent post!!

As much as I hate using chemicals in a tank, do use Seachem Equalibrium for my shrimp tanks.

I make the RO water...add tap water to that, to set my Ph.... then equilibrium to set the Gh and Kh. Fairly easy to do and is stable even at a Ph well below 7.
 

iZaO Jnr

Awesome post! I hope the mods decide to sticky this because I think it's great information & not hard to understand. I think pH is more than "throw some crushed coral in your tank & you'll be fine."

I had issues in my tanks before I discovered that the water in my area is VERY soft. I did some research & decided on a Seachem product, "Gold Buffer" that stabilizes my KH & I use Seachem Replenish for the GH as well as Wonder Shells. My goldie is happy & my little tetras & guppy are doing great! Plus having the calcium & minerals should be good for my new little nerite snail friends.

Once again, awesome post & thank you very much for the great write-up.

Thank you for all the compliments.

Thank you, an excellent post!!

As much as I hate using chemicals in a tank, do use Seachem Equalibrium for my shrimp tanks.

I make the RO water...add tap water to that, to set my Ph.... then equilibrium to set the Gh and Kh. Fairly easy to do and is stable even at a Ph well below 7.

I'm glad to hear both of you use chemicals in your tank the CORRECT way. People get very skittish about placing chemicals into their tank, which if you don't understand it, then I completely agree. Once you have an understanding of what you are putting into the tank, then there no need to be so worrysome.

IMO, seachem is the only one that is worthwhile when it comes to buffers. They are the only brand open about the makings and chemical make-up of their buffering products! I mix my own, which if you would like I can give it to you guys. It is really simple and in essence the same as any basic buffer out there.

As I said in the original post, hard water better than soft water for most fish, so like both of you said about buffering, it is always helpful to have more calcium, magnesium and general electrolyte in the tank

Again, thanks for the compliments guys!
 

jerilovesfrogs

I have a question... would adding crushed coral to a filter help the calcium levels in a fw planted aquarium? what exactly would happen if I added this?

-j
 

iZaO Jnr

lol!... "Mod Power"... I like it ;D

Thanks Ken

Hope to see that this helps as many out there as possible

I have a question... would adding crushed coral to a filter help the calcium levels in a fw planted aquarium? what exactly would happen if I added this?

-j

Well depending on the fish you are stocking, that is always the first thing that will determine your pH, but more importantly KH range.

Crushed coral, in general, yes it would aid the plants. The plants take in only what they need, not excess, so for a proper system to be going in a planted tank, you want to be sure that you have the ENOUGH (not correct) amount of electrolytes (calcium, iron, sodium etc) for the plants.

In theory, yes it would help the plants substantially. But that's only if your water is ultra-soft. Otherwise there is enough electrolyte to sustain even a heavily planted tank. Maybe for a very high light tank it would be more beneficial because of the faster uptake, but beyond that the water source should be providing everything you need in terms of calcium. Unless if you're using only RO/DI water ;D

Although like I said, in theory it will help, you need to keep in mind what fish you have stocked. While a consistent pH is important, a consistent pH in the correct range is even more ideal.

Hope this answers your question
 

James95

Great explanation for those without much of a chemistry background

You made it very easy for the lay person to understand. That's something I would've had trouble doing
 

jerilovesfrogs

I think I understand... I don't have soft water....but the ph drops too much, and the snail are affected. but I do use a liquid calcium to help their shells

-j
 

James95

I think I understand... I don't have soft water....but the ph drops too much, and the snail are affected. but I do use a liquid calcium to help their shells

-j

Your water is very similar to mine. My tap water's pH is neutral at 7.2, but it has absolutely no buffering capacity (KH). I have a couple sea shells from the beach in each of my tanks and this usually helps keep my pH stable at about 7.4.
 

jerilovesfrogs

Your water is very similar to mine. My tap water's pH is neutral at 7.2, but it has absolutely no buffering capacity (KH). I have a couple sea shells from the beach in each of my tanks and this usually helps keep my pH stable at about 7.4.

can that happen? that certain tap waters would not be able to buffer well? I have a bunch of shells...but I don't want them in the tanks....just because imo it'd look odd with all my plants. I possibly could put them in my filter...

-j
 

James95

can that happen? that certain tap waters would not be able to buffer well? I have a bunch of shells...but I don't want them in the tanks....just because imo it'd look odd with all my plants. I possibly could put them in my filter...

-j

Yep, its very possible. If there isn't enough calcium carbonate in your water dissolved organic wastes can bring down the pH very very quickly.
 

jerilovesfrogs

well that certainly explains some things!

-j
 

James95

That it does. It took me a year or two and a couple of pH crashes to finally figure out what was wrong with my water.

And yes, you can put them in your filter instead of the main tank
 

iZaO Jnr

In your filter would be a better idea. The increased flow over there would force the shells to leach faster. I would stick with crushed coral as shells will give you a very incomplete buffer.

There are many water sources out there that have almost 0 buffering capacity, and so their pH can drop from 7.0 to 4.0 in some severe cases. As for your snails jeri, I would suggest trying a little crushed coral in your filter. It will definetely aid them.

If you guys are worrying about pH being to low you can always use a balance of epsom salts, baking soda and calcium Carbonate. I use these to buffer my waters for my cichlid tanks because the tank is at 8.6, but the water source is at 7.4. If you guys would like I will post my entire recipe here to help.

As for, like I said above, a simple way to buffer water safely, use crushed coral, not shells. A combination of both would be ideal, but shells alone lack quite a few key electrolytes that crushed coral does have.

Again. thanks for the compliments guys
 

Fall River

Bump, Bump!
Excellent thread!
A question on how to use and monitor the use of crushed coral... I imagine that you'd want to add CC to your filter in increments and monitor the results closely. Do you have a technique/method for monitoring? Should you be checking the ph, gh, kh in any specific order? Any one or two in particular?
I've been fighting a long, slow die-off in my tanks since day one and narrowed the potential problems down to my extremely soft water. I believe it's about a 3 on the kh.
Thanks for the easily understandable lesson and any advice.
 

macca

Hey guys ,

Before I start off, I would like to warn anybody reading this that this involves, to a degree, some involved water chemistry. By all means not advanced as I will try my best to keep it as simple as possible, while helping others understand the topic much better...

Thank you for sharing. I'm lucky to have had great growth in all my planted tank largely due to the fact that I have stable tap water parameters. Even without regular dosing with ferts my plants are thriving. I have worked out by piecing together what worked for me but your post basically "put" sense into everything I've been trying to learn about plants and tank water parameters. Great post!
 

tallguy2682

So I am new to fish keeping and this was super informative, so thanks OP! I have a 10 gallon tank that is about a month and a half old, fully cycled. I have 3 neon tetras that have been alive in the tank through the cycling process and am trying to add in 2 guppies. The guppies keep dying though and I cannot figure out why. My GH is around 180, KH 220 and PH around 8 nitrite 0 and nitrate under 10. These seem to be alright values with the PH stable but on the higher end. I have gone through 2 rounds of guppies and for some reason they won't stay alive but after about a day or two just stop eating and then will pass shortly after that. The only thing I could think of was the PH or the temperature. I currently don't use a heater ( I have one) because my house gets warm during the summer and the water never gets below 77. The water does fluctuate though between 77 and 82. Is that a problem? With the 82 being about 3-4 and then dropping to 77 at night. I am not sure if I should be using the heater to keep the water at 80 because I fear if I do that the upper temperature will also rise 3 degrees to 85 due to the water not cooling at night. thoughts on this would be great? Do I need to lower my PH or do you think it is a problem with the temperature?
 

cheaptricks

Thank you for writing this. It really clarifies a lot of things. I have one question. I have a R/O system and when I use this the pH of my water drops from 8.0 to 6.0 or below(my test kit only goes to 6). You said pure water is neutral so why is the pH so low?

Thanks,

HI matt I'm using ph test that is more accurate, I'm in the UK, but I think its an american company that manufactures them so I'm sure you can by there test kit, they are really accurate, I also get my pH test strips there as well but not sure if they sell in the US, you could contact them, by email and ask, Ive tried loads of different products that I purchased online and a lot of them leave a lot to be desired. However ive found the duel pad tests work best for me (I also get mine from this store) they do do a 0 -14 range as well but that's to general. cheers, lee (ps this is my first post)
 

I2UNUP

HI I just did my Gh and Kh liquid test and here are my results

Kh 11 drops
Gh 29 drops

How do I know what this means because the chart I have doesn't go that high. What should I do and what kind of fish and plants can I keep? How do I buffer it down if need be?

Expert advice much appreciated!
Thanks




My ph is also 8.1

I do not want to use chemicals I want to know Gh and Kh to keep ph and everything stable.
Thanks
 

CindiL

Your KH is great! You won't need to do anything to keep your PH stable. A PH of 8.1 is just fine when it is stable

The high GH is just indicative of hard water. With it that hard you might want to aI'm for fish who like harder water. I know most of the live bearers do really well with it and there are others.
The most annoying thing about hard water is that it will leave deposits in your tank.
 

I2UNUP

Thanks that makes it sound simple and the deposits aren't so bad I clean it a lot and my enclosure hides the water line. Can I ask to know the degrees and ppm of that many drops? How do I figure that out?
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CindiL

There should have been an insert in your GH/KH test.
Your KH is 11dkh or 196.9 (anything over about 4 or 5 will usually hold ph stable).
Your GH at 29 drops is 29dkh or 520 which is very very hard water. That means you have lots of minerals like calcium and magnesium in your water. Minerals are good for fish osmosis. I would start with live bearers if you don't have any like guppies, platies, mollies, swordtails, endlers and then go from there. Having hard water doesn't mean other fish cannot live in it but they may do better in softer water. Do you have a water softener? You could mix half and half if you want, otherwise I'd say just see how some of the other fish do before messing with it.
 

toosie

Providing the GH/KH test kit you are using is the API brand, what cmclien is telling you is correct. Other types of test kits don't necessarily equate drops to degrees like the API brand does, so I just wanted to throw that out there in case you are using a different test kit. Nutrafin GH/KH is one example that the number of drops doesn't equal to the number of degrees. To convert degrees to ppm, simply x the degrees by 17.9. It's close, but you may notice if you compare that to a chart, it may be slightly different. cmclien lists 29 degrees as being = to 520ppm. If you do the math, you'll see that it's close but reads 519 ppm. That little difference is nothing to worry about.

cmclien, dkh means degrees of carbonate hardness, so for a KH reading using dkh is correct. For GH, it would be expressed as dgh for degrees of general hardness. You're doing really well with this stuff so I just wanted to point this out to you in case it isn't just a typo, which it could be.
 

CindiL

Thanks Toosie
My API insert lists them both as dKH under the conversion chart but it makes sense the GH is really dGH. Wonder why they don't put both? maybe just for simplicity sake so they don't have to list two charts?
I used the 17.9 multiplier also but rounded up ha ha
 

toosie

Hahahaha, well then... that's what's been happening! Here I've been thinking people are just using a chart that doesn't state things the same.

But yep, in fact if you type into google, dkh, carbonate hardness info will come up, and if you type dgh into google, general hardness info will come up. But I think the way you expressed it using caps is probably even more accurate judging by the links that popped.
 

I2UNUP

Thanks a lot guys that is just what I was looking for, I hope you could see the pics I posted!
My test kit is API
I live in an apartment building no softener just rocky water lol
I also have some nuclear green danios and some nuclear pink danios that have cycled my tank so now that I'm ready I will look into getting the community together.

Is there any suggestions for high ph/hard water shrimps?
Thanks


 

CindiL

Thanks a lot guys that is just what I was looking for, I hope you could see the pics I posted!
My test kit is API
I live in an apartment building no softener just rocky water lol
I also have some nuclear green danios and some nuclear pink danios that have cycled my tank so now that I'm ready I will look into getting the community together.

Is there any suggestions for high ph/hard water shrimps?
Thanks

Your tank looks awesome! What size is it? Looks like its just waiting for more fish
I don't know much about shrimp but I'm sure if you ask under the crustacean section someone else will.
 

I2UNUP

Thanks it's a custom build, old angled turtle tank. I built around it and I also built that acrylic filter. She wasn't cheap but I'm proud of it, it will eventually run my 120 gallon when I am ready. Anywho I estimate the tank from a calculator to be about 21 gallons. So being that I am running probably 200gph on such a small tank how many community fish can I stock safely ? Ideally I'd love to keep some shrimp and top middle and bottom dwellers.

I know I haven't completed my profile but I'm not entirely new to fish keeping lol I have had phenomenal cichlid tanks. But I must have got lucky without zero testing lol I am just trying to do things right from now on.
I love sharing pics to see what everyone's got going on. And show off a bit lol
I'm not going to lie it is my first planted tank.

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KRiggz

I need some advice. Ive been reading articles all over the Internet trying to understand KH, GH, and reducing pH swings every time I do a PWC. Me and my girlfriend have 2 cycled Aquariums but I'm the one who generally does all the sciency and physical maintenance stuff. Our pH is generally 8.0-8.2 before water changes (comes high out the tap and doesn't lower that much), then afterwards it's around 8.6 possibly slightly higher. I have some driftwood and wanted to get live plants but I need to get a better understanding of GH and KH (I don't have tests for these yet...) How it works and how to prevent my pH from swinging. Usually our fish don't seem to bothered by it but seeing as we have a betta/ghost shrimp tank they won't handle it as well as the fish in the 55 and want to do things right. First things first I know we need to get the KH/GH test but can someone explain to me what exactly they are and what they do in the tank and what things I have to add (buffers?) To make sure it doesn't swing during changes.. also explain what CO2 does when added into a planted Aquarium (I need to know this before adding live plants) I've gotten the hang of managing Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates but now to pursue the best care for our fish I need a simplified version of all 4 aspects mentioned in this post.
 

LeslieRN

Following because I'm new and just starting to have pH swings the past couple of days. And I don't know what the other stuff is that you mentioned.
 

KRiggz

General Hardness and C(K)arbonate Hardness I think? They help in preventing pH swings but that's about all I have comprehended from the things I've read.
 

Over It

I don't know about CO2 and live plants but I have had to learn a lot about KH GH and PH.

Basically KH is the the "buffer" for the PH. If you have a low KH 2-3 you have almost no buffer and therefore you can have PH swings. With the Proper KH level it prevents the PH from swinging. PH isn't quite as important unless you have fish that need a certain PH, usually the ones who must have a very low PH.
GH is how much minerals you have in your water. Your fish and invertebrates need these minerals to stay healthy and regulate their system. Different fish need different levels. For example livebearers like Platys,Mollies etc. Need water with a high GH ( at least 10) and Snails do as well. While Bettas can be fine with a GH of 4 or above.

You will need to find out what the requirements of the fish/inverts you want to keep and then adjust the levels accordingly.

I use Seachem Replenish and Alkaline Buffer. My water went from being very hard to very soft and I only had a KH of 2. Using those products I was very easily able to get and keep my KH at 6-7 and my GH in my Betta and Snail tanks at 8 and my Platy and Goldfish tanks at 10.
It also raised my PH from 6.8 to 7.2. Since you have such a high PH I would look into using the Acid Buffer as well since you really don't want your PH going any higher.

Hopefully this helps.
 

april_fish

How do you test KH and GH?
 

Over It

With a liquid test kit. I had to order mine from Amazon. It's the API GH And KH liquid test kit.

I also had to order the Replenish and Alkaline Buffer since none of the stores near me carry those.
 

OnTheFly

Liquid test kit. kh level is the key to controlling PH swings. PH is pretty easy to stabilize when you understand what you have in your tap.
 

KRiggz

So I tested and my KH is very low. Turns bright blue after 1 drop and doesn't turn yellow at all. Basically I have no KH or very very little. You suggest I use Seachem Replenish with the Alkaline and Acid buffer.. I feel it would be much easier to control our betta tank but dosing in the large one I'll do it if I have to but I wasn't planning on buying 3 different bottles of water modifiers. Is there anything else to use that is acid based to prevent the pH from raising but also raises KH? And the Seachem Replenish is for adding key nutrients back into the water (GH) right? Calcium, Magnesium, ECT.
 

Over It

You can try using just the Alkaline Buffer to raise your KH. It only raised my PH form 6.8 to 7.2, but I also raise my KH from 2 to 6-7. It might be ok, but I can't say how much it will raise your PH since you have less KH than I do.

Yes, the GH is how much minerals you have in your water. Did you test your GH? You might not need the Replenish if you have a good GH level.

I use both the Alkaline Buffer and Replenish in all of my tanks (2-5.5 gal Betta tanks, a 29 Gal. and 36 Gal.) it's really not that bad. For the larger tanks I use 3/4 teaspoon of the Alkaline Buffer and 1 1/2 capfulls of the Replenish for each 25% water change.
 

KRiggz

The place I went only had test strips for multiple different things and a singular liquid KH test kit. I'll get the GH next time I go but I'm focused on getting some KH in our water. I'm scared to use alkaline buffers because of how high my pH is out the tap..

Are there any ways to add KH without affecting pH
 

Over It

Well unfortunately I don't know about anything that will raise your KH without raising your PH for sure.
You could look into something else that will lower your PH. I think I read that peat moss or driftwood would lower it naturally, but don't quote me on that.
 

KRiggz

Yes tannins do. I have 3 pieces of wood. But driftwood isn't a solid way because doing water changes removes tannins making pH higher then once they continue leeching out will drop it again. I guess I can try the Seachem Alkaline + Acid buffer. The hardest/most confusing part of getting the right mix and figuring out dosages. We have a 10 Gallon and 55 Gallon and until we rehome the Pleco very frequent water changes are in order.
 

Over It

Getting the dose right is a bit daunting at first, but once you get it right you can just add the same amount when you do a water change. It took me a few tries to get it right, but now that I have them where I want them and got the dose down, I can just add it to the new water when doing water changes without having to test everything. The only time I test now is if I am doing a larger water change than usual, or maybe once a week just to make sure the levels are staying steady and I still have the correct dosages.

I've never had to lower my PH so I'm sorry I can't help much with that.
 

OnTheFly

Yes tannins do. I have 3 pieces of wood. But driftwood isn't a solid way because doing water changes removes tannins making pH higher then once they continue leeching out will drop it again. I guess I can try the Seachem Alkaline + Acid buffer. The hardest/most confusing part of getting the right mix and figuring out dosages. We have a 10 Gallon and 55 Gallon and until we rehome the Pleco very frequent water changes are in order.
I am of the opinion that dumping chemicals is a bad PH swing waiting to happen at some point. This may not be a solution for you, but I think it is a very safe thing to try. My fish sure like it. My well water is ridiculously hard so most of my tanks are live-bearer tanks and they are all happy. I also have a small tank I use for GBRs and cardinals and they are doing well. This water is mostly R.O. water with a bit of my well in the mix. I am targeting stable PH around 7.4 and kh around 6 to make that stability much more likely. Anyway, I have found driftwood mostly ineffective. It's just way too slow and as you say the next WC takes out any progress. But peat seems to work quicker but gently. I use a bit of my well water to add buffers. I think you could use some crushed coral to add buffers gently and bump the KH. You could mix some in your substrate or if you don't prefer that look put some in the filter in a media bag. A large HOB helps make this possible. I have been using the jiffy peat pots that are used for starting plant seedlings. They are inexpensive but a bag of peat would be even cheaper. You can find them at a garden center or home hardware supply store / Wal-Mart most of the year. You can place a few in the filter box. I even put a few aquarium plants in the peat pots. I haven't hidden them in the substrate yet but will eventually. You can also place peat, or the jiffy peat pots in a media bag and keep the mess down some. It all settles down anyway. I believe this is working because I keep my stocking reasonable and huge WCs are not needed to control nitrates so far. If I were you I would start with a 5G bucket of your tap. Check PH and hardness immediately, then after 24HRS to see what you are working with. If it swings too wildly you can adjust your WC plan. I wouldn't get overly worried about your PH though. I would get it stable and stock fish that prefer or tolerate the water well. You can gradually try to adjust the PH. Don't try to fix everything in a couple days.
 

Zahc

As OnTheFly said above, adding crushed coral or cuttlebone to your tank/filter is a easy, effective, cheap and safe way to raise your KH, but it can also slightly raise your pH and usually GH. If you go this route, add it slowly and monitor your pH and KH regularly until you get the satisfied readings (4-5dKH is a good minimum and will keep it stable). You don't want to add to much to quickly and have a big pH raise, and you need to be careful during water changes as your tap and tank will have slightly different pH readings.

Very large and regular water changes also work, as the new water adds more calcium and re buffers your pH for a while. It's a much more time consuming way to keep a stable pH with a low KH, and not as safe, but shocking fish during water changes is near impossible aslong as the temperature doesn't fluctuate to much.
 

KRiggz

Ok. Thanks for all the great advice. I may have tested incorrectly because I didn't understand how to do it. I took samples into my LFS and this is what they showed me

10 Gallon:
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
pH: 8
KH: 8

55 Gallon:
Ammonia: .25ppm (I feed Pleco zucchinI which is why there's Ammonia and I've removed and done a PWC since then)
Nitrite: 0
pH: 7.8
KH: 8

So now apparently I need the reverse action. How do I remove excessively large amounts of KH from my tap before water changes?
 

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