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Author Topic: Water hardness  (Read 4641 times)
Gregg
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« on: February 02, 2016, 11:59:14 AM »

OK, I am not new to this hobby, if you term it as such, but I am new to understanding all aspects of it to improve my fishes and now. plants, lives. I most often get the question concerning hardness of my water, and it seems as if that if I don't know I must be lacking in intensity regarding my aquarium's health. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  So I called my local water supplier and the young lady and I worked in mutual misunderstanding, and I was embarrassed to press her further as I looked at various websites as we visited.  What I got was "8 grains per gal. or 132 mg/l."  Of what type I did not find out but either GH or KH would put me at moderately hard. Phew, I am an amateur historian but not a chemist at all. I hope that very limited information can aid me some.

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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2016, 02:10:40 PM »

Gregg, here is a link that might help you with the basics of water chemistry. It is well written and not overly technical.
http://fins.actwin.com/mirror/begin-chem.html
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Gregg
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2016, 03:44:20 PM »

Thank you for that tutorial,

Mush of it was over my head. I went to a couple of hard copy sources of aquarium knowledge and in one "The Simple Guide to Fresh Water Aquariums" by Boruchowitz, told me that consistent water chemistry is what is important and that frequent water changes help keep the water just that, consistent. One book about fish, Tropical Freshwater Aquarium Fish" by Schllewen, gave parameters That each species can live in, such as "Water Type 4: pH 6.8-7.5, dH 8-16.  This sort of information is very palatable for me though I realize it is very, very basic.  It still does not help much with parameters for plant growth.  When we talk of ions and symbols such as +++--- my mind goes elsewhere.  Nevertheless I will try to understand more so as to expand this passion and be able to converse with others who are more able to comprehend these important parameters.  I want to take this passion as I do others of mine, but find the chemistry challenging, as I did in 8th grade with the periodic table for example.

Gregg
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russ
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2016, 11:37:22 PM »

Gregg, here is a link that might help you with the basics of water chemistry. It is well written and not overly technical.
http://fins.actwin.com/mirror/begin-chem.html

Pretty good read. I have that same one in my docs somewhere. Another basic to water hardness is that KH does get used up in an aquarium while GH will increase .
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2016, 11:10:17 AM »

I can't believe that I am the only one who may have trouble understanding all aspects of this. I just spent quite some time perusing water hardness in aquariums with different sites and along with the site TwoTankAmin I do feel I know more.  It seems that, in essence, it's easier to select fish and plants that are 1.) adaptable, and 2.) already compatible to your specific water chemistry.  One thing I've noticed is that many fish can live well in PH outside their range in small amounts but rarely reproduce if the water is not specific to their indigenous range.  And yes I understand that PH is a measure of hardness.  Am I to understand that the harder the water the more resistant it is to altering it's chemistry, through the ability of buffering?  It also seems that to attempt to alter the hardness is something best done by those with a greater understanding of water chemistry than, at least, me.  I posted problems once about a rotting anubias rhizome and was asked about all aspects of the water, fair enough certainly, but the aspect of water hardness had me baffled. Am I to presume that the hardness, whether soft or more alkaline, alters the nutrients available, or those elements I add, the ferts?   How far should I take this to insure the health of my enclosed aquatic systems, in other words, what would any of you say I absolutely need to know?  I'm trying here but that water consistency already mentioned seems the most important thing I can do and work with.

Gregg
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russ
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2016, 08:04:08 PM »

Gregg,

Your No. 1 and No. 2 observations are spot on with just a minor assumption on my part. When you mention "adaptable", I assume that means with other fishes and not mostly with water parameters?
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2016, 09:55:23 AM »

Thank you russ, I mean as to water parmeters.

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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2016, 10:39:46 PM »

    I guess my assumption was incorrect then. I have always gone with the premise to keep fishes in which you could most easily maintain within the water parameters from your water supply without relying heavily on extra equipment or chemicals that keep water almost automatically adjusted. (RO, ion exchange, ect.). Each aquarium is different though and as long as you can maintain a good balance without it becoming a choir, then that's the bottom line on keeping fishes and hobbyist happy  happy


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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2016, 10:04:21 AM »

Thanks for the reply! That's good as that premise is what I believe in as well.  Don't know if I gave you the wrong impression somehow.  I am just trying to more fully understand this as it seems everybody knows important aspects of water hardness that I have had some trouble banging it into my head.  So I wonder if the rest of what I asked was valid.  I recently called a local fish shop and was told that their water, I assume the city water in their area, was 8 to 9 degrees dKH.
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TwoTankAmin
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2016, 02:21:17 PM »

I have never understood the relevance of KH to specific fish needs. KH basically involves carbonates, it is intertwines intimately with pH stability. But as a measurement on its own, fish do nor require a specific KH as far as I know. The do have pH needs and even more importantly, hardness needs. But when one starts to drill down on requirements, you find the GH and KH are more general measurements and also somewhat restrictive.

As noe move towards the more scientific side of things Gh and KH fade some and are replaced by conductivity/TDS measurement. Conductivity/TDS are more inclusive in that they include GH and KH and then more. Neither salt nor nitrate are included when measuring either GH or KH but both will show up in conductivity/TDS. Once one moves away from the broader measures what is left are the individual components, things like calcium, magnesium, salt, chloride, ions etcs.

(In any quotes below, blue text means it was added by me.)

When it comes to measuring GH:
Quote
Most test kits give the hardness in units of CaCO3; this means the hardness is equivalent to that much CaCO3 in water but does not mean it actually came from CaCO3.
from the FINS site in my earlier post.

When it comes to KH:
Quote
Hardness is commonly confused with alkalinity (KH).  Alkalinity is a measure of the amount of acid (hydrogen ion) water can absorb (buffer) before achieving a designated pH.  The problem relates to the term used to report both measures, CaCO3 in mg/l.  Just as with hardness, mg/l CaCO3 alkalinity is a general term used to express the total quantity of base (hydrogen ion acceptors) present. If limestone is responsible for both hardness and alkalinity, these values will be similar if not identical.  However, where sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is responsible for high alkalinity it is possible to have low hardness and low calcium.  Acid ground or well water has little or no alkalinity and can have low or high hardness.

Where is pH in all this? Here is a somewhat oversimplified explanation: pH measures the amount of H+ ions in water. The more of these there are, the more acid (lower pH) the water is. H+ is a hydrogen ion. On a basic level, all you need to remember is more H = more acid.


Now, consider this restatement pf the above HK quote,

Quote
Hardness (GH) is commonly confused with alkalinity (KH).  Alkalinity is a measure of the amount of acid (hydrogen ion H+) water can absorb (buffer) before achieving a designated pH.

Think of HK as a sponge that can soak up the H+ ions. When the sponge is full, pH can drop rapidly because the H+ ions can build up in the water.

To put this in another perspective, high pH water needs high KH to hold it that way, but it doesn't need lots of GH.  We typically think of all higher pH water as also being higher GH, but this may not always be the case. A perfect example is the water of the Sulawesi, one of the Indonesian islands. Look at this thread on shrimp from there which gives good info on the water params. When you look at the GH and pH, bear the following in mind re GH:
0 -  4 dH,    0 -   70 ppm : very soft
4 -  8 dH,   70 -  140 ppm : soft
8 - 12 dH,  140 -  210 ppm : medium hard
12 - 18 dH,  210 -  320 ppm : fairly hard
http://www.houstonfishbox.com/vforums/showthread.php?47766-Water-Parameter-Lake-Poso-Lake-Matano-Lake-Towuti-%28June-2011%29

All the locations are pH 8.1 - 8.5, but only one has a GH over 7. A perfect example of higher pH with softer water.

Hopefully this stuff is starting to make more sense. What I can tell you is that I rarely use either my GH or KH test kits, I have a digital TDS meter I use instead. But I also change water parameters in one tank on a permanent basis and others occasionally to simulate dry and rainy seasons. For most hobbyists know you tap GH and KH is usually enough. You want to know GH to get fish which are compatible with it and KH to know how stable your pH should be. Fish have no KH needs per se.
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2016, 03:32:00 PM »

That was very helpful, especially the last paragraph which essentially put in small nutshell what I needed to maintain a viable aquarium. I am going to get a test kit for measuring GH and KH just for that reason.  Some fish ID books I own put their values for a certain species in carbonate hardness, in degrees, and the acidity, pH value.  A notation may read like, Water type, 2: PH  5.5 to 6.8, and degrees dH 3-8.  It seems if I now the essential chemistry this will aid me. I am not uneducated, or too much of a moron, but I find the level of chemistry you choose to help you still beyond me.  Something tells me this will be an ongoing learning process for me.

Thanks again, Gregg
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russ
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2016, 05:45:24 PM »

TDS and conductivity is where I have moved too also. Again, one of the bottom lines to remember when considering GH and KH is that KH will deplete in an aquarium while GH will increase. This will happen automatically due to bio load and processes/cycles that occur inside the aquarium.  happy

It's a hobby......which in itself is a continuing learning process.  happy
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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2016, 07:15:33 PM »

I have tested everyone's patience with it seems.  It's like trying to teach a beginner to cast a fly rod, this sport a passion oddly as old as keeping fish, about 46 years.  I picked it up no problem and so did my boys.  But my grandsons, and others I have tried to teach, "how can you not get it!' I think to myself.  So, to perhaps put this to bed, if I do know the DH and KH, even if I don't fully understand, the values are enough to help select fish and plants?  I mean, if I desire a fish outside those parameters and do not desire to work with the altering the chemistry, I simply avoid that organism?  It is a learning process as you say russ and I do hope to advance through this better. I wish I had someone to talk to one on one but the fish keepers I know know less that I, if you can believe that.

Gregg
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« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2016, 09:55:57 AM »

Gregg.  I have been reading this post with interest.  All that I know about water hardness is:  I read a profile for a fish.  The GH and KH are given (sometimes).  At one point, in the very beginning of my foray  back into this hobby, I measured mine but don't remember really what they were.  So, if the fish are comfortable in the given readings (and what I think my water is), I can buy them.  If they aren't, I can't.  Simple.  I have a life other than fish and cannot afford to get all caught up in water.  lame

Your fish are fine in your water.  The only time it really matters (as far as I am concerned), is if you want Africans, which you don't.  So, in my opinion, just enjoy your fish.  Save your concern for diseases which they may get.  Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2016, 10:20:44 AM »

Wow Pat Mary,
That was a post for sore eyes!  I have stressed over this, and, according to my wife, always will, simply because these parameters are often asked by those intending to help you.  I called my water co. again and received this: winter "hardness" is 5 grains per gallon.  Summer is at 8 grains per gallon. She had no idea of GH or KH. What the heck, the water company you think could help me.  They never answered my emails.  So, I am going to get an API GH and KH yes kit, and go about this as you suggested. 
Thank you, Gregg
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russ
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« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2016, 11:57:21 AM »

Gregg,

That sounds like a plan. We will always be here to cheer you on, counsel, mentor, tactfully scold and share your experiences. There is a saying that 'there is nothing more to life than we already know'. In respect to this hobby, we strive to help both fish's life and life of the hobby  happy


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