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Old 06-19-2020, 06:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Increasing Water Hardness Recipe

Recently, I increased water hardness in my tanks with growing guppies, plants, and molting shrimp. This is because the well water I use went from a GH of 10-17, when I last measured it back around 1991 and 2007, to a too-low GH of 3. The decrease was due to continuous rainfall last few years. I followed the basic ideas in my book (p. 87). Goal was to increase water hardness in my tanks by adding key nutrients Ca, Mg, and K in as easy a manner as possible. This recipe won’t increase pH (no carbonate salts) and it avoids loading up tank with sulfates by using commercial products (all the Ca, K, Mg come as sulfate salts).

I prepared (or had on hand) two key stock solutions.

Calcium: One is a CaCl2 (calcium chloride) solution. Mine was a saturated solution in an ancient bottle from a lab giveaway that I have kept for 20 years (photo). All CaCl2 preparations—barring those kept in a lab dessicator or lab oven--usually come with attached water molecules, plus CaCl2 quickly forms a liquid. So you can’t really measure out crystals or liquids of CaCl2 accurately and assume you have added so much of the actual Ca. Measuring the effect that a CaCl2 addition has on GH is the best and most accurate way to measure how much Ca you are adding.

I added 5 ml (about one teaspoon) of the CaCl2 liquid (from brown bottle in photograph) to my 20 gal (80 liter tank). Starting GH was 4 and the addition increased it to 8, so the addition increased the GH by 4. This result with a 1:16,000 dilution was very acceptable. Done!

Magnesium: MgSO4 was from Epsom salts I bought at drug store (photo). Crystals came with some added fragrances, but otherwise its mostly MgSO4. Like CaCl2, MgSO4 comes with attached water molecules and gradually absorbs water, so you have to measure its effect on GH.

To prepare stock solution, I added 2 Tablespoons (~36 grams) of the Epsom salts to 2 cups (~500 ml) of tapwater. I had no idea how much this would increase GH, so I tested it by adding 1 ml to a quart of tapwater (~1 liter or 1,000 ml). GH increased from 3 to 5, so I knew that a 1:1,000 dilution would increase GH by 2 solely due to Mg.

Potassium: I purchased KCl from grocery store as a “salt substitute.” I added 2 teaspoons (~12 g) to the Mg stock solution I prepared earlier. Fortunately, it did not form a precipitate. Thus, I could add Mg and K at the same time from this Mg/K stock solution.

I decided that my tank would do fine with a:1:16,000 dilution of each of my two stock solutions (Ca and Mg/K) in the tank water. (The main thing was getting enough calcium into the water.) To get a 1:16,000 dilution, I add 5 ml (~1 tsp) of each stock solution to 20 gal (80 liter) of tank water. 80 liters divided by 5 ml = 16,000. For a 10 gal tank, I’ll add 2.5 ml of each stock solution, the same 1:16,000 dilution. When I change water I’ll just add some of each stock solution. It doesn’t have to be that accurate and doubling or tripling the 1:16,000 dilution “dose” that I add should not cause any problems.

In my experience, adding shells (CaCO3) to increase GH hasn’t helped that much or worked fast enough. For example, I added 1 tsp of oyster grit to a 1 gal shrimp bowl and a month later GH had not increased above the starting GH of 3. If you use shells, please actually measure the GH in tank water to make sure that they are working.
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Old 06-19-2020, 10:36 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Increasing Water Hardness Recipe

Yup, I have a bag of CaCl2 & MgCl2. They've absorbed the humidity and now solid and almost slushy. You can get MgCl2 off amazon. It's used to make Tofu.
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Old 06-19-2020, 12:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Increasing Water Hardness Recipe

Is it possible that your well is getting groud water infiltration? is the water even slighy turbid? Mine is 150 feet deep and the chemustry never changed, regardless of rainfall.
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Old 06-19-2020, 02:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Is it possible that your well is getting ground water infiltration? is the water even slightly turbid? Mine is 150 feet deep and the chemistry never changed, regardless of rainfall.
I'm sure there's surface water infiltration. Water gets turbid every once in awhile. When I moved onto my wooded 4 acres 33 years ago, there was an old dog house over the well head. I replaced it myself with a little structure using concrete blocks for the sides and fiberglass panels for the top. But I never added the recommended concrete platform covering the surrounding soil, because I just hate mixing concrete!

Had a good laugh about MgCl2 used for making Tofu.

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Old 06-19-2020, 04:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Increasing Water Hardness Recipe

I once lived in an old house that started as a spring house in the 18'th centory. Over time more house was built around the spring until the house became something like a 3 bedroom cape co. The original spring still served as the water supply, and its outflow flowed through a channel in the basement.

Sculpins bred under rocks in the basement and elodea and water cress grew copiously outside. It was quite nice.

The spring was polluted with surface water. A chlorinater metered a tiny amout of Clorox into the water as it was drawn. We detected no taste in the water and no one got ill from it.

But when one drank from the spring outside the house, he - only guys did this <g> - was guaranteed to have an upset stomach the next day, but the cold water was so tasty on a hot day that it was worth it!

This was in a somewhat developed area, not a large wooded lot, but it is risky to drink surface water anywhere. Birds and animals, living and dead, can leave debris on land surfaces that wash into drinking water supplies and cause illness. One should not drink surface water. My opinion, of course.

Bill
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Old 06-19-2020, 05:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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because I just hate mixing concrete!
Is it weird that I love mixing concrete?
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Old 06-19-2020, 05:20 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Is it weird that I love mixing concrete?
Yes! it is back-breaking work! Next time we have a project, will you come to our house?
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Old 06-19-2020, 06:51 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Is it weird that I love mixing concrete?
Yes, they have pills for that now.
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Old 06-19-2020, 08:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I mix concrete in a wheel barrel, saves the back. I had to reseal a leaky toilet the other day. It’s impossible to lift that thing without straining your back.
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Old 06-22-2020, 04:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Increasing Water Hardness Recipe

Thanks for sharing this. I added some Oyster grit to my canister filter and hoping it does the trick because I’m not excited about playing chemist.
I bought some CaCO3 in fine powder “food grade” form and cannot get it to dissolve in water. Added barely a teaspoon to 36gallons, ended up with cloudy water and GH didn’t budge.
Guess I need to try CaCl


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