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My experience is mostly with invasive's like hydrilla which you don't want to use. I know that Vallisneria does well in alkaline, hard waters. I think Myriophyllum and Bacopa do Ok in hard waters too. Some aquatic plants can absorb the carbonate salts and strip away the carbon from them, and use that as their carbon supply. The list of plants capable of doing this includes many that do very well in aquaria, including Ceratophyllum demersum, Cryptocoryne becketti, Echinodorus bleheri, Egeria densa, Elodea canadensis, and Vallisneria spp - all popular and easy to obtain species. If you have hard water and don't want to be bogged down with carbon dioxide fertilization, then these are definitely the plants for you! Admittedly, some of these plants are fussy in other ways. Echinodorus bleheri, for example, needs a rich substrate and good, strong lighting, but Ceratophyllum demersum and most of the Vallisneria are adaptable and easy to keep. If you want to keep live bearers, then Ceratophyllum demersum is difficult to beat as a floating plant that provides a refuge for newly born fry. Egeria densa, on the other hand, is a sturdy, fast-growing species ideally suited to subtropical tanks. Vallisneria spp. are perhaps the most versatile aquarium plants."
Thats funny this guy would say you should grow these plants because Myrios, Egeria and Elodea are all listed as invasive species in many states across the country. There are several common plants that will grow in moderate to hard water, I don't think thats the question here. What Bert is talking about is the affects of hard water on plants in general and how to deal with it. There are quite a few plants in the hobby now that are considered soft water plants. Some may adapt to moderately hard water, but struggle at best in what Bert describes. I agree that the most ideal over all is somewhere in the middle. The age old question is how beneficial is it really to try and change your parameters? Once you start messing around with chemicals and buffers do you end up creating different problems than what you had in the first place?
 

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Is RO/DI not as popular in planted tanks as it is in reefkeeping? Almost everyone serious about reefkeeping has one. I am just getting started in planted tanks and bought a 150GPD unit that takes my 480ppm tap water down to 11ppm after the RO and down to 0ppm after the DI.
I use RO for evaporation replacement, just so the hard water won't get any harder. But for large water changes on a regular basis, it took all the fun out keeping the tank and made it a chore. No point in that. I'll occasionally do a big RO water change to reset the tank (some of those top-offs are tapwater) but it's just not worth the bother as a regular thing. 'Serious' about growing plants under water? Are you insane? ;-)
 

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I use RO for evaporation replacement, just so the hard water won't get any harder. But for large water changes on a regular basis, it took all the fun out keeping the tank and made it a chore. No point in that. I'll occasionally do a big RO water change to reset the tank (some of those top-offs are tapwater) but it's just not worth the bother as a regular thing. 'Serious' about growing plants under water? Are you insane? ;-)
Agree RO/DI is a pain in the neck, the big advantage is you control Exactly what is in your water.
 

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Agree RO/DI is a pain in the neck, the big advantage is you control Exactly what is in your water.
That is both the big advantage and the big disadvantage. Every time you add water you have to reconstitute it back to match that in the tank. If you don't do this you subject the fish to wildly varying hardness and total dissolved solids, which is not good for the fish. You also need a container to hold change water while you do the reconstituting before adding it to the tank.

It is very beneficial to both the plants and the fish to do regular big water changes, so anything that makes it harder to do that will soon be a royal pain in the neck, and will probably discourage you from doing the water changes often enough.

RO/DI water, in my opinion, is for those with tap water that just isn't usable for plants and fish as it is. Then there is no other choice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
I once considered the RO/DI route, but as Hoppy pointed out, it would just have been too much to deal with - another expense, holding tanks, figuring out how to haul it to the tanks - not worth it. For a while, I tried getting city water from a friend, and using it to change the water in my 10, since that was minimal compared to the 50's. But after 2 water changes, canned that idea.

So, I've learned to live without certain plants, and learned to put up with the issues that come with the hard water.

That's the good thing about a place like this. We can compare our experiences with each other, and maybe pick up an idea or two from each other to make the hobby easier, and increase our knowledge. It's really good to have echoed back from others with similar water all the stuff I have found with my water conditions.

The newest thing I have started dosing is boric acid - according to these directions. Too early to tell whether or not it is making a difference in any stunting issues.
 

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If you want a hard water plant, get some Hydrilla :) I could have shipped you some when I lived in Austin. I'm sure it's banned as an invasive species everywhere by now, but Austin's lakes and rivers are liquid rock and it does quite well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
If you want a hard water plant, get some Hydrilla :) I could have shipped you some when I lived in Austin. I'm sure it's banned as an invasive species everywhere by now, but Austin's lakes and rivers are liquid rock and it does quite well.
Yes, I do believe it is banned throughout the US. It is truly a nasty weed once it gets out in nature and extremely difficult to eradicate. Living here in Florida, I have seen what it can do.
 

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Here in AZ the water is rock hard. In my non-planted 125 I get BBA. To combat this I simple use a 2 gallon juice jug and DIY CO2. Gone.


In my 29 gallon planted RCS tank w/96 wts and pressurized co2 using tap water I have zero algae and my rotalla and dwarf sag and HG grow out of control.

I do 30% wc's twice a month with straight tap and top off as needed with bottled spring water.
 

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Just out of curiosity, has anyone with hard water tried adding a layer of peat/organic soil under the substrate? Kinda like a psuedo-El Natural tank? What effect might that have?

-Dave
 

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I keep a 125G planted African cichlid tank that has a roughly 50/50 mix of Eco-Complete Cichlid Sand (an alkaline buffered substrate) and Eco-Complete Plant Substrate - I know, a bad idea for a planted tank, but I set it up over four years ago before I knew anything about keeping plants and am too stubborn to change it out. Because of the buffered Cichlid Sand the alkalinity ranges from 10-12 dKH. I inject CO2 and keep the pH at 7.1-7.2 which gives me good CO2 levels while the KH remains in the hard range for my African cichlids.

I have an excellent (some might say excessive) amount of light - 480 watts (8x60w) of T-5 VHO and 500 watts (2x250w) of metal halide. The T-5 lights run for roughly ten hours and the halides kick on in the middle of the cycle for a 2.5 hour peak at the full 980 watts (about 8 wpg). I run NO3 at 10-15 ppm, PO4 at 1-1.5 ppm, and dose trace elements, Fe, and K2SO4 daily, with additional iron in the form of ADA's ECA 2-3 times a week. I put an emphasis on keeping nutrient levels very stable because of the high light levels. Other than a persistent, but very low-level, BBA on older leaves of plants like Anubias and Isoetes which others in this thread have mentioned, I have had very few problems with algae as long as macronutrients remain within the target range. I perform a 50% water change weekly.

I've tried keeping just about every type of plant in these conditions to see how they fare. Erios and Toninas do not do well, as is to be expected. My first attempts with some of the softer water Rotalas, Ludwigias, Cambombas, etc. also failed, but I discovered that this was due more to the alkaline nature of the substrate, which damaged the roots of these plants, than the hardness of the water column. By adding pockets of Aquasoil and planting the soft water plants in them I have been able to successfully keep a wide range of finicky plants in hard water: Rotala macrandra, Rotala sp. 'Vietnam', Polygonum sp. 'Sao Paulo', Eichornia diversifolia, Ludwigia senegalensis, and Cabomba furcata, to name a few. I've found that these plants, if given an acidic substrate to promote healthy roots, can be kept in fairly hard water.

Surprisingly, certain plants seem to thrive in the buffered substrate and hard water: Pogostemon stellatus, Pogostemon helferi, Didiplis diandra, Ludwigia inclinata var verticillata 'Cuba' (but unfortunately not 'Pantanal'), and Ammania sp. 'Bonsai', among others. I've also been able to grow carpet plants like Glossostigma elatinoides, Elatine triandra, Riccia fluitans, Lilaeopsis brasiliensis, and Utricularia gramminifolia. Hemianthus callitrichoides did not do well in the Cichlid Sand mixture but did grow well when I planted it on a bed of inert quartz sand substrate. I haven't had any luck with mosses because my Africans shred them and scatter them all over the tank.

I know I've gone about things in a sort of backward manner but in the process I've had pretty good luck keeping a number of these soft water species in a hard water environment. And my African cichlids just love all of the plant cover.
 

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Travis, thanks for that good info. I would like to try out using about 1/4 inch of yard soil mixed with a bit of peat and then top that off with my normal substrate (SMS-type stuff).

My only problem is that I'll have to commit to an aquascape without pulling up plants and moving them around, otherwise, I'll have a mess on my hands when the soil gets into the water column.

-Dave

How much $$ would I have to spend on aquasoil for a 48" x 12" footprint if I decided last minute to go with that? Now I'm VERY curious.
 

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With Aquasoil I usually estimate about 5-6 liters per square foot for 1.5-2" coverage. The large bags of Aquasoil are 9 liters and, since you're in Houston, I think you can get them directly from Jeff at ADG for the best price going - $28 per bag. If you're using it as your sole substrate you might be able to get away with just two bags, but I suspect you may want more. If you're mixing it with anything else then two bags should do just fine.

While $28 per bag may seem expensive consider that most other substrates go for around $20-25 per bag and contain 15-20 pounds. I've weighed several 9 liter bags of Aquasoil and they are consistently 22-23 pounds so you are getting more for your money, making the cost difference very slight if you don't have to pay for shipping. And Aquasoil is definitely the best stuff I've used.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Interesting observation about the acidic root zones, Travis. Have you tried just floating some of these without planting them?
 

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Bert - Good point. I have allowed some to float for 2-3 days but I can't say that I payed close enough attention to tell you if it made any difference. I will try floating Rotala sp. 'Vietnam' for seven days to see how it does.
 
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