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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just built my first 5 gallon natural fish tank with soil, gravel, and plants for my betta fish Poppy. I've been testing the water quality with the "API 5 in 1" test strips, which my local aquarium store says they use. The results in both my current 2.6 gallon tank (where my fish currently is) and my new 5 gallon tank (where I will be moving my fish to) have consistently been as follows:

NO3 = O
NO2 = O
pH = 6.0 (sometimes up to 6.3)
KH = 0 (sometimes up to 20)
GH = 0 (sometimes up to 30)

It looks like the pH, KH, and GH could be higher for my betta. It seems the recommendation is more water changes in order to favorably change these numbers, but I also tested my tap water and the results have been the same as the tanks (6 pH, 0 KH, 0 GH).

I'm new to all this and it seems like trying to change these markers may be a risky move. Any suggestions on this before my move my betta to the new tank? Thanks in advance!

BTW, I'm using Seachem Prime for water conditioner.
 

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Seachem bad outside of prime IME in a simple tank you don’t want to dose a lot so you should just use something like crushed coral or baking soda because it lasts long and is cheap. You also should get water buckets and put them in a warm area so they evaporate, after they evaporate in half use them for water
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Seachem Equilibrium

Or you can make your own which would be cheaper in the long run.
You can buy Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate.
Calcium Dosing Procedure

You can add crushed coral/lime to the substrate but that will only increase Calcium & kH, slowly.
Thanks! :) Right now I like the idea of buying a product. In time I'd like to move towards DIY, but for now it seems too complicated. Will the Seachem Equilibrium take care of all the issues, do you think (low pH, KH, and GH)?
 

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Thanks! Do you by chance have a product recommendation? I see some additives that contain those, I'm just not sure which way to go...

For instance: Seachem - Betta Basics or Seachem - Neutral Regulator
If you are going to growing plants, you will need to add calcium and magnesium and potassium to the water. You should have GH above 4-5. The two products you mention are for adjusting pH. They will not add any calcium and magnesium to the water. Useless. You need to look for products that say they will increase water hardness and/or they contain calcium. SeaChem Equilibrium will add Mg, Ca, K, etc, but I don't particularly like it for soil-containing tanks. Over time, if used a lot and for sustained use, it can cause problems. Product contains a ton of sulfates that soil bacteria will convert to toxic H2S. Kill plant roots. However, a one-time dose of it is probably better than nothing. Recipe in my book (p. 87) avoids this sulfate problem, because I use calcium chloride and not calcium sulfate..

If you just want something simple, I would try Wonder Shells. Cost for a Weco Wonder Shell for a 5 gal tank is $1.67 from petproducts.com. Often advertised as a water conditioner, but it's also for increasing water hardness. Clue is that it lists calcium and magnesium as ingredients. Rave reviews (176) on Amazon.

2/8/21 APC post from JatCar95 on Wonder Shells: I've been experimenting (on my single tank, so not very statistical or scientific) with Wonder Shells for a month now. I have very soft, 0 GH water from the tap, so I want an easy way to supply hardness to my water. I have successfully used Ms. Walstad's recipe from the book in the past with success, but wanted an easier way than measuring out specific chemicals (it's not that hard, I'm mostly just lazy).

Enter Wonder Shells. I've heard them mentioned a couple times on the forum and seen them online, but hadn't really considered them before for some reason. I bought a couple from American Aquarium Products (the official seller) to try. The premise is you just plop it in the aquarium and it dissolves slowly to supply calcium, magnesium, etc. More info here at their website: (NOTE: I am NOT using the medicated ones, just regular)

Anyway, here are the results. Tank is 6.5gal for reference:

Jan 6 2021: GH = 9, 1 small shell added
Jan 7: GH = 9
Jan 14: 30% water change, GH = 7 (after change), new shell added as previous had dissolved to 1/4 original size
Jan 15: GH=10
Jan 26: New shell added, previous one 1/5 original size
Feb 8: GH=31

Turns out, they really do raise hardness! Seeing the jump from 7GH to 10GH in one day should have clued me in on this. I am not adding any more shells, as 31 seems too high. My intuition was that the shells would only dissolve until hardness hit a certain level, then stop; however, all three have dissolved over the course of a couple weeks, which makes me think that hypothesis is not correct. Looking back now, I should have done some more regular measurements, and definitely measured before adding the last shell. I may do a water change now to lower the hardness, although all of my tank inhabitants (betta, rasbora espei, MTS, RCS, bladder snails) seem happy as can be, and the plants are growing great. In fact, the snails always climb all over the shells when I first add them in.

Would love to hear if other people have had similar experiences to me. It seems this is a fairly straightforward and cheap way to add necessary plant nutrients to the water column.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If you are going to growing plants, you will need to add calcium and magnesium and potassium to the water. You should have GH above 4-5. The two products you mention are for adjusting pH. They will not add any calcium and magnesium to the water. Useless. You need to look for products that say they will increase water hardness and/or they contain calcium. SeaChem Equilibrium will add Mg, Ca, K, etc, but I don't particularly like it for soil-containing tanks. Over time, if used a lot and for sustained use, it can cause problems. Product contains a ton of sulfates that soil bacteria will convert to toxic H2S. Kill plant roots. However, a one-time dose of it is probably better than nothing. Recipe in my book (p. 87) avoids this sulfate problem, because I use calcium chloride and not calcium sulfate..

If you just want something simple, I would try Wonder Shells. Cost for a Weco Wonder Shell for a 5 gal tank is $1.67 from petproducts.com. Often advertised as a water conditioner, but it's also for increasing water hardness. Clue is that it lists calcium and magnesium as ingredients. Rave reviews (176) on Amazon.

2/8/21 APC post from JatCar95 on Wonder Shells: I've been experimenting (on my single tank, so not very statistical or scientific) with Wonder Shells for a month now. I have very soft, 0 GH water from the tap, so I want an easy way to supply hardness to my water. I have successfully used Ms. Walstad's recipe from the book in the past with success, but wanted an easier way than measuring out specific chemicals (it's not that hard, I'm mostly just lazy).

Enter Wonder Shells. I've heard them mentioned a couple times on the forum and seen them online, but hadn't really considered them before for some reason. I bought a couple from American Aquarium Products (the official seller) to try. The premise is you just plop it in the aquarium and it dissolves slowly to supply calcium, magnesium, etc. More info here at their website: (NOTE: I am NOT using the medicated ones, just regular)

Anyway, here are the results. Tank is 6.5gal for reference:

Jan 6 2021: GH = 9, 1 small shell added
Jan 7: GH = 9
Jan 14: 30% water change, GH = 7 (after change), new shell added as previous had dissolved to 1/4 original size
Jan 15: GH=10
Jan 26: New shell added, previous one 1/5 original size
Feb 8: GH=31

Turns out, they really do raise hardness! Seeing the jump from 7GH to 10GH in one day should have clued me in on this. I am not adding any more shells, as 31 seems too high. My intuition was that the shells would only dissolve until hardness hit a certain level, then stop; however, all three have dissolved over the course of a couple weeks, which makes me think that hypothesis is not correct. Looking back now, I should have done some more regular measurements, and definitely measured before adding the last shell. I may do a water change now to lower the hardness, although all of my tank inhabitants (betta, rasbora espei, MTS, RCS, bladder snails) seem happy as can be, and the plants are growing great. In fact, the snails always climb all over the shells when I first add them in.

Would love to hear if other people have had similar experiences to me. It seems this is a fairly straightforward and cheap way to add necessary plant nutrients to the water column.
Fabulous! Thank you. I will order the wonder shells. :)
 

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I tried wonder shells idk why and they don’t work for me, they are good algae cleaners but that’s it imo
 

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Being from the same area as Kristen, I’ve experienced some similar issues; especially lately.

I have just spent a while reading the various articles on Americana Aquarium and I’m reallly intrigued by it.

I just purchased some of the small shells and will keep a log of my parameter readings. I’ll then share my experiences as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Being from the same area as Kristen, I’ve experienced some similar issues; especially lately.

I have just spent a while reading the various articles on Americana Aquarium and I’m reallly intrigued by it.

I just purchased some of the small shells and will keep a log of my parameter readings. I’ll then share my experiences as well.
I found this video from Aquarium Co Op in Seattle:
.

At the end of the video she talks about using the wonder shells for our soft water here in Seattle!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
That’s aquarium co op, not a smart guy. father fish swears by hard alkaline water for plants and fish 70 years experience is more valid then the guy who sells snake oil for a living IMHO. Here’s a vid of how I test my water, optimum taste is basically dirty paper that leaves a chalk taste in your mouth, you can drink river water as a example, what I described is about 7-8 ph more like 7-7.5 and no nitrate and very hard water
lol! Your frogbit looks great.
 

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I found this video from Aquarium Co Op in Seattle:
.

At the end of the video she talks about using the wonder shells for our soft water here in Seattle!
It's a good video. So many people mistakenly assume that a high pH means that they have hardwater. That is very misleading. For example, pH can be very high due to municipal water treatment, etc. Water calcium is the one major plant nutrient that IMHO gets neglected and lost in the technical minutiae. Plants may turn yellow without nitrogen or iron, but they will still survive. In contrast, without calcium in the water, many plants will die (my book, p.114, Table VII-6). The first few seconds of the video shows this melting away of plants in Seattle water. Ultra-soft water is a common problem in Seattle, New York, Raleigh, etc. Making sure that the GH is above a certain level is critical for planted tanks.

Thanks for posting video link.
 

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I just built my first 5 gallon natural fish tank with soil, gravel, and plants for my betta fish Poppy. I've been testing the water quality with the "API 5 in 1" test strips, which my local aquarium store says they use. The results in both my current 2.6 gallon tank (where my fish currently is) and my new 5 gallon tank (where I will be moving my fish to) have consistently been as follows:

NO3 = O
NO2 = O
pH = 6.0 (sometimes up to 6.3)
KH = 0 (sometimes up to 20)
GH = 0 (sometimes up to 30)

It looks like the pH, KH, and GH could be higher for my betta. It seems the recommendation is more water changes in order to favorably change these numbers, but I also tested my tap water and the results have been the same as the tanks (6 pH, 0 KH, 0 GH).

I'm new to all this and it seems like trying to change these markers may be a risky move. Any suggestions on this before my move my betta to the new tank? Thanks in advance!

BTW, I'm using Seachem Prime for water conditioner.
get some crushed coral and a fine filter media bag. Rinse it well and add it to your filter. It will regulate ph up to 7.2 but if you inject co2, it will be lower. It will also increase your GH, KH and calcium and probably some other trace minerals. All of my tanks did so much better after adding this to them. It only takes a few tablespoons. Maybe less for a 5G.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I put a bit of wonder shell in my fish's 2.6 gallon tank today, and the PH is now at exactly 7, and the rest of the markers are good as well! They say to only put a tiny bit in a planted tank. I'll continue to add more of the wonder shell as needed. I also added some to my snails' 1 gallon tank. At least they are all good for now! :)

However, my new 5 gallon tank's markers are not right. I want to transfer the two snails and the betta to this bigger tank when it's ready. It's been two weeks and the nitrates and nitrites are still high, and the PH is also on the high side. I can see algae growing in tank. The soil instructions said to wait at least two weeks before adding fish. The soil had fertilizer in it, although I've since realized I don't need that. I added some fish food to the tank today. Is this normal cycling, do you think? Should I be doing water changes with this empty tank? At least most of the plants in this tank are looking good. I added some wonder shell to it today as well.
 
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