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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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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
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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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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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


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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I wanted to share this about water hardness as it relates to fish. I was concerned about my "off the charts" hard water here in San Diego from my well. So I asked Dan from Dan's Fish. This is what he said:

"Thanks for the email. The good news is that soft water fish adapt almost instantly to hard water...it is going from hard water to soft that there are issues, so your hard water is actually a blessing. The only time hard water is detrimental is if you are actually trying to breed the fish. Several soft water species have eggs that don't develop well in hard water...lots do, but, if breeding blackwater species is the goal, then an RO unit might be in order. If breeding is not the goal, then hard water is actually your friend."

Harder water is good for most plants because of the increased minerals and nutrients. I was concerned about my water being too hard for many fish. Dan's answer to my concern has eased my mind about my hard water quite a bit. I wonder if plants have a similar adaptation ability that fish do. In other words, do soft water plants adapt to hard water easier than hard water plants adapt to soft water?
 

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Not too many years ago we believed that softer water was ideal for many plants, but it looks like this might have been another of the myths that we all blindly accepted. I have no idea whether it is a myth or a fact, but I do find it very interesting. It is another opportunity for some of us amateur scientists to do some experimenting.
 

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Not too many years ago we believed that softer water was ideal for many plants, but it looks like this might have been another of the myths that we all blindly accepted. I have no idea whether it is a myth or a fact, but I do find it very interesting. It is another opportunity for some of us amateur scientists to do some experimenting.
When I first started my research into Walstad tanks, my water hardness was my main concern. Our city's tap water is very hard at 28(the area I live in is the highest) with an equally high KH. I thought my water would be too hard for this type of setup that I tried softening water in an empty small tank. I did a 50-50 of tap water and distilled water and my hardness didn't budge. lol

I've recently gotten some shrimp and I've always had a ton of snails in my tank so now I'm thankful that my water is hard because those little guys do better with it.
 

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In other words, do soft water plants adapt to hard water easier than hard water plants adapt to soft water?
It's not a question of adaptation but getting nutrients plants need for the synthesis of their proteins, DNA, Ca channels, etc.

Hardwater nutrients (Ca,Mg, K, S, etc) are essential for life, plants and fish. Softwater plants come from softwater habitats because they have adapted to an environmental niche where they they can survive better than "hardwater" plants. It gives them a competitive edge. Softwater plants are more adept than hardwater plants in sifting these nutrients out of the water. When softwater plants are transported to hardwater, they are in heaven. Now they finally can get these vital nutrients in abundance. (See p. 117 in my book for my experiment on getting a much greater yield growing softwater plants in hardwater.)

The reverse--transferring hardwater plants to a softwater tank--is a disaster. Now these plants are in an environment that contains none of the vital nutrients (Ca, Mg, K, S, etc) that they need. Plus, hardwater plants don't have the ability of softwater plants to sift these nutrients efficiently out of the water.

Decades ago, I couldn't understand how Arizona Aquatic Gardens and Florida aquatic plant nurseries (working with superhard water) could grow aquarium plants to sell. I too bought into the myth that softwater plants need softwater. Now, I understand.
 

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Diana, thank you so much for the recipe. I live in Portland, Oregon, and our water is very soft. this recipe will come in handy :)
What is your opinion on use baking soda or crushed coral to increase hardness?
 

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Hi everyone,
This is my first post in this forum. English is not my first language so I apologize if you have difficulty understanding.
This is my second attempt on nano Walstad tank. I live in Melbourne, Australia and water here is very soft. According to the Melbourne waters website it has GH of 10-18 milligrams per litre. Calcium is 3.0-5.0 ml/L Magnesium 1.0 -1.5 ml/L. Water analysis report Area Silvan.

I am trying to make stock solution to increase water hardness. I am bit lost with the calculations and don't have GH test kit. I have purchased 100% pure KCL food grade, 100% Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salt), Calcium Chloride (Damprid) Found this from a forum, people using it in reef tank. According to the forum 250 grams Calcium chloride (damprid) makes 3 liter of stock with 14,700 ppm of calcium (Forum Link) Datasheet.

Is it possible to figure out how much of each I use to create stock solution and how much stock solution I can use in 40 liter tank.

Thanks
 

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I'm sorry if this is not directly related to the topic. Recently I've noticed that my bladder snail's shell is hanging high from it's body and some of them is visibly deteriorating (pic attached). Do you guys think it's because of lack of GH and KH in my water?
 

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