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Here's a letter I just received from a person trying to grow Amazon Swordplants in Softwater. I advised him to harden up the water if he wanted to grow big swords. Either that or forget about Swordplants and just use plants that will grow well in softwater. As always, my advice has been to add many different plant species to a new tank setup. Trying to focus on just one (in this case Amazon Swordplants) is counterproductive.

Maybe some of you folks with softwater will have some ideas to help him out.

His dismal results with breeding softwater cichlids in hardwater are well-known. Adult fish will do fine, but their eggs and fry are hurt by the hardwater. He does have a problem confusing pH with water hardness. You can have a high pH and still have softwater. Hardwater reflects calcium and magnesium concentration. Usually, water with high pH is hardwater, but lots of city water have a high pH but very softwater. (Many cities with softwater add chemicals to bring the pH up to protect metal pipes from acid corrosion.)


"If you know what is a good "product recipe " to add to RO water to get it
to about Ph 7 or 7.2 with some hardness, please tell me. That is to
say, whatever is good water for these big swords.

I can add my well water to the RO water but it is a very crude method. One
cup of my well water (very hard with a PH of 7.6 or 7.8) added to 45 gallons
of RO water will give me a PH of 7.6/7.8 . I always figured that it was just
too high for most of my soft water fish, certainly most, if not all of them,
won't breed successfully. The eggs won't hatch or if they do (and you are
congratulating yourself on success) you will likely as not create 99 to 100%
females. I've done that one a few times. This tank is not a real breeding
tank though, more of an accidental if it happens sort of tank."
 

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Here's a letter I just received from a person trying to grow Amazon Swordplants in Softwater. I advised him to harden up the water if he wanted to grow big swords. Either that or forget about Swordplants and just use plants that will grow well in softwater. As always, my advice has been to add many different plant species to a new tank setup. Trying to focus on just one (in this case Amazon Swordplants) is counterproductive.

Maybe some of you folks with softwater will have some ideas to help him out.
Hi Diana,
Tell your person that he/she can grow all Echinodorus just fine in softwater, if he will provide CO2. My plants in that family do just dandy. In fact, softwater conditions may prevent the plants from typically becoming monters in a hard water setup. Swordplants dont only do well with HCO3-. They can use other forms of carbon just fine. Some KH builder wont hurt, so suggest dosing of baking soda or your person can slightly buffer his water with lime which will provide the minimal amounts of Ca and Mg that in fact all plants need. Also suggest adding NPK which may be lacking.
Will you be coming to Patricia's? The next meeting can be at my place.
-Neil
 

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Hi Diana,
Will you be coming to Patricia's? The next meeting can be at my place.
-Neil
You betcha!

Hi Neil,

Thanks very much for your information and practical tips. Since he injects a fair amount (15 ppm) of CO2 (in an earlier letter to me that I should have included), its probably not CO2 deficiency.

Along the lines of what you've suggested, he needs to buy a water hardness kit to measure GH, start adding some calcium and magnesium to get the GH up to 6-8. Since he's already adding CO2, he should be able to toss in a little lime without worrying about increasing the pH.

Important Note. For hobbyists without CO2 injection, I recommend the 'Calcium Dosing Procedure' that uses calcium chloride instead of lime, seashells, oyster grit, etc (contain calcium carbonate). Calcium chloride goes into solution immediately and won't bring pH up. 'Calcium Dosing Procedure' is within the "Useful Procedures" folder at top of this forum.

If bringing water hardness up to GH 6-8 doesn't help bring swordplants back, then it may be that his 9 year old substrate (soil/fluorite) has "given out" (soil packing? allelochemicals?). My clay garden soil gave out at about 10 years; my two Swordplants shrunk to almost nothing (yellowish, 4" leaves, at best). I tore tank down and set it up with new soil, and Swordplants quickly came back to life.
 

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You betcha!
Important Note. For hobbyists without CO2 injection, I recommend the 'Calcium Dosing Procedure' that uses calcium chloride instead of lime, seashells, oyster grit, etc (contain calcium carbonate).
If bringing water hardness up to GH 6-8 doesn't help bring swordplants back, then it may be that his 9 year old substrate (soil/fluorite) has "given out" (soil packing? allelochemicals?).
Diana,
dont forget about Mg. The ratio of Ca to Mg should be between 3:1 and 10:1. The former is more typical of soft water. If you want the minerals to dissolve quickly you can combine CaCl2 with MgSO4. I know you dont like to add SO4, but in the small amounts needed for Mg, it wont noticeably affect that amount that may already be there. In Raleigh tap water, SO4 is 25ppm.
With dolimitic lime, you get to add Ca, Mg in the 3:1 ratio for GH, and CO3 for KH all in one big swoop.

I also think that NPK deficiency should not be overlooked. While N and P may be sufficient with large fish load (from feeding), the K must be separately added (as you know!). When i had few fish and small fish feeding, i needed to add the complete suite of macro nutrients to keep the sword plants happy. Hard waters often have sufficient N and P.
--Neil
 

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Adding one cup of well water to an aquarium full of RO water won't do anything. To get a reasonable level of Ca and Mg he'll probably need to add a few gallons even to get a modest GH level.

He should consider investing in a good kit to measure KH and GH levels. I'm guessing he has far less than he thinks.

I personally like CaSO4 instead of CaCl2. It doesn't add carbonate but it also avoids Cl. Much of what we add already contributes sodium ions (baking soda) and adding chloride ions serves to create dilute NaCl solution which isn't particularly good for plants.
 
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