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Dealing with hard tapwater with high nitrates

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany
I assume you don't measure pH electronically then? I've just had a look online and I can find cheap TDS meters including an Amtra model, but no pH meters that seem to be up to standard.
I measure pH with a wide margin for error with a drip test. Sometimes. A pH meter won't work due to the conductivity being too low. Drip tests need a minimum KH to work, the meters a minimum EC. Both are not given in my tank, but I know how far the drip test is off, so I can work with the results.

Wow, I'm surprised floating plants wont grow. I intend to grow floating plants because my tanks lights are built in and pretty bright, I had hoped frogbit at least would grow in a low nutrient environment, albeit slowly.
Surprised? The water is almost pure H2O. We take everything out with an RO unit and if I didn't put anything in there, the plants would just melt for good. Frogbit is always the first to dissolve.

I'm curious, do you mind sharing what you're keeping? I'm currently swaying towards 12 or so Nannostomus sp and a pair of Apistos. If I can find them I'd eventually love to keep Biotoecus Opercularis, but I've never seen them for sale. I'd love to try and keep Copella species as dither fish although I'm not sure I have the space (80 x 40 roughly) and rarely see them for sale.
I posted that in another thread yesterday or so, but: 12 Nannostomus eques and 5 juvenile Dicrossus filamentosus. I'll have to reduce the number of cichlids presumably, when the sexes are clear. I have to be really lucky with that to be able to keep them all.
Biotoecus need a lot of open sand area, Copella like dense vegetation. Maybe not the best combination. The tank footprint would be ok though.

OK, I assume you remove the cones from whatever you make the extract in after a few days? So if I were to use a 25 litre container I'd add a bag of roughly 250 Alder Cones plus some Rooibus teabags, leave them in for a few days then remove them, right?
I usually make the extract a day in advance of use. 250 Alder cones is enough for 30-40 liters. You would have to aerate that container to prevent fouling. Because whenever you add organic material to water it will start to decompose. The process of bacterial colonization of the material depletes Oxygen quickly.

Are the Rooibus teabags useful for lowering the pH or used simply to deepen the colour of the water as described in your primer?
Rooibos has minimal impact on pH, but it has some. I use the stuff for economical reasons. It's going towards spring and the places where I usually collect the cones myself has been swiped clean by the river flooding the area an additional time this winter to the usual times the place is flooded. Rooibos helps me to ration the alder cones. It works nonetheless.
The primer is written with a different audience in mind, that tends to cut corners, not ask questions and being upset if something doesn't work. That's a problem with the place where I uploaded it. So I edited several portions over the past months and I now realize I might have unintentionally dumbed it down to a degree. At least it keeps people from making the kinds of mistakes that kill fish and me out of trouble. Imagine me being careless in my choice of words and people making mistakes and making me responsible. Not what I want to get into.

I have a question though, in the primer you say "If you decide for a plantless blackwater setup, 50% waterchange a week are an absolute must, with no exceptions and barely any wiggle room." Is this simply because the plants are need to use up some of the nutrients being released? 50% seems high when trying to maintain very stable conditions, especially if I plan on keeping sensitive species such as Chocolate Gouramis one day.
Absolute stability is a myth. As long as the TDS and EC are constant you are fine. 50% are necessary in tanks without plants and a medium to high stocking density, mostly as you have additional bioload thanks to all the rotting plant material and no consumers ( = plants). Somewhere all the nutrients and waste products dissolved in the water have to go. If plants won't use them, there is only the possibility of removal and that's waterchanges. That principle applies to these tanks the same way as with other tank setups.
I advise for lower stocking densities, but yet again, in my experience this is a advice many people tend not to listen to. You will be surprised how often I say "Maybe 10-15 dithers and a pair of dwarf cichlids" and people end up against advice with an additional 10 Corydoras, a bristlenose pleco and 5 honey gourami. I think a lot of my frustration with users on that platform speaks from that article and it only just becomes apparent.

Sorry for that. But I'm happy it helped nonetheless.
 

Ben Rhau

Apisto Club
Messages
379
Location
San Francisco
I assume you don't measure pH electronically then? I've just had a look online and I can find cheap TDS meters including an Amtra model, but no pH meters that seem to be up to standard.
Yeah, to get one that isn't disposable, you'll end up paying about the same as if you got the Hanna combo meter. Then you need to factor in calibration solutions, storage solution, and eventually replacing the probe. The alternative is not to know the precise pH, which turns out fine for most people. Just keep the conductivity low and add botanicals, and the pH will probably be low enough eventually.

A pH meter won't work due to the conductivity being too low. Drip tests need a minimum KH to work, the meters a minimum EC.
For the pH meter, you can get around the low conductivity by adding salt to the sample. I don't know how to fix the drip test, and pH 6 is usually the bottom of the testable range. Mac, how do you get a 4.5 reading?

-B
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany
For the pH meter, you can get around the low conductivity by adding salt to the sample. I don't know how to fix the drip test, and pH 6 is usually the bottom of the testable range. Mac, how do you get a 4.5 reading?
I know, by adding salts that only raise conductivity and not pH you can circumvent the problem for the pH-meter. But I have sold that thing off again as I have no further use for it. I don't see a reason to get a 500 gram pack of kalium chloride salt just for that purpose with the minimal amounts I need.

For the drip test I first simply researched the impact on precision, including asking the manufacturer. Turns out I have to expect +/- 1.0 pH with the one I use (JBL pH 3-10). As it was clear that a result of 3.5 to maybe 4.0 couldn't be the case (my fish would have shown signs of hyperacidity long before that and probably dropped dead), -1.0 (meaning 2.5) was also out of the question, so I determined I would most likely be +1.0, meaning in the 4.5 area. I got that checked by an acquaintance that has lab access with her determining 4.4 to 4.9 in a row of 10 lab grade tests. And since then I know my estimate was roughly right and what to expect from the results.

As long as TDS/EC are in the right ball park and neither fish nor plants show any problems that would be due to too low pH, all is well and I don't see a need to get measuring devices I don't need that urgently anyway.
 

dw1305

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Messages
2,545
Location
Wiltshire UK
Hi all,
I'll start collecting Oak leaves and Alder cones in the Autumn and I'll just have to be patient.
You've still got a least another month in which you can find last years. Sapling Oaks will keep their leaves until the new ones start to grow.
The plants wouldn't work without vertilizer, neither the botanicals nor the fish (or both together) add enough bioload to sustain the plants.
I use my floating plant as an indication of <"when to add"> a (minimal amount) of fertiliser. Pistia stratiotes, Salvinia "auriculata" and Limnobium laevigatum will all persist in very soft, low nutrient water, although their growth rates will be a fraction of what they are in conditions more conducive to plant growth.

<"TNC complete"> would be a fertiliser option. Personally I use a very dilute <"terrestrial plant fertiliser">, but you would need to be aware of the risk in using urea (CO(NH2)2) as your nitrogen source.

cheers Darrel
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany
I use my floating plant as an indication of <"when to add"> a (minimal amount) of fertiliser. Pistia stratiotes, Salvinia "auriculata" and Limnobium laevigatum will all persist in very soft, low nutrient water, although their growth rates will be a fraction of what they are in conditions more conducive to plant growth.
Same here, I can confirm the observation.
 

ARK93

Member
Messages
35
Location
East Yorkshire - England - UK
Surprised? The water is almost pure H2O. We take everything out with an RO unit and if I didn't put anything in there, the plants would just melt for good. Frogbit is always the first to dissolve.
Like I said, I expected frogbit to grow, albeit very slowly. I guess I'll look into the fertilisers others mentioned elsewhere.
12 Nannostomus eques and 5 juvenile Dicrossus filamentosus. I'll have to reduce the number of cichlids presumably, when the sexes are clear. I have to be really lucky with that to be able to keep them all.
Fingers crossed you have just a couple of males at most then. It sounds like an excellent combination though.
Biotoecus need a lot of open sand area, Copella like dense vegetation. Maybe not the best combination. The tank footprint would be OK though.
Sorry, I could have been clearer, the Biotoecus and Copella sp. would not be kept in the same tank, both species would likely get their own species setups one day.
I usually make the extract a day in advance of use. 250 Alder cones is enough for 30-40 liters. You would have to aerate that container to prevent fouling. Because whenever you add organic material to water it will start to decompose. The process of bacterial colonization of the material depletes Oxygen quickly.
Keeping it aerated wouldn't be a problem, I have a spare air pump which is far too big for my current tank. Thanks for the tip though.
The primer is written with a different audience in mind, that tends to cut corners, not ask questions and being upset if something doesn't work. That's a problem with the place where I uploaded it. So I edited several portions over the past months and I now realize I might have unintentionally dumbed it down to a degree. At least it keeps people from making the kinds of mistakes that kill fish and me out of trouble. Imagine me being careless in my choice of words and people making mistakes and making me responsible. Not what I want to get into.
I get it. Working in aquatics I got used to dumbing things down for certain customers. You quickly learned to judge peoples attention span and level of interest and deliver explanations that would atleast allow their fish to survive, even if you knew they wouldn't thrive. Of course if people were just plain ignorant I had the option to refuse a sale, which was used several times a week usually.
You will be surprised how often I say "Maybe 10-15 dithers and a pair of dwarf cichlids" and people end up against advice with an additional 10 Corydoras, a bristlenose pleco and 5 honey gourami. I think a lot of my frustration with users on that platform speaks from that article and it only just becomes apparent.

Sorry for that. But I'm happy it helped nonetheless.
Believe me, I will NOT be surprised at all. I heard everything in the two years or so I worked in aquatics. I've heard everything from Piranhas in Biorbs to a guy who claimed to have 3 Sturgeon and 60 Koi in a 3 m x 3 m pond.

There's no need to apologise!

The alternative is not to know the precise pH, which turns out fine for most people. Just keep the conductivity low and add botanicals, and the pH will probably be low enough eventually.
That sounds fair enough to me, I guess I'll know if my water has turned hyper-acidic because my fish will go belly up...
For the pH meter, you can get around the low conductivity by adding salt to the sample.
Interesting, is that fairly easy to do? Does it result in a decent degree of accuracy?
You've still got a least another month in which you can find last years. Sapling Oaks will keep their leaves until the new ones start to grow.
To be honest by the time I finish decorating it may well be Autumn again. I also have to prepare my front garden so I can move the soil heap behind my garage onto it to make space for the water butts. I may however take a look for some Oak leaves and Alder cones over the weekend since I'll be on a local nature reserve anyway, I can then have a play around with some small containers and test the effects on pH over then next few weeks.
 

ARK93

Member
Messages
35
Location
East Yorkshire - England - UK
Aqualife Leyland is also a very nice shop. They often have a good stock of not-so-common Apistogramma. And they deliver to your door...
I spent my lunch break looking back through Aqualife Leylands recent FB posts. They've had some really nice fish in lately and several are on my wish list! Vaillant's Chocolate Gourami, Dario sp. Myanmar, Psuedomugil luminatus, I could fill my house with tanks of fish from there if I had more time.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany
Like I said, I expected frogbit to grow, albeit very slowly. I guess I'll look into the fertilisers others mentioned elsewhere.
I at first hoped it would at least just live. Then it started dissolve in a kind of rot that turned out to be just nitrogen deficiency. I had great specimens from others, nowerdays from my own small plant cube which I use now just to have replacements for floaters in case I forget to dose fertilizers.

Fingers crossed you have just a couple of males at most then. It sounds like an excellent combination though.
I hoped for maybe a 2:3 ratio. I cannot say for sure, but I have a feeling I end up with 3:2.

Keeping it aerated wouldn't be a problem, I have a spare air pump which is far too big for my current tank. Thanks for the tip though.
Just be aware, that even aerated it won't be good for longer than some weeks if stored at a cool place. Unless you need big amounts at once, I find the method a bit wasteful.

I get it. Working in aquatics I got used to dumbing things down for certain customers. You quickly learned to judge peoples attention span and level of interest and deliver explanations that would atleast allow their fish to survive, even if you knew they wouldn't thrive. Of course if people were just plain ignorant I had the option to refuse a sale, which was used several times a week usually.
Believe me, I will NOT be surprised at all. I heard everything in the two years or so I worked in aquatics. I've heard everything from Piranhas in Biorbs to a guy who claimed to have 3 Sturgeon and 60 Koi in a 3 m x 3 m pond.

There's no need to apologise!
Overread that before. No further questions your honour! :) We are in the same boat there. Awareness of such things kept me from going into the trade myself. 10 years of semi-professional breeding as a family business has taught me enough.
 

ARK93

Member
Messages
35
Location
East Yorkshire - England - UK
Just be aware, that even aerated it won't be good for longer than some weeks if stored at a cool place. Unless you need big amounts at once, I find the method a bit wasteful.
I'll bare that in mind. I'm swaying towards the idea of preparing the water for the following week during my water change. My theory is I can fill a bucket with rain water after completing a water change, add my alder cones and some Oak leaves and pop an airstone in. This will give the tannins time to leach out and the leaves time to sink. I can remove the alder cones after a couple of days easily enough. Then I'll just have to warm the water a bit prior to adding it to the tank.
Overread that before. No further questions your honour! :) We are in the same boat there. Awareness of such things kept me from going into the trade myself. 10 years of semi-professional breeding as a family business has taught me enough
It's a shame. I guess the wrong information is been given out by Aquatics shops because knowledgeable aquarists won't want to work in them.
 

ARK93

Member
Messages
35
Location
East Yorkshire - England - UK
More like owners of the shops don't want knowledgable aquarists to work for them.
I think that's a bit too much of a generalisation. The store I worked in was very keen on sharing accurate information with customers and giving them the best chance at taking good care of their fish, even if sometimes that meant steering a customer away from a purchase. Several of my colleagues were marine biology or zoology students and all were keen fish keepers themselves.

Unfortunately there were times when I had to take an approach of damage limitation, selling fish to customers knowing the fish might not be kept in the best possible conditions, but better that than the customer buying fish elsewhere and keeping them in outright atrocious conditions. Lots of my former customers started off very hit and miss fish keepers but are now passionate enthusiasts who pass on their knowledge to others.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany
Unfortunately there were times when I had to take an approach of damage limitation, selling fish to customers knowing the fish might not be kept in the best possible conditions, but better that than the customer buying fish elsewhere and keeping them in outright atrocious conditions.
That's what I wanted to point to. It's still a job and that means dependence on successful sales. I was a bit cynical with my statement. I'm glad stores here are finally getting it. It's usually not the employees it's most often the manager/owner. I know stores that are run 90% by the owners themselves. If those don't care for anything but profit... that's when I know the store is doomed.
 

ARK93

Member
Messages
35
Location
East Yorkshire - England - UK
I'm glad stores here are finally getting it
Germans, or at least a group within Germany seem to have a different approach to people in the UK when it comes to keeping pets of most types.

My partner and I had a Hamster until recently and when looking into their care we found that many of the best websites and Youtube channels dedicated to their care were from Germany. I've found the same thing for rabbits in the past too. Most people in the UK seem to consider pets of all types little better than house decorations or social media props.

It's usually not the employees it's most often the manager/owner. I know stores that are run 90% by the owners themselves. If those don't care for anything but profit... that's when I know the store is doomed.
I've always felt that whether you value pure profit or animal welfare a policy of actively trying to improve the fish-keeping abilities of your customers is best. After all, who will spend more money on their hobby in the long run, the folks who unsuccessfully keep an overcrowded community tank plagued with constant fish death before giving up the hobby altogether, or the enthusiast who continually adds to their collection of tanks, buying new fish and supplies over the years? Not to mention the fact that many of the customers I gained had come to us after receiving poor advice from pushy sales staff elsewhere. It seems like a no brainer to me.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany
I've always felt that whether you value pure profit or animal welfare a policy of actively trying to improve the fish-keeping abilities of your customers is best. After all, who will spend more money on their hobby in the long run, the folks who unsuccessfully keep an overcrowded community tank plagued with constant fish death before giving up the hobby altogether, or the enthusiast who continually adds to their collection of tanks, buying new fish and supplies over the years? Not to mention the fact that many of the customers I gained had come to us after receiving poor advice from pushy sales staff elsewhere. It seems like a no brainer to me.
I agree. But many would likely not. I keep to the old saying: Don't kill the cow if you can milk it instead. Seems today many are lactose intolerant but wantto have burgers for dinner.
Germans, or at least a group within Germany seem to have a different approach to people in the UK when it comes to keeping pets of most types.
I can't see this. I mean, while yes, the number of people that try to house their fish in as fitting conditions as possible, I also see quite a number of people that keep community tanks. Only one thing I find more common here (and in the Netherlands for that matter) is to try and get parameters right and stocking according what comes from the tap. So even in community tanks people will house species together that can do with the same water. At least this is something taken quite seriously by many which I can not find anywhere else in the mainstream outside specialist circles.
It's quite interesting comparing topics on international and on country specific forums. Fascinating. Sometimes a bit frustrating. And sometimes just a mess.
 

ARK93

Member
Messages
35
Location
East Yorkshire - England - UK
Don't kill the cow if you can milk it instead. Seems today many are lactose intolerant but wantto have burgers for dinner.
I like it, I might have to use that one.

Only one thing I find more common here (and in the Netherlands for that matter) is to try and get parameters right and stocking according what comes from the tap. So even in community tanks people will house species together that can do with the same water. At least this is something taken quite seriously by many which I can not find anywhere else in the mainstream outside specialist circles.
If I followed this philosophy I'd struggle to keep much more than Rift Valley Cichlids or some Rainbowfish. I've used RO water since getting into fish keeping but now that I don't work in aquatics I'm hoping to use rainwater in the future.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany
I like it, I might have to use that one.
Do so. ;)
If I followed this philosophy I'd struggle to keep much more than Rift Valley Cichlids or some Rainbowfish. I've used RO water since getting into fish keeping but now that I don't work in aquatics I'm hoping to use rainwater in the future.
True. But also you wouldn't try obligatory blackwater fish in your tap, right? That's my point. Of course that means when people want to keep species that won't do well in their tap they do RO, rainwater etc.
 

dw1305

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Messages
2,545
Location
Wiltshire UK
Hi all,
I've always felt that whether you value pure profit or animal welfare a policy of actively trying to improve the fish-keeping abilities of your customers is best. After all, who will spend more money on their hobby in the long run, the folks who unsuccessfully keep an overcrowded community tank plagued with constant fish death before giving up the hobby altogether, or the enthusiast who continually adds to their collection of tanks, buying new fish and supplies over the years?
<"Same for me">. Although <"I'm a cynic">.
Germans, or at least a group within Germany seem to have a different approach to people in the UK when it comes to keeping pets of most types.
I've certainly <"found this">.
If those don't care for anything but profit... that's when I know the store is doomed.
Unfortunately I guess we are seeing the end of independent fish shops in the UK and soon it will just be chain shops, but it is very true, you need a <"fish-keeper with a shop">
.....<"Tim Addis is a well known UK fish keeper and breeder"> and he collects rainwater from his roof for his fish-house, even though he lives in Central Birmingham.
and not a "shop-keeper with fish".

cheers Darrel
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,439
Location
Germany

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Apistomaster wrote on anewbie's profile.
I see that The Wet Spot Tropical Fish currently has the fire red A. agassizi you are looking for. Here is the link:
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