Carbonate hardness, referred to as KH, is often overlooked. When we test our aquariums water via a test kit like the API testing kit, we don’t think to test the alkalinity of our water. Each component in your aquarium is important when maintaining a balanced ecosystem within your aquarium. KH is described as the protection for the pH in your aquarium.
When your aquarium creates acids, it will affect the KH. It is essential when maintaining a steady pH without fluctuations that can harm the inhabitants of your aquarium. Maintaining a high KH ensures the acid is neutralized so it can not affect the pH level in the water.
Testing for KH regularly is essential, as there are no visible cues to show the current amount in your aquarium.
How to Test KH in Your Aquarium
To test for KH successfully, you will have to purchase a quality KH testing kit. We recommend the API KH test kit to get an accurate reading. Once you follow the instructions carefully and receive your reading, you can determine if you need to raise your KH or if it is stable.
KH at 2 dKH or lower is a concern. It will lower your pH which is detrimental to most species of fish and invertebrates. The KH should then immediately be buffered to reach the appropriate level.
KH should ideally stay above 4dKH, anything less should be raised or closely monitored.
- Interesting fact: KH is measured in dKH
Products That Instantly Raise KH in an Aquarium
1. Natures Ocean Atlantic Crushed Coral
A natural way to steadily raise the KH and pH in your aquarium.
2. Seachem Acid Buffer
It is suitable for planted aquariums and provides quality KH buffering to maintain hard water.
3. Seachem Marine Tank Alkalinity Buffer
4. Seachem Reef Tank Alkalinity Buffer
Safe to use in reef aquariums without decreasing the water’s mineral content.
5. Continuum Freshwater Tank Alkalinity Buffer
What Makes KH Different Than GH
KH is the carbonate hardness of the water, whereas GH is the general hardness of the water. Carbonate hardness refers to the number of carbonates and bicarbonates that are dissolved in your aquarium’s water. General hardness indicates the amount of calcium and magnesium present in your aquarium. KH and GH are often confused, but both are unrelated to each other when it comes to water parameters.
Hard water is not to be confused with KH, as GH is the overall hardness of the water. Having naturally hard water does not affect the KH and raising the general hardness is pointless when you are trying to buffer KH.
KH is beneficial for the health of your inhabitants. Fluctuations in pH change can harm them. Think of KH as a protective barrier that encloses the pH of your aquarium, once the KH starts to lower it exposes your pH to conditions that will affect the parameters.
Ideal KH Levels for an Aquarium
Different species of fish and invertebrates prefer a variation of KH levels. It is important to research the level of KH and pH your inhabitant will require, there is no specific ideal KH level for all aquariums.
|Brackish water aquarium||10-18 dKH|
|Planted aquarium||3-8 dKH|
|Shrimp aquarium||2-5 dKH|
|Cichlid aquarium||10-18 dKH|
|Tropical fish aquarium||4-8 dKH|
Simple Methods to Raise KH in Your Aquarium
If you have measured your aquarium’s KH and find it too low for the needs of your aquarium, here are a few techniques to get you’re KH to the appropriate levels.
The Importance of KH
KH is essential when you are attempting to achieve stable water parameters. Every component in your aquarium’s water is vitally important to balance out. A healthy aquarium has regulated parameters with rare fluctuations.
KH ensures your pH does not drastically change. These two parameters go hand in hand when it comes to monitoring the overall water quality in your aquarium. Most aquarists only test for ammonia, nitrates, and nitrates. Those are important, but we cannot forget the importance of KH for water regularity.
Both nitrate and nitrite in your aquarium are acidic. These two parameters are always being produced in your aquarium; in return, this affects your pH. KH neutralizes the acids in the water to protect the pH.
How Does KH affect pH?
Calcium carbonate is dissolved into the water starts to increase the KH level in the water. As the KH increases so does the pH of your water. It is because the KH will absorb any acid present in the water. KH acts as a sponge in this scenario.
Side Effects of Low KH
If the KH is left to drop, the pH will start to deteriorate. It then causes the overall pH level in the water to fluctuate rapidly, leading to shock and death to most aquarium inhabitants. All aquarium life requires a certain pH balance, if there is a sudden change such as an increase or decrease with the KH, your plants will suffer too. When the water becomes too acidic, it should be raised immediately.
Three Important Aquarium Ions (pH, KH, GH)
All three are natural ions present in every mineral-rich supply of water. These three ions are connected. Decreasing or increasing one will affect the other, making them important to watch closely. If you want to increase one without affecting the others too much, you need to incorporate the specific carbonate the ion contains.
For example, if you were to increase the KH you want to use bicarbonate to raise it and not use a mineral that raises pH or GH.
By regularly testing your aquarium’s water for the KH levels, you will be able to maintain a healthy and balanced pH parameter in your aquarium. Using the correct method for your type of aquarium is important to effectively raise KH.
Avoid overdosing KH enhancers, as this may quickly raise the pH and cause a pH shock to occur with your aquarium’s inhabitance.
We hope this article has cleared up a few concerns you have about raising KH in an aquarium safely.
Check out some of our favorite posts:
- How to Raise Alkalinity in a Freshwater Aquarium (Quick & Easy)
- How to Make Saltwater for an Aquarium (9 Easy Steps)
- How to Move an Aquarium (in 7 Easy Steps)
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