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Rift Lake Buffer Recipe Cichlid Salt
by Marc Elieson

Not everyone is blessed with "hard" and/or alkaline tap water. Recognizing this, several manufacturers, including SeaChem and Kent, have developed buffering salts in an effort to simulate rift lake water parameters. These serve to harden the water as well as provide "critical" trace elements. These commercial buffers and salts can get quite expensive if you have a large tank, or multiple tanks for that matter.

Instead of investing in these, there is a popular home remedy that works just as well. All the ingredients can be acquired at your local grocery store: Epsom salt, Salt, Baking Soda. Common bicarbonate of soda is effective at raising the pH, not to mention its very inexpensive. Epsom salts (i.e., magnesium sulfate) can be used to harden the water, raising the GH. And then you could also add salt to increase the general hardness of your water. I recommend using non-iodized table salt; however, others use Potassium Chloride or even Instant Ocean®. You can read more about the differences between these salts in my article on Aquarium Salts. For a few dollars, you can mix up enough Rift Lake Buffer to last you a year or more.

Condition of Water*pHGHKH
Hard Water from
Hard Water from
Tap w/ Buffer
R.O. Water6.611
R.O. Water w/ Buffer7.6328
* All water was treated with Dechlorinator prior to testing

The amount of Baking Soda and Epsom Salt that you will need varies from household to household and depends upon the tap water. Start by adding 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda to five gallons of dechlorinated water and see how much this raises your pH. Then adjust your dosage so as to attain a desired level (somewhere in the neighborhood of 8.2-8.6). Repeat this procedure for Epsom Salt, starting out with ½ teaspoon. Try to achieve a GH between 15 and 25 dgh. Then add 1 teaspoon of salt.
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Epsom Salt
Marine Salt
Baking Soda
For every 5 US Gallons of water, add 1-tablespoon Epsom salt, 1-teaspoon baking soda, and 1-teaspoon marine salt.
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