Soft soft water - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-20-2016, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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Soft soft water

How do people keep fish that don't stand for carbonate buffers? I was looking into licorice gouramis (P. quindecim to be exact) and Sundadanio spp, and both fish don't particularly enjoy pH above 6, and aren't exactly good with large amounts of carbonate buffers in the water. All I've found was that RO water was recommended, and that you could use phosphoric acid to bring the pH even lower. But don't you need buffers to keep the pH stable? And with 10% weekly changes, that's not a lot of water exchange going on. How do you even make sure that nitrates and other metabolites stay low and the water clean?

So many fish to keep, not enough aquaria.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2016, 02:03 AM
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P. quindecim and Sundadanio thrive in pH as low as 3.0 and 4.0 respectively ( Parosphromenus quindecim Parosphromenus sp. Manis Mata) ? Seriously Fish
Sundadanio axelrodi ? Seriously Fish

RO water, rainwater, or distilled water, is just the start. We need to soak copious amounts of Catappa leaves (free in the tropics, expensive in North America and Europe) or peat moss (cheap in North America) for at least 10 days (20 is better) to get the pH even down to just 4.0

By copious I mean 1/2 the volume of the tank.

And we need a real pH monitor to test water that acidic, not that liquid API rubbish.

Phosphoric acid? Don't even go there. You're flirting with disaster, insane pH fluctuations. Avoid all chemicals.

As far as buffers to keep the pH stable: After 20 days of soaking with the leaves or peat to get the water to a suitable level the peat/leaves will be saturated, sunk at the bottom of the tank, and need to be replaced. When replaced it floats, it slowly sinks as the days pass. And that's our buffer.

10% weekly changes? That's arbitrary. Could be much more, e.g. in a relatively small grow out tank with a large number of juvies, or much less, e.g. in a relatively large tank with days/weeks old fry.

The latter should get NO water changes at all for at least the 1st 2 months. The former will require a sump, i.e. an extra, separate tank containing only water and peat, no fish. After 20 days we can draw water from the sump to use for water changes. Yes it's a lot of work. There's a reason why blackwater fish species represent <1% of captive bred species.

Nitrates and other metabolites? What are you talking about? Acidic water is devoid of those poisons, the peat soaks 'em right up, sucks them right out of the water. The cleanest water is the most acidic water.

Put a dead fish in water of pH 3.0 --- it's preserved like a pickle, never rots.
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I notice a troubling trend in modern aquarium keepers, where the measure of welfare seems to be steeped solely in terms of survival: if the fishes live, things are good, if the fishes die, things are bad. It is an inappropriate position to take. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2016, 02:38 AM
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This kind of fish likes very soft water, some persons even use pure RO water. You don't need any phosphoric acid or anything like this.

I have two types of chocolate gourami, Sphaerichthys osphromenoides and, supposedly, Sphaerichthys vaillanti (I'm not 100% sure about these, they look a bit different from photos I found in Internet). They are doing just fine in the water that is about 1.5 dGH and 0.25 dKH, with TDS around 100. They don't try to breed but this is a community tank, so I can't say if water should be even softer or this is because they don't have enough privacy. Mind you, with GH around 1 dGH or less many plants are not able to grow well.

I believe the best parameters, if you want to breed them, will be neutral substrate + pure RO water + wood + leaf litter (and/or peat moss). This will result in a very soft acidic water ideal for these fishes.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2016, 05:46 AM Thread Starter
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I understand that these fish can thrive at very, very acidic waters. But pure water buffers to 7.0, so shouldn't I need to add a chemical buffer to bring it down to around 5.0 or so (an arbitrary pH that I think would keep the Paras and Sundas happy)? Wait, so the leaves and tannins are the buffer? And what if I'm trying to avoid peat moss?? How do I add trace elements and stuff that the fish might need in terms of calcium, etc? Do I need to feed like, daphnia to let the fish get calcium into their bones? What about other things?

I'm getting off of a saltwater aquarium kick (too much money and time, and I'm a college student), so I know what a sump in general is. But do you mean a sump as in a separate tank to increase water volume to allow for more stability? Or do you mean like a giant holding tank to let water acidify? How do you keep non-beneficial bacteria, fungus, and other nasties from growing in the holding tank??

How does the peat moss suck up the nitrates and metabolites? Unless you mean living moss? If so, wouldn't aquatic mosses and other acid and low light hardy plants be able to perform the same function?

Idea: Could I do something akin to an algae filter, but with peat moss? That way, I could keep the water acidic, while keeping nitrates and metabolites down?

So many fish to keep, not enough aquaria.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2016, 11:09 PM
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Pure water does have pH 7.0 but as soon as it is exposed to atmosphere, CO2 will start to dissolve in it and pH will go down. You can check this easily - buy one gallon of a distilled water in a supermarket, empty into some open container (e.g. a bucket), let it sit for 24 hours and measure pH - it'll be acidic. Wood, leaves and peat release tannins and other organic substances that will drive pH down even more. You don't really need too much of these to get pH below 6 - water don't need to be completely brown, it'll just get a slight golden-brownish tint.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2016, 11:54 PM
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I understand that these fish can thrive at very, very acidic waters. But pure water buffers to 7.0, so shouldn't I need to add a chemical buffer

NO. CHEMICALS ARE YOUR FOR YOUR CHEMISTRY/PHYSICS CLASSES, NOT YOUR AQUARIUM.

to bring it down to around 5.0 or so (an arbitrary pH that I think would keep the Paras and Sundas happy)? Wait, so the leaves and tannins are the buffer?

LEAVES &/OR PEAT ACT AS STABILIZERS. IF YOU JUST HAVE ACIDIC WATER AND FISH IN A TANK THE PH WILL GRADUALLY INCREASE UNTIL THE PH BECOMES A NEUTRAL 7.0 AND THE FISH START SPROUTING WHITE GROWTHS FROM THEIR SKIN. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.

And what if I'm trying to avoid peat moss??

THEN YOU ARE FECES OUT OF LUCK.

How do I add trace elements and stuff that the fish might need in terms of calcium, etc?

YOU DON'T.

Do I need to feed like, daphnia to let the fish get calcium into their bones? What about other things?

DAPHNIA IS GOOD, I FEED THAT AND A FEW OTHER LIVE FOODS.

I'm getting off of a saltwater aquarium kick (too much money and time, and I'm a college student), so I know what a sump in general is.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR SPECIES WHICH DON'T REQUIRE TOO MUCH MONEY AND TIME I WOULD SUGGEST AVOIDING BLACK-WATER SPECIES.

But do you mean a sump as in a separate tank to increase water volume to allow for more stability?

NO.

Or do you mean like a giant holding tank to let water acidify?

YES.

How do you keep non-beneficial bacteria, fungus, and other nasties from growing in the holding tank??

THOSE THINGS ARE NON-EXISTENT IN ACIDIC WATER.

How does the peat moss suck up the nitrates and metabolites?

I'M NOT SURE. ASK YOUR PHYSICS/CHEMISTRY PROFS. I LEARNED THE HARD WAY --- BY TRYING TO BE FRUGAL AND RE-USING SPENT (SATURATED) PEAT AND HAVING THE PH SPIKE WAY, WAY UP. I SURMISED THAT ALL OF WHAT I DIDN'T WANT WAS INSIDE THAT PEAT, THAT THE PEAT REMOVED IT FROM THE WATER.

Unless you mean living moss?

NO. I MEAN DEAD MOSS. A 1 CUBIC SQUARE FOOT BAG OF PEAT MOSS FROM A GARDENING STORE, UNTREATED (NO ADDED FERTILIZERS) FOR ~$6 WHICH WILL KNOCK THE PH OF 40 GALLONS OF RAINWATER DOWN TO 4.0 IN 20 DAYS.

If so, wouldn't aquatic mosses and other acid and low light hardy plants be able to perform the same function?

NOTHING ALIVE CAN PERFORM THE SAME FUNCTION. GO HAVE A LOOK AT SOME GOOGLE IMAGES OF BLACK-WATER ENVIRONMENTS. NO FLORA CAN SURVIVE. IT'S JUST WATER AND DEAD LEAVES.

Idea: Could I do something akin to an algae filter, but with peat moss?

BEEN THERE DONE THAT. DON'T WORK. NEED MUCH, MUCH MORE PEAT THAN CAN FIT INSIDE A FILTER.

That way, I could keep the water acidic, while keeping nitrates and metabolites down?

IT WON'T KEEP THE WATER ACIDIC. BUT DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT, GO AHEAD AND TRY ALL OF YOUR IDEAS. KNOCK YOURSELF OUT. LEARN THE HARD WAY LIKE I DID.

PEACE.

I notice a troubling trend in modern aquarium keepers, where the measure of welfare seems to be steeped solely in terms of survival: if the fishes live, things are good, if the fishes die, things are bad. It is an inappropriate position to take. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2016, 02:29 AM Thread Starter
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Dude....tannins and the stuff released by peat, leaves, and wood are chemicals (tannic and humic acids). So are natural water ions (H+ and OH-).

I was under the impression that once the buffers in water were overwhelmed, the acidic metabolites fish produce would bring down the pH even more.

Umm...if the pH spiked up, then wouldn't that just mean it no longer caused the water to become acidic, rather than the peat moss absorbing the metabolites?

Also, why in the world are you yelling(typing in all caps). I'm being curious and asking about the why, & what (why does this happen, what happens if...), and really really don't appreciate the whole yelling, as it doesn't do a jot of a difference.

Oh, and Oso: thank you for the lil explanation about real world water rather than pure water(ie water that hasn't been exposed to the atmosphere)
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So many fish to keep, not enough aquaria.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-23-2016, 06:35 PM
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Typed in all caps as it was easiest to differentiate between your comments/questions and my responses point by point. I guess I could use italics, unless that would be considered screaming?

Here's some copy/pastes which may be of interest, along with their respective links:

Peat moss will soften your pond water by binding the calcium and magnesium ions while simultaneously releasing tannic and gallic acids into the water. These acids then attack the bicarbonates in the water, reducing the water's carbonate hardness and pH
Using Peat Moss to Lower Water Hardness and pH Levels in Ponds

Peat moss not only lowers the pH but it also absorbs minerals. So you can start with normal tap water. You can either set up a large aquarium filter packed with peat moss or soak peat moss in a barrel of water. As the peat moss contacts the water, it removes some of the salts making the water softer and adds organic acids that lower the pH. If the initial amount of peat moss does not get the water down to the pH you want, change out the old for a new batch of peat. Peat moss produces water that the fish will do well in.
Perhaps the lowest cost way is to place a partial bale of peat in a barrel of water (rain water or normal tap water) and wait... One note must be made about peat moss. Peat mosses are not all equal. Depending on where (and how?) it is harvested, it can have very different abilities to remove ions from water and lower the pH.
ALF Tips on Keeping Fish - Controlling pH


Typical home water softeners soften water using a technique known as ``ion exchange''. That is, they remove calcium and magnesium ions by replacing them with sodium ions. Although this does technically make water softer, most fish won't notice the difference. That is, fish that prefer soft water don't like sodium either, and for them such water softeners don't help at all. Thus, home water softeners are not an appropriate way to soften water for aquarium use.
Fish stores also market ``water softening pillows''. They use the same ion-exchange principle. One ``recharges'' the pillow by soaking it in a salt water solution, then places it in the tank where the sodium ions are released into the water and replaced by calcium and magnesium ions. After a few hours or days, the pillow (along with the calcium and magnesium) are removed, and the pillow recharged. The pillows sold in stores are too small to work well in practice, and shouldn't be used for the same reason cited above.
Peat moss softens water and reduces its hardness (GH). The most effective way to soften water via peat is to aerate water for 1-2 weeks in a bucket containing peat moss. For example, get a (plastic) bucket of the appropriate size. Then, get a large quantity of peat (a gallon or more), boil it (so that it sinks), stuff it in a pillow case, and place it in the water bucket. Use an air pump to aerate it. In 1-2 weeks, the water will be softer and more acidic. Use this aged water when making partial water changes on your tank.
Peat can be bought at pet shops, but it is expensive. It is much more cost-effective to buy it in bulk at a local gardening shop. Read labels carefully! You don't want to use peat containing fertilizers or other additives.
Although some folks place peat in the filters of their tanks, the technique has a number of drawbacks. First, peat clogs easily, so adding peat isn't always effective. Second, peat can be messy and may cloud the water in your tank. Third, the exact quantity of peat needed to effectively soften your water is difficult to estimate. Using the wrong amount results in the wrong water chemistry. Finally, when doing water changes, your tank's chemistry changes when new water is added (it has the wrong properties). Over the next few days, the chemistry changes as the peat takes effect. Using aged water helps ensure that the chemistry of your tank doesn't fluctuate while doing water changes.
Beginner FAQ: Water Chemistry

For the record, "The most effective way to soften water via peat" noted above is not necessarily the most efficient method. The most efficient method IMO/IME is to wrap peat in netting and add it straight to the tank with the fish. If you "Use this aged water when making partial water changes on your tank" as is suggested above but don't have unsaturated peat in the tank that is receiving the water changes you are going to experience a rapid increase in pH and will have to make water changes literally every 24-48hrs to maintain a pH level <5.0

By keeping fresh peat, i.e. peat which has not yet sunk to the bottom of the tank, in situ we "buffer" the water against fluctuations.

I notice a troubling trend in modern aquarium keepers, where the measure of welfare seems to be steeped solely in terms of survival: if the fishes live, things are good, if the fishes die, things are bad. It is an inappropriate position to take. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-24-2016, 12:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaliberti View Post
Peat mosses are not all equal. Depending on where (and how?) it is harvested, it can have very different abilities to remove ions from water and lower the pH.
Also it can contain fertilizers, even if it'll not be mentioned anywhere! One "100% pure organic sphagnum peat moss" I bought once in Home Depot tested positive for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and phosphate. And amounts were not small, in particular, ammonia test showed 8 ppm and AFAIR this was the test kit max value.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-25-2016, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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All caps is always used as yelling or excitement. Bold, italicized, and underlined are meant for emphasis. However you can always use caps for ONE word to get the same emphasis.

Thanks for the peat information! But if the peat moss has the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and phosphate as Oso said...then how in the world do I remove that from the peat without also removing the humic and tannic acids that the soft water species need?

So many fish to keep, not enough aquaria.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-25-2016, 05:48 PM
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It may contain fertilizers, it may not be very efficient in lowering pH - but it may also be good. I don't think you can do anything to fix problematic peat moss but you can always try another brand. A bale of peat moss costs just about $10.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-25-2016, 07:04 PM
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It probably does not contain fertilizers, it probably is very efficient in lowering pH. We've been purchasing peat for much of the last 35 years from Adams Fairacre Farms ~1 hour north of Westchester and have never had problems. Better chance of getting struck by lightening than coming across problematic peat moss in North America. (North Korea may be another story.) A 1 cubic foot bale of peat moss costs $6. The other size is 3.8 cubic feet which costs about 2x as much. The latter is more economical but the former fits nicely in a 40g breeder tank.

I notice a troubling trend in modern aquarium keepers, where the measure of welfare seems to be steeped solely in terms of survival: if the fishes live, things are good, if the fishes die, things are bad. It is an inappropriate position to take. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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