RO vs. Distilled for replacing evaporation - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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RO vs. Distilled for replacing evaporation

Is one more appropriate than the other when it comes to topping up evaporation?

I know there is some concern with distilled having copper in it but I checked the local water store and their equipment is all stainless steel. They said most aquarists buy RO but I believe that's in the context of mixing water for marine setups.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 04:21 PM
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IMO just use tap unless you are keeping sensitive species. if you just have common fish it shouldn't even matter.

the shrimp guys should be able to answer your initial question if you actually need to use non-tap. pretty sure majority use RO though


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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 04:36 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by klibs View Post
IMO just use tap unless you are keeping sensitive species. if you just have common fish it shouldn't even matter.
Two problems with that: Our tap water is crazy hard to begin with, and I loose a LOT to evaporation which just concentrates the mineral content even more.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 05:52 PM
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Go with whichever is cheapes for you for our purposes there is no difference between the two, the difference is the process in which the water is purified, RO is reverse osmosis which is ran through a membrane to "filter" ions (materials/minerals) out of the water. Distilled water is water that has undergone at least one series of evaporation and condensation which leaves the material/ions in the boiling column. Water that is properly distilled (using multiple distillations) has far less ions in it that RO water, but for us it doesnt matter that much.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 03:33 AM
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I've got pretty hard water and just top-off with tap, though to be fair I'm not keeping sensitive species. I've had success this way with both fish and cherry shrimp. Heck I even add cuttlebone to the shrimp tank just to make extra sure they have enough calcium and I'm not seeing any problems. From what I understand the plants will pull excess minerals out of the water and store them anyway.

I think RO is more common in the hobby because you can put an RO/DI unit in your house. If I were going to build a distillery at home I sure wouldn't be making water with it!
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 12:51 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the feedback. I stopped by the water store and indeed their RO is less than 1/2 the cost of distilled. They said that yea the TDS of the distilled is lower, but the RO is still crazy low compared to our tap so I'll give that a try for evap topup.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-24-2017, 05:24 AM
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RO vs. Distilled for replacing evaporation

Good ro(water ran through a good RO unit) should have a tds is 0-1. That is if the filters are relatively new. The tds for distilled should be the same 0-1. However my understanding is a RO unit does not filter out the gasses. Normally though these gasses will be gone in a day or two max. With distilled you will not have these gasses to begin with. Either one is fine. You can get a good RO unit for like $60. I have had mine and have ran 300 gallons through it and it's reading only a tds of 1. Much cheaper and easier than running to the store to buy their water. And I find the store bought RO water tds is higher than it should be. In my mind if it's a tds of 10 or higher it's not RO.


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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 01:31 PM
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I've been using distilled water exclusively in my 25g cube reef for over a year. No issues from source water. Maintenance on the other hand is my fault.

My taps tds is 1000+, African cichlids love it but that's about it. I understand your concern about concentrated minerals with topping off with tap. It is a very real problem that can get out of hand quickly.

An ro/di unit will most definitely help you out if your tap tds isn't outrageous. The reason I choose to use distilled over ro/di is because of the extremely high tds of my tap water. It pretty much comes down to either spending $30+ a month on replacing ro/di membranes or just buying the water to begin with and save $300 bucks on a decent ro/di unit.

And to be honest, distilled should always be "more pure" than ro/di anyways.

You could use distilled and then buy an auto top-off unit (with money saved by not buying an ro/di unit) and use the 2.5g jug the distilled water comes in as a top-off resivior. That's what I do for my reef. I use a Smart Micro ATO (about $125) and then just cut a hole in the jug where the spout is so my ato pump fits inside. 2.5g of distilled water lasts at least a week on my 25g and I've never had a single issue with the Smart Micro ATO. I wish I had one on all of my tanks.

Bump: Also, if you do get an ro/di unit, check your water pressure first. If your pipes don't produce the correct amount of pressure, a booster pump may be needed. That's another reason why I just buy distilled. My water pressure isn't very good.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-14-2017, 06:22 AM
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If you use a 6 stage RO/DI filter shouldn't the TDS be zero?

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-14-2017, 11:04 AM
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If you use simple RO unit you will have a small TDS rise, but let's say you do once a week 5% top-off. Let's say you have TDS=300 in the tank (before evaporation). After this 5% evaporation TDS rises to 316. After top-off with TDS=20 you get TDS=301. So after a year you will get like TDS=350. I'm not accounting for water changes that will bring it down, most likely you won't get higher than 330 after a year.

With RO/DI there will be no rise in TDS, it's nearly distilled.

In most cases RO unit is much cheaper than distilled water. I bought the unit used, it costed me 50$. For example with TDS=400 in my tap I'm using the same membrane for 3 years. So with prefilters changed every half a year - 16$ every year. For top-offs in all my tanks I would need 10 litres weekly. Let's make a brutal approximation, let's say that for every 10 litres of clean water RO unit will use 50 litres, so 2600 litres per year. Tap water costs here 3$ per 1m3 (1000 l), so it's 7,8$ yearly. Summarizing - 23,8$/year + starting cost 50$. Now, distilled costs here 1$ for 5l. 2$ a week, 104$ yearly. So yeah, RO unit paid for itself in the first year. Even changing membrane every year won't make RO unit more expensive than distilled.

TDS=1000 is a bit extreme and in this situation distilled might be cheaper, but it's probably not a common situation.

Tl:dr - buy a RO unit.


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