Should I go with RO/DI? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2018, 12:23 AM Thread Starter
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Should I go with RO/DI?

Hello. I’ve been working on setting up my planted tank and I’m trying to decide if I need RO/DI water or not. My tap water is off of a whole house water softener. I have no access to the water before it goes thru the softener system. Out of the tap I’m running:

pH 8.0
Nitrates 0
Silicate 0.01
GH 0
KH 11į


I used RO/DI back when I did saltwater, I’m thinking I wouldn’t need the DI portion for FW Planted. I’m just concerned about the salt that’s in the water from the softener.
So should I just use the tap water and add Equilibrium to raise the GH? Or use RO water and add Equilibrium and Baking Soda for GH/KH?
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2018, 12:41 AM
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Interesting delema. The ph of 8 would definitely warrant using a DTPA chelated micro solution (the FE or Iron portion). Many store bought micro solutions use EDTA which would burn off at that high of PH.
The 0.0 on GH would indicate that you would need to do something to get enough Calcium and Magnesium for the plants.
The KH 11į is the interesting part. Many plants will do OK at that KH but would prefer something lower. I have a KH of 7 to 8 and I find some plants difficult. Some on here (i.e. @Greggz) are in a similar situation (softened water, using RO water) and are having really good luck using just RO water (not DI) and bringing the RO output up to KH 2 and GH 3-4+
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2018, 01:44 AM Thread Starter
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The ph of 8 would definitely warrant using a DTPA chelated micro solution (the FE or Iron portion). Many store bought micro solutions use EDTA which would burn off at that high of PH.
I’m sorry but I’m not familiar with those. DTPA & EDTA? I am concerned about the pH. I would like it to be lower, but I was always told you just leave pH alone because it’s too difficult to safely screw with. I’m going to use Flourite Black Sand for substrate. Dragonstone for aquascape and a large piece of driftwood. (I’ve been soaking the driftwood for about 3 weeks so far) I’ve also read that driftwood will lower my pH. So maybe that will help solve that issue?

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The 0.0 on GH would indicate that you would need to do something to get enough Calcium and Magnesium for the plants.
The KH 11į is the interesting part. Many plants will do OK at that KH but would prefer something lower. I have a KH of 7 to 8 and I find some plants difficult.
That’s why I was considering RO. That way I get all values to zero. Then I can add Equilibrium to raise the GH to 4 and add Baking Soda to raise KH to 2.
Then I can use ferts to supplement the micro nutrients (Fe, Carbon, etc)... does that sound correct? I don’t plan on CO2 injection. I don’t have the time to constantly trim back the growth.
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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2018, 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by usmcmarc View Post
Iím sorry but Iím not familiar with those. DTPA & EDTA? I am concerned about the pH. I would like it to be lower, but I was always told you just leave pH alone because itís too difficult to safely screw with. Iím going to use Flourite Black Sand for substrate. Dragonstone for aquascape and a large piece of driftwood. (Iíve been soaking the driftwood for about 3 weeks so far) Iíve also read that driftwood will lower my pH. So maybe that will help solve that issue?


Thatís why I was considering RO. That way I get all values to zero. Then I can add Equilibrium to raise the GH to 4 and add Baking Soda to raise KH to 2.
Then I can use ferts to supplement the micro nutrients (Fe, Carbon, etc)... does that sound correct?

Correct, generally don't mess with the ph. With regards to Micro ferts, the FE needs some type of chelator to protect it. The EDTA seems to do well at protecting the FE to about 6.5 ph. The DTPA does the same thing but is good to upper 7 ph. If you decide to dose CO2, then you could add the micros to your tank after the CO2 kicks in (pretty much what I do).


Sounds like you have a really good handle on how to work with RO water - yes it sounds correct. GreggZ's tank journal has a lot of good information regarding various fertilizer / RO water info (look for one of his spreadsheets).


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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2018, 10:49 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you @Immortal1
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2018, 02:54 PM
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FWIW, with that high of KH, I'd definitely do what I could to use RO water. If you're using an inert substrate, adding some KH to it is a must to stabilize pH. If you're using an active substrate, such as aqua soil, don't add any KH as the substrate will buffer the pH of the tank.
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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-17-2018, 03:09 PM
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If you are not going to add CO2, I would guess you are not going to try many demanding plants. So mostly low tech lower light species.

If this is the case, there are lots of plants you can grown in your softened water. I did it for quite a long time.

My KH was closer to 20 or so with high TDS. In an effort to improve my tank, I decided to with 100% RO water. For me, it was a great decision, but I run a tank driven pretty hard by light/ferts/CO2.

I use MgSO4 and CaSO4 to raise GH, and K2CO3 to raise KH (GH 8, KH 1.5).

So really, depends on your ambitions and how much trouble you want to go to.


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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-18-2018, 04:29 AM
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Quote:
The ph of 8 would definitely warrant using a DTPA chelated micro solution (the FE or Iron portion). Many store bought micro solutions use EDTA which would burn off at that high of PH.

Iím sorry but Iím not familiar with those. DTPA & EDTA?
With a PH of 8 even Fe DTPA is not going to do well. For a water PH of 8 you only have two choices for iron, Fe EDDHA or Fe Gluconate. EDDHA is a little more expensive and works up to a PH of 8, but it can give your water a red tint. Iron Gluconate will not color the water but has to be dosed about every other day.

Based on that I would go with RO water. It doesn't have toesn't have to be DI. That way you would avoid the high PH issue.

Quote:
Iím just concerned about the salt thatís in the water from the softener.
Softened water doesn't have salt (sodium chloride) in it. The Softened water has a Sodium bicarbonate in it. This sodium bicarbonate is why your water Kh is so high. While the KH is not bad for plants. But it could react with some of the fertilizer ingredients making your fertilizer less effective.
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-19-2018, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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[QUOTE=Surf;11148557]
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The Softened water has a Sodium bicarbonate in it. This sodium bicarbonate is why your water Kh is so high. While the KH is not bad for plants. But it could react with some of the fertilizer ingredients making your fertilizer less effective.
So, my RO water will have zero KH. Should I mix in tap water to get the KH up to 3 or 4(Iím not even sure if 3-4 is the proper level)? Or just add Baking Soda to accomplish this? Iím asking because you say the KH is high due to NaHCO3 (which is what Baking Soda is). Or might the tap water possibly have some other unwanted things as well?

And while Iím on the subject. What is the optimal KH & GH level for a Planted Tank? I do plan on keeping some FW shrimps.

On a side note... Iíve been trying to post to the Tank Journals and keep getting an error. Am I doing something wrong?

Last edited by Darkblade48; 12-19-2018 at 10:49 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 12:03 AM
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So, my RO water will have zero KH. Should I mix in tap water to get the KH up to 3 or 4(I’m not even sure if 3-4 is the proper level)? Or just add Baking Soda to accomplish this?
I would recommend you try mixing tap water with RO water.

because it may still have some trace metals that may be of benefit your plants. As to Kh level I am currently aiming for 2 degrees. My tank appears to do better with less KH. Some run the tank at zero KH and others quite high. Since everyone has different water I would recommend you just aim for only enough KH to keep your PH stable. Start low and if necessary increase it.

As to GH many people target between 4 to 6 degrees. I personally go for 3 degrees but if I miss my target I don't worry about it. However that said if you stock the tank with fish that prefer hard water you should us a GH the fish prefer. The GH level has a bigger affect on fish and shrimp than it does on plants.

Last edited by Surf; 12-20-2018 at 12:14 AM. Reason: Added answer to GH question
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post #11 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 01:04 AM
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This sodium bicarbonate is why your water Kh is so high.
Huh? Have you ever had a water softener?

A water softener does not raise KH. At least not any one that I have ever had, and that's a few.

And you should start a journal. I looked through your posts and couldn't find a single picture of your tank. I'm sure many would like to like to see your tank and follow along.

Bump: [quote=usmcmarc;11148999]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surf View Post
So, my RO water will have zero KH. Should I mix in tap water to get the KH up to 3 or 4(I’m not even sure if 3-4 is the proper level)? Or just add Baking Soda to accomplish this? I’m asking because you say the KH is high due to NaHCO3 (which is what Baking Soda is). Or might the tap water possibly have some other unwanted things as well?
If you are going to the trouble to use RO water, I would dose to the levels you want to achieve. You can get to any KH or GH you desire, and you can also control the ratio of Ca/Mg. And who knows what else is in the tap? So when you start clean with RO, you can control everything.

Personally I wouldn't use Baking Soda, as why add sodium? Sending it through the RO system just removed it.

Better to use K2CO2 or KHCO3 for KH, and MgSO4 and CaSO4 for GH.

KH anywhere from 2 to 5 is fine, and GH somewhere about 6 to 8 seems work well for most.


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Last edited by Greggz; 12-20-2018 at 10:46 AM. Reason: type
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post #12 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 01:20 AM Thread Starter
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If you are not going to add CO2, I would guess you are not going to try many demanding plants. So mostly low tech lower light species.
So really, depends on your ambitions and how much trouble you want to go to.
I’ll be running a Current USA Satellite Plus Pro (48”) for lighting. The tank will be 16” deep. And the plants I’ll be growing are the same as the ones I’m using in my 10G (this is my test tank I’m using to see how things go) all these plants seem to be doing very well. I use a basic fert, an iron supplement, and a carbon supplement. All these plants have doubled in size and I’ve cut some to make new growth.
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post #13 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 03:02 AM Thread Starter
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If you are going to the trouble to use RO water, I would dose to the levels you want to achieve. You can get to any KH or GH you desire, and you can also control the ratio of Ca/Mg. And who knows what else is in the tap? So when you start clean with RO, you can control everything.

Personally I wouldn't use Baking Soda, as why add sodium? Sending it through the RO system just removed it.

Better to use K2CO2 or KHCO3 for KH, and MgSO4 and CaSO4 for GH.

KH anywhere from 2 to 5 is fine, and GH somewhere about 6 to 8 seems work well for most.
Ok.. so for KH you’re saying potassium nitrate or potassium hydrogen carbonate? And GH, magnesium or calcium sulfate?

I’ve been using Equilibrium for the GH. That says it has Soluble potash, calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese. When I add it, GH definitely goes up... and it doesn’t effect KH at all.

Where do you get the chemicals you mentioned for the KH?
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post #14 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 04:14 AM
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I also use RO/DI and add KHCO3. However, while I want no more than about 1.5 KH, I add the quantity of KHCO3 required to hit my potassium target of 20 ppm. You can buy KHCO3 on Amazon and just about anywhere else.

While I now avoid using my softened water via the RO/DI, I spent many decades using softened water in my low tech planted tanks. Choosing to avoid sodium from the softened water is more a matter of leaning toward thrive vs. survive. Most plants will survive with sodium, but do better without it. In fact, we used to routinely add "aquarium salt" in the belief that low doses were good for the fish - plants survived that, too.

@Surf is correct that the ion exchange process does allow a little bit of sodium through in the form of the bicarbonate salt. The NaCl salt is washed away in the brine refuse.

@Greggz is correct that the tiny bit of bicarbonate does not measurably raise KH in our tanks.

There is no bicarbonate in Equilibrium, so KH is unaffected. I avoid Equilibrium only because I don't want that much potassium (Seachem really loads it up with K). Like many others, I customize everything I add and that starts with zero minerals from the RO/DI base.
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post #15 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 04:38 AM
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For me RODI water works out well, mainly because I have a tendency to over think items and worry about what's in the water. By changing over to RODI, it allowed me to 1) start with a pure water source with no unknown contaminates and 2)adjust the water to the exact parameters I want. For piece of mind, I found RODI was the way to go.
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