What's your TDS? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 05:52 AM Thread Starter
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Title is pretty self explanatory. Mine was 180 tonight. That seems bad to me, is it? I just did a huge (66%) water change yesterday. I feel like I cleaned the ____ out of my tank. Lifted up driftwood, used a turkey baster in plant groups, cleaned the glass with a razor blade etc etc.

My RO water comes out at 5 to 15 TDS, but this was only the 3rd change I've used it.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 02:01 PM
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My tap water comes out around 180, and I try to do a 25-50% water change when it gets to 300, which is about weekly. I've seen it as high as 500 with seemingly no obvious effects on the inhabitants. But yes, I wish it were a little lower. I stop measuring the GH when it gets to like 40 drops. I stopped messing with RO years ago. My Otos and shrimp and tetras and plants all seem fine at the moment. If I checked today, it'll probably be in the 350 range, and I've been planning a WC this week.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 06:25 PM
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Have kept fish in Austin, Houston, and now Bay area. 180 is fine it is my tank operating level after mineralizing the tap water and fertilizing. In Texas anywhere under 400 was working for me. TDS is not a very important measurement in most cases.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 07:23 PM Thread Starter
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Mm, I think TDS can give an idea of how much DOC is in your tank. Especially if you see fluctuations in it.

I could be totally wrong, though. And I guess your tds level would obviously be different based on tank size.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 07:24 PM
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420ppm out of my tap. Never have had any issues.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 07:38 PM
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Mine is about 100 (500 scale) after a 30% w/c with RO/DI water.

We have to be a little careful about comparing TDS readings. There are, generally, two types of TDS meters. One uses a 500 scale and the other a 700 scale. In the US, the cheapies are generally 500 scale. These do not measure actual ppm (the 700 do). However, you can convert to actual ppm with this convertor: https://www.translatorscafe.com/unit...20640%20scale/. We also should be sure that our meters are calibrated.

If we are not comparing to another meter, then the relative changes we get in our own tanks are fine for gauging levels we target and comparing to past readings.

So, if you all know that you are using 500 scale meters and that they are calibrated, then we have a decent base for comparisons.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 08:18 PM
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TDS for what kind of critter? What kind of tank? Every tank I have varies.

And what makes up the TDS? Tap water? Water that I remineralize for a particular shrimp species? Water that I mix to support gobies? The specifics of those solids likely matter more than just a random measure.

Some shrimp tanks have a TDS of about 120 and the dissolved solids include organics from plants & animals, calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate, potassium sulphate, iron sulphate, manganese sulphate, some other minerals. Other tanks are just straight-up garbage tap water systems with TDS around 400 that are dosed heavily with fertilizer.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-08-2019, 09:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
TDS for what kind of critter? What kind of tank? Every tank I have varies.

And what makes up the TDS? Tap water? Water that I remineralize for a particular shrimp species? Water that I mix to support gobies? The specifics of those solids likely matter more than just a random measure.

Some shrimp tanks have a TDS of about 120 and the dissolved solids include organics from plants & animals, calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate, potassium sulphate, iron sulphate, manganese sulphate, some other minerals. Other tanks are just straight-up garbage tap water systems with TDS around 400 that are dosed heavily with fertilizer.
So refreshing. Finally, someone who speaks sense. Numbers, ratios, measures- they have context.


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 12:15 PM
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To hammer that point home:

I only know what's in those specific tanks because I carefully measure what goes into the tanks. Okay, "carefully" instead of just carefully - it's as close as I can get with a decent gram scale. Obviously can't measure waste beyond seeing it and generally monitoring, say, nitrates. And even then who knows precisely without some deeper science that I am too exhausted to consider?

The amounts of CaSO4, MgSO4, K2SO4, FeSO4, MnSO4 and a couple other things used are measured for my DIY shrimp mineral mix. It's essentially the same thing as the more popular remineralizer mixes but with a couple extra things I add (traces and some humic goodies) in addition to the commercialized mix. I use the commercialized mix on some tanks because I have a lot of it. But the rest? I use my own stuff because it's exceedingly cheaper - $10-$12ish for roughly 4 pounds vs $175-$200 for the same amount of the commercial stuff. The price we pay for convenience when we care about something, right?

Pro-tip: The only reason people like me recommend the commercial stuff is because it's easy and tough to mess up. Paying a premium is sometimes worth it if one isn't keen on constantly measuring (guilty!) out your mix each time you use it. (Easier to measure DIY as-needed because it's easier to store mineral salts in the bags they come in.)

Sometimes I use calcium carbonate or baking soda to the mix and that goes into my community tanks. That's generally at a higher concentration than for simple shrimp tanks. TDS in those tanks is probably 230-240? Maybe more? I know it's higher than the water I mix up but haven't actually measured in long enough that I'd have to check notes.

Unfortunately, I can't be sure what's in my tap water so it's only in used in larger tanks or container ponds. It's one of the reasons @Zoidburg tells people to be careful if not wary - because tap water can be unpredictable when it's not clear what goes into that water. You can kind of get an idea by looking at municipality water reports if you're on a public utility system. But even that gets wonky if your city's pipes are, say, 150-years-old (which is why my city experiences major water main breaks every five seconds but I digress) and who even knows what comes outta the pipes then? The best I can do is guess in that case and I rarely if ever use that water for anything super-sensitive like shrimp.

When I lived in a newer part of town and closer to a different pumping and treatment facility, tap water was much more consistent. Same for my office. But my new place? Not so much.

Oh, almost forgot. In tanks where I heavily fertilize - or used to - they would have TDS in the 400 range. That's with calibrated meters and actual TDS. But I had a rough sense of what made up those dissolved solids because I added most of them to the tanks in the form of dry or pre-mixed fertilizer.

I guess the TL;DR here is this: TDS is probably only useful if you have some idea of what makes up your water, if you're keeping an eye on your RO/DI system or if you're using it as a means to loosely monitor for an "OH NO!" moment in your tank.

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Numbers, ratios, measures- they have context.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 01:45 PM
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Is that reading before or after dosing? If it's before, would be interesting to see where TDS is right before the next water change.

For reference, my RO water comes out consistently at 5-10 TDS.

I front load all macros (NPK + Ca/MG) into my storage containers, and after a 66% water change the tank water is about 180. So that reading is comprised mostly of dosed ferts.

At the end of the week, my TDS is right around 200. So daily micro dosing and fish waste are pretty much balanced out by plant uptake.

IMO, nothing to worry about.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
TDS is probably only useful if you have some idea of what makes up your water, if you're keeping an eye on your RO/DI system or if you're using it as a means to loosely monitor for an "OH NO!" moment in your tank.
I think those are most of the reasons to use it. I’d suggest a few more reasons:

- For those that prefer to acclimate new fish, compare LFS water to QT water to adjust QT water.
- Where regularly scheduled w/c’s aren’t employed, TDS as a guide to triggering a w/c.
- Where dosing is established and water sources are predictable, e.g.; RO, TDS drifting may indicate changes in plant consumption or organics for further investigation and action.

The original question might be appended to also ask: “What are the reasons to monitor TDS?”
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by jcoulter View Post
Title is pretty self explanatory. Mine was 180 tonight. That seems bad to me, is it? I just did a huge (66%) water change yesterday. I feel like I cleaned the ____ out of my tank. Lifted up driftwood, used a turkey baster in plant groups, cleaned the glass with a razor blade etc etc.

My RO water comes out at 5 to 15 TDS, but this was only the 3rd change I've used it.
180 sounds good to me. I use remineralized RO water that has a 185 TDS after adding calcium, magnesium, and baking soda.
I only change 25% a week while using pps pro dosing schedule. Also only have 12 fish in 57 net gallons. As a result my TDS between water changes consistantly varies just 10-12% between 250 and 280.

I like the consistancy and control I think I've acheived, I think the plants and fish do too.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
Mine is about 100 (500 scale) after a 30% w/c with RO/DI water.

We also should be sure that our meters are calibrated.

If we are not comparing to another meter, then the relative changes we get in our own tanks are fine for gauging levels we target and comparing to past readings.

So, if you all know that you are using 500 scale meters and that they are calibrated, then we have a decent base for comparisons.

Thank you for saying this! There is so much garbage online today that I wouldn't trust the actual number displayed on a TDS meter, unless I knew it was NIST calibrated. An accurate meter like that would cost several hundred dollars. The cheap meters widely available are only good for comparative measurements FOR THAT SPECIFIC METER. In other words, obtain a baseline for your meter and calibrate (i.e. add a correction factor) to apply to the displayed reading. I wouldn't bother comparing to what someone else obtained for their meter because it will likely be considerably different.

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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 07:54 PM
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My tds out of the tap can measure as high as 900ppm with Ph around 8.4.
I mix about 90% RO with the tap and currently have tds in the 130ppm range in my tanks, with neutral PH.

I have in earlier years kept soft water fish in the rock hard tapwater and they seemed to do fine, but of course never bred and I got tired of dealing with the mineral deposits.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-09-2019, 08:49 PM
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I think we're just focusing on semantics at this point. There are several general reasons for using TDS.

Water change issues/knowing you need to change water = "OH NO!" moment if it's bad, loosely monitoring if it's good. Dosing = loosely monitoring because you generally know what you're adding.

Not a good idea to rely solely upon TDS if you're keeping or acclimating sensitive species like shrimp unless you know the source of the water or what makes up the water and the gH/kH. You can get a general feel for things, though. I use that method when moving shrimp among different tanks because I know what's in the water - TDS reading definitely helps. And it's definitely fine for a super majority of fish we keep in the hobby.

...

Most hobbyist-grade TDS meters are fine for our purposes and they're not super-difficult to calibrate for general hobbyist use. We're not using them to measure urgent medical fluids or anything that intense. I have some cheap ones from fleabay that are just as useful for me as the $200 units I have - or the high-grade one built into my RO system that needs to be frequently calibrated. Just takes some effort.

Newcomers to the hobby don't need to get discouraged.
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