Well water, softener, and hardness level questions - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Well water, softener, and hardness level questions

I have a few questions on well water and hardness levels. Hopefully someone here can help me figure out what I should (or shouldn't) do.

Straight from the tap (after the water softener), my KH reads 14 and my GH reads 0.
Bypassing the softener, I get a KH of 14 and a GH of 10.

Any idea why the KH figure hasn't changed? Does the softener not effect this reading at all? My kit seems to be working with other sources I tested.

I'm currently using 50/50 softened tap and RO on my planted tanks, with GH booster added. Should I be concerned about sodium buildup from the softener? It hasn't been a problem thus far.

I remineralize RO water for my shrimp tanks, but would rather not use my RO system at all on the planted tanks. The high KH is a bit concerning, though..

Suggestions? Input?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 09:24 PM
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All a softener does is replace Ca and Mg with Na (or K, if you use potassium). Two Na ions replace one Ca or one Mg ion.

In your unsoftened water, your KH was mostly CaCO3. After softening, your KH is now NaCO3, i.e., your carbonates (and your KH) are unchanged.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 09:33 PM
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Why don't you want to use RO on your planted tanks? That doesn't make much sense to me :-)

RO is actually perfect for planted tanks. You get to reconstitute to desired levels without all the unknowns that come with "tap" water.

Plus you are already adding Gh booster, it would take nothing to add a little Kh to the mix.


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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 09:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
All a softener does is replace Ca and Mg with Na (or K, if you use potassium). Two Na ions replace one Ca or one Mg ion.

In your unsoftened water, your KH was mostly CaCO3. After softening, your KH is now NaCO3, i.e., your carbonates (and your KH) are unchanged.
That was close to my understanding about how it worked. Do you think sodium could eventually build up to toxic levels?

I've been on city water until fairly recently, so I'm still trying learn the ways of a well system.

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Why don't you want to use RO on your planted tanks? That doesn't make much sense to me :-)
I didn't want to use RO because I'm already using RO for 10 shrimp tanks. I have 4 (and counting) planted tanks that I change water on more frequently. I don't want to have to replace my RO filters too often, and would rather not waste the extra water and power that comes with the RO system.

Last edited by jflng; 10-11-2020 at 09:53 PM. Reason: word
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 10:12 PM
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I didn't want to use RO because I'm already using RO for 10 shrimp tanks. I have 4 (and counting) planted tanks that I change water on more frequently. I don't want to have to replace my RO filters too often, and would rather not waste the extra water and power that comes with the RO system.
That makes sense. :-)

I would use unsoftened water if at all possible for your ratio.



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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 10:18 PM Thread Starter
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That makes sense. :-)

I would use unsoftened water if at all possible for your ratio.
I considered that too, but tapping that out where I need may be difficult. Plus, it smells like sulfur. I have a big carbon filter after the softener to take care of that. Also, The unsoftened water has a GH of 10. That's a bit high for my liking.

This was much easier to deal with when I was on city water.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 11:06 PM
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This was much easier to deal with when I was on city water.
Yeah I bet!

And I skipped over you wanting to do away with RO altogether.

Unfortunately, my only experience with softened water is thru posts I see on here. I have yet to see it referred to as a good thing. Although I do know that NaCO3 takes higher quantities to become toxic than NaCl. Not sure what that level is, though.

As for 10 dGh, that's not that bad, unless you cater to soft water fish. I'd be more afraid of the kh. :-)





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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2020, 11:48 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by pauld738 View Post

As for 10 dGh, that's not that bad, unless you cater to soft water fish. I'd be more afraid of the kh. :-)

I am concerned with the KH. That's why I cut it with 50% RO. I suppose, though, if I used 50% RO with straight, unsoftened water, my GH and KH would be very close to where I'd want them to be. Could eliminate the need for GH booster, I guess. Hmmmm
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-12-2020, 01:53 AM
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Sodium added by a water softener is a function of total grains per gallon of general hardness.

Water softening references are usually GPG (grains per gallon) of GH, which is close enough to dGH to be equivalent. When softened, the GPG of GH is converted to the sodium component with this formula: GPG of GH x .46 = sodium GPG. to convert the sodium GPG to ppm, use this formula: sodium GPG x 17.1 = sodium ppm.

So, your dGH is 10, which is 10 x .46 x 17.1 = ~80ppm sodium, or 40ppm given your 50/50 split. If you do a 50% w/c weekly, that 40ppm will stabilize at ~80ppm in a few weeks. In hydroponics, sodium levels of 30-100ppm are considered toxic, depending upon the plant.

As you can see, it is better to not use softened water. It is much better to have the 10 dGH (180ppm) in Ca and Mg than it is to have the 80ppm of sodium. Your water softener should have a bypass valve on it. I suggest that you do that when changing your tank water.

The KH levels are high, but should not pose too much of a problem. For plants, we prefer lower levels because the sweet spot for nutrient uptake is in the 5.8-6.2 pH range. A high KH moves you further from ideal nutrient uptake pH levels. There are ways to drive this down with various acids and this is being done by some members. However, it is safer to do it with RO water.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-12-2020, 03:19 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
Sodium added by a water softener is a function of total grains per gallon of general hardness.

Water softening references are usually GPG (grains per gallon) of GH, which is close enough to dGH to be equivalent. When softened, the GPG of GH is converted to the sodium component with this formula: GPG of GH x .46 = sodium GPG. to convert the sodium GPG to ppm, use this formula: sodium GPG x 17.1 = sodium ppm.

So, your dGH is 10, which is 10 x .46 x 17.1 = ~80ppm sodium, or 40ppm given your 50/50 split. If you do a 50% w/c weekly, that 40ppm will stabilize at ~80ppm in a few weeks. In hydroponics, sodium levels of 30-100ppm are considered toxic, depending upon the plant.

As you can see, it is better to not use softened water. It is much better to have the 10 dGH (180ppm) in Ca and Mg than it is to have the 80ppm of sodium. Your water softener should have a bypass valve on it. I suggest that you do that when changing your tank water.

The KH levels are high, but should not pose too much of a problem. For plants, we prefer lower levels because the sweet spot for nutrient uptake is in the 5.8-6.2 pH range. A high KH moves you further from ideal nutrient uptake pH levels. There are ways to drive this down with various acids and this is being done by some members. However, it is safer to do it with RO water.
Great information! Thanks!

The softener does have a bypass. I never realized this. I was just getting a parts list together to add a new tap to bypass it. Now I can still run the unsoftened water through the carbon filter before adding it to my reservoir. Really glad you told me about this.

I suspected that I might be building dangerous levels of sodium. Looks like I may have been setting myself up for a potential crash.

Should I bypass the softener before running the RO system, too? I do seem to be going through filters and resin quicker than I used to. Maybe this would help.

Last edited by jflng; 10-12-2020 at 03:19 AM. Reason: word
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-12-2020, 03:46 AM
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Should I bypass the softener before running the RO system, too? I do seem to be going through filters and resin quicker than I used to. Maybe this would help.
No, it's better to run softened water through the RO unit.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-12-2020, 05:03 AM Thread Starter
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No, it's better to run softened water through the RO unit.
I thought I remembered reading that before I set it up. Thanks!
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