Water quality with a Whole house water softener - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Water quality with a Whole house water softener

I've got several questions about water quality so bare with me.

I just moved into a new house in February, and I'm in the process of accumulating tanks, since I finally have the space for a fish room. It looks like the water in the house is run through a pair of water softeners

Right now i have 4 low tech tanks set up, and everything is going fine. I don't normally do much of any water testing, but I'm trying out my first dirt tank, and I want to get more into breeding, and maybe some more high tech tanks, so I got a master test kit. Ammonia/ nitrite/ nitrate/ ph/ high ph.

When i tested my main tank I got a ph of 6.0. I figured no big deal my water must be on the low side, and my driftwood and other naturally scavenged decor, are probably lowering it over time.

Then i tested my recently setup fishless nonmineralized dirt substrate 10g tank, and found out my cycle isn't over yet, and my ph is 8.0. Now I realize probably have no buffers.

Now I'm not sure whati need to do or how much of a problem this us going to cause, or whati can do about it. So far the only problem I have is a massive algae outbreak in my dirted tank, but I'm assuming that is from excesss nutrients/ to much light, so I'm considering diy co2. Doesn't that lower ph? I want to breed angelfish, and then try discus so I need to get my water stabilized. Soft water is better for angels and discuss right?

Does anyone else use softened water?
What should I be testing for?
How can I buffer my water?
Is it normal for a dirted tank to have a high ph while cycling?



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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 02:59 PM
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what type of water conditioner?
My home has a salt regen resin unit, cation exchange calcium / sodium and that caused all kinds of weird water issues.


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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
what type of water conditioner?
My home has a salt regen resin unit, cation exchange calcium / sodium and that caused all kinds of weird water issues.
I think that might be what i have. I definitely need to find out, i dont even know how they work or what kind of maintenance they require. They are about four foot tall, and a foot wide each direction. I've seen them at lowes for about $300-600 apiece, and i think they sell salt with them.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 03:11 PM
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me me me me! i use a softener, but bypass it when i need to work on tanks, or use our r/o unit depending on how motivated i am or my time constraints.

i wouldnt worry about PH too much.


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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 03:17 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by nonconductive View Post
me me me me! i use a softener, but bypass it when i need to work on tanks, or use our r/o unit depending on how motivated i am or my time constraints.

i wouldnt worry about PH too much.
yeah I haven't used a ph test in 5 years, but i sometimes transfer fish from one tank to another, and if i transferred an angelfish directly from a tank with a 6.0 to one with an 8.0 that might be an issue.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 03:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polypterus491 View Post
yeah I haven't used a ph test in 5 years, but i sometimes transfer fish from one tank to another, and if i transferred an angelfish directly from a tank with a 6.0 to one with an 8.0 that might be an issue.

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Copied from my thread and reposted several times
"pH? who cares?"

Shifts (swings) in GH, KH, TDS, osmotic pressure that's the yada yada that causes our critters issues not pH changes per say. Tested pH is a product of carbonate buffers and CO2 content in the water for the larger part in this conversation. Acidic or alkaline yes but testing pH as it relates to tank water what are we looking at and why? Mg and calcium levels don't even factor at all in a pH reading but sure as hell change the TDS and osmotic pressure.
I can easily get a tested result of 7.4pH in both 4dGH and 14dGH water. Flip a fish outta the net from one to the other either way and you just hit the critter in the face with a 2x4. Better to base conversations like this one in values of GH, KH, TDS and forget pH.

This draws fire every time I post it but consistent results are hard to argue with (imo).
My well provides 11dKH (196.9ppm) and 10dGH (179ppm) water out of the ground (lab tested 3yrs ago). High organic iron content too.

I choose to keep angelfish, always have actually. Hard water (too much calcium) and the egg shells are too thick and most weren't viable. I also had a higher mortality rate in adult fish. I had my water tested because of the problems listed.

I reconstitute RO for all my tanks to the range of 4-6dGH and 2dKH using GH booster and baking soda. Didn't do this before but I do it now and have for over 2yrs. Spawns are a constant occurrence and with large hatch rates. NPT or high tech I do them all the same.

As long as the temperature is matched I routinely swap fish between injected tanks with 5.9/6.2pH and 7.4/7.6pH low techs.
Temps the same, the TDS is very close and fish just don't care about pH.

is what it is.

Using 'soften' water from my house unit plant growth/survival wasn't very good. The sodium/calcium exchange altered water didn't provide good results for me.


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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 04:34 PM
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For a start, you need to find out more about the softeners. Then you can begin to figure what work around is needed.
Are the two units of a type with lids that you can open to add salt or potassium? That would sound like a system which was too small and a second added but that is not common. If you have two units, one a big round barrel with a lid where salt is added and a second which looks something like a large air tank, that would likely be a standard setup resin exchange which is common. If you are in an area that has high iron content, there is another possiblitiy. They may be using one unit to inject chlorine to precipitate the iron and one to soften. Not too unusual.
You may also need to look for faucets which do not run through the softener. Depends on how the house is plumbed but there may be outside faucets which provide unsoftened water for the yard. That would give you easy options for which water to use.
It is also likely that you might find a bypass on the softener and you could close it to get raw water but that might not be a way I recommend as the bypass can get to be a maintenance headache if used often.
If you are in the SE Kansas area, you may be dealing with very low PH due to the lead/zinc in that part.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 04:40 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
haha angels are my primary game

Copied from my thread and reposted several times
"pH? who cares?"

Shifts (swings) in GH, KH, TDS, osmotic pressure that's the yada yada that causes our critters issues not pH changes per say. Tested pH is a product of carbonate buffers and CO2 content in the water for the larger part in this conversation. Acidic or alkaline yes but testing pH as it relates to tank water what are we looking at and why? Mg and calcium levels don't even factor at all in a pH reading but sure as hell change the TDS and osmotic pressure.
I can easily get a tested result of 7.4pH in both 4dGH and 14dGH water. Flip a fish outta the net from one to the other either way and you just hit the critter in the face with a 2x4. Better to base conversations like this one in values of GH, KH, TDS and forget pH.

This draws fire every time I post it but consistent results are hard to argue with (imo).
My well provides 11dKH (196.9ppm) and 10dGH (179ppm) water out of the ground (lab tested 3yrs ago). High organic iron content too.

I choose to keep angelfish, always have actually. Hard water (too much calcium) and the egg shells are too thick and most weren't viable. I also had a higher mortality rate in adult fish. I had my water tested because of the problems listed.

I reconstitute RO for all my tanks to the range of 4-6dGH and 2dKH using GH booster and baking soda. Didn't do this before but I do it now and have for over 2yrs. Spawns are a constant occurrence and with large hatch rates. NPT or high tech I do them all the same.

As long as the temperature is matched I routinely swap fish between injected tanks with 5.9/6.2pH and 7.4/7.6pH low techs.
Temps the same, the TDS is very close and fish just don't care about pH.

is what it is.

Using 'soften' water from my house unit plant growth/survival wasn't very good. The sodium/calcium exchange altered water didn't provide good results for me.
I appreciate your insight, but alot of that went over my head, because, I don't usually test my water all.

So should I buy gh/kh test kits and start studying up on it, or just quit worrying about it, and see what happens. Lol

Where do you get ro water?

Thanks again for your help

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 05:36 PM
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I think you should go slow with changes. Study up on the topic a bit. Options are all over the spectrum but first you need to know what the source water actually contains. The former owner added the conditioner for a reason, I would want to know why. FYI also if you indeed do have a resin exchange unit DO NOT allow it t run out of whatever is used for the regeneration cycle or it will ruin the resin bed material.

Odds are good it's a salt regen because potassium regen units aren't as common. Plugging auto valve issues create higher maintenance, higher cost for potassium opposed to salt pricing, larger required piping, material caking, just not a commonly installed type unit. Shopping for a potassium unit in my marketing area both sales & honest repair people argued against selling me one.

After tanking for years without any problems when we moved it was one after another. Trying several things (most are posted in threads on here) distilled water was purchased for a year as a test and what resulted was all my problems went away. I learned a little water chemistry, plants grew like crazy and I started buying more tanks for all the spawns to grow in.

After discovering my tap was crap I did online research and put together an RO unit in my detached garage.

Learning to test GH, KH, TDS, PO4, NO3, Ca, NH3/NH4 were part of my learning curve. Altering water can be a silly circle when the reality is most messing with it don't need to, the extreme is what I have (crap for tap). You need to know what you have before making a choice on what to do.

Do the homework and figure out what you have. Central supply you should be able to get a report for free. With a well the local county extension or health department should be able to help. Hobby kits can be used but lab results for a baseline put my mind at ease.
\
and glad to help anyway I can,,, that's what forums are for


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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-06-2012, 06:29 PM Thread Starter
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Wowi didn't expect so much info so quickly, I'm going to find out whati have soi can ask the right questions.
Thanks again

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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-07-2012, 04:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nonconductive View Post
me me me me! i use a softener, but bypass it when i need to work on tanks, or use our r/o unit depending on how motivated i am or my time constraints.
same here. I bypass my water softener when I do a water change. I don't bother to bypass if I'm only topping off.

You definitely need to find out what kind of salt you are using. Simplifiying things, a water softener basically will replace the minerals in your water with either salt or KCl. Either way its bad since you wont have the minerals that your plants need and will have a lot of salt or potassium. At first I thought a lot of K would be good but I think I was getting an OD of K that it was hampering the absorbtion of other minerals even when I was dosing ferts.

Hope this helps.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-07-2012, 05:57 AM
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Get the tests for GH and KH.

Bypass the water softener.

Set the GH right for the fish. (If your tap water before the softener is too hard you may have to get an RO unit)
Make the KH roughly equal to the GH.
For blackwater fish keep some peat moss in the filter. Maybe prepare the new water with some peat moss.

Ignore the pH. If the GH and KH are in the right range for the fish that is best. The pH can be quite a ways off and the fish are fine. There may be some breeding issues, but lets get the water chemistry understood and handled before dealing with breeding fish.
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