Moved and now have a water softener - do I need to do anything? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-17-2014, 06:15 PM Thread Starter
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Moved and now have a water softener - do I need to do anything?

I live in SoCal and I have had multiple tanks set up for a couple of years using our extremely hard tap water. However, I just moved to a new place and we now have a whole-house water softener which is managed by the landlord so I can't really avoid it. Its nice for a lot of reasons (except I can't get soap off of anything, arrgh!), but I'm not sure how it will affect my tanks.

I am setting up a new tank and I will be filling it mostly with the now soft water. Do I need to do anything differently than I have been? Is there any sort of acclimation process I need to go through for my fish? They're currently in a bucket with the old hard water, but I will need to do a water change here shortly...

Some more info:

Community fish - rasboras, gold barbs, rummynoses, bristlenose, cories, angelfish, rainbow fish, loaches, nerites/MTS

Also have a nano cherry shrimp tank. I remember reading they are more sensitive to hard/soft water because of their exoskeleton.

Medium tech, going higher tech - dosed excel/flourish plus some dry potassium. Moving to a soil tank with CO2. Anubias, crypts, vals, swords, hygro. Will be getting a lot more plants - anything to watch out for there?
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-18-2014, 10:58 PM
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Sodium exchange water softeners add sodium and remove calcium and magnesium.

Ca and Mg are required minerals for plants and fish.

Test the GH of the water. If it is still at least 3 German degrees of hardness, then there are enough of these minerals in the water. Otherwise I would use a GH booster such as Seachem Equilibrium.

There are also water softeners that add potassium to the water and remove Ca and Mg. Potassium is a required plant fertilizer, so less worries about that, but the same question as for the sodium exchange water softener. Make sure the GH is high enough that the Ca and Mg are there in enough quantity for the fish.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 12:11 AM
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After the softener, I would expect near zero on the hardness (GH/KH) if the softener is working as it should. An item to check would be if there are outside faucets or a test tap where water could be had before the softener. I would not even begin to ask the owner to switch to potassium due to the really big difference in cost.

Sodium 3.50-4.00 Potassium $26-30 at Lowe's
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 12:22 AM
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I have a well with a sodium softener. There's a dump spigot for the extrol bladder tank that is pre softener. A lot of softeners also have a bypass valve for when you're using the water for say watering plants and such.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 12:30 AM
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I have a in house water softener too, and since the water out of my tap is pretty good (heavy in chlorine but grand rapids does NOT use chloramines), I just use the sink in the laundry room to bypass it. It sits right next to the water softener, but for some reason its not connected to it.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 02:29 AM
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Some looking at the softener and how it is installed and plumbed may be needed. If you have outside faucets, they may not be run through the softener. I'm not sure how it would work out for the landlord to manage the softener, I would not want to go by that often if it were me. But then if he knows about it, he may be able to tell you right off which faucets, if any, are raw water.
The problem with using the bypass to get raw water is that you would need to drain the pipes of the softened water before starting your fill and that is a pretty iffy thing to do if you can't see where the pipes run. Some friendly talking to the owner might be a good place to start?
A small point on not getting the soap off? You may be feeling like there is still soap on you when there isn't. The slick feeling is when you no longer have the drag of rubbing calcium and magnesium particles around on your skin.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 10:12 PM
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A softener doesnt affect KH, only GH. So you should see near zero GH, and the same KH as unsoftened water.

As has already been said, a GH booster is needed or root tabs with Ca and Mg,or softened/unsoftened mix, if you want to grow plants.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-21-2014, 12:53 AM
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You can raise GH using dry plaster of Paris and plain Epsom salt. I was fine without either for almost a year so it depends on what plants you want to keep.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-21-2014, 02:00 PM
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I had a bypass valve on mine. Shut the valve and flush the lines for a few minutes and your good to go. Worked for me for years. If there is none they are easy to install.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-21-2014, 02:07 PM
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Far from anything you would call expert on this but what about the sodium ?
If you can't by-pass it you may want to purchase an RO unit.
And the water fom that re-configured with Equalibrium.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight the opposite direction...
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-22-2014, 02:43 AM
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The amount of sodium in softened water is really not very much, and usually nothing to worry about.

However, if you cannot get access to pre-softener water, then getting your own RO unit is a great idea. Then you can remove that sodium, and customize the water to suit the fish or shrimp. RO after a water softener is the best way to run them. I think you can get a small portable to hook up to a sink just when you want the RO water.
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