'softening' the water through precipitation - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 04:28 PM Thread Starter
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'softening' the water through precipitation

I was browsing on the net last night and found a company which sells a water conditioner that makes calcium and magnesium ions precipitate,or so they say, thus decreasing general hardness.I have never heard of such a thing,do you know anything about this?
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 04:34 PM
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Haven't heard of it, but if it's a treatment that goes into the tank, rather than treating the water before it goes in, then it'll play havoc on the fish's osmoregulation. Most important thing is that the mineral content in the tank stays the same or only changes slightly over long periods of time to ensure the fish can regulate in time.

I use an RO filter, one of the best investments I've ever made toward the hobby. Can be expensive up front, but equals out once bottled additives start adding up, and up, infinitely for the duration of use. Also cancels out the need for so much dechlorinator if it's a good RO unit, not one of the cheap little portables, you get what you pay for to a degree. At least $100 for a four or five stage ebay unit, with a filmtek membrane and a few carbon blocks should be fine for a TDS around 0ppm.

Got a link to the precipitating stuff?


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 04:52 PM
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Thanks for the link. Seachem is one of my favorite companies as far as wide product line and quality, but I know they're not immune to selling anything they can. I know you will pay through the nose to keep up with the use of the acid regulator. In general, any experienced aquarist with real knowledge of water quality will steer you far away from any type of pH regulator. That's not to say it won't work, but it won't last forever, and the result is fluctuating parameters which you definitely don't want. Whether it be a type of regulator that wears off, or you simply can't afford a new bottle or forget to add it, maybe it's hard to get the same result every time, too many possibilities for error and fluctuation. Aside from many plants preferring soft water, most of the popular fish in the trade will adapt to whatever parameters you have as long as they're stable. Breeders are about the only ones that may require softened water, in which case they use RO, or acidic tannins from peat or leaf litter, or rain water.


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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 04:58 PM
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Oh yeah, people have been doing the same thing for ages by adding hydrochloric or muriatic acid to the tank, it has a pretty good factor for error to the point that RO is probably the most popular way to soften now. Even peat is not entirely controllable, but at least it causes slower changes than straight acid will. Only problem there is dark tannins that are either unsightly to the hobbyist or can even block out light and slow or halt plant growth. The surest way to set steady parameters is to start with 0tds RO and reconstitute it with known amounts of CA, Mg and bicarb.


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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 05:02 PM Thread Starter
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Going down on ph is usually impossible with such products,so these products don't work as well as a lot of other seachem products.seachem is maybe the first company to introduce the macronutrient consept to the masses,that's a step forward but you cannot simply promote things that are not plausible at all.I am talking generally and not just for seachem..thumbs up though for the macros..
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 05:20 PM
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Gotta love Seachem. Prime is probably my favorite product from them. I wonder how much it would hurt the big companies and fish stores if they stopped selling the regulator type products, they certainly can't push RO units as easily. I hear fish store employees pushing this stuff on hobbyists all the time, or rather offering it as the solution to a pH "problem" they seem to be convinced they're having. I always want to say "don't waste your money", but there aren't enough fish stores around for me to get kicked out of any. There is one older employee in a local big box pet store (name withheld to preserve his employment) who steers away all kinds of sales, whether it be useless additives, worthless meds, or even guides you to better deals on tank furniture down the road from the competitors. I think he's just there to make sure the water stays clean and tend to the captives.


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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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thumbs up for him too then..
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 05:27 PM Thread Starter
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look,I'm selling and promoting aquarium products my self but there are some limits..I can see sales go down on products I don't believe in like ph minus or live bacteria cultures.It is definately bad for my job but I can't help it..
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-21-2009, 05:46 PM
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I'm thankful for the internet and being able to find the more intimate suppliers and trading networks, hobbyists who actually have a good reason to rationalize first since they live this every day. That's why I don't think you'll find a pH regulator through Rex or Orlando, many of the smaller and specialized forum sponsors and clubs for reefs, plants, or whatever.


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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-24-2009, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jaidexl View Post
Oh yeah, people have been doing the same thing for ages by adding hydrochloric or muriatic acid to the tank, it has a pretty good factor for error to the point that RO is probably the most popular way to soften now. Even peat is not entirely controllable, but at least it causes slower changes than straight acid will. Only problem there is dark tannins that are either unsightly to the hobbyist or can even block out light and slow or halt plant growth. The surest way to set steady parameters is to start with 0tds RO and reconstitute it with known amounts of CA, Mg and bicarb.
Hydrochloric/Muriatic acid does not soften water. It only lowers pH. My water has a pH of 9.5, I use hydrochloric, gH does not change.

A product that precipitates Ca & Mg and lowers pH is kind of contradictory. Very high pH water will precipitate Ca & Mg but when the pH drops it dissolves again. Not sure how a product can bind those minerals so they cannot re-dissolve.

Some water treatment plants use lye or soda ash to raise the pH to the point minerals DO precipitate out. The soft water doesn't leave deposits in pipes and water heaters. The high pH keeps copper and lead from leaching. But the precipitated minerals stay at the water treatment plant. In acidic water they would just dissolve again.

I love SeaChem but they aren't big on disclosing how their products work. Without a serious chemical explanation of how this magic product works, I wouldn't try it. The MSDS doesn't even say what is in it.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 12:34 AM
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That's pretty common with all their MSDS's, some legal loophole someone mentioned, to not be forced to disclose anything that the sheet is really for in the first place, makes no sense to me.

"Soft" or "hard" water actually has to do with general hardness, not alkalinity, acidity, or pH, in that case the word softening is a misnomer and is part of the hobby epidemic where people are chasing a certain pH thinking they're softening their water, when they should be lowering general hardness through dilution, RO etc, rather than battle KH with acid. When a species profile lists "soft water", that means the general hardness of their natural locale is low, or in the soft range. When fishbase lists dH they're literally listing dGH. Some profiles are just caught up in the pH myth and list a recommended pH they picked up somewhere, probably not worth paying attention to, others might accurately list a fish from more acidic environments.

People add acid to neutralize carbonates and bicarb, to fight the buffering of KH, problem is you have to add even more to neutralize the bases and get it down even further than 7. Nasty. In the first paragraph on their product page, Seachem is explaining a dual purpose product... "adjusts pH to the acidic range (4.5 5.5) and softens water by precipitating calcium and magnesium. It's probably a combination of acid for KH and pH, and another one of their "accidental" lab discoveries for dealing with GH.


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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 02:26 AM
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People add acid to neutralize carbonates and bicarb, to fight the buffering of KH, problem is you have to add even more to neutralize the bases and get it down even further than 7. Nasty.
Not nasty. 4ml of 30 baume hydrochloric acid in 25 gallons of my water drops the pH from 9.5 to 7.5, another couple of milliliters drops it to a pH of 6.0. For the metric-ly challenged, a teaspoon is 5 milliliters. What else can you put so little of in and get such a drastic change? Very predictable and no persisting toxic chemicals or *mystery* chemicals. For others it could be a different amount but still very little compared to the volume of water.

Everyone's tap water is different, my kH is barely 2, gH is less, TDS ~100 and much of that is the soda ash they put in. There isn't a single best way to correct water. For *most* dilution with RO is probably the best way to lower hardness. A decent unit is a good investment and very predictable if maintained. I read the SeaChem product page, that's where I got the link to their MSDS. I will not accept that they have found a one-size-fits-all solution to lowering pH and gH through precipitation in a single product. It may work for some, perhaps those with well water that hasn't been tampered with by water treatment plants. Municipalities add some very strange things to tap water and I don't think SeaChem can cover all the possibilities.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 03:08 AM
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I wasn't aware so little could make such a difference. You're lucky though, to already have close to neutral water (according to KH), I wonder how much someone with very alkaline water has to use just to get down to neutral. If you're getting 9.5 just from soda ash, I don't see why simple aging can't get it down to 7.4-ish within a day or two. My tap has comes out around pH 8.4, 2-3dKH and settles to pH7.2-4 within 24hrs.

Anyway, I agree about Seachem. they have some great products but still push a lot of things i don't agree with, typically the acids and buffers. There are only a few things you really need to handle this area of water chemistry, but they have a knack for addressing each part of it with two or more products with different packaging, description etc, for all I know they're the same things, the MSDS won't tell. You have Equilibrium then you have Cichlid Salts, a few types if I'm not mistaken with slight differences in elements to replicate different lakes, and you also have Replenish for RO reconstitution. You have Discus Buffer which has a description very similar to this Acid Regulator. There's Alkaline buffer (nothing but carbonate and bicarbonate), which states to combine with Acid Buffer to achieve a certain pH, then there's neutral regulator which is probably a set ratio of those same two products in one package for a pH of 7.0.

The list goes on and on, it's the only thing I don't like about that company, it's a greedy way of taking advantage of people in my opinion. I can understand offering both dry and liquid forms but that product line could be simplified. Even the plant supplement line is redundant in so many areas.


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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 06:15 AM
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I wasn't aware so little could make such a difference. You're lucky though, to already have close to neutral water (according to KH), I wonder how much someone with very alkaline water has to use just to get down to neutral. If you're getting 9.5 just from soda ash, I don't see why simple aging can't get it down to 7.4-ish within a day or two. My tap has comes out around pH 8.4, 2-3dKH and settles to pH7.2-4 within 24hrs.
A pH of 9.5 is very alkaline water. *confused* It lacks buffering, carbonate hardness or if you want to play with semantics "total alkalinity", but 9.5 is very alkaline. Ask all the fish it killed. Other tap water may require more or less acid depending on the total composition of the water, it's trial and error.

Just from soda ash? Soda ash is extremely basic and also stable. Why would you think it would age to a lower pH? The pH is actually adjusted down with CO2 at the water treatment plant. The pH can go up with aging as the CO2 outgasses. Your water is probably just CO2 deprived, dissolved gasses stabilize and you get a lower pH. I used to have water like that. If it was treated with soda ash, you would know it. The New England Public Aquarium had to hire a consultant to deal with the soda ash, took me over a year to figure out how to economically DIY it into something usable. Had believed the myth using acid wasn't a viable option. Using 200+ gallons a week rules out RO/DI simply because of the waste water generated. Great solution for hard water but not high pH alone.
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