Please talk to me about RO water! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 01:01 AM Thread Starter
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Please talk to me about RO water!

I'm setting up my new tank and for the past two weeks, I've been storing RO water in brute cans. I came across this video today entitled, "Do not use RO water in a planted tank!" This was the opposite of what I read just about a month ago. So I am totally confused now. I was under the impression that we use RO water going in but then we add the chemicals we want back in. In fact, I was getting ready to purchase some Flourish products (potassium, iron, etc) So can someone clarify this for me. I don't dare tell the wife as I would not want to explain that I no longer need the 50g of RO that probably took 200g to actually make. Also, maybe someone can also address water changes and what type of water are you using for that. Many thanks!

Edit: Please also advise on what exactly I should use to prepare this RO water for plants once cycling is complete.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 01:12 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnsTank View Post
I was getting ready to purchase some Flourish products (potassium, iron, etc)
NilocG.com for ferts and GH booster.
Many use R/O water and adjust to meet their requirements.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 01:17 AM
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A lot of people use ro water. To me and this is just my opinion, unless you have a species that require strict water parameters or your tap water is just horrific, it is a waste of water and money. Thats just me and my opinion. That said a lot of tpt members use ro water mixed with salty shrimp for certain caradina species of shrimp. So to answer the question one would need to know what species you plan to keep to answer the question.

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 01:25 AM
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I use RO water as a basis for the water in my planted tank. However, it can not be used "as is". I first need to bring the water up to my desired levels by using GH booster and baking soda to bring up KH. Then I use dry ferts to bring up the fertilization levels. You should do all this before you use it. I also use RO water for top off water, since it will not add anything additional.

This is a lot more work than a lot of people wish to do. I find I get a much better level of calcium and magnesium this way, and better plant growth. However, if you have good tap water, that will be fine.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 02:02 AM Thread Starter
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I guess I was under some misconception that tap water cannot be used with fish because of chlorine or any other chemicals that are harmful. Perhaps though, doing water changes on a stable tank with tap water would be diluted enough to have no effect on the fish? I do not know what fish I will have in the tank. Nothing difficult to start with. Basic neon tetras, stuff like that.

Getting back to the tap water for a sec, didn't I hear that tap water can cause algae as well? Maybe these are all myths. Should I contact the water company and ask them any particular questions about water quality? I live in a metro area of Calif but frankly not sure what is in our water. I just know it has chlorine cause I can taste it. Oddly enough, my family drinks the RO water but I don't care for it. It tastes bitter to me. I much prefer Arrowhead. Seems smoother......but I digress.

I really want to do this right. I do not know that I have the time or patience to do all what DaveK does to prepare his water. I will be doing the initial setup this week with just the substrate (Eco-complete) and water. I feel like now that I have found out this info on RO, I will need to research info on what tank parameters I need to look at and address. Or do I even need to worry about this for the first month while it's cycling? While it's cycling I was going to look in the classifieds for people selling plants. I just want to make sure the the tank is ready for those plants when they arrive. From my saltwater days, I do remember that ammonia and nitrites should both be 0 but what I really need to know is what tank parameters are important as it applies to plants. If I get some easier plants to start with, what should my are the important parameters to be looking at? Now that I have a tank full of RO, everything is stripped out right?
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 02:10 AM
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Test you water paramters, specifically ph, kh, and gh. Post those and go from there. If you are going with standard fish then there may not be an issue for you to need to use ro water. Let me give an example. My tap water is hard as in 7.8 tp 8.0 ish with a gh of 7 or 8 and a kh of 11 to 14. I have found one plant I couldnt grow and I think that had to do more with light than parameters. My fish are healthy. My plants grow like gang busters. My 75g is like a jungle. So in my opinion unless you just like fiddling with water chemistry or your water is trash then I personally see no real point in it. Another thing. If you are new to the hobby I could not in good conscience advise you to add yet another parameter to learn to deal with. Many times stuff comes up for sale here because the member gets burned out or takes to big a bite at once and has no luck so they sell everything at a huge loss. I dont know your skill level but if you are new to aquariums in general I would focus on the basics and then go from there. Just my two cents worth.

Bump: Oh and our tap has a ton of chlorine, nothing a little Prime cant fix!!

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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 02:14 AM
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Except for very special cases (like 'rock' hard water) RO water is not typically used in FW aquariums. Plants and fish need the minerals in water. If you use RO water, you must add minerals and adjust for pH e.g. Seachem Equilibrium and Acid/Alkaline Buffers).
I have high nitrates in my well water and I've resisted an RO approach in favor of using a nitrate filtration resin (API Nitra-Zorb).
To deal with chlorine/chloramine in municipal water supplies there are many products (like Prime) that readily takes care of this.

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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 02:24 AM
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If you want EXACT water parameters such as a specific lowered KH level or pH level that you can not get out of your tap, RO will get you there. But growing most plants and certainly fish don't require RO water. I have discus and I don't even use RO water for water changes. I do use it for toping off though.

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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 02:33 AM
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Is it the exception to the rule that water utilities or PUD's will provide a chemical write up on what your water contains for chemicals and dissolved minerals?

I suppose I am in the enviable situation of having a surface water source that is practically Amazonian blackwater soft. Water changes can cause my tetras to start spawning. But it's also a pain because what is considered a base gH and kH for growing plants well I have to fudge in some kH at the substrate level with oyster shell and with the water's GH by adding some Epsom salt with each water change.

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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 03:17 AM Thread Starter
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Great information. Thanks people. At least I know what I need to test for now and I'm somewhat relieved that I won't have to make batches of RO water every week for water changes. Like a couple of you, I will just use the RO water for topping off. I still have lots of learning to do. I thought that my years with saltwater aquariums would cut down on the learning curve but honestly, I'm learning all kinds of new stuff.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 02:08 PM
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As has been said, it all depends on the water quality coming out of your tap.
For my water I use 50% well water, and 50% RO, which gives me the general parameters I like.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 04:19 PM
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I'm a big fan of RO/DI water. My tap water is absolutely horrid, almost 400 TDS, 15+ dGH straight from the faucet. Since I would like to have the option of keeping fish beyond livebearers and rift lake cichlids I use RO water, remineralized to 3 dGH and almost no KH. Certain plants will also fail to thrive in hard water, even with ample light, CO2, and nutrients. This works very well for me.

Tap water can cause algae in several ways. Certain algaes, like green hair algae, just plain like hard water (the vast majority of places have hard tap water). Tap water can also have nutrients like nitrates and phosphates, which makes it hard to keep nutrient levels low even with regular water changes.

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 06:08 PM
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I'm thinking of getting a small setup just to have good soft water for breeding tetras.
Our water hardens the eggs before they can get fertilised. Some of the units I looked at mentions extra cartridges for re-mineralising the water. I guess we don't want that in our tanks?

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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-09-2016, 03:30 AM
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I looked at mentions extra cartridges for re-mineralising the water. I guess we don't want that in our tanks?
Correct. Also, not much useful in general. And you don't really need DI stage for fresh water tank, for example, my RO system brings TDS from 270 to 4 (without DI). And this water can be used not only for tank, but for drinking too.
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-09-2016, 12:57 PM
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Skip the RO go to DI

If you are in need of small amounts of de-ionized water, such as for topping off a single tank or doing partial changes on a modestly sized tank, you don't really need an RO setup.
I run my (hard) well water through a refillable DI cartridge to produce water that measures 0.00 on my TDS meter. The cost per gallon is about the same as buying bottled water (>$1 per gallon), but there are no plastic bottles to recycle, no expensive RO system to maintain and no wasted water. I live with a deep well and pay for electricity to lift the water from 425 feet underground, so the wasted water is significant to me.
The resins are sold on ebay and other places. The cartridges take about five minutes to refill. The only way that you will reliably know that the resins need replacement is by using a TDS meter ($15).
Water production is about 4 gallons per hour and I run it only when I am getting reaady to do a partial water change. I typically change about 3 gallons of my 40 gallon tank twice a week.
Straight well water can be used to bring up the mineral content when the TDS gets too low. That hasn't happened yet.
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