Using RO water -- please help? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Using RO water -- please help?

I ask this before but didn't get any responses. Perhaps this is the wrong forum? I'm not sure which forum it should go in.

I use well water for my 30 gal low tech planted tank. It's hard water. I have some easy plants that grow ok--anubias and moss. But I also have some M. minuta and L. mauritana and dwarf sag that don't seem to grow at all. I've had them for a long time now and they should be growing. I have enough light according to experts here. And I use ferts and excel flourish. My tank is just not thriving with the except of the anubias and the moss. But the whole rest of the tank looks like a grave yard.

The other problem is I had 13 glass cats and they all slowly kicked the bucket one by one despite my water parameters seeming ok. I have 2 gouramis that are fine and 3 ottos and 7 amano shrimp and all are doing fine. So it was just the glass cats.

So I'm thinking it might be time to start using RO water to see if makes any difference. Questions:

1)For those who use RO water, do you buy it or did you buy an RO system to make your own?

2)Is it worth it to buy a system?

3)If you didn't buy a system then what's the best method for storing the water and filling your tank when you do a water change?

4)How should one go about balancing the RO water with the right
minerals?

5)Maybe a stupid question by why do people suggest RO water instead of distilled water?
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 03:25 PM
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If you have any concerns of changing water parameters from your source - either from a well, public facilities or buying it at a store - then, yes, buying an RO/DI system is worth it if you can spot the $100 or so it'll cost.

There are several products on the market for remineralizing RO water. Mosura Mineral Plus Ultra is great. Kent R/O Right is also popular.

Many people buy RO/DI filters because it's convenient and the overall cost of water is definitely cheaper. If you're like me and don't like toting water home all the time, getting a filter is a good call.


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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 06:41 PM
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If your tap water is OK, just too hard, then you do not need to buy anything to re-mineralize the RO. Use a blend of tap water and RO.

Test to see if you need RO system at all:
Put some tap water and some peat moss in a bucket. (Perhaps a quart of water and a 1/4 cup of peat moss). Stir whenever you think about it. Test every few days:
GH, KH, pH, TDS.
SOME peat moss seems to be pretty good at softening the water, and lowering the pH. If this works for you, then you will need to set up your water changes ahead of time, running a small pump in enough water with a bag of peat moss. (Nylon stocking makes a good bag: A knee hi of peat moss for 25-50 gallons of water, less for a smaller volume of water). The peat moss can be reused a few times, but test the result.

For our purposes there is no significant difference between RO and distilled water. You can buy some RO or distilled and run some tests with your tap water and all the aquarium tests you have. If the tests show that this is the answer, then look into buying your own unit. (see below)

I had a very complex system that really was overkill for my pretty decent water, but here is what I did:

System was a 2-part water treatment. The pre-treatment softened the water so well that I just used that for most tanks. For breeding Rams and keeping other very picky fish (Discus, Cardinals) I blended RO with the pre-treated water, then filtered it through peat moss.
I have several garbage cans (Rubbemaid Brute, on wheels).
The day before water changes in the most picky tanks I would half fill the 32 gallon Brute with RO, and half pre-treated water. I added a fountain pump set up to flume the water, and surrounded the intake of the pump with a nylon stocking (Knee-hi) of peat moss. The pump drew the water from the bottom of the can through the peat moss, then pumped it toward the top of the can. This is the best circulation method.
I added only dechlor to this can. I had an aquarium heater hanging in the can to keep the water warm. If it still was too cool, I would heat some of the water in a stainless steel pot on the stove and dump it back into the can.

For hard water tanks I used straight tap water (which was still fairly soft) and filled the can with that. Then I added baking soda for KH and Seachem Equilibrium for GH. Dechlor, but no peat moss. Circulate that overnight or less. Equilibrium is hard to dissolve. I used the water as soon as the Equilibrium was dissolved.
__________________________________________________ ________________

TESTS TO SEE IF RO WILL HELP

Buy a gallon of RO or distilled water.
Mix the following in separate containers of about 1 quart or more:
25% RO + 75% Tap water
50/50
75% RO + 25% Tap water
Test GH, KH and pH, and TDS if you have a meter (Get one, if you will be dealing with RO they are very helpful). Let them sit overnight, then test again.
Then add a handful of peat moss to the containers. Stir it around every few hours, and test the next day. GH, KH, TDS and pH. Then let these sit for a few days, stirring whenever you think about it, and test again.
Here is what you are looking for:
Which blend is best for the fish you want to keep? For the average soft water fish GH and KH well under 9 degrees, and under 5 degrees for the more picky fish is probably the goal. TDS in the low hundreds for average soft water fish, not much more than a hundred for the most picky soft water fish. Not all fish need the peat moss. This is a way of making 'Black Water'. Research the fish.
Is the mix stable? Does the TDS, GH, KH and pH stay the same (or pretty close) for the duration of the test?

OK, lets say you find that you need a 50/50 mix, and adding peat moss takes 24 hours to stabilize, then holds pretty good for a week.
You will want to buy a RO system that will produce enough gallons to make that 50/50 mix every week for a water change, and you will need a storage container where you can prep the water overnight.
__________________________________________________ ___________________
BUYING YOUR OWN RO UNIT

If your water (well water) is very hard, or has certain minerals in it this will age the membrane in the RO unit very fast (and they are not cheap!). Look into some sort of pre-treatment that will at least exchange the worst minerals for something that is a bit more RO-friendly. You might need to talk with a local expert, perhaps someone who sells water filtration systems in your area. Perhaps get some professional tests done on your water to see what is really in it.

Then start pricing set ups:
Initial cost.
Set up.
On-going costs:
Filter cartridges
Salt (if you go with a pre-treatment system)
RO Membrane
Electricity if you need a pump (RO is very inefficient at low water pressure)
Waste water (can you use it in the garden?)
Other
Then try to get an estimate of how many gallons the system will produce before you need to replace the parts.
Do some math. Is it cheaper to get your own system? Or is buying RO water locally the way to go? What does it cost to go to the store? (if you are already there for groceries etc this is not an issue, but what if you run our of RO water and have an aquarium emergency?)
You can buy lots of RO water ahead of time and store it. Set up a rotation so you are always using the oldest bottles. (This also counts as emergency water for your family if you cannot get water out of the well when the power is out.)
If your well water is so awful you need a pre-treatment system, then maybe you and your family ought not to be drinking it, and the cost can be shared between the needs of the family and the aquariums. If you are already buying bottled water for the family, but you get one of these systems you can stop buying bottled water.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 07:29 PM
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dwarf sag doesnt like flourish! what lights do you have? how often do you do water changes? what ferts do you use? filtration system?
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 07:48 PM
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This is just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt.. I use R/O in my 20L because our water here is funky. I bought three of the large 5 gallon containers they sell at the supermarket for bottled water you fill at the machine. Pretty much every supermarket, Wal-Mart and even Lowe's has a rather large water dispensing machine with the industrial R/O setup so for a buck and some change I can fill one up. Yes that means I tote 100+ gallons of water but honestly I don't even change 5 gallons on my monthly maintenance. In your case with a 30 you may change 8~10 gallons at once if you follow the rule of thirds for your water change. If you have an emargency you can get away with having three containers on hand and do a partial then go out and refill all three for the final top off. I have @5 - 1 gallon jugs of the same water on standby for top offs as necessary so I am really changing 2 gallons weekly in between water changes and those are only 25 cents a fill. The machines fill those 5 gallon jugs in no time and it isn't anything that kills me to throw them into a shopping cart and take them in to be filled.

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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 07:53 PM
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Look at proper lighting, CO2, and nutrients before switching to RO water.


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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 10:30 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for all your help!

I really don't want to go with CO2. It's too expensive and too much of a PITA for me. I want to stick with low tech. I've tried to choose my plants accordingly of course and they have all been surviving, just not growing.

johnny,
I do water changes once a week. I do about 20% of the tank. The light I use is a coralife. Two T5NO 18watt bulbs. Recommended to me by Laural on this forum. I use just a general seachem fertilizer. I have been though all this before on this forum and no one has been able to really come up with why my plants just don't grow. I understand that in low tech plants grow slowly but they at least still grow. Mine don't grow at all with the except of the Anubias and the moss.

I think for starters I should just buy the RO water by the gallon and see if it makes any difference before considering investing in an RO system.

Thanks again for everyone's help! I really appreciate it.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 11:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ponyo View Post
I really don't want to go with CO2. It's too expensive and too much of a PITA for me. I want to stick with low tech.
Pressurized CO2 will be less work, lower cost, and more beneficial for your plants than RO water.

If you're intent on RO, my advice is to automate it as much as possible. I used a rubbermaid brute trash can from home depot and a float switch/solenoid to shut it off automatically. Lugging water around or trying to remember to turn the filter off is not for me.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-05-2012, 11:10 PM
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Quote:
M. minuta and L. mauritana
You'll need CO2 for these to thrive, not RO. RO isn't magic water.


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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-06-2012, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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I know RO isn't magic water. It's just that my water is hard. I don't know if it killed my catfish but I have no other explanation for what killed them.

Other people have been able to get M minuta and L. mauritana (I'm so not spelling those correctly!) to grow under low light/low tech conditions. There are plenty of tanks in the low tech show and tell that are very lushly planted so it must be possible.

I forgot to say what kind of filter I have. It's a HOB filter.
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