RO versus Tap water??? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-21-2004, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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I'm sure you guys have talked about this, but I searched and couldn't find anything on it, so I thought I'd ask. Should I be using RO water instead of tap? I live in Southern Cali and our water is quite hard here. My plants always seem to look a bit on the yellow side compared to other people's tanks and I was wondering if too many minerals was the culprit. Any suggestions are welcome.
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post #2 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-21-2004, 11:44 PM
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I have recently been looking into the same issue of RO vs. non-RO water in my freshwater aquarium.

I have been experiementing with using RO (pre-softened with a potassium-based whole-house water filter system) as replacement water when I do a water change. I watch the pH closely for some hours after adding, and add only a gallon at a time (about every hour and a half) to observe my fish behaviors.

It seems that if you compensate for what is not in the RO water (as must be done with a saltwater tank, for example), you have a good source for pure water. By compensating I mean that you need a buffer to stabilize your pH, you need to make sure that you get the pH in the RO water to par with what is in the tank (what is good for the fish) -- remembering that "standing water" pH measurements are not the same as flowing water, so give a few hours for the water to "settle" before measuring the pH.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can be (sparingly) used as a partial buffer if your pH is too low, but beware of too much sodium accumulation in the water.

There are other buffers commercially available, some with trace minerals. Unless you want a buffer with salt (some of Seachem's have salt), look for those without salt, intended for pH stabilization, and if specifically for aquarium water, look for one that is intended for freshwater, or that can be used with fresh and saltwater.

As for the yellowing of the plants, you have a deficiency. Are you augmenting your water regularly with aquatic plant nutrients(fertilizer)? You need macronutrients (nitrates, phosphates, and potassium), as well as micronutrients. Also iron. There are many posts around here about plant feeding and DIY formulas for aquarium dosing.

Take care not to alter the pH in your tank to suddenly to avoid undesireable fish reactions.

Good luck, and let us know of your success in the next few weeks!

Sincerely,

Earnest Steve
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post #3 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 12:54 AM
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Katy, I'm not a plant expert but have been using RO for a long time for my discus. I'm in Nevada and the water here is as hard or maybe harder than yours. I don't use RO water in my planted tanks because I'm still experimenting with how the CO2 injection effect my water parameters. I was worried about my water hardness also and been posting my concerns in a few forums. It turns out that all the plants are doing well and shows healthy green and red (as what some experts told me not to worry about my GH). Some people just told me to inject the CO2 more (on the high side) and I did.
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post #4 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 01:21 AM
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I am using a combination of RO and tap water. My water is hard, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but my pH out of the tap is a bit too much. It is 8.6 out of the tap. Great for cichlids, not great for tetras. I have a ratio that brings my pH down to 7.1 and CO2 brings that down to 6.8.

If your pH is good, I don't think I would worry about the hardness all that much. If you have been following some threads on this and other boards, people are starting to discuss the addition of calcium to their aquariums!

[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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post #5 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 03:59 AM
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Before starting to mix RO water with various minerals, I would look at the different nutrients to make your plants greener.

CO2 deficiency is definitely a possibility.

Zero NO3 levels make plants look pale, especially if there is a lot of light making them grow fast.

Iron and Manganese are necessary to build Chlorophyll (which makes plants green).

Potassium can be deficient in heavily planted tanks, especially if there is no KNO3 dosing.

For rosette plants, root tabs or - cheap alternative - jobes sticks can help to improve plant health and appearance.


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post #6 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 05:41 AM
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Re: Wasserpest's Jobe Stick fertilizer -- Is this the same Jobe Sticks that you would use with indoor plants? Or is there an "Aquarium Version?"

Thanks.

Earnest Steve
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post #7 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 07:17 AM Thread Starter
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Steve, thanks for the great info. I use Kent's pro-plant and sea chem iron supplement. I changed my regimen after I read somewhere else on this site about nitrogen deficiencies. Kent's has 1% Nitogen, which seems to be higher than the rest. You're right though, I have no potassium supplement, so that's next on my list. Just to let you know, my plants don't actually appear to have chlorosis. they look very healthy, but their coloration is just not as dark green as they should be. I don't know if that makes a difference.

Also, none of the fertilizers have phosphates! In fact, many actually say "phosphate free". I've noticed that some people on this site dose with bulk chemicals, but I would worry that I would really mess something up with that. If anyone knows of an easy way to get phosphate into the tank, let me know.

But in reference to your comments Wasser, I dose with iron and Kent's, but unless I double (or triple!) dose, my iron levels and my nitrate levels stay at zero. What is up with that? After the last round of suggestions from the board (about a week ago), I made quite a few changes, so I'm going to see what comes of this. I think perhaps you guys are right, I think there is a nutrient deficiency.

I guess I am getting impatient...how long will it take for these fertilizers to work?

Oh, and Steve, I've heard people talk about Jobe's plant sticks too, and I believe they are just regular garden variety.

Thank you all for your input. This is all great stuff. What it sounds like to me is that there is no hard and fast rule about RO versus tap, but that it's more important to get the right balance of added nutrients not matter what you use.

One last thing...is it possible that I'm leaving my lights on for too long? They usually stay on for 14 hours a day....
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post #8 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 08:23 AM
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Re: KatyMay & Plant Nutrients

Hmmm... If you are measuring low in iron, nitrate, &/or phosphate, maybe -- just maybe -- your plants are consuming these and leaving the deficit. I keep reading about the "trial-and-error" method of find your particular tank's plant needs. Even the PMDD advocates suggest augmenting the classic PMDD with other nutrient sources. Still it is the challenge to figure out exactly what your water (plants) is/are telling you.
Here is a great link for more info on PMDD and related nutrient info:
http://www.gregwatson.com/PMDDStoreInfo.htm

Also, this place (plantedtank.com) is full of helpful and knowledgeable folks!
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post #9 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 09:31 AM
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I belive Ken't propplant only supply some part of trace elements (micronutrients). You should use both "Kent fresh water plant" and kent proplant they have all the required diet for your plant.

Phospate creates algae, but plants need phospate to grow. Phospate are usualy available from fish food. you should not worry about it if you feed your fish regulary.

KENT FRESHWATER PLANT contains Nitrogen and pottasium and Iron source and i belive some trace elements too. What I do to my tank is simply dose KENT FRESHWATER PLANT and do 25% water change once a week to provide with traces. sometimes I would add some Ken't proplant to be on the safe side.
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post #10 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 05:46 PM Thread Starter
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Wow Steve that was a great link. It was the first time I didn't get nervous about the thought of mixing my own fertilizer. It looks do-able.
But for now, until I use up my current supply of fertilizer, I think I may buy the Kent's proplant as was suggested by Sqarit to see if my yellowing plants are really due to a nutrient deficiency.
Also, I think you're right. Since the first month or so, my tank has NEVER had algae, and I mean never. I think that's because (as you said) my plants are using it all up! This has always been my suspicion, but I was too afraid to consistently double the fert dose. So today I'm going to do the trial and error and see how much fert my tank actually needs to get to the optimal levels. Any idea how long I should wait between doses?
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post #11 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 07:55 PM
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Steve,

There isn't a dedicated aquatic variety of Jobes sticks, but I use and see mostly recommended their "Lush Ferns and Palms" flavor, which contains NPK 16-2-6, making it a little better balanced than the normal Houseplants variety. Others have used the regular jobes without adverse effects. Yet others have algae outbreaks each time they use them, and everything goes to hell when they uproot plants. Never happened to me... just as a disclaimer

Katy,

I think dosing micros and macros separately makes a lot of sense. Most micros you can't test for, and the iron test results are notoriously unreliable. So I would not up the dosing just to make your testkit show some color.

Nitrates and phosphates, on the other hand, can and should be tested for. If your nitrate test chronically shows zero, it is possible that the test is bad, that the type of nitrate you use doesn't trigger the test, or that plants use all available nitrate. If you have a lot of light over your tanks, and lots of plants in them, it is very likely that they are out of NO3.

Rather than dosing it mixed into some micro nutrient mix, I suggest to get some KNO3 and supply it that way. Before adding it to your tank, dose a 5 gal bucket to make sure you get a correct reading from your testkit. Initially, testing distilled water, tap water, tank water before and after dosing is a good way to get a feel for the levels. When you always get the expected results, you can cut down on testing a little.


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post #12 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 08:03 PM
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Almost sertainly the plant yellowing is an indicator of nutritional deficiency.

If you do a water change once a week (maybe 15% weekly?), then you can dose following your water change, then 3 days later.

This is NOT cast in concrete!

Seems everyone has his/her own ideas about what is best, which is prudent as everyone has a different plant configuration and everyone has a different bio-load.

Main thing is that plant compete with algae for food in your aquatic environment. The idea is to keep your supplemental feeding as low as possible while still providing everything your plants need to be healthy. More than this invites algae, and less tends to negatively impact plants, so you are stuck walking that fine line until you find your true esoteric supplement balance (which is subject to change over time, so you also need to try and keep attuned to the tank's water chemistry).

AGK! ::Are you SURE I found the right hobby!???::

Yep! ; )

Nitrate and phosphate in a planted tank should never go to zero.

If you are struggling to keep nitrates up (end product of the Nitrogen Cycle) then maybe is would help to increase your fish numbers, as uneaten food and ditreas from the fish will increase the Nitrate levels a little.

Also, watch the posts. No doubt someone has already had the exact same trouble you are having.

One of the very best experts on plant supplement regimens is Tom Barr (Florida). He has helped many with their tank issues.

Hint: Keep light down to where it is just enough for your plant health.

As long as you have adequate CO2 without causing issues of toxicity, your plants should respond favorably to upping the nutrients (trying Jobe's?).

If algae begin to form in your tank, lower lights and do a H2) change (15%), and cut back on NItrate and Phosphate for a week or so and see what happens. If you get nutrients high enough to invite algae, at least you are on the right track, but it is easier to stem algae early than to eradicate it once it has a strong foothold.

I'm feeling a little verbose right now (AGAIN!), so I'm gonna take a break!

I'll let you know via posting over the next few months about the DIY CO2 experiments.

Until later,

Earnest Steve
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post #13 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 08:08 PM
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Dang, KatyMay, I almost forgot...

When you originally planted you tank (originally set it up), what was the substrate?

I'm just curious if the "long-term, slow-release" nutrient substrates (like Eco-Complete) might have helped in a case like yours.

Just a though.

Until later,

Earnest Steve
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post #14 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 10:22 PM
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one way to prevent nutrient defficiency is by using soil as your deepest layer of your substrate it contains alot of nitrogen, mixed it 50/50 with a little bit of turface or kitty litter (this will act as the time release system that will hold the nutrient from escaping to the water column). Soil will last for a long time, tho it might not be a good source of Iron.
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post #15 of 35 (permalink) Old 03-22-2004, 11:37 PM
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katymay, it strikes me that you could really benefit by monitoring your water's basic parameters.

I think the up-front initial investment in an ensemble of test kits sometimes puts people off. But if you can possibly afford to jump in, testing really helps to demystify things when you're making changes.

Of course later on, you'll get to know your water's parameters and behavior "like the back of your hand", and so testing becomes somewhat less important/urgent.

As as introduction and overview, I found the following two-page article by Tom Barr comprehensive, yet very easy to follow. Be sure to read through to the second page.

A List of Recommended Levels and Parameters:
http://www.sfbaaps.com/reference/barr_02_01.shtml

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