So is softened water bad for fish? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-31-2014, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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So is softened water bad for fish?

There's been a couple times where I've forgotten to bypass my water softener and did a water change.

I didn't see any ill effects (or is it affects? ) but it still had me wondering if there would be eventually.

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-31-2014, 07:54 PM
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One would need some more specifics on your water to say how much difference you are making. Also some info on how your water changes have been made in the past might be needed as there are several things at work.
The softened water will have slightly more salt but that is not likely to be any big problem. Many people do actually put salt in their freshwater tanks, but that is not something I would advise. The bigger problem might come from the sudden change in the water. How much change depends on how hard your tank water runs. If it is High GH and KH and then you do a large water change, the tank change will be hard on fish.
But that is something that will vary depending on how you have been treating things when you bypass the softener. When you bypass the softener, the water in the pipes from the softener to the faucet will still be softened water UNLESS you have been running the water for long enough to drain that water and it be replaced by raw water. How long that would take depends on how the house is plumbed. Larger pipe and longer runs of plumbing will hold more softened water.
See how there can be so many variables?
If you have not been testing things and don't have numbers on the raw water as well as the tank water, it is hard to judge how much change an occasional soft water change might really make.
Not a good practice but hard to say how much it would bother the fish. Can you see a reaction like flashing, moping or heavy breathing when you do a soft water change? If you do it might be bad but if not, it may not be changing enough to really bother them even though it does tend to jerk them around a bit. Some are much more sensitive to things like this.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-31-2014, 08:15 PM
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Generally a change from harder to softer is tolerated ok. I wouldn't recommend always doing it, but it's the best way to make the mistake. Going from soft to hard like that you could kill the fish pretty quick from the extra hardness.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2014, 02:41 AM
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Actually, it is the other way around.

Fish get used to the water they are in. The TDS, or total dissolved solids. In this case the minerals and salts.

The cell wall is like a semipermeable membrane. When fish are in low TDS water the water in their cells holds more salts etc, and more water keeps trying to enter. The fish metabolism gets used to the hard work of pumping out that extra water. When this fish is placed in slightly harder water they do not have to work quite so hard. This is easier on them than going into softer water.

When fish are kept in high TDS water less water keeps trying to enter their cells, so their metabolism is only geared to removing that much water. When they are placed in water with less minerals and salts than they are used to more water enters their cells, and they are not used to having to get rid of this much. This is harder for them to handle.

Salt water (Marine) fish are different again. Their system is geared to holding all the water and getting rid of the excess minerals and salts.

To answer the original questions:
Fish need the minerals that we measure as GH. Calcium and Magnesium.
Softened water usually has very low Ca and Mg, but excess Na.
Measure the TDS of the tank water before a water change, and after.
If the TDS is not more than 10% lower, or 15% higher, then even fairly delicate fish are OK with this sort of water change, as long as there is still some Ca and Mg present.
If the water change creates conditions where the TDS changes more, or there is almost no Ca or Mg, then the fish would be in trouble.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2014, 04:33 AM Thread Starter
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It's actually been awhile since I've made the mistake. I usually run my water for 45 minutes top an hour or so before changing the water, but still you're right in that I should be keeping track of such things. It's a small house, so I'm hoping the length of time I run the water before changing it is sufficient.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2014, 04:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Actually, it is the other way around.

Fish get used to the water they are in. The TDS, or total dissolved solids. In this case the minerals and salts.

The cell wall is like a semipermeable membrane. When fish are in low TDS water the water in their cells holds more salts etc, and more water keeps trying to enter. The fish metabolism gets used to the hard work of pumping out that extra water. When this fish is placed in slightly harder water they do not have to work quite so hard. This is easier on them than going into softer water.

When fish are kept in high TDS water less water keeps trying to enter their cells, so their metabolism is only geared to removing that much water. When they are placed in water with less minerals and salts than they are used to more water enters their cells, and they are not used to having to get rid of this much. This is harder for them to handle.

Salt water (Marine) fish are different again. Their system is geared to holding all the water and getting rid of the excess minerals and salts.

To answer the original questions:
Fish need the minerals that we measure as GH. Calcium and Magnesium.
Softened water usually has very low Ca and Mg, but excess Na.
Measure the TDS of the tank water before a water change, and after.
If the TDS is not more than 10% lower, or 15% higher, then even fairly delicate fish are OK with this sort of water change, as long as there is still some Ca and Mg present.
If the water change creates conditions where the TDS changes more, or there is almost no Ca or Mg, then the fish would be in trouble.
pretty much nailed it in the head right there....brought back flashbacks of freshman year bio lol

you should be fine, especially if you havnt seen any ill effects at the moment, just dont keep on doing it haha. Its not that soft or hard water is good/bad for fish, its the a huge sudden change that will kill em. which is one of the reasons why drip acclimation is such a good idea


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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2014, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by CoffeeLove View Post
It's actually been awhile since I've made the mistake. I usually run my water for 45 minutes top an hour or so before changing the water, but still you're right in that I should be keeping track of such things. It's a small house, so I'm hoping the length of time I run the water before changing it is sufficient.

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Okay. This clears one of the items that I questioned. Many miss clearing the pipes. Congrats on being alert?
But then unless you are in a really big place, fifteen minutes will clear the pipes. Fifty feet of 3/4 pipe will clear after running about two gallons. Lots of things we do get down to estimates so you are well in line on the pipe draining.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2014, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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Didn't notice any flashing or moping or heavy breathing, I did notice they were generally a bit less active.

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And thank you? For the sarcastic sounding congrats?

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Last edited by Darkblade48; 08-02-2014 at 03:46 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2014, 07:57 PM
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Did not mean to be sarcastic. Just meant congrats on thinking of it as so many do miss that there is water left in the pipes. You may be a bit more mechanically minded than some I meet.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-01-2014, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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Heh. Well sorry for jumping the gun and being a jerk.

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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-02-2014, 12:04 AM
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Heh. Well sorry for jumping the gun and being a jerk.

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No problem. I have long ago found that the internet is one of the lowest forms of communication as it does frequently miss on getting the right impressions across.
Maybe I'm at fault for meeting so many inexperienced people.
Either way, enjoy!
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-02-2014, 05:28 AM
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Back when I first started out I kept my fish in straight softened water and could not keep fish alive long term. Most likely due to the high salt 0 gh and the kh of 18+. The softener caused the low gh and salt but the KH is just my sucky water.
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