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Neos & Water Changes/Stability Issues

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Hi all! New to the forum so apologies in advance for any missteps (just let me know).

I have a ton of questions regarding Neo care & breeding, but I suspect posting them all on one thread might make a few people crazy, lol, so I’ll start with my main pressing concerns:

I am wanting my water changes to be as close as possible to my tanks’ parameters, but I keep running into issues.

1.) I’m wanting to get a RO/DI unit for the sake of consistency in water changes and across tanks. My question is, for Neos only, how important is an RI vs an RI/DO? I don’t know yet what the exact TDS of my tap is yet, but I know it’s off the charts pH, and it’s hard water. My thinking is that if my goal is consistency, then getting the DI is a good idea, even if the Neos don’t absolutely need it. Would you agree with me on that?

2.) While waiting for my RO/RODI unit to arrive, can I use distilled water for water changes in the meantime, assuming I add a remineralizer?

3.) I currently have a 75 gallon heavily planted tank that has a variety of Neos in it. I originally just got the shrimp for cleaning purposes & a splash of color, but wound up falling in love with these little guys and have been researching breeding ever since. To that end, I am currently cycling 5 ten gallon tanks so I can keep them separate. BUT I put a light layer of Fluval Shrimp/Planted Stratum as the substrate in all of them, mostly for the dark color. The layer is thicker in some than others. My question is: Should I pull it out and put something neutral in instead, since I want to have consistency in water changes and across all tanks? I don’t want to have to mix up different batches of water for each of the tanks...

3.) How much do you think a single piece of cholla wood would affect the pH of a 10 gallon, assuming it has been boiled first? Again, I want things as simple as possible to begin with, and am trying to remove any significant variables when it comes to all tanks being about the same and not having any swings when I do water changes.

4.) How long does it take pH to stabilize? For example, if tap water of 8.5 pH was added to a tank with drift wood, active substrate, etc., and had a stable pH of 7.4...how long until any swings would have stopped and stabilized after the tap was added?

It’s possible that I’m over-thinking all of this, but I can’t seem to help myself, and over-thinking is better than under-thinking (or at least, that’s how I justify it, haha!).

Thanks for any input!
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snails are your friend
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Welcome to the forums! I fell in love with shrimp pretty much the same way. Got a few as a little diversity in my tanks and wound up enjoying them more than the fish. The good news is, Neos are hardy and pretty undemanding. This isn't the case when you get into some of the bees and other Caridina shrimp.

I’m wanting to get a RO/DI unit for the sake of consistency in water changes and across tanks. My question is, for Neos only, how important is an RI vs an RI/DO? I don’t know yet what the exact TDS of my tap is yet, but I know it’s off the charts pH, and it’s hard water. My thinking is that if my goal is consistency, then getting the DI is a good idea, even if the Neos don’t absolutely need it. Would you agree with me on that?
I run an RO/DI filter simply because I had already bought one when keeping reef tanks. I don't feel the DI is necessary and lots of shrimp keepers use just RO water with great results. If you'd post the KH, GH, and TDS of your tap you may not even need RO though. I don't use it in Neo only tanks, but I have soft neutral tap that they do well in. Also if you have source water that varies at different times of year, RO may be helpful even if your water is usually on point.

2.) While waiting for my RO/RODI unit to arrive, can I use distilled water for water changes in the meantime, assuming I add a remineralizer?
I would think so. I've heard people say that water distilled in copper can cause problems but I don't think much sold is stores is distilled that way any longer.

3.) How much do you think a single piece of cholla wood would affect the pH of a 10 gallon, assuming it has been boiled first?
Very little, I'd think. A lot would have to do with the KH of said water though.

4.) How long does it take pH to stabilize? For example, if tap water of 8.5 pH was added to a tank with drift wood, active substrate, etc., and had a stable pH of 7.4...how long until any swings would have stopped and stabilized after the tap was added?
That's rather impossible to answer. There are a lot of things that would influence that. Active substrate is going to pull KH out of the water but the answer to your question is going to depend on how much substrate there is, how much water volume, and what the KH of this water is. As well as exactly how active the substrate is -it loses power (so to speak) over time and some brands and batches seem to be more and less active from reading other's reports.

Hope that is of some help and welcome to the forums!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If you'd post the KH, GH, and TDS of your tap you may not even need RO though. I don't use it in Neo only tanks, but I have soft neutral tap that they do well in. Also if you have source water that varies at different times of year, RO may be helpful even if your water is usually on point.
Thanks so much for your reply; it was very helpful!

My tap water (without ageing) is:

pH: over 8.4 (it went past what my API test could measure)
gH: 6
kH: 3
TDS: not sure yet; should hopefully know by tonight.

Here’s what’s weird, though: I aged some tap water and tested it, and the gH spiked to 10! How did that happen? kH went to 5. That confused me totally. The pH did drop to 7.6, though.

There have been so many weird variables and readings and that’s what made me think maybe RO or RO/DI would be the way to go.

In my planted 75, my stats have been pretty steady:

Ammonia: 0
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 5
pH: 7.2
GH: 8
KH: 2

You can see how the tap water is pretty different from my tank’s. I always have some issues w my shrimp following a water change; despite ageing the water, only changing no more than 5 gallons, and matching temp & dripping the new water in. So water changes are a constant source of stress for me & I’m hoping having some control over the fresh water might help?
 

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snails are your friend
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I'm surprised that tap with a KH of 3 would be off the chart alkaline. Degassed is the value you want to pay attention to though. I've never had pH not raise after degassing, and hardness levels stay put in my own tap so this is above my level of water chemistry understanding. Maybe one of our resident chemistry experts can teach us both something. @DaveKS @Deanna @Greggz any thoughts here?
 

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Can't respond in full... but in short... you *DO NOT* have hard water! 6 GH is, at best, "medium" water, but I would personally consider it soft. My sister has water coming out at 19 GH and 10 KH...

High pH does not equal hard water. Likewise, low pH doesn't mean soft water. There's a lot more that plays into pH and water hardness than what's often believed.

Switching to RO/DI would be fine... however, you need something to remineralize that water to the recommended parameters. Straight RO/DI (or distilled) would be a death sentence.


What are you using to test your water parameters? Is it still 'in date'? (not expired?)
 

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My tap water (without ageing) is:

pH: over 8.4 (it went past what my API test could measure)
gH: 6
kH: 3
TDS: not sure yet; should hopefully know by tonight.

Here’s what’s weird, though: I aged some tap water and tested it, and the gH spiked to 10! How did that happen? kH went to 5. That confused me totally. The pH did drop to 7.6, though.

There have been so many weird variables and readings and that’s what made me think maybe RO or RO/DI would be the way to go.
IMO, not so weird.

Tap water is treated and can be loaded with CO2 (drop pH) or dosed with carbonates (raise pH). Back in the day, aging water was popular. After sitting for a few days, it comes into equilibrium with the atmosphere and settles at true pH.

If your water is testing at 7.6 and 5 KH after aging, those numbers make sense and is pretty darn good for tap water. But keep in mind it can change throughout the year. Seasonal changes, source water changes, treatment changes, etc.

I use RO, but my source is softened well water with very high KH (18). If I had your numbers and they stayed stable don't think I would need to.

I don't keep shrimp so am not much help there. Are you aerating that aged water?

And your tank pH/KH numbers are lower because the Fluval substrate is lowering the KH.
 

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I'm surprised that tap with a KH of 3 would be off the chart alkaline. Degassed is the value you want to pay attention to though. I've never had pH not raise after degassing, and hardness levels stay put in my own tap so this is above my level of water chemistry understanding. Maybe one of our resident chemistry experts can teach us both something. @DaveKS @Deanna @Greggz any thoughts here?
Bottom line is as @Greggz mentioned: pH 7.6 and dKH 5 makes sense for expected CO2 levels after allowing for degassing. Now, as to why KH and GH are rising after a day or two of different tap testing points, I have no idea: it shouldn't. I'd suggest the following:

Retest, but make sure to measure the tap water that is being degassed, before degassing it, i.e.; run both tests on the same glass of tap water (and make sure the API kit hasn't expired). I'd also increase the sensitivity of the tests by using 5x the amount of sample water for the tests, then divide the resulting measurements by 5.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Bottom line is as @Greggz mentioned: pH 7.6 and dKH 5 makes sense for expected CO2 levels after allowing for degassing. Now, as to why KH and GH are rising after a day or two of different tap testing points, I have no idea: it shouldn't. I'd suggest the following:

Retest, but make sure to measure the tap water that is being degassed, before degassing it, i.e.; run both tests on the same glass of tap water (and make sure the API kit hasn't expired). I'd also increase the sensitivity of the tests by using 5x the amount of sample water for the tests, then divide the resulting measurements by 5.
Yes, it’s the crazy gH spike that baffled me. I repeated the test twice (on the same aged water) just to be sure. It made me doubt all of my other readings, honestly, except my 75 gallon results are still stable.

But I’ll test it again, and your suggestion is a good one. I use the API liquid tests for all parameters, and they are all less than 2 months old, and not close to expiration.

But...even assuming my aged tap water isn’t too bad, it still seems to affect the shrimp. Why? I dunno. I’ll keep trying to figure it out, but it has made me really want to try using remineralized RO water to see if it helps at all.

I really appreciate everyone’s input and help! There are so many nuances to keeping these crazy critters—I feel like no matter how long I have them, I’ll always be learning something new (and that’s a big part of the fun for me!).

Bump: FWIW, I wasn’t able to get the TDS pen tonight as I had planned; my LFS stopped carrying them for some reason so I’ll have to wait for a delivery from Amazon. Could TDS maybe be the culprit?

And actually, while I’m on the subject...TDS is something I don’t fully understand. Total Dissolved Solids, yes, but that could be anything, right? So what exactly does a TDS in a tank represent? Is a high TDS always a bad thing? I would assume they’re higher in heavily planted tanks?

I’ll go down the Google rabbit hole on this, but the problem with the ‘net research for me, so far, is all of the wildly conflicting info when it comes to shrimp. I’ve lurked here long enough to trust you guys, so I appreciate you humoring my both my newbie ignorance & my enthusiasm! 😁
 

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Do you live in an area which normally has very hard water, like liquid rock hard?

Some municipalities that treat very hard water will do a De-Ionizing cation exchange filter to soften the water enough so it works better for clothes washing. A DI filter is a Sodium ion exchange filter.

What DI does is take your 7.8~8.0 Calcium and Magnesium GH and KH loaded water and exchange their ions for Sodium ions.

This will bring down your GH, but will bump the KH to very high levels. Often times your water will test out at 3~5 GH and almost be off the scale KH. Frequently DI treated water will be way above 8.6 in pH.

Reverse Osmosis treatment is where the water is passed through, (under pressure, like 40PSI..) through a water permeable, special molecular filter. Part of the water is waste with higher concentrations of dissolved minerals and the water you use is frequently so pure as to be close to distilled with a close to neutral pH of around 7.0 and a Total Dissolved Solids reading in the tens.

Your TDS pen measures the electrical conductivity of the water.

As a note: You should never use pure RO water in a aquarium, a bit of dissolved minerals is good for the animals and plants Which is why there are products like Seachem's Equilibrium and Salty Shrimp's GH+ and GH/KH+ shrimp salts.

Also note that Seachem Equilibrium adds trace amounts of Iron and Manganese for plant health, but doesn't include other micro nutrients.
 

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And actually, while I’m on the subject...TDS is something I don’t fully understand. Total Dissolved Solids, yes, but that could be anything, right? So what exactly does a TDS in a tank represent? Is a high TDS always a bad thing? I would assume they’re higher in heavily planted tanks?
TDS reports, in one number, all of the things in our water that all of our other tests measure individually, and then some. You can't know what all of the components are in a TDS number, so it is really only useful as a relative measure ... but I find that number to be very useful. Additionally, because TDS meters can vary in how they report, it is best to use it - again - only as a reference point for your own changes, unless you are sure that meters are calibrated and of the same type when comparing to other meters, such as if you were comparing your readings to another forum members' readings.

Many of us, like me, prefer to see TDS readings in the 100-200 area. Many, if not most people, run up to 400 or more with no problems. More important is preventing shock due to a large change in TDS. Some, like me, prefer to have no more than a 50 ppm or 10% change (whichever is less) for the benefit of our fauna. For example, I try to match the TDS of my QT water to my LFS water when acclimating new fish or, when doing a water change, I keep the new water within that 50ppm/10% region. Also, if I am concerned that something may be wrong and find an unexpected TDS reading, it can tell me that I need to dig deeper to find out why TDS is so different.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you for all of that info! That clears a lot up. Does a high TDS in straight tap water mean that the water is “hard?”

And should I expect my heavily planted tank to have a higher TDS in general than one without plants (assuming the same stock levels)?
 

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Thank you for all of that info! That clears a lot up. Does a high TDS in straight tap water mean that the water is “hard?”
Not necessarily, no.... but generally, yes.

TDS can also be made up of food, poop, dust and many other things... which means you could have high TDS while having soft water. The harder the water is, the higher the TDS will be, of course. 1 GH/KH equals no less than 17.86 TDS, but that value could be higher... i.e. 1 GH could equal 25 TDS. It depends on what makes up those minerals and how they dissolve in the water.


And should I expect my heavily planted tank to have a higher TDS in general than one without plants (assuming the same stock levels)?
Not enough info to say.

Rocks that release minerals can raise TDS.

Plants can help keep the water column clean of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates.

Buffering substrates can reduce KH and/or GH and thus TDS.

Unless you measure out exactly how much food the fish eat and have it same per tank, and have the fish actually consume all that food the same in each tank....

Well, lets just say there's a lot of variables.
 
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