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Questions about RO, Well & Softened Water

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Hello all! :D This is my very first post here, but I've been stalking the forums for a while doing all kinds of research and enjoying everyone’s tanks. I've got a few questions for some of you pro's here with a bit more experience than I, so hopefully this is the right place. I've searched around and found topics about one or the other, but none that seem to answer my questions.

First off, I'm starting my very first planted tank and I'm incredibly excited. I'll be using a 29 Gallon Bow front tank, 4x T5HO lights, and probably setting up some C02 once I get things going. I have a great deal of botanical/horticultural experience and overall I'm kind of a "plant guy" so I'm very familiar with lighting & nutrient needs of plants, and their natural cycles, but have never had an entire aquatic garden.

Now that my rambling is out of the way, finally time for my QUESTIONS

1:In my home I've installed a Reverse Osmosis filter, I understand that RO water is stripped of all minerals, which seems to be more of a bad thing than good sometimes.

2:I have mineral heavy well water in my home (hence the RO) and the water that goes to the bathtubs/sinks/showers is softened using a softener tank filled with salt.

My question to you all is what type of water would be best for a planted tank, and also would conditioned water be bad for it? My assumption is that softened water would not be ideal, because of the amount of salt it's pumped through.

I was thinking of doing a 50/50 mix with half being RO water and the other half being NON-softened well water. Is this a bad idea? I know that minerals and nutrients can be added/removed from water and that almost any water can be treated to get the balance required, but I'd like to know from your experience what would be the best option to start. I have a master test kit and plenty of water conditioner, thank you all in advance for any information, and sorry for the long post.
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Welcome to the forum!

Using the 'softened' water (salt regen) will indeed cause problems.
My well is not unlike yours and water was a problem here starting out.
Ratio mixing your untreated well and RO to your selection regarding hardness is the easiest solution. Try different ratios. API GH, KH test kits aren't included in the master kit I don't believe.

and again welcome to the site!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you so much for the fast reply :] I'm at work currently so I'll have to check my kit when I get home, but I know it came with quite a few tests, If they're not included I'll get what I need for sure soon. Would it make sense to try different ratios in 5 gallon buckets and then test them, or should I just get the tank cycling and go from there?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was planning to do a fishless cycle with a filter from a well established and long running fish tank (All fish are healthy) and give my plants a few weeks to get established, but I'll still try to get the water as proper as I can manager before filling. Thank you all again, the advice is much appreciated. I'll be starting a journal and posting pics tonight :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Oh awesome! :) I read about it speeding the cycle up considerably, but didn't want to do anything high risk considering the cost it takes to get these tanks up and running. I can't wait to get home! :icon_roll
 

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Just light loaded a 90g MTS tank last month.
A few plants and a 280 bio wheel moving the water placed at the end of the tank.
Flooded 9/24/2012 with just substrate the tank holds 70g filled, so much for listed volumes LOL.
The same day I loaded this tank I rinsed the filter pad on my 29g beeder tank and poured the mum water into the new tank.
9/25 I planted a few reopen stems, added a clump of java fern and a few frogbit.
9/29 185TDS, 4dGH, 2dKH, 7pH I swapped the filter pad on the 90g with the one on the existing 29g breeder tank (swapped pads without rinsing it). Added 6 salt & pepper cory (Corydoras paleatus).
10/5 the testing was NO3 6ppm, zero nitrite and ammonia.
10/6 I added 7 more S&P and a kuhli (all they had at the LFS)
10/15 the testing was NO3 3ppm (<5ppm color), zero nitrite and ammonia.

My blue angels will follow as time allows stocking the tank.

Seeded filters are the bomb! (just stock in steps :proud:)
 

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My well water has a GH & KH of around 20dh each. I've used softened water, RO water, and a mix of well & RO. Frankly I never noticed any difference in any of them.

First, I abandoned RO because it was such a pain in the neck to make enough water for a 55g 50% water change. Carrying all those buckets of water up to the tank was a real pain too.

Second, I gave up on the Well & RO mix. Whenever I mixed the two together, something precipitated out in a white fog. I didnt think that was good. And again with the buckets.

Third, softened water right from the tap is what I currently use. I've used it for about 3 years and everything grows fine. The softener affects only gH. So gH=0 and kH equals the raw well water = 20gH. I then remineralize the gH with gH booster.

Everyone says the sodium from the softener is bad but I've never had any problems. Neither have I had problems with a kH of 20. And using water from the tap with my python sure makes water changes easy compared to shlepping buckets all over the house.
 

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Welcome to the forum. There are lots of ways to go about things. I congratulate you on asking some questions first but then caution you to not take all advise if it conflicts with what you see in your tank. If you've been keeping fish for a while you have probably run into some of the myths already.
The questions on water will get down to what plants do in your particular tank. Some will do better than others and it will take a bit of adjusting to get things to work to suit you. Much as growing plants outside takes some guessing and adjusting, tank plants are far from being the same all round. Throw in fish that vary widely and lighting variables and you can begin to see room for all kinds of advise which may/may not fit. Go slow and adjust as needed and I'm sure it will be a very fun game. You may find your well water doesn't limit you as much as might be assumed. There are lots of plants in your local lakes and rivers who find it works just fine. Fit the plants to the water or the water to the plants? Many just muddle along in the middle.
 

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dmagerl, Wow! 20dh is up there! It's great to read that you don't have issues with 'softened' water which you add even more hardness to on the back side adding the GH booster. What are you tanking? (living is learning)

Post softener my TDS was actually slightly higher but the sodium ions didn't register on the GH tests. This goes back 3yrs. for me and keeping angelfish the salt regen ion exchanged water was the primary issue for 99% of my tanking problems.
Dozens of web friends have ran the same route to ruin.

The thread linked below was the most recent exchange that detailed a number of water parameter questions. After the saga I lived through (and my fish didn't) I've been active in a few threads on the topic.

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=190781

HopeThisHelps
 

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Hmm, thats strange. I have never had a problem. My 3 angels are fat and happy using softened water.

The softener takes the gH to 0 so I remineralize with gH booster up to around 4 dgH.

When I used RO water, I added sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, to get the kH up to 4 dkH or so. So I figured its either sodium from baking soda or sodium from the softener. Same difference, though there probably was less sodium from the baking soda.
 

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i would use straight well water, if i had access to a well. even if it is hard as rocks. my water is also about 20 degrees hard, from the tap. but it's been down at about 260 mg/l recently.. which is backwards, it should be getting harder as winter comes here..

most of the gh from ground water is a dissolved micronutrient solution.

i have angels, plecos, shrimp (caridina and neocaridina) as well as easier spawners like cory cats and live bearers all gettin' it on and making babies in my hard city water, i don't make an effort to raise the eggs but have seen at least a wiggler of everything but the aforementioned angels.

but i think they're only just past their second spawn, they are young still.

as far as plants go, the only plants i have tried and failed with are seusswassertang and l. brasiensis.. neither of which had anything to do with the water params AFAIK.. okay.. i killed a banana plant once too..

they say aponogetons are soft water only plants, i've had a few over the last couple years THRIVE, i had an ulvaceous hybrid with leaves the size of an amazon sword where it grew. none of the other aponos have done bad, they're just a bit lack-luster compared to the crazy ones.

most plants available and traded in the hobby are incredibly hardy, don;t be afraid to go walk down by the rivers and lakes to try and find some of them either. i find plants i see in aquariums all the time. eleocharis is all over here. elodea, hornwort, pennywort, some little plants that look like glosso are doing well. if you ever come across arrowhead(duck potato), that's a fun plant. it grows several feet tall and blooms white and yellow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wow thank you to everyone for all the advice! I hear what you're saying PlantedRich there are alot of variables it seems and each tank is different, I'll make sure to not just assume everything said is correct for me. I ended up trying a 60/40 ratio (RO/Well) and I've been testing regularly, everything seems to be doing well (I'll post exact numbers when I'm back at home) but I know my Ammonia N02 and N03 levels are 0, and gH/kH aren't TOO out of whack. One thing I'm noticing now though is my pH is pretty high (Somewhere near 8.4) and I've read that the "pH Down" products are like algae in a bottle so I was thinking about doing a partial water change, maybe 25% and replacing it with some more RO water, any opinions there? Thank you all again.
 

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if you want to reduce tested pH the RO addition is the best option, carbonate buffers regulate so reducing buffers (softer water, less solids) reduces pH.
 

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If you can make a blend of RO and tap that gets the GH and KH around 5 degrees that is pretty much a 'middle of the road' sort of level. Most of the hatchery raised fish will do just fine in that, and there are still plenty of minerals for the plants.
If you still want to drop the pH, after you find the right blend, then try doing that with peat moss. It will add organic acids to the water, and the tannins can make the water tinted yellow or brown. If you do not like that look then skip the peat moss.
The most important test result for the fish is the GH.

You can do the fishless cycle, and jump start the cycle using some cycled media from a healthy tank. I would go with the fishless cycle while you are working out the water chemistry, then stock when the cycle is complete. The fishless cycle grows enough bacteria to fully stock the tank all at once, no need to stock slowly. You have grown a lot of bacteria using the fishless cycle.
The bacteria you are growing will do just fine in hard water with plenty of minerals, especially carbonate.
As you experiment with RO+tap blends do not create such soft water that the bacteria have problems. I would keep the GH and KH at least 5 degrees, and allow the pH to stay in the alkaline side of neutral, anywhere in the 7s is great.
Once the fishless cycle is done you can alter the parameters more, if needed, to suit the fish. It is only when you are trying to grow the bacteria as fast as possible, during the fishless cycle that you need to cater to them.
 
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