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Hi, I am new to this forum and I am seeking advise from those who know their stuff...

I have a few questions, so please bear with me...

Our water is very hard. Unlike most homes' water softeners, ours is connected to all water sources...every sink, even the hose outside, which seems so wasteful. We have a RO system in the kitchen so I do have access to RO. The pH of the softened water is 8, which is so high. I do not have tests for anything other than nitrite and pH, so I don't know the dissolved solids or anything. I have been using the tap water conditioned with prime for my axolotls and haven't noticed any health issues, but recently obtained a siren who likes softer more acidic water. I would like to start some planted tanks and I am still in early stages of research. I believe the softener takes NaCl, as its cheaper stuff. I have read that softened water is a no-no for plants. So I have a few questions on how I can use RO water.
-Axolotls like to have hard water with high dissolved salts. Can I grow plants with them?
-If I use RO water, what type of additives should I put in? is there a premixed solution available?
-Or should I be mixing my softened tap water with RO?
-For the siren who likes slightly lower pH, I use indian almond leaves but they are not working to lower my pH....also, I have pH down, which isn't working well on the tap water either. I am wondering if these products don't work well in softened water.
-I am thinking of getting a TDS meter, but I am pretty new and don't quite understand what I am looking for or how to fix the water...

*please note, this isn't my house or my softener system, I am living with my fiancé's family so I cant make changes to their softener system. Please keep that in mind when replying. Thank you for taking the time to read.
-Nicole

I just did some reading on Seachem's replenish mix. Is it suitable for replacing essential salts, Mg and Ca to RO water?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There are plenty of ways to lower the ph , driftwood , peatmoss, are a few what are you trying to get your ph down too?
more importantly, I am wondering what to do with my water. Should I use RO or softened tap water? I know there are easy ways of lowering pH with additives or natural items.
Nicole
 

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The more naturally you can lower you ph the better playing with chemicals to get your water where you want it is no fun you need to run a few test with water as like 75% tap 25% R/o , 50/50% 25/75 % and see what gets you the closet to what your looking for you can do it in buckets with a airstone let the water sit for 24 hrs before testing
 

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Start with RO water.
Add a small amount of minerals usually labeled GH booster, that will include calcium and magnesium. Seachem Equilibrium is one example. If you have other products in your stores read the label. Some include sodium chloride, which you do not want.
You can go by the label instructions to make the GH appropriate for the Siren.

Add a small amount of baking soda or potassium bicarbonate to raise the KH, and help stabilize the pH.

If your research has found a specific target of GH, KH and pH then aim for that.
I could not find anything (but I only looked for a few minutes). There are several species of Siren, and they seem to be native to bogs and marshes, or lakes with lots of plants.

Bogs and marshes usually have soft water and low pH, so general ranges that I would target for animals from this habitat:

GH: 3-5 degrees
KH: about the same.
pH mid 6s.

Dosing to do this:
Seachem Equilibrium: 1 tablespoon per 20 gallons will give you 3 degrees of GH.
Baking soda: 1 teaspoon per 20 gallons will give you 3 degrees of KH.

Include the IAL (Indian Almond Leaf) or peat moss for bog/marsh critters.
 

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I like to keep my hobby interest as stress free as practical so I have a quite different view. Adjusting the water to fit some plants or animals can get to be a very difficult and sometimes expensive project. It can be done but it can create a lot of headaches until you get it figured out and steady.
That brings the question of how bad you want to keep those specific plants, etc.?
Your choice, of course, but I might suggest it is much easier to start with things that do work in the water you have rather than starting with the uphill battle of learning and using all the tricks which may make it very difficult.
There are lots of plants out there so I find it much easier to go with nature rather than fight it.
 

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I recommend not using softened water from the tap. It is supposed to have all kinds of salt. I would follow Diana's instructions. I use Equilibrium and it works fine - just mix it up in your bucket and pour it into the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Diana, your dosing advice is very helpful. Thank you for that. I was on the fence about getting equilibrium or replenish, but I will go for equilibrium.

The siren is Siren intermedia intermedia (Lesser siren). Seems quite forgiving in the way of pH, but I would optimally like to have him in the parameters he should be at. I already have indian almond leaves, peat and some bogwood in his tank. Same with my newts. I will do some research on what KH and GH levels I should be aiming at for the axolotls. I do know they like high dissolved salt content and harder water.

I already have the animals, so it isn't as if I can tailor my critters to accept the water we have. besides, softened water cannot sustain any life long term it seems. I previously took advice from people on an axolotl forum regarding softened water. After researching planted tank requirements, I found out you cannot properly balance electrolytes in it and short term everything but the plants seem fine. Long term the animals can suffer.

I have begun to cut the softened water with tap water. I will buy some equilibrium this weekend and start slowly changing all the water in my tanks.

Another question, should I be concerned with calcium levels? I notice that equilibrium has less calcium content than replenish... is there a way to add extra calcium to the water? I saw a product called wondershells. but the shipping is quite high to Canada for the amount I need.

Thanks,
Nicole
 

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I like to keep my hobby interest as stress free as practical so I have a quite different view. Adjusting the water to fit some plants or animals can get to be a very difficult and sometimes expensive project. It can be done but it can create a lot of headaches until you get it figured out and steady. ...
Take this to heart. Altering water is a long-term JOB, and requires a discipline I know I do not have. You need to decide this yourself.

There are many soft-water species that are adaptable to harder water. Even discus are now being bred in very hard water. And a healthy plant ecosystem usually ends up starving for hardness by the time a water change comes. But the NaCl is killer. Is there not a hose tap upstream of the softener? Is it in the basement or a crawl space? If there is any way to get to the pre softened water, I would use that and see how the Lesser siren handles it. Most plants will tolerate harder water, and most fauna will as well. What none will like is an unstable environment, and modifying water appropriately and consistently approaches science. And gets expensive in time as well as $.

If you can get to the raw water, even if it involves buckets (you will be using buckets anyway with the R/O-dont even think you can mix in the tank), that is what I recommend. The only way I will mix water is for corals, and that didn't go long before it became a chore. That's my humble opinion, which may not have even been worth reading! Best of luck, sirens are terrific and well worth some effort, you have to decide how much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I think the siren would tolerate harder water (he's tolerating softened water with pH of 7.5 now for a couple months), but the softener is hooked up in the basement with no bypass (I know its strange...). I am going to bother my other half to look at it again, it doesn't make sense that there isn't a bypass. On the other hand, I don't mind dosing water. I don't keep fish, just aquatic amphibians. They are worth the work to me.
Seachem's products that I will require are $10 each, and I will need three. I have decided to go with alkaline and acid buffers instead of the baking soda and the equilibrium. That's only $30 worth of products and they will last a bit.
Nicole
 

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I have decided to go with alkaline and acid buffers instead of the baking soda and the equilibrium.
Well, make sure you are getting the right products.

GH boosters add calcium and magnesium (and potassium) to the water. I know fish are adapted to certain levels of these minerals, and (for fish) this is the first parameter I aim for. If you are working with RO water then you will need to add something like this. Some people make their own blend with calcium chloride and Epsom salt (or similar materials- a source of calcium and a source of magnesium).

KH is carbonates. These materials can stabilize the pH. Even in the 'packaged for aquarium' products, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda, sodium bicarbonate) is the most common alkaline booster.

Peat moss, Indian Almond leaves and driftwood all add organic acids to the water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well, make sure you are getting the right products.

GH boosters add calcium and magnesium (and potassium) to the water. I know fish are adapted to certain levels of these minerals, and (for fish) this is the first parameter I aim for. If you are working with RO water then you will need to add something like this. Some people make their own blend with calcium chloride and Epsom salt (or similar materials- a source of calcium and a source of magnesium).

KH is carbonates. These materials can stabilize the pH. Even in the 'packaged for aquarium' products, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda, sodium bicarbonate) is the most common alkaline booster.

Peat moss, Indian Almond leaves and driftwood all add organic acids to the water.
what would you recommend for GH booster? Isnt the equilibrium a GH booster? The seachem alkaline buffer contains carbonates, but no sodium like baking soda. that's why I wanted to try it out. they recommend using acid and alkaline buffers together to keep things stable. what do you think?
 

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Equilibrium is a GH booster. It is the one I use. I have also used Barr's GH booster. (it seems easier to dissolve)
There are others available, but I do not know what is in them. Look for calcium and magnesium, in a ratio of about 4 parts Ca: 1 part Mg.

I have used baking soda, no issues in the tank. But I am not keeping amphibians.
I also have potassium bicarbonate.

I do not see the benefit of adding both acid and alkaline materials to the water.
If you are starting with RO water (I have done this) or rain water (done this, too) you do not need both. Some amount of carbonates (or bicarbonates) is all you need for the right pH.

If your critters are from a black water environment (many swamps are high in organic acids, so yes, I think the Siren is a black water animal) then peat moss would the the 'acid buffer' of choice.
 
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