Anybody with information on using water from a water softener/reverse osmosis?

Discussion in 'Aquarium Water' started by husky194, Jun 14, 2016.

  1. husky194

    husky194Valued MemberMember

    I've had several fish deaths over the past 6 months. I'm noticing a lot more Iron in my water and it seems like I lose fish after a water change. I had the water tested and it's got very little hardness in it but plenty of Iron. The culligan man said I could install a water softener and then do reverse osmosis for cooking, drinking and using in my fish tanks.

    I have no clue what any of that means. Does anybody have and suggestions of tips if you use this particular process?
  2. Disc61

    Disc61Well Known MemberMember

    first and foremost, do you use a water Dechlorinator when putting new water back in your tanks.
    next, I would maybe consider aging the water and have that water tested to see if the aging process helps.
  3. Silister Trench

    Silister TrenchWell Known MemberMember

    Is it planted? Have you checked water parameters to see if death is related to some unbalance in the biological filter? I only ask because I have a friend who has really high iron level, and balanced it by adding loads of Ludwigia Repens to soak up the iron. Before that I don't think he ever contributed any deaths to his high iron, though, but I'm sure in high enough quantities it's not the healthiest.

    In my old house I used RO water. It just means your putting the water through a process that removes most chemicals and minerals from water. Great if you have a planted tank so you can dose accordingly, but fish enjoy water changes because it replenishes some minerals they require.

  4. OP

    husky194Valued MemberMember

    At this time Disc61 I do not have to use a declorinator because I have well water.
    I can run a dish of fresh water for my dogs to drink and within 5 hours the water will have an orange hue to it so aging it is actually worse :-(
    It's a major pain. That's why we're looking at adding the softener.

    I do not have a planted tank - I've considered adding some plants because my Nitrate's stay high most of the time.
    I do check the water parameters every time I do a water change and they are holding pretty steady for the past several months with the exception of the PH dropping in my 125 gallon.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 14, 2016
  5. Disc61

    Disc61Well Known MemberMember

    hmmmm, I would question not using a Dechlorinator. it is rather in expensive (much less than an RO system) try it and see.
    give us some numbers to look at.
    1. what is your PH? what is it coming out of the tap, out of the tank.
    2. Nitrates? what is the number when you say high? they shouldn't stay high most of the time and can definitely be the cause of death.
    3. have you checked the Phosphate level out of your tap water?

  6. Silister Trench

    Silister TrenchWell Known MemberMember

    Dude, that's some pretty funky water...

    Well, a water softener should be safe to use with fish, but I'd check with the manufacturer to double check if the softener/softener media is safe for your aquariums.

    RO is perfectly fine for fish, but as I said before, it removes most chemicals and minerals from water. I've never had a problem with fish because most of the nutrients they need is added by feeding, only plant deficiencies, but I was adding nutrients to the water for plants. Biggest problem is your PH can become unstable, so PH buffering sometimes becomes necessary based on fish.
  7. OP

    husky194Valued MemberMember

    There is no need to dechlorinate because it's well water, straight out of the ground. No chemicals are in it. If I had city water I'd certainly have to dechlorinate.

    The PH coming out of the tap is low - it's 6.4 The water comes out of the tap with Nitrates in it too so it's frustrating. When I first started my tank 4 years ago I worked really hard to get the Nitrates down and keep it there but it was pretty useless. I've got some of the same fish I purchased at the beginning of setting my tank up so I'm assuming that the deaths can't be from that. (by High I mean it runs about 60 ppm all of the time)
    I've got myself convinced it's the Iron that some of the fish just can't handle.

    I have not checked phosphates - how do you do that?

    Tell me about it!! Funky water IS RIGHT!! I've lived in this home for nearly 20 years and in the past 3 years the water has changed drastically. Changes in the earth I suppose. I also talked to a Geologist that said as time goes by the rock formation below the earth is changing and being worn down by the water, therfore causing different types of build up which is likely what's causing my change.

    I think a water softener is my only answer here. Then do reverse osmosis like the Culigan Man suggested for my fish tanks.
    Good suggestion on finding out if the product used in the softener is safe for aquariums!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 14, 2016
  8. Jsigmo

    JsigmoWell Known MemberMember

    This may actually be a good reason to age the water before adding it to your aquarium.

    The iron in your water starts out unoxidized, and as it oxidizes, it goes from ferrous to ferric, and takes on the familiar reddish hue associated with rust (oxidized iron).

    And the pH of your water may change drastically as the water is exposed to "surface conditions". Well water often contains a lot of CO2, and thus, it's pH can be lower than it will be after some of that CO2 is allowed to "off gas" for a while.

    It may well be that what is killing the fish right after a water change is the shock of drastic pH changes. Aging your water first, especially with an air stone in the aging bucket or barrel, may bring the pH a lot closer to aquarium conditions, and prevent this shock.

    That pH of 6.4 is quite low. Well water usually has high alkalinity, yet you see a low pH.

    What does the pH of your aquarium read just before a water change?

    And what are the carbonate and general hardnesses of your tap and tank waters?
    CindiL ?
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
  9. OP

    husky194Valued MemberMember

    My PH readings are different in each tank.
    125 Gal - 66 PH (it's been dropping slowly)
    55 Gal - 74 PH (Tank #3 on my profile)
    55 Gal - 72 PH (Tank #2 on my profile)

    Carbonate and general hardness - ?? No clue except that the Culligan Man told me the hardness is very low when he tested it yesterday. His tone made me think that's unusual for well water to have very little hardness?
  10. Silister Trench

    Silister TrenchWell Known MemberMember

    Well, I'd most likely look into both for my own human needs. The fish will most likely benefit by such changes, and in everything I read some time ago before using RO water it's not going to hurt them. Plus, they sell products to add nutrients back to the water after RO processing. The use of RO waters seems designed for people with problems like yours.
  11. CindiL

    CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Hello, there are a few things to discuss here. You're saying your ph is coming out of your well at 6.4? And in a couple of your tanks it's at 7.4 (not 74,was that a typo? Did you leave out the periods?). How large are your water changes typically? There is usually a lot of CO2 in well water so as Jsigmo mentioned as it off gasses the water will rise to its natural state. We need to know what the natural state of yours really is. I would take a bucket of water, add in an air stone and test it after a couple of hours. That should be sufficient to get rid of the CO2 in the water. I am also on a well and my water comes out of my tap at 6.8 and rises to about 8.3-8.4. Because of this I have to aerate and heat my water before water changes.

    Also I am on a well and I use a water conditioner mostly for the benefit that they remove heavy metals and may help out in your situation. I'd recommend picking up some Seachem Prime and dose for the full volume of the tank at water change time.

    Water softeners are run with either salt crystals or potassium. The thing to remember with water softeners is they are removing your calcium and magnesium ions and replacing them with sodium or potassium ions. We need to find out your actual hardness. You shouldn't need a water softener if your water isn't hard. You could have an RO system without it. I'd pick up a GH/KH liquid test kit or if you can't find one, pick up some strips (not my first choice) but it will give a ballpark idea of your GH and KH (alkalinity or carbonate hardness).

    Water softened water can be used in a tank but is not ideal because there are no minerals any longer that your fish need for proper osmotic functioning. Food does not supply enough minerals alone. I would use Seachem Replenish if I use a water softener (we have a water softener also and I use potassium chloride in it) and when I was using the water I always added in Replenish to increase the GH by providing calcium and magnesium.

    RO water has pros and cons. I have now switched to RO water in my aquarium inside the house and am using my well water on my pond outside. The pros of RO water is its devoid of anything bad having been filtered out to the extreme! the con of RO water is exactly the same thing, it has been filtered out so much there is nothing good in it either :)
    The way you get around this is by using a few products to re-mineralized it. A buffer like Seachem Alkaline buffer is what I use for KH and PH (keeps PH from crashing). Replenish to increase GH, general hardness and I also use Fresh Trace which provides trace minerals. This is really the only way you can use RO water and keep your fish alive. Some people mix half RO water and half Tap water to dilute or neutralize some of the bad stuff in their tap water but maintain the minerals.

    If I was in your situation I would first figure out the before and after aerating ph values so we can see if you need to aerate your water before using it. Then I would try using a simple dechlorinator that removes heavy metals. Almost all of them do. See if this is enough to take care of the fish deaths. Once we establish that then you can figure out if it's worth the cost to add in the RO system and use it in the aquarium.

    I think it would be a good idea to use RO water for your family's use either way. My tap nitrates range from 5 - 80 throughout the year and so we added it and I feel a lot better about drinking it these days. The EPA limit on nitrate is 10 but that is NO3-N. The API test measures total nitrate NO3 so to get what the reading would be towards the EPA limit you divide your API nitrate reading by 4.4 (I think, could be 4.2, going off the top of my head).
  12. OP

    husky194Valued MemberMember

    WOW!!! What excellent! excellent! information! Thank you so much for taking the time to teach me! I'm going to print this so I can go over it much closer tonight when I get home from work.

    As for your questions -
    Tap water (not allowing it to sit) comes out at 6.4 - my tanks are 7.2 and 7.4 and 6.6. Correct, I forgot the periods!

    My water change quantities are 10 - 13 gallons on the 55's and 25 - 30 gallons on the 125.
    I do use Prime water conditioner but only add a cap to each 5 gallon bucket I use. Per your suggestion, I should be dosing the enter quantity of water, correct?

    The Culligan Man just emailed me and he said the hardness is 4 gpg and the iron is 1 ppm.
    I will order the GH/KH test tonight!

    I like your suggestion of not doing the softener - but going with RO water. Is there a piece of equipment that you buy and hook up to your pump to get RO water? Sorry... I'm obviously completely clueless here...
    I also like what you said about using the water for the family. I often wonder what all that iron is doing to my insides when I drink it! My whites don't stay white, my dogs don't like to drink the water if it's sat for a few hours and my son won't drink it or even use ICE made from it when he comes home!!

    Thank you very much again - let me know what you think about that hardness reading. I'll do the water test tonight.
  13. CindiL

    CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Your water is definitely not hard but my again my guess here is he wants to remove iron more than soften your water, though it will do both.
  14. OP

    husky194Valued MemberMember

    I've got a bucket of water in the sink now. I've been running a bubbler for about 90 minutes and the water is turning orange in front of my eyes :;fru
    My Gold Gourami in the 125 isn't looking so hot now either. I am seriously so frustrated!!

    Ordered my test kit though!
  15. chromedome52

    chromedome52Fishlore VIPMember

    gpg is grains per gallon. Not sure how that converts to ppm, or GH.

    Many water softeners also remove iron from the water, I had to use special salt crystals to keep it charged so as to do that. Even so, it eventually corroded my water softener to irreparable damage.

    R/O also removes iron, but usually it plugs up the prefilters pretty quickly, and what does get through those can mess up the membrane, shortening it's life. This is bad, as the membrane is the expensive part of the R/O unit.

    Iron is usually present in shallow wells, though mine has iron and is relatively deep for this area. However, my water also has the more typical high calcium content, and my pH tends to run quite high.

    I would recommend a whole house softener for your family's health, and an R/O unit for the fish. I also use my R/O as drinking water, because of all the other junk in my well water. It would take a very large R/O unit to supply water for your house, and you do not normally have pressure after the R/O filtration.
  16. OP

    husky194Valued MemberMember

    I was just reading about the iron corroding the softener and RO units... So at some point you ending buying again!
    I was just researching an Iron removing filter system that uses no chemicals or salt. I sent them an email.

    As I'm looking at my 3 tanks, it makes me sad because they are obviously not as sparkling clean as they use to be. I need to do something with this water and quick!!
  17. chromedome52

    chromedome52Fishlore VIPMember

    Always take a clue from the dogs. Most dogs will drink from a toilet, so if they don't want to drink the water from the tap, there's definitely something to be wary of.
  18. OP

    husky194Valued MemberMember

  19. CindiL

    CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    I have learned to live with this. I get about a gallon per minute of cold water out of my kitchen faucet (having the RO unit in the basement and then a pump to feed it upstairs to the kitchen). Its not great but its livable. Mostly I use the hot water anyways for cleaning dishes etc.
  20. CindiL

    CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Ok, so thats good to know. I probably would never do more than a 40% water change with straight tap water. If you go to an RO unit you will probably need to run it into a bin and heat it anyways which would make it easy to aerate. Then you could change out as much as you want. If you decide to go that way, I can tell you my setup etc to pump the water out of the bin and into the tank. Its a pain at first but you get used to it.

    Just FYI, here is a way to convert GPG . Yours is soft like we already knew at 68.5ppm.

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