Q's about Water Softener and RO systems for FW fish

Islandvic

I am looking at switching over to a water softener system. I've never owned a water softener system and never lived in a house with one, so I have zero experience with them.

At a minimum, it will have a whole house 2-stage pre-filter that feeds the water softener (dual inline 4.5x20 filters).

If it's in the budget, I have 2 more options: (1) a large carbon filter between the pre-filter and water softener, or, (2) large carbon filter + RO system to feed a separate sink faucet, the refrigerator and a separate line so I can fill a large trash can (or barrel) to use for tank water changes. The RO system would have a non-electric permeate pump and a reservoir.

If I go with the additional RO and fill a water barrel for WC's, I probably won't be able to do WC's using 100% RO. At max I can probably keep 100g total of RO water in barrels in garage. I would run out of RO water if I tried to do WC's on all tanks on the same day, since I like doing large WC's.

Background: I keep community, African cichlid and CA/SA cichlid tanks. Currently my pH is stable at 7.8-8.0, I have hard water and source is city municipal water system.

Questions:

1. Are water softener systems OK to use with FW tanks?

2. Do water softeners or water softeners + RO systems make the pH of treated water lower?

3. Do water softeners or water softener + RO make the water less buffered, so pH might change up/down while in the tanks? I ask this because currently my water is very buffered w/ zero pH changes in pH over time.

4. Regarding the RO system, can anyone tell me from experience the difference in taste between RO water and RO/DI water? I won't be keeping saltwater tanks, so I don't necessarily need the added Deionizing part of the system. I've heard that RO/DI water has a weird taste compared to RO water.

5. Can I mix 50/50 water from softener and RO system for my large WC's?

6. Should I keep the utility sink in garage on regular city water? I can tap the pre-filters to feed the utility sink and keep it off the water softener system. I ask this so if there are potential issues with doing WC's from water softener.

7. Does anyone have any suggestions, tips or advice based on their own experiences with RO systems, and whole house pre-filters, carbon filters, water softener systems ?


I'm going to tag coralbandit on this, and I don't mind if other members respond by tagging others that my know about the subject.



Thank you for your help!
 

Chanyi

1. Are water softener systems OK to use with FW tanks?

They can be safe yes, as long as you understand what they are doing - Removing Ca and Mg from the water.

2. Do water softeners or water softeners + RO systems make the pH of treated water lower?

Water softeners remove Ca and Mg (sum of Ca and Mg = GH) and have no effect on pH (does not alter KH).

RO unit remove everything = Lower pH and no GH or KH

3. Do water softeners or water softener + RO make the water less buffered, so pH might change up/down while in the tanks? I ask this because currently my water is very buffered w/ zero pH changes in pH over time.

Water softeners make water that is equally buffered to straight tapwater (no effect on KH).

RO units remove all KH thus leave no buffering ability of the water.

4. Regarding the RO system, can anyone tell me from experience the difference in taste between RO water and RO/DI water? I won't be keeping saltwater tanks, so I don't necessarily need the added Deionizing part of the system. I've heard that RO/DI water has a weird taste compared to RO water.

I personally do not like the taste of pure RO water - it tastes "plastic" to me but your mileage may vary. Maybe it was from the DI cartridge, maybe not, I did not compare. I would use it to make ice in a fridge ice maker though.


5. Can I mix 50/50 water from softener and RO system for my large WC's?

You can yes, but I would personally just use 100% RO and remineralize to your liking.

6. Should I keep the utility sink in garage on regular city water? I can tap the pre-filters to feed the utility sink and keep it off the water softener system. I ask this so if there are potential issues with doing WC's from water softener.

Yes, absolutely keep a source of unsoftened water. I had a tank with softened water and it was fine, but it was a little nicer / easier when I used un-softened tapwater.

7. Does anyone have any suggestions, tips or advice based on their own experiences with RO systems, and whole house pre-filters, carbon filters, water softener systems ?

Keep a large storage tote of RO water, and consider running a small airstone / pump / UV sterilizer in it to keep the water at equilibrium with the atmosphere / microorganism free. Have it on a float valve so you will always have water at the ready.

Have a second storage container for use as your "mixing" container. This is where you add the necessary minerals / fertilizers back into the amount of water required for a water change, bring it up to temp for the water change. What I do is 1) determine how much water I will be changing by draining the tank measuring what I remove (ensure the tank is full before doing this). 2) I then place a small piece of tape with a mark on it on the least visible corner of the tank so I can consistently change that amount of water every time. 3) I measure / pump the same amount of water from my bulk storage container into my mixing storage container. 4) I place a mark in the mixing container so I can consistently mix up the exact same amount of water I remove from the tank. This way, there is no measuring required after the initial measurements are taken. I can quickly fill the mixing container to my mark, add my heater / minerals / small pump and let sit for a few hours. Once it's up to temp, I drain the tank to my mark, and then pump the water from the mixing container into the tank. Perfect, consistent water changes every time.

I have 2 larger tanks that I cannot perform large water changes on in the same day Usually I spread them out by a day or 2 to allow the bulk storage container to fully fill before I mix up a batch of water for a water change. I have 2 different marks in my mixing container - 1 for each of the 2 tanks water change volume. After a few water changes, you'll be able to determine how quickly / how long it takes your heater to get the water up to temp. to perform the water change.



I hope this helps, if you want more info on how I do things with 100% RO let me know.
 

Islandvic

Excellent, thank you Chanyi

Only had a chance to skim through your response right now, and will go through it more thoroughly later tonight.

I'm sure I will have some more questions.
 

coralbandit

Leave a hose bib before the water softener so you can get straight water .
I know nothing about softened water but have heard it DOES often cause problems for fish keepers[ hence the recommendation for a bib before the softener].
Get a TDS meter and then you can mix either softened or non softened with RO to get what you want .
Not sure whether RO should be before or after softner .
I use the HM3 TDS meter [around $20] .
 

jtjgg

our water softener is only plumbed into the internal plumbing, the external bibs are not.

the water has sodium, but its not the same as salt sodiumchloride, but not sure if its bad for fish/plants. i use the garden hose to refill the tanks just to be safe. most water softeners have a bypass valve so if you want non-softened water you can turn on the bypass valve and let the faucet run for 2-3 minutes to flush out the softened water.

RO removes everything from the water leaving pure H2O. RO water tastes different b/c its the minerals in the water that gives it its taste.
 

CindiL

Questions:

1. Are water softener systems OK to use with FW tanks?

2. Do water softeners or water softeners + RO systems make the pH of treated water lower?

3. Do water softeners or water softener + RO make the water less buffered, so pH might change up/down while in the tanks? I ask this because currently my water is very buffered w/ zero pH changes in pH over time.

4. Regarding the RO system, can anyone tell me from experience the difference in taste between RO water and RO/DI water? I won't be keeping saltwater tanks, so I don't necessarily need the added Deionizing part of the system. I've heard that RO/DI water has a weird taste compared to RO water.

5. Can I mix 50/50 water from softener and RO system for my large WC's?

6. Should I keep the utility sink in garage on regular city water? I can tap the pre-filters to feed the utility sink and keep it off the water softener system. I ask this so if there are potential issues with doing WC's from water softener.

7. Does anyone have any suggestions, tips or advice based on their own experiences with RO systems, and whole house pre-filters, carbon filters, water softener systems ?

Thank you for your help!
Hi, I’ll throw my 2cents in here too. I have been on water softeners for years and also have used it or RO water for my FW tanks.

1. Yes, I’ve never had any issue using softened water, I use it currently but I do replace GH with SeaChem Replenish and Fresh Trace.

2. Water softeners do not effect KH, only GH. The water is not “salty”. The CA and MG ions are exchanged for sodium ions and the salt used to do that is flushed out of the system. It is safe even for those on low sodium diets.

3. RO water does remove buffering. When I was using straight RO water at another house, I used not only Seachem Replenish and fresh trace but also Alkaline buffer. The PH should come up to it’s natural state of the pre-treated tap water once an airstone is put in but you’ll need alkaline buffer to buffer and hold it. They recommend a combo of alkaline and acid buffer but I never needed the acid buffer. My PH always rose up to 8.0 which was my pre-RO PH also.

5. You can mix RO and softened water and depending on the KH/alkalinity of your tap water you may not need to buffer it but you will still need to re-mineralize depending on the fish you keep, at least to some extent.

6. Every water softener I’ve had has had the ability to bypass it but sometimes they’re in an awkward place to get to (at least mine are) so you shouldn’t need the utility sink bypassed in the garage unless you want to.

Hope that helps.
 

MrMuggles

I’m curious why you want to use RO instead of tap? A big consideration for me was water cost, my water is quite expensive and RO uses 3x the water you consume.
 

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