Ready To Dive Into Saltwater

Jeevanilla

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Once I’ve gotten all my freshwater display tanks 100% on their new aquarium stand upstairs, and once my goldfish are moved outside this spring (because they are too big for their tank) my downstairs aquarium will be empty! I’m ready to take a dip into salt water.
STATUS
29 gallon aquarium
I plan on getting 2 designer clownfish and a mandarin goby once the tank is ready for fish. BUT I want lots of coral too!
MY QUESTIONS
What sand do I need?
Is cycleing fresh water the same as freshwater?
Lighting and flow levels ? What should they be at?
 

ryanr

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Hi,
I wouldn't suggest a mandarin in 29G, I'd go much larger.(Truth be told, I think mandarins are one of those species that should be left in the wild, but that's my opinion)
Not because of the size, but because of their exclusive copepod diet. Also, IMO, a mandarin should only be introduced to a well established tank, that has developed a stable supply of copepods.
2 designer clowns? What type? a 29 would be suitable for known mated pair of ocellaris/percula variant, but others would be too big.

Substrate; I recommend an aragonite based sand. They help maintain alkalinity levels. You don't need "live sand" per se, as it will become live over time.

Cycling a SW vs FW - the process is the same, however the methods available are different.

Lighting and flow, depends what corals you want to keep.

I'd recommend reading the stickies in the SW Beginner's forum as many of your questions will be answered
 

Jesterrace

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Take it from a guy who spent over $200 on copepods trying to keep a green mandarin alive and failing, DON'T GET ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mandarins need a stunning amount of copepods to stay happy long term (roughly 5000 per week) and graze constantly during their waking hours. They are also very picky eaters and many will not adapt to other foods. Those who generally have success with mandarinfish long term are ones who have roughly 75lbs of live rock (nearly 3 times what will fit in your tank) with a healthy breeding and self-sustaining copepod population (usually takes between 6 months to a year to achieve AFTER the tank has cycled). Those who have success in smaller tanks have to have one that adapts to solid foods and feed them 3-4 times a day (which simply isn't possible or practical for anyone who works a full time job) and they still have a supplemental pod population. The other issue is that other fish will eat anything a mandarin will and are able to beat mandarins to the punch so to speak for getting food. The best way I can describe the movement and mannerisms of a mandarinfish are to tell you to picture an underwater hummingbird and trap it in slow motion. You now have a Mandarin. I could drop the food literally an inch or two from it's face with a turkey baster and the other fish would still gobble up most of the food before it could even target and lock onto it.

The point is that you need to heed the warning about it's care level. It is definitely a difficult fish and not one recommended for a saltwater newbie (and even some experienced ones as well).

The Clownfish of an Ocellaris (ie Nemo) or Percula variety are both good choices for beginner fish and that size tank. They are generally pretty hardy fish. Avoid any designer that includes a mix of the following: Clarki, Maroon, Tomato, Cinnamon as they are all bigger and can be downright mean to both tank mates and owners (all clowns can potentially bite their owners once they are established and will defend their turf/space from any perceived intruder). I always caution folks to be prepared for this before they get this idea that clowns are every bit as cute as they portray them to be in Finding Nemo/Dory.

As for the tank and the setup the first thing you will need to do is sanitize everything in that tank to ensure that any potential residual nasties are killed. Most recommend running all equipment through a mix of tapwater and distilled white vinegar (Fill it most of the way with tap water and add 3-4 gallons of distilled white vinegar to the tank) and let it run through your HOB filter for a few days (if you have a canister plan on NOT using it, as they are very prone to trapping the nasties in marine aquariums). Then completely spray out and wipe dry and let sit for 24 hours.

There are a couple of bad habits that you learned with freshwater that you must unlearn. First using treated tapwater is generally not recommended. Most recommend using water that has been through an RODI (Reverse Osmosis with De-Ionization) System. Municipal Tap Water often has things that are harmful to reef tanks and cause things like out of control hair algae problems, things that are damaging to corals. If you have a reliable local fish store, you can generally buy RODI and RODI/Salt Pre-mix from them. If not then it is strongly recommended you get an RODI system. The second thing you must unlearn is that in Freshwater the cycle is maintained in the filter media, in a saltwater tank it is maintained in the live rock. So establishing your Biofilter in the live rock is crucial to a reef/saltwater tank. The cycle itself is similar in that it goes Ammonia, Nitrites and the Nitrates.

Corals are the more expensive and demanding side of the hobby. While a simple Blue/White LED light bar would easily take care of your needs for a Fish Only setup, Corals generally need a more expensive and full spectrum light if you plan on keeping a variety of them healthy and happy long term. If you are on a budget I recommend sticking with just the fish and then moving on to corals later on as the budget allows. The cheapest light I would recommend for your tank would be what is known as the Chinese Black Box:



If you want something with more programming options and flexibility then stepping up to an Ocean Revive T247B or AI Prime HD would be the way to go but they will run you around $200. They are very nice lights though

As mentioned above Argonite Sand will be fine
 

stella1979

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Hi Congratulations, we'd love to help you take a walk on the salty side.

Unfortunately, I don't have much to add that hasn't been said, but I do want to say that I too had a very sad experience in trying to keep a mandarin fish. That was so many years ago that it was before helpful and friendly places like Fishlore didn't exist to warn me away from this very difficult to keep fish... and my poor little guy starved because I had no idea what I was doing. They are still a favorite, so much so, that I won't have one because I too believe this is one that should be left in the wild. If you still want a mandarin fish, I implore you to do heavy research and dedicate yourself to the time, work and cost that it will take to keep the little beauty alive. I'm sorry... I hate to be negative. It's just a sad fact that these fish starve more often than not in captivity and the hobby as a whole should question our impact on this beautiful species. Just to hammer it home, in the wild, a mandarin may eat as many as 3 pods per second, so they will easily decimate a decent pod population in a tank.... and that's without other fish competing with them, which of course, they will.

Like has been said, your first concern with a marine aquarium is a pure water source, so you'll want a way to provide that via RO/DI or distilled water. Either option should give you freshwater with a TDS reading of zero, (TDS = total dissolve solids, measured with a cheap TDS meter.) This will mean that nothing is in your water other than what you put there via mixing with a marine salt of your choice.

Corals They are so much fun!! You will be doing yourself a favor if you get the very best light that your budget will allow. It's impossible to say now which coral might catch your eye in 6 months or a year, but if you start with great water and a great light, you won't have to limit yourself in the future.

I too recommend reading through the stickies in the Saltwater Beginner's Forum. They contain a wealth of info to get you started.
 
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Jeevanilla

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Hi,
I wouldn't suggest a mandarin in 29G, I'd go much larger.(Truth be told, I think mandarins are one of those species that should be left in the wild, but that's my opinion)
Not because of the size, but because of their exclusive copepod diet. Also, IMO, a mandarin should only be introduced to a well established tank, that has developed a stable supply of copepods.
2 designer clowns? What type? a 29 would be suitable for known mated pair of ocellaris/percula variant, but others would be too big.

Substrate; I recommend an aragonite based sand. They help maintain alkalinity levels. You don't need "live sand" per se, as it will become live over time.

Cycling a SW vs FW - the process is the same, however the methods available are different.

Lighting and flow, depends what corals you want to keep.

I'd recommend reading the stickies in the SW Beginner's forum as many of your questions will be answered
Ok I don’t want to get a mandarin goby anymore, I was aware that they need copepods. But I’m afraid it would eat them all too quickly. I want to keep toadstool coral, frogspawn, and Xenia. Could I use a planted aquarium light to grow them?

Take it from a guy who spent over $200 on copepods trying to keep a green mandarin alive and failing, DON'T GET ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mandarins need a stunning amount of copepods to stay happy long term (roughly 5000 per week) and graze constantly during their waking hours. They are also very picky eaters and many will not adapt to other foods. Those who generally have success with mandarinfish long term are ones who have roughly 75lbs of live rock (nearly 3 times what will fit in your tank) with a healthy breeding and self-sustaining copepod population (usually takes between 6 months to a year to achieve AFTER the tank has cycled). Those who have success in smaller tanks have to have one that adapts to solid foods and feed them 3-4 times a day (which simply isn't possible or practical for anyone who works a full time job) and they still have a supplemental pod population. The other issue is that other fish will eat anything a mandarin will and are able to beat mandarins to the punch so to speak for getting food. The best way I can describe the movement and mannerisms of a mandarinfish are to tell you to picture an underwater hummingbird and trap it in slow motion. You now have a Mandarin. I could drop the food literally an inch or two from it's face with a turkey baster and the other fish would still gobble up most of the food before it could even target and lock onto it.

The point is that you need to heed the warning about it's care level. It is definitely a difficult fish and not one recommended for a saltwater newbie (and even some experienced ones as well).

The Clownfish of an Ocellaris (ie Nemo) or Percula variety are both good choices for beginner fish and that size tank. They are generally pretty hardy fish. Avoid any designer that includes a mix of the following: Clarki, Maroon, Tomato, Cinnamon as they are all bigger and can be downright mean to both tank mates and owners (all clowns can potentially bite their owners once they are established and will defend their turf/space from any perceived intruder). I always caution folks to be prepared for this before they get this idea that clowns are every bit as cute as they portray them to be in Finding Nemo/Dory.

As for the tank and the setup the first thing you will need to do is sanitize everything in that tank to ensure that any potential residual nasties are killed. Most recommend running all equipment through a mix of tapwater and distilled white vinegar (Fill it most of the way with tap water and add 3-4 gallons of distilled white vinegar to the tank) and let it run through your HOB filter for a few days (if you have a canister plan on NOT using it, as they are very prone to trapping the nasties in marine aquariums). Then completely spray out and wipe dry and let sit for 24 hours.

There are a couple of bad habits that you learned with freshwater that you must unlearn. First using treated tapwater is generally not recommended. Most recommend using water that has been through an RODI (Reverse Osmosis with De-Ionization) System. Municipal Tap Water often has things that are harmful to reef tanks and cause things like out of control hair algae problems, things that are damaging to corals. If you have a reliable local fish store, you can generally buy RODI and RODI/Salt Pre-mix from them. If not then it is strongly recommended you get an RODI system. The second thing you must unlearn is that in Freshwater the cycle is maintained in the filter media, in a saltwater tank it is maintained in the live rock. So establishing your Biofilter in the live rock is crucial to a reef/saltwater tank. The cycle itself is similar in that it goes Ammonia, Nitrites and the Nitrates.

Corals are the more expensive and demanding side of the hobby. While a simple Blue/White LED light bar would easily take care of your needs for a Fish Only setup, Corals generally need a more expensive and full spectrum light if you plan on keeping a variety of them healthy and happy long term. If you are on a budget I recommend sticking with just the fish and then moving on to corals later on as the budget allows. The cheapest light I would recommend for your tank would be what is known as the Chinese Black Box:



If you want something with more programming options and flexibility then stepping up to an Ocean Revive T247B or AI Prime HD would be the way to go but they will run you around $200. They are very nice lights though

As mentioned above Argonite Sand will be fine
What if I have well water? I never need to use water conditioner for my freshwater tanks because I don’t have chlorine in my water, my water is also hard.

Hi Congratulations, we'd love to help you take a walk on the salty side.

Unfortunately, I don't have much to add that hasn't been said, but I do want to say that I too had a very sad experience in trying to keep a mandarin fish. That was so many years ago that it was before helpful and friendly places like Fishlore didn't exist to warn me away from this very difficult to keep fish... and my poor little guy starved because I had no idea what I was doing. They are still a favorite, so much so, that I won't have one because I too believe this is one that should be left in the wild. If you still want a mandarin fish, I implore you to do heavy research and dedicate yourself to the time, work and cost that it will take to keep the little beauty alive. I'm sorry... I hate to be negative. It's just a sad fact that these fish starve more often than not in captivity and the hobby as a whole should question our impact on this beautiful species. Just to hammer it home, in the wild, a mandarin may eat as many as 3 pods per second, so they will easily decimate a decent pod population in a tank.... and that's without other fish competing with them, which of course, they will.

Like has been said, your first concern with a marine aquarium is a pure water source, so you'll want a way to provide that via RO/DI or distilled water. Either option should give you freshwater with a TDS reading of zero, (TDS = total dissolve solids, measured with a cheap TDS meter.) This will mean that nothing is in your water other than what you put there via mixing with a marine salt of your choice.

Corals They are so much fun!! You will be doing yourself a favor if you get the very best light that your budget will allow. It's impossible to say now which coral might catch your eye in 6 months or a year, but if you start with great water and a great light, you won't have to limit yourself in the future.

I too recommend reading through the stickies in the Saltwater Beginner's Forum. They contain a wealth of info to get you started.
Can I use well water? My freshwater tanks never need water conditioner because my water doesn’t have chlorine. My water is hard as mentioned above.
 
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Lchi87

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Its very important to use water that has TDS of zero. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache in the future especially if you want to keep corals. I’m not familiar with well water but if you’re interested in using it, I would ensure that you get a 0 TDS reading as mentioned. TDS meters are relatively inexpensive on Amazon and recommended very much so that you can make sure your water is good, no matter where you get it it from.

Welcome to the salty side though! Its a steep learning curve but SO worth it.
 
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Jeevanilla

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Its very important to use water that has TDS of zero. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache in the future especially if you want to keep corals. I’m not familiar with well water but if you’re interested in using it, I would ensure that you get a 0 TDS reading as mentioned. TDS meters are relatively inexpensive on Amazon and recommended very much so that you can make sure your water is good, no matter where you get it it from.

Welcome to the salty side though! Its a steep learning curve but SO worth it.
Thankyou. But what does TDS mean my guess is totally disolved solids
 

stella1979

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Indeed, as mentioned in my previous post, TDS stands for total dissolved solids, and a $10-15 meter is all you need. It will measure the presence of everything in your water... that is not water. There could be a number of things there, and the meter won't tell you what the other 'stuff' is but will tell you how pure any water source is.

Common non-water elements are things like nitrates from agricultural runoff, or calcium which occurs naturally from leaching rocks the water passes over or through. Nitrates are something we're always trying to keep pretty low, and marine salt contains the calcium a reef tank needs. If calcium-rich water is mixed with marine salt, calc levels will be out of range/too high, which in turn can cause white crusty deposits in the aquarium and on equipment. This stuff is hard to clean and can break equipment over time.

That's just the easy stuff, as there could be elements in your water that may be fine for humans and freshwater fish, but are not present in the vast oceans of the world. Corals are sensitive and will not tolerate unknown elements well. For example, some reefers have found success in the short term, only for the tank to crash at some point for reasons that were a mystery... Until discovering things like low-level tin in their water.

At best, unfiltered water will cause algae woes, while at worst, it can leave you wondering why you can't keep corals and possibly even marine fish alive. As Lchi said, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches by using pure water. Perhaps your well is pure, (though I'm sorry to say that it's doubtful), but only a TDS meter will tell you. As for myself, I'm on city tap water, and I know it contains things like nitrates, calcium, and fluoride, but also legal amounts of things like lead, arsenic, and even radioactive stuff like uranium. These are just the things I know about, and my tap's TDS is near 400, so I'm sure there's things I don't know about there too... none of which is okay for a reef tank.

Sorry for the rant. Just want to point out that there can be many unknown contaminants, that are not inherently dangerous to me or my goldfish, but would definitely kill my corals after enough exposure. Water is step #1 with reefing. You can buy RO/DI or distilled, as either should have a TDS of zero, or you can purchase your own RO/DI unit and produce your own TDS water, (safest method.) Some smaller systems are less than $100 if I'm not mistaken, and while that doesn't immediately feel cheap, in the long run, a reef tank costs much more and investing in good water is the first step for protecting that pricey tank.
 

Jesterrace

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Thankyou. But what does TDS mean my guess is totally disolved solids
You got it (it's officially Total Dissolved Solids). Well Water may not have issues with Chlorine but there are plenty of other things that can leech into it that I sure wouldn't want in a saltwater tank. Stella did a heck of a job describing all the variables above. A Cheap Portable RODI system will set you back a whopping $60 (very small cost given the investment of even a small reef tank). It will produce more waste water (Generally 1 gallon of RODI to 7 gallons of waste) and will have more expensive cartridge replacements, but should get the job done:

https://www.amazon.com/Aquatic-Life-Changing-Deionization-Cartridge/dp/B00204CQF6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544726590&sr=8-1&keywords=Aquatic+buddie


If you are willing to invest more up front (about $120) you can get a nicer unit that will produce less waste water (About 1 gallon RODI to every 3-4 gallons of waste water) and will have cheaper and more flexible options for cartridge replacements:

https://www.amazon.com/LiquaGen-5-Stage-Reverse-Osmosis-Deionization/dp/B01FNAPGPA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1544726590&sr=8-6&keywords=Aquatic+buddie

Either way, as mentioned these are small investments to take a major chunk of guesswork out of a reef tank.
 

Jesterrace

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Its very important to use water that has TDS of zero. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache in the future especially if you want to keep corals. I’m not familiar with well water but if you’re interested in using it, I would ensure that you get a 0 TDS reading as mentioned. TDS meters are relatively inexpensive on Amazon and recommended very much so that you can make sure your water is good, no matter where you get it it from.

Welcome to the salty side though! Its a steep learning curve but SO worth it.
I agree for the most part, that said there is no way on earth you will get a TDS of zero from ANY municipal or well water source. It is literally impossible. You can get some more rural systems that have a pretty low TDS (ie 60 or less), but all of them have solids, they have to have just a little bit in municipal water to keep the water from developing nasties that are harmful to humans and make it potable.
 
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Jeevanilla

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Indeed, as mentioned in my previous post, TDS stands for total dissolved solids, and a $10-15 meter is all you need. It will measure the presence of everything in your water... that is not water. There could be a number of things there, and the meter won't tell you what the other 'stuff' is but will tell you how pure any water source is.

Common non-water elements are things like nitrates from agricultural runoff, or calcium which occurs naturally from leaching rocks the water passes over or through. Nitrates are something we're always trying to keep pretty low, and marine salt contains the calcium a reef tank needs. If calcium-rich water is mixed with marine salt, calc levels will be out of range/too high, which in turn can cause white crusty deposits in the aquarium and on equipment. This stuff is hard to clean and can break equipment over time.

That's just the easy stuff, as there could be elements in your water that may be fine for humans and freshwater fish, but are not present in the vast oceans of the world. Corals are sensitive and will not tolerate unknown elements well. For example, some reefers have found success in the short term, only for the tank to crash at some point for reasons that were a mystery... Until discovering things like low-level tin in their water.

At best, unfiltered water will cause algae woes, while at worst, it can leave you wondering why you can't keep corals and possibly even marine fish alive. As Lchi said, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches by using pure water. Perhaps your well is pure, (though I'm sorry to say that it's doubtful), but only a TDS meter will tell you. As for myself, I'm on city tap water, and I know it contains things like nitrates, calcium, and fluoride, but also legal amounts of things like lead, arsenic, and even radioactive stuff like uranium. These are just the things I know about, and my tap's TDS is near 400, so I'm sure there's things I don't know about there too... none of which is okay for a reef tank.

Sorry for the rant. Just want to point out that there can be many unknown contaminants, that are not inherently dangerous to me or my goldfish, but would definitely kill my corals after enough exposure. Water is step #1 with reefing. You can buy RO/DI or distilled, as either should have a TDS of zero, or you can purchase your own RO/DI unit and produce your own TDS water, (safest method.) Some smaller systems are less than $100 if I'm not mistaken, and while that doesn't immediately feel cheap, in the long run, a reef tank costs much more and investing in good water is the first step for protecting that pricey tank.
Thankyou!

I agree for the most part, that said there is no way on earth you will get a TDS of zero from ANY municipal or well water source. It is literally impossible. You can get some more rural systems that have a pretty low TDS (ie 60 or less), but all of them have solids, they have to have just a little bit in municipal water to keep the water from developing nasties that are harmful to humans and make it potable.
Thankyou!

You got it (it's officially Total Dissolved Solids). Well Water may not have issues with Chlorine but there are plenty of other things that can leech into it that I sure wouldn't want in a saltwater tank. Stella did a heck of a job describing all the variables above. A Cheap Portable RODI system will set you back a whopping $60 (very small cost given the investment of even a small reef tank). It will produce more waste water (Generally 1 gallon of RODI to 7 gallons of waste) and will have more expensive cartridge replacements, but should get the job done:

https://www.amazon.com/Aquatic-Life-Changing-Deionization-Cartridge/dp/B00204CQF6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544726590&sr=8-1&keywords=Aquatic+buddie


If you are willing to invest more up front (about $120) you can get a nicer unit that will produce less waste water (About 1 gallon RODI to every 3-4 gallons of waste water) and will have cheaper and more flexible options for cartridge replacements:

https://www.amazon.com/LiquaGen-5-Stage-Reverse-Osmosis-Deionization/dp/B01FNAPGPA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1544726590&sr=8-6&keywords=Aquatic+buddie

Either way, as mentioned these are small investments to take a major chunk of guesswork out of a reef tank.
What system would I need for a 29, and will the RODI make well water 0 TDS?

Indeed, as mentioned in my previous post, TDS stands for total dissolved solids, and a $10-15 meter is all you need. It will measure the presence of everything in your water... that is not water. There could be a number of things there, and the meter won't tell you what the other 'stuff' is but will tell you how pure any water source is.

Common non-water elements are things like nitrates from agricultural runoff, or calcium which occurs naturally from leaching rocks the water passes over or through. Nitrates are something we're always trying to keep pretty low, and marine salt contains the calcium a reef tank needs. If calcium-rich water is mixed with marine salt, calc levels will be out of range/too high, which in turn can cause white crusty deposits in the aquarium and on equipment. This stuff is hard to clean and can break equipment over time.

That's just the easy stuff, as there could be elements in your water that may be fine for humans and freshwater fish, but are not present in the vast oceans of the world. Corals are sensitive and will not tolerate unknown elements well. For example, some reefers have found success in the short term, only for the tank to crash at some point for reasons that were a mystery... Until discovering things like low-level tin in their water.

At best, unfiltered water will cause algae woes, while at worst, it can leave you wondering why you can't keep corals and possibly even marine fish alive. As Lchi said, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches by using pure water. Perhaps your well is pure, (though I'm sorry to say that it's doubtful), but only a TDS meter will tell you. As for myself, I'm on city tap water, and I know it contains things like nitrates, calcium, and fluoride, but also legal amounts of things like lead, arsenic, and even radioactive stuff like uranium. These are just the things I know about, and my tap's TDS is near 400, so I'm sure there's things I don't know about there too... none of which is okay for a reef tank.

Sorry for the rant. Just want to point out that there can be many unknown contaminants, that are not inherently dangerous to me or my goldfish, but would definitely kill my corals after enough exposure. Water is step #1 with reefing. You can buy RO/DI or distilled, as either should have a TDS of zero, or you can purchase your own RO/DI unit and produce your own TDS water, (safest method.) Some smaller systems are less than $100 if I'm not mistaken, and while that doesn't immediately feel cheap, in the long run, a reef tank costs much more and investing in good water is the first step for protecting that pricey tank.
Totally fine thankyou!
 

Jesterrace

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What system would I need for a 29, and will the RODI make well water 0 TDS?
Either RODI system will work, it just depends on which option you want, cheaper cost upfront or cheaper long term costs. Just look at that post above and it gives you the advantages and disadvantages of both. The more expensive one also offers an additional filter on it (5 stage vs 4 stage) so if you have really high TDS in your well water it might be good to have the extra filtration stage to ensure 0 TDS, if it's lower TDS then either system should work. So as recommended by Stella, I would get a TDS Meter and test your well water and see what it's TDS is and then go from there.
 
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