Water softeners and aquariums..?

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by Iain Sutherland, 21 Apr 2013.

  1. Iain Sutherland

    Iain Sutherland Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    7 Jul 2011
    Messages:
    3,675
    Location:
    Cambridge
    Evening all, i have been frustrated for a long time with having really hard water. Aside from having scaled up taps, kettle etc it really reduces the options of suitable fish when using it in large aquariums (not to mention water lines from evaporation!). In a small aquarium im happy to cut with RO but when talking about 150ltrs a week RO gets pricey and its very tedious having to 'prep' for a WC. The obvious option is to add an undersink water softener that doesnt produce waste like RO and keeps the cost down.

    So i have been reading around a bit and as always there are 101 different opinions on water softeners, ranging from 'its no problem at all' to 'the salt that replaces the calcium will cause grainy pimples and death to fish that cant expel it quick enough'.

    As such i thought id ask the question to people who's opinions have seen me right up til now.
    So is salt softened water an option? or have i just got to suck up the fact ive got hard water and stop crying about it?

    Id also really like to know a little more about the physiology of fish and what effects soft and hard water have on them, from the little ive read it's to do with how the fish manage to excrete the minerals via slime coat?

    thanks
     
  2. viktorlantos

    viktorlantos Aquascaper

    Joined:
    25 Oct 2008
    Messages:
    1,606
    Location:
    Budapest, Hungary
    If you go on the RO way a larger unit would do the work easily. I have a 2 membrane unit at home with a booster pump which fills up my tank real time at water changes. So i have a pipe from the RO to the tank and takes 2 hours to complete but it's doable. At least no need a barell etc.

    There are even better RO units. 3 membrane ones with booster or 2 large membrane ones with 2 boosters. These units produce much less waste water because of the multi membranes.

    Of course it is an investment. Not the operational cost is high but a good unit. Once you have that it's pretty simple and efficient.
     
  3. Iain Sutherland

    Iain Sutherland Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    7 Jul 2011
    Messages:
    3,675
    Location:
    Cambridge
    Hi Viktor, I have this RO unit
    4 Stage 50 Gallon Per Day Reverse Osmosis System with DI - Osmotics Water Filtration
    that i use for shrimp and when i had a marine tank but waste is terrible and having to plan water changes is hard as i work shifts.
    I had never considered running it straight to the tank which could be a possibility... does the booster pump add to the efficiency and speed significantly? As making 150ltrs at the moment would take my unit about 6 hours or would i just need a bigger unit?
     
  4. viktorlantos

    viktorlantos Aquascaper

    Joined:
    25 Oct 2008
    Messages:
    1,606
    Location:
    Budapest, Hungary
    Booster pumps will not do more than your membrane could do.
    The RO unit you have is a basic entry level one. Only 1 membrane 50Gal.

    Maybe the unit is too old and that's why you have too much waste. Prefilters need to be replaced in every 6 months or so. membrane is 10K liter or 2-3 years max.

    You can use a larger membrane in this housing like a 100 gal one, but not sure if that will work without booster pump.

    If you would go after a new unit i would recommend something like this: 2/300 GPD Reverse Osmosis Systems : 450 Gallons Per Day Reverse Osmosis System
    Then you can line in the RO directly as the filling up would happen quickly with not much waste.
     
    Ian Holdich likes this.
  5. Ian Holdich

    Ian Holdich Global Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    18 Feb 2010
    Messages:
    3,300
    Location:
    lincoln uk
    Agree with the pump, was talking to ed and tony and they both use pumps. I bought one and it's loads better with minimal wastage.

    As for water softners, they don't work due to the high sodium levels they use (from what I understand)
     
  6. DrRob

    DrRob Member

    Joined:
    1 Sep 2012
    Messages:
    188
    Location:
    Wilsthire/Somerset borderlands
    Sodium levels in softened water depend on the hardness of the water you're starting with. Sounds like you're going to be at the top end like me if you try this. Remember that drinking this stuff can also be bad for you so you'll need a bypass tap for drinking water if you go for a whole house system, although I'm very glad we did.

    Units are a pig but this is helpful.
    Sodium in drinking water / Water softening / Issues in focus / Home - Salt Institute
     
  7. ian_m

    ian_m Global Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    25 Jan 2012
    Messages:
    5,138
    Location:
    Eastleigh
    Here is the definitive aquarium link on ion exchange water softeners.
    http://www.skepticalaquarist.com/water-softening
    I have a whole house ion exchange water softener (TwinTec Water Softeners), fantastic, scale free taps, clear glass in shower, soap goes miles, no scum on bath, need only 1/3 amount of washing powder for washing machine, no scale marks left on drying dishes (no salt needed for dishwasher softener). It has reduced my hardness from 22° Clark to about 1-2°. I have a blending bypass valve that allows a tiny amount of hard water past the softener, just to take the edge of 100% soft water, makes it easier to wash soap & shampoo off.

    I would highly recommend the Twintec, not cheap, over £1000 fitted. Everybody I know who has a water softener has either a Twintec or a Kinetico
    Kinetico: Water Softeners - Kinetico

    I bought cheap first time (£600) and regretted it as it only lasted 6 years odd before it died. My Dads Crown softener (www.ezsoftener.com) is over 20years old and still going. The previous softener I had was a twin tank metered (only recharges when depleted as opposed to timed which recharges every day regardless) one with a digital display, but all of these, it is now known, suffer from jamming valves after a couple of years and in my case destroyed the electronics. My jamming was partly due to water pressure in 2003 being 4.5bar when fitted going to 8bar it is today. Most softeners are rated at 5bar max.

    The Twintec, uses the much easier to handle and put in 4Kg blocks of salt and despite the block salt being about twice as expensive than 25Kg bags (25kg tablet salt is about £8 and 8Kg of block salt £4.50, 32p/Kg vs 56p/Kg), but is uses less salt than my previous softener and thus ends up being cheaper.

    As for fish use, before I knew better I used the softened water in my tank, generally mixed hot (soft) water with cold (hard) water in a bucket for water changes. Sometime used 100% soft water as just filled buckets up with warm water from bath taps as very quick to fill. Fish didn't seem to mind, in fact still got the clown loaches in my current high tech EI dosed (hard water only) tank.
     
    Ian Holdich likes this.
  8. Iain Sutherland

    Iain Sutherland Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    7 Jul 2011
    Messages:
    3,675
    Location:
    Cambridge

    Cheers Ian, any suggestions on a pump? Think its time to consider a more practical solution for RO water storage and then pump into the tank when needed... maybe a water butt somewhere which then means i need to heat the water. Nothing's every easy :crazy:

    Shame about the softener though, i could of picked one up through work for peanuts as we run on all the glass washers and coffee machines etc...heyho.

    Hey rob, thanks for the link. I had planned just to run one for the aquarium if it was feasible but think its a non starter. Saying that i'd have thought there must be lots of people that have water softeners and have never considered whether it is ok to use in an aquarium. Would all their fish be meeting an early demise? Could it be a contributing factor to all the 'help, my fish keep dying' letters to PFK and on here for that matter.

    Thanks for the input guys, i wonder when i can stop thinking of new ways to spend money on aquarium related products :lol:
     
  9. Ravenswing

    Ravenswing Member

    Joined:
    14 Dec 2012
    Messages:
    153
    Location:
    Finland
    Iain, this might be written by you somewhere (new here so I must have missed a lot!), but how hard your water actually is?

    Fish handle salts by their osmoregulation. Usually soft water species adapt well in harder water, hard water species sometimes not-so-well because they "need" more salts wich can be "minimun factor" in soft water. and wich they suffer from. Main problem usually is that eggs wont hatch. Heres couple of link wich I have found usefull:
    Understanding GH & TDS & Hardness - General Aquarium Plants Discussions - Aquatic Plant Central
    The Importance of Total Dissolved Solids in the Freshwater Aquarium - plecoplanet Forums
    Osmoregulation in Fish
    There was brilliant article on this at Oscarforum, but it seems the site is now... under construction or something. Pitty!

    So far I believe from what Iv red, that fish handle mineralsalts, wich includes also (bi)carbonates (KH), Ca, Mg (GH) etc, practically same way by gills and kidneys, so they can be gathered under same topic: osmoregulation, electrical conductivity or/and totally dissolved solids. So if you are intereseted in that, you can do some searching with those words. Wrong EC hurt gills and kidneys by cortisone and catecholamine production wich leads damages of cells and cell reproduction briefly said.

    Have you had problems with your fish or plants? I keep asking since we have tapwater with really high EC (around 600uS). I use no RO. And wont use either. We have had losses with most sensitive fish species, those who are originally from really sof waters. All other fish have done pretty well as well some shrimps too. My Keyhole cichlids and Cocatoo apistos had fry at GH 22 (wich was accident caused by cat litter soil...).
     
  10. Ian Holdich

    Ian Holdich Global Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    18 Feb 2010
    Messages:
    3,300
    Location:
    lincoln uk
    This is the one I bought, but got it off eBay for £50. The link on eBay is gone now. It will pay for itself in a few months though.

    RO System Booster Pump - Surrey Pet Supplies

    I'm also in Iain's predicament, I have really hard water, tds 450ish, water in Lincoln runs off of limestone, really really hard, ph 8.2. I have tried many a fish that do well in soft water and they haven't done well. There are arguments that they will get used to hard water, but ime they don't.
     
  11. mi5haha

    mi5haha Newly Registered

    Joined:
    23 Apr 2009
    Messages:
    20
    If the water is very hard, you need to use another type water softening resin revitalized by HCL, not by salt. So the resin will not replace much sodium into the water.However, you need some know how to handle this. At least you need to have a PH probe.

    Or you may use Potassium Chloride to treat the resin. It will be better than using sodium chloride.
     
  12. Iain Sutherland

    Iain Sutherland Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    7 Jul 2011
    Messages:
    3,675
    Location:
    Cambridge
    Ravenswing, thanks for the info and links, now i have some info i know what im searching for i can try and delve a little deeper. My water has a TDS 400, GH around 20, ph 7.5.
    I havent had any issues with fish that im aware of but then i try to avoid any fish that are known to be soft water only. While most of the barb family are softer they seem to do well for me, yet id like to have the option with different scapes to not be restricted by water type. Ive always thought best practice is to match fish to your water rather than trying to control the water chemistry, yet in this hobby changing fish regularly is path of the course so i would like to try something new... raspora sawbwa and the like but then im pretty sure BigTom keeps them very happy in hard water.

    Thanks Ian im thinking this may be my best option, however going back to storing 100ltrs a week until water change is a PITA and was one of the reasons i stopping cutting my tap water to start with.

    Going back to what Viktor said, assuming for a minute that i go with RO one way or another, feeding the RO straight to the tank (which would be a bit of a mission in its self) fills me with nerves of forgetting it only to see a very wet lounge.... again!
    Maybe i need to evict one of my house mates and have a fish room :lol:
     
  13. Ian Holdich

    Ian Holdich Global Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    18 Feb 2010
    Messages:
    3,300
    Location:
    lincoln uk
    Why not just hook up the ro unit outside and keep it in a 100ltr water butt?
     
  14. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Joined:
    7 Apr 2008
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    Agreed, you can use any monovalent ion, and K+ would be a lot better than Na+, but if you have hard water the cost is prohibitive. The cheapest KCl I could find (I have a water softener) was £38 for 25Kg.

    cheers Darrel
     
    Iain Sutherland likes this.
  15. Iain Sutherland

    Iain Sutherland Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    7 Jul 2011
    Messages:
    3,675
    Location:
    Cambridge
    this is my current thinking, i need to explore this a little more when im home as to where it could work for me. I guess i would then need to add a powerhead and heater a few hours prior to water change also..?
    Do you remineralise your RO ian?

    Sounds like moving house may be cheaper :)
     
  16. Ian Holdich

    Ian Holdich Global Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    18 Feb 2010
    Messages:
    3,300
    Location:
    lincoln uk
    I do still buy a couple of barrels as a back up and I am on a meter. But, when I use my unit, I just hook it up to my outside tap, fill a couple of barrels (25ltr) in a few hours now. Then I'm set for the week. I don't re mineralise it and don't heat it before I change it. I will bring a barrel in overnight before water change to get it to room temp. This time if the year I don't bother though. I just use tropica ferts and a some of the aquavitro envy. I'm dosing the tropica ferts alternate days not and this seems to keep the mineral content good. The shrimps are thriving and the plants aren't showing any difficiancies.
     
  17. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Joined:
    7 Apr 2008
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    Word of warning, temperature also effects the efficiency of the RO unit, basically the warmer the better: <Temperature Correction>.
    I use rain-water for the tanks, we are lucky that our tap supply is very good quality (from a deep limestone aquifer) and tastes lovely, but it is hard, about 18dKH.

    cheers Darrel
     
    Ian Holdich likes this.
  18. Antoni

    Antoni Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    25 Jan 2009
    Messages:
    816
    Location:
    Pompey
    Sorry for highjacking the topic, Ian!

    Darrel, do you do some kind of pre-treatment, purification of the rain water, before use in the tank?
     
  19. Alastair

    Alastair Member

    Joined:
    27 Dec 2009
    Messages:
    4,404
    Location:
    Denton, Manchester
    I know a method using peat and a friend who lives down berkshire who also uses this method and gets great results in reducing his water hardnesd and ph.

    Basically he uses a water but, with a bucket that is placed over the top of it with a small hole drilled in the base of it. Some filter floss is placed in the bottom along with some irish peat moss then the bucket is filled and left to slowly drip into the water butt below.
    Peat acts as an ion exchange resin, remove minerals from the water and replacing them with organic humic acids

    Worth a try but youd have to experiment with the amount of peat used.
     
    dw1305 likes this.
  20. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Joined:
    7 Apr 2008
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Antoni likes this.

Share This Page

Facebook Page
Twitter Page
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice