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Hard water species in soft water?

Discussion in 'New to the Hobby Questions and Answers' started by BettaMan2000, Nov 22, 2017.

  1. BettaMan2000

    BettaMan2000 Fish Fanatic

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    Can hard water fish species such as guppies and platies adapt to soft water, there are some really nice looking guppies in my lfs, they’ve had them in their tanks for a while and talking to the manager they’re in soft water and seem to be doing well?

    I’m not sure whether they’re captive bred originally in soft water or have somehow adapted or if there are such things as softwater guppies, I didn’t think these existed?

     
  2. Byron

    Byron Member

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    The short answer to your initial question is no; species that occur naturally in moderately hard or harder water must be maintained in similar water. They have evolved to function in such water, and they need the mineral (primarily calcium and magnesium) which cannot be supplied except dissolved in thee water so they take it up as they assimilate the water they live in.

    Having said that, guppies are a bit unusual. They do seem able to manage in softer water, at least for a time. But manage and thrive are two very different things. If I recall from other threads, you have very soft water. Forget livebearers, they will not thrive. And with so many soft water species...

    On the store water issue...this is a very different situation. Stores hope to sell fish quickly, and many (but not all) species can tolerate less than ideal parameters for a short time. When you get them home, permanent maintenance means in water parameters thee species requires. Anything less is cruel to the fish. Some stores may adjust their water for this or that, or generally; I live in a very soft water area, and some stores do buffer their water so they are somewhat in the middle, thus able to hopefully maintain the fish from differing parameters until they sell them. This doesn't always work. Other stores here have a bank of "hard water" fish like livebearers and rift lake cichlids, and they use calcareous substrate or otherwise buffer the water so these fish are in better conditions, separate from the other banks of tanks with softer water. Bottom line, research a species to know exactly the parameters it requires, recognizing that its health totally depends upon this being provided, and go from there.

    The effects of soft water on hard water requiring species are not always evident for a time. Mollies for example seem "OK" for a few weeks, then they may develop fungus, shimmying, clamped fins...all directly due to the lack of mineral in the water. Then they die rapidly. All hard water species will have significantly shortened lifespans in soft water, this is guaranteed. So clearly there is a detriment to the fish, whatever the signs along the way.
     
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  3. BettaMan2000

    BettaMan2000 Fish Fanatic

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    Interesting, thanks.

    They're definitely unusual, i was speaking to a nurse yesterday regarding her fish that she keeps on her ward (three guppies) for what must be over a year now, they seem to be using soft water from the tap albeit with tetra water conditioner and they seem to be doing fine.

    It is however interesting.
     
  4. fishlover22346

    fishlover22346 Fish Fanatic

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    with most species, they cannot tolerate hard water if they are soft water fish, or soft water if they are hard water fish, but in they guppys, molly’s, and platys case, you are in luck. all of these species can thrive in soft water. I have kept very soft, acidic, amazon biotopes with guppys and molly’s before and they seem to do fine. I used to breed guppys in soft water too. they will do great. now with most fish this isn’t the case. for instance, african cichlids can’t live in soft water.
     
  5. neoyyf

    neoyyf Member

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    Since you have soft water, increasing hardness is easily done by means of crushed coral, limestone, etc so you can keep them if you want
     
  6. NickAu

    NickAu Member

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    That is incorrect especially for Mollies.

    As Byron states here.
     
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  7. fishlover22346

    fishlover22346 Fish Fanatic

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    I had my molly for a very long time, until I had to move out of state, and I had to give it away to my grandma who has a large tank. It died later. but I believe that the one livebearer that tends to do the best in soft water are guppys, they are quite tolerant
     
  8. NickAu

    NickAu Member

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    Quoting Byron again.

     
  9. fishlover22346

    fishlover22346 Fish Fanatic

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    what would you call thriving, I believe thriving is eating well, playing, swimming normal, begging etc
     
  10. Byron

    Byron Member

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    Often the difference is not externally obvious. Fish can do all you suggest but it is the internal processes that determine whether a fish is only surviving (= managing) or thriving. You could keep a horse in your bedroom and it would probably survive/manage, but it would not be thriving.

    Freshwater fish species have evolved over thousands of years to function best in a very specific aquatic environment. Water parameters is a significant aspect of environment. The fish's homeostasis, or physical equilibrium, is the complex chain of internal chemical and physical reactions that keep the fish living, from adjusting the blood pH, to digestion, to feeding its tissues, to maintaining a healthy immune system...in short, living. The homeostasis only functions well when the fish is in the environment for which it was designed because the various factors of the environment--of which water parameters is one--affect the various processes either directly or indirectly.

    To take just one simple example: when soft water fish are maintained in harder water than that for which their physiology is designed, the calcium extracted by the kidneys from the water that is entering the fish continually through every cell via osmosis (as well as in the gills) accumulates and slowly blocks the kidney tubes. Eventually the fish just dies, with no external signs of why. Studies have shown that the higher the calcium content (the harder the water) the shorter the lifespan before this kills the fish. Such a fish was managing or surviving, but not thriving. A shorter than normal lifespan almost always results, though fish can also die sooner from many other things such as some genetic problem, heart attack, etc.

    This is a very important aspect of fish care because any extra effort the fish has to make to compensate for factors in the environment that are not compatible further drains the fish and causes stress. One author likened it to driving a car up a hill; it takes more energy to maintain the same speed uphill as on level ground, and in a fish this energy is being diverted away from essential biological processes just to compensate. And stress is the direct cause of 95% of fish disease, so avoiding stress or keeping it minimum goes a long way to having healthy fish. A simple example...fish will not contract ich even tough it is present, unless they are stressed by something. So keeping them in inappropriate water parameters causes stress and this means the fish will be more likely to develop diseases than otherwise.
     
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  11. fluttermoth

    fluttermoth The current Mrs Treguard ;)
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    Thank you very much for that post, Byron, that really makes things clear.
     
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  12. fishlover22346

    fishlover22346 Fish Fanatic

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    I believe it depends on the he species, you are right, however, with an aquarium fish that has evolved to live in Aquariums, it may be different. like guppies, they can live in both waters fine and thrive as well, because they have evolved, but I would never put a wild guppy in soft water as it is wild, and has not evolved to be in both kinds of water. I agree, but it certainly depends on the fish, as of the question, I would stick with guppies if you were going to have a soft water tank. they do thrive in it. and mollies, meh, they can, but it’s not suggested, and I wouldn’t keep platies.
     
  13. Byron

    Byron Member

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    I must correct something here, and that is that fish "evolve to live in aquariums." This is not at all possible in the sense of the meaning of the words we are using in this context. Evolve and evolution are terms used for a natural development of a species, not something artificial such as housing. It takes thousands of years for a species to evolve, and many species are still doing so today.

    And mollies cannot thrive in soft water, that is a documented fact of science. The rare case when they might live for a time in such an environment does not mean they are thriving in it, and I think I explained why previously, though I will try to answer questions as best I can.

    There are species that thrive in different water parameters, up to a point anyway, but when you look at those species you will find that they have a similar tolerance in nature. One example is the Pristella tetra, Pristella maxillaris. It lives in coastal areas of northern South America on the Atlantic side of the continent, and populations are found living permanently in soft slightly acidic water while other populations live in moderately hard and slightly basic waters. Some of these habitats are also influenced by annual flooding which can change the parameters to a certain extent. The species is thus physiologically designed for a wider range of parameters, though this is not intended to convey that individual fish can tolerate fluctuations; the range is relatively permanent to the populations, but it shows that the species as a whole has such a range. Wild fish of this species are next to impossible to find in the hobby, so it is not surprising that hobby fish are suited to this range provided it is not one of fluctuation.

    Byron.
     

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