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Softening Water

kribensis12

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Hello,

I have not been on this forum in YEARS. Married, 2 kiddos, working full time - makes it time to work on the hobby.

I've scaled down significantly and I am taking a large step I'd love some help with.

Our water is EXTREMELY hard - high pH (8.6) and the water hardness does not even register on an API liquid test kit. I've been keeping 2 rams in this water for the past year and I believe it is the main reason that they don't have successful breeding attempts (eggs are never fertilized, it appears).

So, I have purchased a 4 stage RO Filter and Seachem's Neutral Regulator and want to begin lowering my pH.

What is the best way to do this? Daily 1 gallon water changes w/ neutral regulator in the RO water only? I want to cause the least amount of stress to the fish as possible. In the past I tried applying netural regulator to the entire tank (empty) and it dropped to 7.0 and then bounced back to 8.4 within an hour.
 

seangee

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What else is in the tank?
I have done exactly this but need to know the requirements of your fish before advising :)
 

Byron

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I agree, we need to know the fish. But one thing can be said with certainty--do not use the Netural Regulator. There is only one safe and effective method to soften hard water and lower pH and that is by diluting the water with pure water (RO). Depending upon the fish, using only the RO may be preferable to any mixing, but we need to know the fish species to advise. Adding any chemical concoction is harmful to fish long-term.

If you have not yet opened the Seachem bottle, the store may take it back (I hope so).
 
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kribensis12

kribensis12

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I have two German Blue Rams, a few platies, and an albino dwarf bristlenose - 20g with some driftwood, live plants, gravel.

I was under the impression that Neutral Regulator was going to help keep the pH stable. I'm happy to return it - as I've said, it's been a while since I've really experimented with the tank.
 

Byron

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I was under the impression that Neutral Regulator was going to help keep the pH stable. I'm happy to return it - as I've said, it's been a while since I've really experimented with the tank.
With most aspects of this hobby, there are relatively safe methods to do this or that, and there are much less safe and riskier methods. Using any chemical product to mess with the water chemistry is always extremely risky because of all the various chemical actions in nature. As a marine biologist made clear to me several years ago, adding one substance to achieve "x" will have counter-actions somewhere and we (unless we are chemists) will not even realize it. Playing it safe is preferable. The GH and KH provide a natural buffer to prevent fluctuations in pH, so there is presumably some chemical in this product to negate that, somehow. Another risk.

The other general aspect is the fish. Any substance added to the tank water gets inside the fish, into the bloodstream and there carried to internal organs. This is because fish continually assimilate water through every cell, and water being such a strong solvent, it assimilates all these substances so in they go. Understanding the complex relationship between fish and their aquatic environment makes it obvious that we can put the fish at serious risk without even knowing that we are doing so.

Hardening soft water by adding minerals (calcium and magnesium) is natural and thus safe if the fish species need this. Softening water by removing the minerals through dilution with pure water or using all pure water is safe if the fish species need such water.

Turning to the Natural Regulator, I am not a chemist so I do not know how this product works, but given that it is using some chemical(s) to do what it claims it will do...red flags go up.

I have two German Blue Rams, a few platies, and an albino dwarf bristlenose - 20g with some driftwood, live plants, gravel.
Platies are livebearers and all livebearers need moderately hard or harder water, so they will be fine in your water which apparently is hard--though you should try to pin down the exact number, as terms like "hard" can mean very different levels to different people. If you are on city water, check the website of the water authority, or call them; get the number and their unit of measure as there are several and we need to know which.

Rams are by nature soft water--very soft water--fish, but this is a species that has been commercially raised (unless you are lucky enough to get wild caught rams which are incredibly beautiful by comparison) and interestingly they do best in water parameters close to those in which they were raised. This certainly does not apply to most fish, but it apparently does to the blue ram. However, as you have noted, spawning in very hard water is not always successful; this is because the calcium hardens the eggs outer protective layer so much that it cannot hatch. Some believe the sperm cannot fertilize the egg either, due to the GH. Whichever it may be, it is still an issue.

Bristlenose plecos are soft water fish, with some tolerance but this has its limit and your water may be too hard for long-term health. We need that number. And then decide what (if anything) is the best solution. Platies will not last long in soft water, so mixing RO and tap to "x" level may work best, depending again upon the initial GH.
 
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seangee

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The platies are problematic. They require hard water where the rams and BN need soft water. Getting the water to the levels needed to breed the rams would likely result in dead platies within a few months. So the following advice assumes you can either re-home the platies or move them into a separate tank. @Byron is absolutely right about the neutral regulator.

If this is the case
  • Change 20% of the water for pure RO water every day for a week. You can do this over a longer period but this is one case where you need to change a small quantity lots of times as your pH will drop too quickly otherwise.
  • At the end of the week change 50% of the water and replace with pure RO.
  • Thereafter resume normal weekly water changes using pure RO (I always suggest 75%)
  • Don't bother trying to adjust or buffer your pH - it will naturally drop and settle at a suitable level. I use pure RO in 2 of my tanks and the pH is low but absolutely stable.
If you are determined to keep the platies in the same tank you do not want your Gh to drop below around 12dGH. To achieve this you will have to experiment with mixing RO with tap water as you do not know the current hardness. The ratio you need will always be exactly the same, so follow the same procedure as above but use your RO/ tap water mix. Don't forget that you will need de-chlorinator for the tap water. This may not be sufficient for breeding your rams but will give you the best compromise for the health of both types of fish.

Edit: My post crossed with @Byron's but we are saying very similar things.
 
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kribensis12

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Thank you, Byron.

The Rams are commercially raised and are used to harder water - but as you noted, the water chemistry makes raising them borderline impossible.

I've spawned Bristlenose in this water before, it does not seem to have a negative affect on the fish - but I think they'd much prefer the softer water too.

Platies are tank raised by myself and are used to this water.

I'll check the cities website -my test kit has never been able to give me a reading on the hardness. No matter how many drops I add to the vial, the color does not change (I mean literally, I've filled a whole vial up with testing liquid to no avail).

I can hopefully respond later with that information.
 

seangee

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I'm skeptical because the pH does not match my experience, nor friends throughout the city. I'll do another water test tonight and see what comes out.
Leave some water in a jug and test the pH after 24 hours. Sometimes they add stuff to the water to temporarily adjust the pH.
 

Byron

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So here is the data from the city.


I'm skeptical because the pH does not match my experience, nor friends throughout the city. I'll do another water test tonight and see what comes out.
The water is indeed hard to very hard. General (also total) hardness is given as 300 to 600 mg/l, and mg/l is the same as ppm which is one of the two scales common in the hobby. So 300-600 ppm. This equates to 16 to 33 dGH (degrees GH or degrees German) which is also used in the hobby. You can convert back and forth using 17.9, dividing ppm by 17.9 to get the equivalent dGH and muyltiplying dGH by 17.9 for the equivalen ppm. I like the dGH because lower numbers stay with me better.

The pH seangee dealt with; letting a glass of water sit 24 hours will outgas CO2 (this affects the pH) and likely other additives, though with water as hard as this is I woldnot see benefits to raising the pH higher, but who knows.

The GH is also a large range here, which can have issues. If you are working with say 16 dGH and want to soften it by half, to 8 or 9 dGH...one week it might be OK, but if the next the GH is closer to 33, you would have a much different result. I would want to ask them if this range is occurring in individual houses' water (so it would fluctuate like this) or is it maybe across the region so it could be close to 16 in one area and remain fairly stable.
 
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kribensis12

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Thanks for the replies everyone!

I did another pH test today and took a sample to the LFS to cross reference. Looks like we're sitting at around 8.4 - 8.6.

The water here is constantly like this - there is never a fluctuation to my knowledge. I think the city has some very skewed data on the pH of their water.
 

Byron

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At this point it is clear that your water is fairly hard with a basic (above 7) pH. If you only select fish suited to this, such as any of the livebearers like your platies, this will not be problematic.
 
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