Water, water, pure water

itiwhetu

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I am blessed in New Zealand with fantastic water, and I have been reminded how lucky I am. I put on my thinking cap and thought what I would do if I were trying to keep fish in water that was as bad as some of yours.

Here are a couple of things that I thought about.

Firstly, most probably the best water you have is actually the water in your tank, therefore I would try to keep as much of that water as I could. So, I would therefore try to double the water capacity of my tanks by using sumps and the like or by reducing the stocking numbers, so the bio load is reduced. I would then be able to make smaller water changes and only use a small amount of the terrible source water at a time.
I would try to maintain as much of the rich organic water as I could. So as an idea, instead of dumping it I would put it into large containers filled with plants and then allow it to purify and then reuse it back into my display tank.
I may also try to set up my own water purification plant, which may consist of a UV filter and a Carbon-based filter, and just recycle the water I have with the occasional top up from the town supply.

The water in your tanks is most probably your biggest asset, but by doing 50% plus water changes and dumping it, you are going back to square one continually. And you are fighting a losing battle with rubbish water of dubious quality.

Think recycle. Reuse. I am interested in what you may come up with.
 

AdoraBelle Dearheart

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I am blessed in New Zealand with fantastic water, and I have been reminded how lucky I am. I put on my thinking cap and thought what I would do if I were trying to keep fish in water that was as bad as some of yours.

I am glad that the reminder about how wonderfully fortunate you are to have access to such pristine water has been taken on board! It's easy to say things like "oh, some discus should be fine in your community tank, I've done it" when you have such great water, but that doesn't mean it'll always translate well to just anyone's tank, you know? Appreciate that you're recognising that. :)
 
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itiwhetu

itiwhetu

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I am glad that the reminder about how wonderfully fortunate you are to have access to such pristine water has been taken on board! It's easy to say things like "oh, some discus should be fine in your community tank, I've done it" when you have such great water, but that doesn't mean it'll always translate well to just anyone's tank, you know? Appreciate that you're recognising that. :)
I still don't think aquarists need to walk away from fish like Discus, with a little thought and a shift in the way things are done, there are endless possibilities.
 

StevenF

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I would try to maintain as much of the rich organic water as I could. So as an idea, instead of dumping it I would put it into large containers filled with plants and then allow it to purify and then reuse it back into my display tank.
I may also try to set up my own water purification plant, which may consist of a UV filter and a Carbon-based filter, and just recycle the water I have with the occasional top up from the town supply.
If you purify the water with plants eventually you would have nutrient deficiencies and the plants would stop growing. Yes organic mater has a lot of carbon but it doesn't have a lot of water soluble iron, manganese, zinc, Copper, Molybdenum, and nickel and copper. These elements quickly oxidize in water and settle out and plants cannot access them. Something needs to chemical change the oxides back into water soluble elements. Otherwise they are permanently unavailable to plants.

the other plant nutrients are much more soluble so those wouldn't be much of a problem. But there are nutrients the fish need that plants don't use. Such as iodine sodium, vanadium, lithium, cobalt. Some oxidize and become unavailable while others stay soluble and could buildup in the water since the plants can't remove them. and the buildup could eventually make the water toxic to fish and plants. It is not a trivial problem.

On earth water is evaporated and then the rain erodes rocks releasing nutrients. And then in the ocean some of those nutrients end up as sediments on the bottom of the ocean. Then geology moves thise down into the mantel it melts and then volcanos release these nutrients back into the soil. A very slow but effective recycling process. But one that is difficult to duplicate on a small scale.

Now we do have RO systems that will remove most of the solids in tap water making it as good as rain water. then all you would have to do is add the nutrients (fertilize the water) to make it fantastic water. And then you would have to have a lab so the nutrient levels could be monitored. And then you would add nutrients individually as needed to maintain stable levels . And if needed occasionally replace a small amount water to removed excess nutrients. This is being done in some big hydronic corporations but for the individual it is difficult because we we would have to pay for the lab work and honestly there are many terrible fertilizers on the market that add too much of some nutrients and not enough of others. Or we could just add a fertilizer mix do a larger water change with RO water and refertilize.
 
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itiwhetu

itiwhetu

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You have touched on the reason I only use natural river gravel in my tanks. I know depending on where I source that gravel what the basic parameters are going to be in any tank I set up. I can either have my tanks slightly hard and basic for my live bearers, or I select another gravel from a different region if I want my tank to be soft and acidic for Discus and Tetras. The substrate performs a significant role in the balance of the tank but on this forum site I think it is overlooked by most of this site's members. Most members will recommend" play sand" as the substrate for their tanks, I feel that is a simplistic approach to a complex subject.
 

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@itiwhetu You spoken about using rainwater cisterns, and working off rainwater is so different from the experience of 99.999% of aquarists in the world that as you say, working with bad water is a thought experiment for you. I've spoken with many aquarists from mostly rural regions where intensive farming goes on. They often have polluted water, and are great consumers of chemical products and test kits. They only do water changes when it is approaching crisis levels in their tanks, and the water they add in is at levels I wouldn't keep fish in. I would not be able to use tap in their situation. I would have small species in RO (adjusted), or no fish at all in those places.

You like that old 1974 old water approach I was taught as a kid with fish. The results weren't good, and when the newfangled idea of changing 25% weekly appeared and I grudgingly tried the approach, it was an epiphany. Tetras didn't have short 3 year lifespans. Fry grew faster. Unbreedable fish were breedable.

Every water table is different. 100 ppm is 100 ppm of what? I have the exact same hardness and pH in my new house as in my old, but the algae in my tanks died on arrival, and new algaes are becoming established. If I speak to an aquarist in a far away region and say "Hey, we both have pH 6.8, 80ppm tapwater!" I'm not thinking it through. That 80 ppm comes from different rocks, and the chemistry can differ.

One size fits all will get you ugly clothes. Some of my fish get 20% changes every 2nd week. Some get 30% weekly. Some tanks more, some tanks less. Some get their water hardened. Some get tannins added. That comes from experience, as does your knowledge of the local substrates. When I read you, you have a very specific environment and a distinctive starting point for what you do,

I live in a relatively clean area now (if we overlook the oil refinery and the pulp mill!) surrounded by trees, ocean and nature. I come from an inner city neighbourhood where things that grew came through cracks in the cement. Buying playsand and rinsing it was a very useful approach (I even learned which brands were from quarries that provided chemically neutral sand, and which hardened the water). Chemically neutral sand or gravel and 30% water changes are a great start point, and as we adjust and adapt to our interests, we can try your techinique in one tank, another technique in another tank, compare and find our own ways.
 

AbbeysDad

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"The solution to pollution is dilution!"
The aquarium is a septic system with varying degrees of polluted water. The water quality is enhanced by very active biological filtration as well as with fast growing plants that convert waste water into plant tissue, later removed with trimming.

However, without some very sophisticated filtration equipment, beyond what most hobbyists could likely afford, there is no way to purify this polluted water or even come close to clean, fresh water.

Many hobbyists get convinced that their filter purifies water. Some even increase filter size or add more filters thinking it will further purify the water... I once saw a photo in a FB group of a fellow that had three(3) large canister filters under his 55g tank! It's a hobby myth that filters make water more pure. Don't get me wrong, filters are very valuable housing important beneficial bacteria and making water clearer, but not really more pure as organics trapped in the filter readily decompose and pollute the water.

I've lost track of the number of well meaning hobbyists looking for the low/no maintenance aquarium and/or the hobbyist that proclaims that s/he never does water changes, only "top offs" and his/her fish are fine and even breed.

The very best fish breeders have automated water change systems and larger facilities often have continuous flow through systems. They replace tank water with clean, fresh water far greater than a 50% weekly partial water change. They do this because they know that fish are healthier, breed more, and grow out faster and larger in very clean, fresh water.

With rare exception, fresh water is constantly renewed in nature and as previously mentioned, even if you were to filter/purify tank water, it would be missing important minerals that plants and fish require.

The very best maintenance is routine periodic partial water changes. I invite the reader to take a deep dive into Filtration and Water Quality... HOWEVER, in the aquarium, "The solution to pollution is dilution". ><((((º>
 

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"The solution to pollution is dilution!"
The aquarium is a septic system with varying degrees of polluted water. The water quality is enhanced by very active biological filtration as well as with fast growing plants that convert waste water into plant tissue, later removed with trimming.

However, without some very sophisticated filtration equipment, beyond what most hobbyists could likely afford, there is no way to purify this polluted water or even come close to clean, fresh water.

Many hobbyists get convinced that their filter purifies water. Some even increase filter size or add more filters thinking it will further purify the water... I once saw a photo in a FB group of a fellow that had three(3) large canister filters under his 55g tank! It's a hobby myth that filters make water more pure. Don't get me wrong, filters are very valuable housing important beneficial bacteria and making water clearer, but not really more pure as organics trapped in the filter readily decompose and pollute the water.

I've lost track of the number of well meaning hobbyists looking for the low/no maintenance aquarium and/or the hobbyist that proclaims that s/he never does water changes, only "top offs" and his/her fish are fine and even breed.

The very best fish breeders have automated water change systems and larger facilities often have continuous flow through systems. They replace tank water with clean, fresh water far greater than a 50% weekly partial water change. They do this because they know that fish are healthier, breed more, and grow out faster and larger in very clean, fresh water.

With rare exception, fresh water is constantly renewed in nature and as previously mentioned, even if you were to filter/purify tank water, it would be missing important minerals that plants and fish require.

The very best maintenance is routine periodic partial water changes. I invite the reader to take a deep dive into Filtration and Water Quality... HOWEVER, in the aquarium, "The solution to pollution is dilution". ><((((º>
I agree, I don't know anyone that will drink their "purified" tank water.
 

TwoTankAmin

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Water changes do multiple things and for most tanks should be done regularly.

1. Some things in tap water exceed their use in a tank others can be necessities and get used up. The result is a build up or a deficiency over time.
2. Some things in tap water can evaporate or escape from a tank naturally- ammonia, chlorine, C02 etc. other things will not do so- salt and nitrate but also things live plants might consume but which will build up in an unplanted tank.
3. The cycle itself is acidic. It will use the carbonates and bicarbonates that are mostly what make up KH in an aquarium.This allows the pH to drop. Water changes prevent this.
4. Fish can release hormones into the water, especially if in spawning mode. Some fish release other chemicals- some corys for example can squirt out something nasty as a defense to help with making a get-away (sterbae, for one, do this). These things can sccumulate without water changes.
5. I have never had any fish which suffered from having clean water. If similar parameter water goes into the tank all the time and does so regularly, this should be just fine.

I have been doing regular 50-60% water changes om my tanks since day one. Sometimes more often for fry tanks. I do the changes on breeder tanks, planted tanks and bare bottom unplanted tanks. I could not do the things I do nor keep the fish I do at the stocking densities I may have if I did not change water weekly.

The only time changing water might have an effect on fish is during a fish-in cycle or when the initial fish go into a tank. The are pretty stressed at first, everything is new and they have been netted and transported and end up in new parameters and surroundings. However, adding a new fish fish to an established tank usually finds the current inhabitants distract the new fish more so than the new environment. Consider how your fish behaved in a tank in the weeks right after they went in and you did tank maint. and a decent water change. Then compare that to how they behave after you do the same maint. on the tank when it has been up and running fully stocked for a few months.

Consider how the fish react when it is feeding time. My fish, except the bottom dwellers all assume their feeding position as soon as they think food is about to arrive. They did not do so early on. Finally, if how are the fish behaving before you start to do a big water change and then how they behave soon after you have finished and your temporaty disruption in the tank has ended.

As always, the above is just this fish keeper's opinon and it is neither the only one nor necessarily the best one. It is just mine based on my specfic experiences in the hobby since the end of Jan. 2001. I should also mention I have an RO/DI unit which makes pretty much pure water i.e. just H2O.
 
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itiwhetu

itiwhetu

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"The solution to pollution is dilution!"
The aquarium is a septic system with varying degrees of polluted water. The water quality is enhanced by very active biological filtration as well as with fast growing plants that convert waste water into plant tissue, later removed with trimming.

However, without some very sophisticated filtration equipment, beyond what most hobbyists could likely afford, there is no way to purify this polluted water or even come close to clean, fresh water.

Many hobbyists get convinced that their filter purifies water. Some even increase filter size or add more filters thinking it will further purify the water... I once saw a photo in a FB group of a fellow that had three(3) large canister filters under his 55g tank! It's a hobby myth that filters make water more pure. Don't get me wrong, filters are very valuable housing important beneficial bacteria and making water clearer, but not really more pure as organics trapped in the filter readily decompose and pollute the water.

I've lost track of the number of well meaning hobbyists looking for the low/no maintenance aquarium and/or the hobbyist that proclaims that s/he never does water changes, only "top offs" and his/her fish are fine and even breed.

The very best fish breeders have automated water change systems and larger facilities often have continuous flow through systems. They replace tank water with clean, fresh water far greater than a 50% weekly partial water change. They do this because they know that fish are healthier, breed more, and grow out faster and larger in very clean, fresh water.

With rare exception, fresh water is constantly renewed in nature and as previously mentioned, even if you were to filter/purify tank water, it would be missing important minerals that plants and fish require.

The very best maintenance is routine periodic partial water changes. I invite the reader to take a deep dive into Filtration and Water Quality... HOWEVER, in the aquarium, "The solution to pollution is dilution". ><((((º>
I think you will find that most commercial fish breeding establishments use Well water, so their freshwater is only water that has passed through a gravel substrate for a period. If that Well is directly under their fish room, you may find that the old water is mixing with the new.
 

TwoTankAmin

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I have about 20 tanks which hold about 850 gals allowing for the non water contents of tanks which are nit filled to brim. I have another 200 gals going up for the summer. So for the next 4.5 month I will be putting about 550 gals of tank water through our septic system every week.
Our well is about 200 feet deep. I do not care what is in my tank water by the time it gets down to the aquifer, it will be clean. This is not even an issue.

Now my guess is most folks on this site to not use any where near as much water as a commercial breeder. Often they work in outdoor poands of such size water changes are not even possible But an indoor breeding operation is stil using 10s of thousands of gallons a week. Their operation bears little resemblance to what most of us here do. But I do know this. If where their waste water was going was damaging to the quality of the new water coming in, they would not be in business long because of unjealthy or dead fish plus they would also likely have the local authorities after them. The water they get from a private well does not mean others do not draw water from the same aquifer.
 

GaryE

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I think you will find that most commercial fish breeding establishments use Well water, so their freshwater is only water that has passed through a gravel substrate for a period. If that Well is directly under their fish room, you may find that the old water is mixing with the new.
That seems a stretch to me. Most commercial set ups use wells, but also ponds or extremely large vats. I know of one hardwater greenhouse style farm that has a mangrove pond water is pumped through (molly specialists) and that works well with recirculation and rain collection to dilute.

The dynamics of a huge plantless vat versus a small (in relative terms) couple of hundred gallon aquarium are extremely different. Apples and oranges.

One of the prerequisites for making a go of a fish farm, other than a warm climate, is a good, easy access clean moving water source.

I have no doubts your tank works. It looks fantastic. But
I've lost track of the number of well meaning hobbyists looking for the low/no maintenance aquarium and/or the hobbyist that proclaims that s/he never does water changes, only "top offs" and his/her fish are fine and even breed.
almost every time I've read the kinds of postings @AbbeysDad refers to in his excellent posting, I discover they keep limited plants and a few fish from slow moving, swampy biotopes. It is occasionally presented as a system for everyone, but there are just too many cool fish it can't work with.

I was taught by fishkeepers who had tanks before I was born to believe in the natural aquarium, old water as an almost mystical force. I once brought 20 one gallon jugs with me on a move, for my 20 gallon tank, when I was 16! I took the old lore very seriously, and had the stunted, short lived fish to prove it. Practical experience has convinced me it was a wrong approach. I'm glad I adapted my ways to the research as it came out. It's really improved my hobby.
 

TwoTankAmin

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Just an FYI- I used to have a fish related friend who was well experienced and who bought some of my zebra plecos to bred. She would come here with a bunch of Home Depot 5 gal. buckets and fill them with my well water. I have always maintained that is must contain a natural fish aphrodisiac since some many things spawned in my tanks and I was not doing anything to encourage it.

Then I learned that my water params were very helpful but also my maint. routine and especialy what I was feeding my fish. Diet matters a great deal.
 
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itiwhetu

itiwhetu

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Thinking about what is written above and going back to my original post, the members on rubbish town supply water should really be looking at minimizing its use. Those with bores or wells or endless supplies of rainwater are fine, the others I suggest need to be careful.
 

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