Moving to a House with Well Water

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Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
I’ve been keeping fish for the past 25 years in NYC municipal water, which is pretty much the best there is, both for drinking and for keeping fish. But we have just bought a house that’s on well water and I’ll be moving my fish there in a few weeks.

I’m a little nervous about the transition and was wondering if I could get some tips on how to insure this goes smoothly. I know the water is a good bit harder than my current water. There is a water softener on the well and I’m sure it’s there for a reason. I know that well water can vary in its parameters and be low in oxygen. For this reason I’m planning to use a continuous drip system on my tanks. But I’d like to be able to confidently do a massive water change if I need to.

Has anyone here made a move like this? Any advice or suggestions on how to make the transition as safe as possible would be appreciated. 😎👍
 
Apr 2, 2002
2,950
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New York
The first problem is the water softener. You need to find out how it works. Many of them remove what makes the water test hard by replacing it with sodium. This can be a problem for fish.

Typical home water softeners soften water using a technique known as ``ion exchange''. That is, they remove calcium and magnesium ions by replacing them with sodium ions. Although this does technically make water softer, most fish won't notice the difference. That is, fish that prefer soft water don't like sodium either, and for them such water softeners don't help at all. Thus, home water softeners are not an appropriate way to soften water for aquarium use.
I would suggest yo go to the site from where I took the above and read a bit. It is not long but it will give you a better foundation for dealing with your move. https://fins.actwin.com/mirror/begin-chem.html

I have great well water- neutral pH and 83 ppm TDS. Well, it's great for softer water fish but I could never keep rift lake cichlids in it. I keep some wild fish that come from water with almost no GH and the pH is right around 4.0. I have an RO/DI unit to get my water down to 6.0 and more like 50s ppm for TDS. My GH is between 4 snd 5 and my kH is 3-4 out of the tap. I still have to mix it 50/50 with pure water for these fish. You may or may not need to do the same.

If the water softener is locate in your home, then you need to know the tap parameters for the water before it gets softened and afterwards. You need to know the content of the water- how hard, how much of what things like calcium, magnesium, sodium etc. are in both pre and post softening. You may not be able to use either for your fish without altering the parameters.

The most common thing folks in your situation do is to use pre -softened water run through an RO or RO/DI unit and then mixed back with that pre-softened water to produce a final product which works for the fish.
 
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Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
Thanks for the link and for the reply. I believe the water softener does employ sodium. I seem to recall there being a large canister with what looked like salt in it and was told that would need to be replenished every so often. I imagine the softener is there for a reason though, so I'll need to get it tested pre and post softener. I'm guessing the water that goes to the spigot outside for the garden hose is not run through the softener, so that could be where I test that. Or maybe there's a bypass switch on the softener.

Can you recommend a source for high grade tests that could give me accurate results? So many aquarium test kits are hard to read and can be highly inaccurate. I can pick up tests this week and do some testing. Thanks again!
 

dudley

Eheim User
Feb 9, 2005
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Medina, Ohio
Real Name
Dee
I'm surprised that your county didn't require a water test of your existing well prior to closing though that may be a regional thing. The local authority is mostly looking for bacteria such as coliform and others to verify the well water is safe to drink. Maybe that info is in your closing documents though you could always contact them directly to see if it was tested or if they can test now.

I recommend having a water professional test both your raw well water parameters and the softener parameters just to get a clear idea of what you will be dealing with. Usually this can be done for free IF you or previous owner have a contract on your water softener equipment OR are considering updating the current system.

Also be aware that the previous owner may not have serviced or kept the salt reservoir filled properly over time which can foul the softener media.

We moved from city supplied water to private well water before we started fish keeping so it was a bit of a learning curve for us. The pre-existing water softener hadn't been used in awhile and was a crappy Culligan model so we went with Kinetico after a lot of research and have been very pleased with the unit.

Our raw well water is suitable for hard water fish so we chose Malawi and Tanganyikan fish and just bypass the softener for water changes. It does help that we also switched to a tankless water heater so as not to deal with any softened hot water.
 

Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
I'm surprised that your county didn't require a water test of your existing well prior to closing though that may be a regional thing. The local authority is mostly looking for bacteria such as coliform and others to verify the well water is safe to drink. Maybe that info is in your closing documents though you could always contact them directly to see if it was tested or if they can test now.

I recommend having a water professional test both your raw well water parameters and the softener parameters just to get a clear idea of what you will be dealing with. Usually this can be done for free IF you or previous owner have a contract on your water softener equipment OR are considering updating the current system.

Also be aware that the previous owner may not have serviced or kept the salt reservoir filled properly over time which can foul the softener media.

We moved from city supplied water to private well water before we started fish keeping so it was a bit of a learning curve for us. The pre-existing water softener hadn't been used in awhile and was a crappy Culligan model so we went with Kinetico after a lot of research and have been very pleased with the unit.

Our raw well water is suitable for hard water fish so we chose Malawi and Tanganyikan fish and just bypass the softener for water changes. It does help that we also switched to a tankless water heater so as not to deal with any softened hot water.

That's a good idea. The water has been tested and is safe for drinking, etc. It tastes fine and I'm pretty sure the previous owners kept on top of the softener's maintenance. They did with everything else in the house. I don't know what brand the softener is but will check. I'll see if I can get detailed test results. Thanks!
 
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Apr 2, 2002
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I sounds to me like your solution is not going to be too onerous. Most home softener systems have at least one by pass option. Most plants do not like salt or sodium in any amounts. So there needs to be a bypass for gardening/lawns.

Although I d not have your test results to see here is my best guess. What comse out of the bypass is likely not very harmful to hard water species. But other fish won't like it. Test that.

I am thinking that your solution is not going to be all that onerous. You will likely need to get an RO or an RO/DI unit and then mix that water with the unsoftened water in a set ratio you will determine. After that you should be able to stay on top of things with a digital TDS meter. These cost anywhere from $12 - $25. I have 2 :) I recently had to replace my KH and GH kits as they had expired unused. I only needed the KH one, but API doesn't sell them separately.

I also have a portlable RO/DI unit. I use it for fish only.

A basic RO or RO/DI unit will run you about $150 depending what modules you need. They have ones for charcoal, one for sediment as well as the RO and DI ones. Also units are rated as to how much they produce in a day. The more they can make the more they will cost.
 
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Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
OK. I found a local lab that will test my water. I'll bring samples soon. Interesting that you mention the houseplants - I do have them and wasn't aware that softened water could be detrimental. Will have to investigate further. I'd prefer to avoid an RO/DI system as I will be running a tank that is 550g, meaning water changes would use enormous amounts of water. I am considering a continuous drip system for water changes though, so that may actually work out. Filling the tank the first time could take weeks though. :p
 

Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
The lab will take 3-4 weeks to get my test results and will cost a few hundred dollars... Can anyone recommend a good home testing kit? I imagine testing well water would require slightly more sophisticated methods than dopey aquarium grade kits, but surely there's an at home kit one could buy. Right?
 

Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
I guess I'm sort of responding to myself here, but I used to use Hanna checkers for chemistry when I had my marine tank. They seemed to be of a higher quality. If I test with those, the key parameters would be pH, GH, KH and TDS? Anything else I should be checking? I've been reading that the sodium ions from a softener are not really problematic any more than maintaining Kosher salt in your tank at a low ratio, which I've done before without issue. So maybe the softener isn't as big a potential problem as all that. Will continue researching and as always more input here is always welcome. :)
 

dudley

Eheim User
Feb 9, 2005
1,699
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Medina, Ohio
Real Name
Dee
We did not use a lab to get our results due to the costs.

Off the top of my head when we had the softener company test our well water, the results were for pH, GH, KH, iron, and maybe calcium, magnesium and phospate?

I'm not sure if you have the option in NY but my state keeps a log of when a water well is drilled and also a copy of the health department water test results at the time it was put in service. I can look the results up by my permanent parcel number identifying number.
 
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