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
Thanks, Dudley. I will order some new Hanna checkers and get some results by the end of this week. Both with and without the softener. I will have to look into whether NY has a log like you mentioned. This whole living outside the big city is still making my head spin!
 

fishorama

AC Members
Jun 28, 2006
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SF Bay area, CA
Another option is to use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride. It's more expensive but I don't know how it compares in amounts used over time. Say it's $20/year more, not really all that much but if it's $200+/yr more maybe too much? Plus some of us are supposed to lower our sodium intake for health reasons, using sodium in drinking water could add a significant amount. I also don't know how potassium may effect tanks. It's a component of fertilizer...would it be enough to encourage algae? I don't know. Might be worth some research to compare costs/year with RODI cartridges over time too before you invest in a new system.

Just some thoughts, I don't have a water softener or RODI & haven't dealt with them while fish keeping.
 
Apr 2, 2002
2,988
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New York
We have had our well since 1961. I set up my first tank in Jan 2001/ At that time the water tested at pH 7.3 -7.4 and the hardness was 6 dg and the KH was 5 dg. A bout in 2012 a fish keeping friend came for a visit. While there in my pleco fish space she pulled out a digital TDS meter and tested the water.

Now I new at 6 dg GH I have somewhere between 106.8 to under 124 ppm of hardness. That is because each dg if hardness = 17.8 ppm. My friend tested my water at 83 ppm. That was between 4 and 5 dg. That was also when I odered my first TDS meter. This helped me discover another thing about our well water. If we got a number of days of very heavy rain, the TDS dropped down into the low 50 ppm range.

The point is I would not trust a well water test that is a bunch of years old. In fact I cannot trust that my tap tests will not change either due to heavy rains or to a drought condition.

What I do not worry about is that my well water will suddenly go from soft to had or that my pH will suddenly become more alkaline and suitable for rift lake cichlids.

As far as i know decent testing is never cheap. There are no good comprehensive home kits as far as I know. A friend who has a YouTube fish channel gets sent stuff to try, She recently got a quality multi-test product new to the hobby. It tested a lot of things pretty accurately, then I researched the price. It was only $2,000. Now API makes one register to see the price. I have heard it as low as $1,200
Presenting API AQUASPIN, a cutting-edge technology that combines speed and accuracy for the best aquarium and pond water analysis results anywhere, all in just two minutes! Using AQUASPIN is simple – all it requires is a small water sample from your customer, the AQUASPIN photometer and a new disk. The water test (freshwater or saltwater) takes fast and accurate readings of aquarium or pond parameters, including, where applicable, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, phosphate, carbonate hardness, general hardness, pH, magnesium, and calcium. No need for color comparison or human interpretation, the AQUASPIN technology provides your results accompanied by an API product recommendation all with the click of a button.
I believe they intend this device to be purchased by stores who will them change hobbyists for doing a test with it.

I investigated high quality test equipment. What I discovered is you readily will need to spend in the thousands to get quality reliable resu;ts for multiple parameters.

Finally, when you read that water softeners do not put a lot of sodium into the water and you can drink it just fine, you have to realize that people drinking a few glasses of water vs watering the lawn for 20 minutes are not the same thing. As far as I know sodium does not evaporate. People on restricted sodium diets are advised not to drink water softened with salt.

Do some more homework re softened water for gardening. You will find what I did. However, while the unsoftened outdoor faucet is great for the garden, lawns and often aquariums, it is not so good for cleaning things like cars or windows. Hard water can leave a white film on things when it evaporates. So, the ideal set-up is to have both water sources available for outside uses.

I am pretty sure water softeners have bypasses. You can plumb things accordingly depending on how much you are willing to spend for a plumbers or how much DIY you can handle.
 
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Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
Yeah that's kind of a lot to pay for doing home testing! :oops:

So maybe the potassium chloride idea makes the most sense. Other than the increased cost, I can't find anything that would indicate that this is a bad idea. For humans, less sodium is a good thing. For fish, less sodium is preferable. For plants, sodium should be avoided...

I'll do some testing with the Hanna checkers later this week. I know they're nowhere near as accurate as Rachel's fancy new toy, but at least I'll get an idea. For what the water chemistry is like. At that moment in time... And I'll do more reading on using potassium chloride in the softener. :cool:
 
Apr 2, 2002
2,988
502
120
New York
Sodium is not awful, we need some, so do many things. However, with a water softener it becomes more application specific. The amount of sodium in the water is not great. We would have to drink an insane amount in a day top be harmful. However, water a lawn a couple of times a week and the sodium builds to undesirable levels. The same can be the case in aquariums.

It's another one of those math things. The biggest problems occur from evaporation. Let's say that one does weekly 60% water changes and that evaporation caused 1.5% of the water to be lost. That means 98.5 of the water contains 100% of the salt. When one refills with water containing the same level of sodium, you now have increased the concentration with the 50% water change. If this goes on for a number of weeks you can end up with a pretty high concentration of sodium.

Now suppose you are using RO or RO/DI water. By mixing your unsoftened tap and the purer water you will not be adding any sodium from the softener. Moreover, the mixed water will be a lot softer and likely pH. This is why I suggest the TDS meter. It will count any sodium in the water as part pf what it detects. But it will also count all the things that make the water hard. By doing some test mixes you will arrive at a level in the range you want/need. Then you will just need to monitor things using the TDS meter.

You do have another option- keep African rift lake cichlids. Take a look here at the water parameters for the three rift lakes. They show a lot of info, What Is the Chemical Composition of Lake Malawi Water? How Does it Compare with Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika? This is what makes this hobby so great- there are a ton of options and ways to accomplish things.
 

Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
I love Haps. They are great and I've had a couple of really great hap tanks over the years. But I much prefer the SA/CA cichlids... I have to check the plumbing in the garage, but pretty sure the spigot for the lawn does not run through the softener, so watering the lawn isn't an issue either way. Watering my houseplants, however, is a different story. I guess I could use RO/DI water for the plants and the fish, of course...

I see your point about sodium concentration going up in a tank due to evaporation. It seems doing very large water changes would minimize that. Especially if you periodically did a 90+% water change... But wouldn't it be easier to switch from sodium to potassium in the softener? Then I could do my usual 50-70% water changes without worrying about sodium building up. And I wouldn't have to worry about hurting my plants. Or are there substantial dangers from potassium as well?

Now an option I was considering with this big tank was to do a continuous drip system so that I can be changing water constantly but slowly. It's a method I've always wanted to try. If I did it this way, I'd be sending a very small amount of water from my cold water line to the tank. Now, if I ran it through an RO/DI unit, I'd still have to buffer it before it goes to the tank, wouldn't I? Again, wouldn't it just be easier to remove the sodium and replace with potassium chloride?
 
Apr 2, 2002
2,988
502
120
New York
Everybody will do what works for them. I would opt for the ro/di mixed with unsoftened water. I do this in one tank I need to make softer and lower pH than my tap. Lowering the numbers in a stable way is always harder going down than up.

Fish cannot live in pure water and humans cannot only drink that. Both of us need some of the trace things in tap water. however, Pure water will make an excellent cup of coffee.

What I have found over the years is that there are usually multiple ways to solve tanks challenges. There are basically two considerations we have to work with. The first is how difficult/complex is an given solution. The second is cost. A perfect example would be dechlor. One can buy this in bulk powder form and mix their own, or we can buy a premixed bottle of Prime or Amquel etc. The same applies to the plant ferts those of us who keep live plant use.

I would assume that using a potassium chloride softener would add a bit of that to the water. I have no idea what levels of this might create problems but I know it can build up and become toxic to fish in the same way sodium can. I would suggest you look into potassium toxicity and fish a but before you decide. I work with RO/DI and am familiar with that. I have no experience with water softeners.
 

Jurupari Man

The Masked Tortilla
May 29, 2001
82
3
8
New York, NY
I am not ruling out the RO/DI option. What you say makes a lot of sense. I am shooting for convenience with this tank though, so hoping I can come to a solution that will allow me to spend less time fiddling with stuff, adding things, etc., and more time watching the fish grow. I've truly been spoiled by 30 years with NYC water. And you're probably correct that potassium levels could ultimately be problematic as well. I know humans can go into ventricular fibrillation and die from a potassium overdose, so with enough concentration it could be bad for fish too. I'll need to read up on that. My guess would be that with a continuous drip, there would be so much turnover that potassium levels wouldn't reach dangerous levels. But my guess and $2.75 will get you a ride on the subway.

The only thing holding me back from the RO/DI option is how I'd integrate it into the convenience of the continuous drip system. The fresh water coming in would go through the RO/DI but then would need to somehow be buffered before it gets to the tank. Is there some sort of media you could run it through to accomplish that? Or would I need to fill a large reservoir with the RO/DI water and then treat it with a buffer and do regular old drain and fill style water changes?

I really appreciate your advice - thank you.
 
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