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Buffering RO water

This is a discussion on Buffering RO water within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Originally Posted by maxw47 I should have mentioned this to you earlier, but I don't really have access to the pre-softened water. I have ...

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Old 11-05-2012, 06:55 PM   #11
 
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I should have mentioned this to you earlier, but I don't really have access to the pre-softened water. I have tried all of the outside spigots and everything inside the house, and they are all connected to the softener. So I can't really mix the RO with it and get good stuff. All of this making more and more sense now. If these tanks were dirted (dirt substrate w/ gravel on top), would that effect the pH? Plus the CO2, my pH would probably be brought down significantly. You mentioned crushed coral, aragonite, etc earlier. Would you recommend having a filter bag (one of those fabric bags that filter media is held in) with like crushed coral in the filter or in the sponge filter bubbles. Do the buffering qualities of crushed coral change over time? Again, a tremendous thank you for your advice!
The advantage to using the pre-softener water is cost savings; no need for expensive mineral additives if you can make use of what is naturally in the water. Pity that won't work for you.

This puts you in a very similar situation to me. My tap water is near-zero GH and KH, less than half of one degree for both. Which is fine for soft water fish. But insufficient calcium and magnesium for plants. So I use Seachem's Equilibrium to raise the GH to around 5 or 6. This provides the calcium for the plants, but does not impact the fish or mess with the pH. This stuff is expensive, but you can buy it in a tub online which makes it much less costly over time.

The problem with crushed coral is that it sends the pH sky high while adding very minimal hardness and buffering. I have tried it in my canister filter, half a cup in a mesh bag. I also tried the coral/aragonite mix, same problem. Dolomite worked better, if you can find it. But with RO water none of these will add sufficient "hard" minerals for plants.

What is the pH of your RO water which you are now using? Does it lower much in the aquarium from week to week?

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Old 11-05-2012, 07:18 PM   #12
 
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Right now I am still using the well water, unfortunatly it's softened. But hopefully I can get the RO rolling in under a month. I do however already own a small container of equilibrium. It probably won't last long, but enough to get me started. So I have my GH under control. But for platies at least, I would need to bump up that pH. How would you suggest doing that? The crushed coral, aragonite, etc. doesn't really sound like a good idea. Have you ever kept fish with similar requirements? I think the acid/alkaline buffers by seachem would work, but from what you have said, that doesn't sound good either (by the way, thank goodness you are here or else I would have resorted to this kind of stuff). Would something like a little bit of baking soda work well? I would just add a little bit to my water change water every week. The only thing to figure out would be just how much. Any thoughts? Thanks!
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Old 11-05-2012, 07:37 PM   #13
 
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Right now I am still using the well water, unfortunatly it's softened. But hopefully I can get the RO rolling in under a month. I do however already own a small container of equilibrium. It probably won't last long, but enough to get me started. So I have my GH under control. But for platies at least, I would need to bump up that pH. How would you suggest doing that? The crushed coral, aragonite, etc. doesn't really sound like a good idea. Have you ever kept fish with similar requirements? I think the acid/alkaline buffers by seachem would work, but from what you have said, that doesn't sound good either (by the way, thank goodness you are here or else I would have resorted to this kind of stuff). Would something like a little bit of baking soda work well? I would just add a little bit to my water change water every week. The only thing to figure out would be just how much. Any thoughts? Thanks!
For livebearers, you must be more drastic. Here I would use an aragonite-base sand as the substrate. I did this many years ago with dolomite gravel (all that was available back then) and it worked very well. My mollies thrived, as did Vallisneria which likes hard water. I've no idea what the GH was then, I didn't measure or know anything about it in the 1980's, but the pH stayed up around 8 which was perfect. Here again your pre-softener water would be ideal on its own. You can buy mineral additives for fish [Equilibrium is better for plants] but again they are costly. The corla/aragonite blend sand is a few dollars for a bag, CarribSea make a couple of types, there are probably others. Just make sure it has aragonite in with the coral, as the aragonite adds the magnesium to the calcium.

For the soft water fish, as I said, there is really no issue once we get the plants satisfied. Rainwater also works well, it is very soft and usually on the acidic side. If you can collect it, that is a good source water for soft water fish.

Baking soda is not good, long-term. It will not buffer in the face of continuing acidification, and it adds no mineral value for plants or fish anyway. I think I mentioned this in that article. I know Dr. Stan Weitzman wrote on this, and he carried out considerable scientific study at the Smithsonian and recomended against using sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).

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Old 11-05-2012, 07:52 PM   #14
 
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All right, so let me get this strait. Aragonite based sand for the livebearers plus the equilibrium to target a GH of six or so. Sound right? Could I have a mesh bag of the aragonite/coral in the filter? Or would that be less effective? I wouldn't want to change a bunch of substrate if I didn't have to. But no problem if not. As for the soft water fish, no buffers and keep a GH high enough to sustain the plants. And no baking soda in any tanks. Does this all sound good? Thanks!
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:02 PM   #15
 
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All right, so let me get this strait. Aragonite based sand for the livebearers plus the equilibrium to target a GH of six or so. Sound right? Could I have a mesh bag of the aragonite/coral in the filter? Or would that be less effective? I wouldn't want to change a bunch of substrate if I didn't have to. But no problem if not. As for the soft water fish, no buffers and keep a GH high enough to sustain the plants. And no baking soda in any tanks. Does this all sound good? Thanks!
I suggest you keep livebearers in their own tank, and soft water fish in another, don't mix them [probably what you said, just want to make sure]. This will make it much easier.

For the livebearers, just use the calcareous substrate, problem solved. Water changes can be less volume to avoid fluctuating parameters. As my experimenting showed, with soft water anything less is inadequate. The substrate lasts for years.

For the soft water fish, RO or rainwater, with Equilibrium to raise the GH up to 5 or 6 for the plants.

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Old 11-05-2012, 08:13 PM   #16
 
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Sounds good! Now I guess all I have to do is make some money! This stuff is expensive. One more question though (it seems as if there is always something to learn). Should I not run CO2 in the livebearer tank(s)? I probably wouldn't have a great plant substrate anyways, so it would most likely just create an inbalance, or in other words algae. But I am good to have CO2, dirt, and high lights in the softwater right? How far would this stuff bring the pH down from 7 considering there are minimal buffers?
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:21 PM   #17
 
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Sounds good! Now I guess all I have to do is make some money! This stuff is expensive. One more question though (it seems as if there is always something to learn). Should I not run CO2 in the livebearer tank(s)? I probably wouldn't have a great plant substrate anyways, so it would most likely just create an inbalance, or in other words algae. But I am good to have CO2, dirt, and high lights in the softwater right? How far would this stuff bring the pH down from 7 considering there are minimal buffers?
Diffused CO2 in the soft water system would lower the pH. Probably quite a bit, given the no GH, no KH water. This is where you could see a crash. Are you actually planning CO2? Assuming you intend soil, this is intended to provide more CO2 at least initially; it has no other real benefits [others can disagree with me all they like, the proof is in the pudding].

In the livebearers, no CO2.
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Old 11-05-2012, 08:32 PM   #18
 
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Ok. I did have some DIY running a while ago, and id did help. But I've seen some great tanks without it, the soil should cover it, and it just seems like more work than it's worth. Would the soil pose any danger to a crash? How much would it lower the pH?
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Old 11-06-2012, 01:14 PM   #19
 
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Ok. I did have some DIY running a while ago, and id did help. But I've seen some great tanks without it, the soil should cover it, and it just seems like more work than it's worth. Would the soil pose any danger to a crash? How much would it lower the pH?
Difficult to say. The water chemistry and biology of an aquarium is very complex. I don't know how many times I have read from more experienced sources that it is risky to fiddle with any aspect of the water, say pH, because there is such a complex relationship covering many facets of the water chemistry, and adjusting this or that can have repercussions.

On soil, I frankly do not believe it is worth the risks. I admit I have never tried it--but one does not have to jump off the cliff to know it is dangerous. CO2 naturally occurs in the substrate be it soil, sand, gravel. The benefit of soil is getting more CO2 initially due to the organics and bacteria already present. With a plain sand or fine gravel substrate, organic waste has to accumulate and bacteria begin to break it down. While this takes a few weeks, in my experience from setting up dozens of tanks with new substrate I have never had the plants fail, but they take longer to get going. But during this period, the fish are adjusting to the environment too, and everything is developing naturally. With soil, it is common to have ammonia at very toxic levels, and this can last for months. Many recommend a "dry" start, and then no fish in the tank for six months. Given the fact that after say a year the soil tank will have no benefits over a plain sand or fine gravel substrate tank--what is the point of doing it?

If you check the photos of my tanks in my log [click "Aquariums" below my name on the left] you will see what my method produces. Keep it simple, there is less to go wrong.
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Old 11-06-2012, 05:54 PM   #20
 
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Impresive tanks! I see what you're saying. I guess I didn't realize dirt had such highs and lows. Would you recommend the plant substrates or just regular sand for the soft water tanks?
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