How to soften water - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 5 Old 07-19-2012, 07:19 AM Thread Starter
grannyfish's Avatar
Question How to soften water

I am still working on setting up and cycling my 10 gallon aquarium. I have planted it with Java ferns, cryptos and an anubia. I added several small nice pieces of Mopani wood and is not coloring the water much.

I have an API freshwater master kit and I am surprised my pH is reading at 7.6! I thought we had slightly acidic tap water. What other testing should I be doing other than what this kit covers??

I am considering adding some peat to the filter. Any other suggestions?

I would like to keep a pair of honey gouramis, a small school of celestial pearl danios and a group of pygmy corys OR salt and pepper corys.
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post #2 of 5 Old 07-19-2012, 07:49 AM
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The mopani is already leaching tannin so adding peat would not change anything.

Almost all municiple tap water is basic, having acidic water would corrode the infastructure. Basic water does not mean hard water, nor does acidic water mean soft water.

Water hardness is measured as General Hardness (GH) and Carbonate Hardness (KH). The KH is what buffers the pH, which means it is what resists the change to pH. The higher the KH, the harder it is for the PH to change. GH is what people mean when they say "soft" or "hard" water. To get this number, the best way is through your water utility. Either calling them, or looking up the water quality report online. Some put it on the water quality report, some don't.

There are test kits for GH and KH but there is no point in buying them if you don't intent to change them because their values will not change normally. So buying a kit you will use once is a waste of money.

If for some reason your water utility dosen't know, you can take a water sample to a pet store and they'll have the test, but most often they will use strips which only give a vauge answer (the steps between colors on the strips are a huge range of GH).

To make hard water soft, the only safe way to do it is to mix your tap water with RO/DI water (Reverse Osmosis or Distilled water). If you have a means to collect rain water, and get enough rain for weekly water changes, that can be used as well. You need to know your GH numbers though.
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post #3 of 5 Old 07-19-2012, 08:38 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the explanation of "Hardness/Softness" that makes sense. I have some Micro-lift 5 in 1 test strips but they seem sooo inaccurate as to pH compared to the API kit that I didn't think they are worth reading. That said, using these test strips, I get a reading of total ALK at 80-120 and the total hardness at 75-150. The chart on the bottle says 75 is soft and 150 is hard! So do these stick readings tell my anything? I am guessing they indicate my water is on the soft side?? at least the water should be ok for the fish I listed I would like to keep.

Last edited by grannyfish; 07-19-2012 at 08:50 AM. Reason: additional info
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post #4 of 5 Old 07-19-2012, 09:13 AM
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Well, that's what I meant about the strips being vauge, they're range for each color is huge.

Assuming the high end of 150, that's in ppm I assume, that would be 8.4 dGH (degrees general hardness. 17.848 ppm = 1 degree) You can get a better idea if you contact your water utility.

Soft water is defined as less than 8 dGH, so an 8.4 is right over the line into moderate-hard. Most tank raised fish will be okay with this, check the profiles on the site here for the fish you've selected. They all should list near the bottom under water parameters what they need. Your KH is low enough that over time, your pH will drop some (but not a lot) so I wouldn't worry about that.

Profiles are on the blue bar, top of the page, second link.
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post #5 of 5 Old 07-20-2012, 06:25 PM
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Nothing to add on the hardness issue, but refer you to this article on hardness and pH for more detail:

There is an issue with fish though. You will not manage all those fish in a 10g. due to their compatibility. Have a read of the profiles:
Honey Gourami
Celestial Pearl Danio


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

Last edited by Byron; 07-20-2012 at 06:27 PM.
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