Water Conditioners & Dechlorinators Part 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 20 Old 12-24-2012, 05:24 AM Thread Starter
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Water Conditioners & Dechlorinators Part 2

A short while ago, I posted a thread about my concerns of my water conditioner removing heavy metals. Two of these are iron and potassium. It does not make sense to remove them and then add them back via fertilizers. But to remove chlorine and or chlorimines, the popular products contain something to remove heavy metals or to render them safe. Now the problem with that original post was I had completly forgotten about COPPER. So when I was going over my notes on what my tapwater contains, the amount of copper caught my eye. I have it as 0.18 and I am not sure if that is ppb or ppm. Big differance. If its ppm. then that amount is unsafe for many fish, plants and inverts according to the level recommended that I see on the net. Anything over 0.1 ppm is dangerous for aquariums. If anyone has any recent data on what the safe levels are; please post it.
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post #2 of 20 Old 12-24-2012, 07:46 AM Thread Starter
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Any amoount at 0.10 mg/l is dangerous according to the article I read.
See: Copper - The Free Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit - The Aquarium Wiki
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post #3 of 20 Old 12-24-2012, 06:45 PM
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I don't have the safe levels for fish in my head, but you are quite correct that the acceptable levels of some minerals in water for humans can be toxic to fish and invertebrates.

If you have live plants, then the safe levels of heavy metals in municipal drinking water [safe meaning safe for humans though not necessarily safe for fish] will likely be taken up by the plants, whether as nutrients or toxins. However, I cannot guarantee that in every case this will work, since the initial level of the metal (copper, iron, etc) plus the type and number of plants are factors.

I agree that in most cases the detoxification of heavy metals via a water conditioner is not required for a planted tank. But I never fuss over this; but then the levels of any mineral in my water is some low it would not be sufficient for anything in the first place, so I have to add them regardless.

BTW, potassium is not a heavy metal. Iron, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese are heavy metals; there may be others I can't think of, but it is the "metal" bit that is the clue. Potassium, magnesium, calcium and some others are not metals so these are unaffected.


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]
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post #4 of 20 Old 12-24-2012, 06:56 PM
Just a fine point - detoxification (such as by Prime) is not removal...it just binds heavy metals such that they are not toxic to fish. I'm not certain, but I don't think this has a negative impact on plants. Someone please correct me if I'm incorrect.

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post #5 of 20 Old 12-24-2012, 09:22 PM Thread Starter
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I believe that is so. And like Byron mentioned that the heavy metals are likely to be taken up by plants and that sounds reasonable. But there has to be a limit on the concentrations or the fish and plants will suffer. I am going to get a copper test kit to monitor my tapwater. Copper levels are not reported in the Townships annual water report.
If the levels test much lower then 0.05 ppm which is a dangerous level for shrimps, then I can move forward in choosing a differant conditioner. As of now, I have to stay with "Prime" and wait to see where this subject will lead me. Prime and the other conditioners are basically formulated with some exceptions to perform more then what some of us need. So we are adding chemicals we do not need.
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post #6 of 20 Old 12-26-2012, 02:09 PM
From what I understand those levels (.18ppm) is harmful to saltwater corals and other inverts not the fish.

An old article on a famous board reported that the at tap copper levels in 3/4's of the cities in the U.S. had copper levels of 250ppm or less.

I think the epa allowable is 1300 or 1100 ro 1000 ppm or so.

A world health origanization studying the copper effects on corals had a paragraph on bioaccumulation of copper by marco algaes. In that study the macros were reported to be exposed to varying levels of copper up to 250ppm. And then the copper was measured in the macro algaes. At 250ppm the macros rose from something like 30ppm to 1020ppm in two weeks. The bioaccumulation was linear to the concentration being used. So half levels in the water meant half levels of copper in the macros. After the two weeks equilibruim had not been reached and the macros were still accumulting more copper.

So yes live plants or in that case macro algae can consume the copper and very heavily.

But for a fish tank it simply is nothing to worry about.

A coral reef tank with delicate corals is another case.

Plus one thing to do is to simply use the cold water faucet and let it run for 30 seconds or so before collecting. That limits the copper in the water.

I go even further by just topping off so I'm not adding copper back into the tank.

My 55g mixed reef tank had a very heavy bioload with numerous "easy" type soft corals for years. Not so good with the few sps type I tried though.

my .02

maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish and marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

see: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/a...-build-295530/

Last edited by beaslbob; 12-26-2012 at 02:11 PM.
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post #7 of 20 Old 12-26-2012, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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<I think the epa allowable is 1300 or 1100 ro 1000 ppm or so.>

Not exactly; You forgot to add the decimal point. EPA allows no more then 1.3 ppm copper in drinking water. There is also secondary standard which is not enforceable which the States are encourage to go by. And that is 1 ppm copper.
So the average in most cities would be 0.25 ppm or 250 ppb.
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post #8 of 20 Old 12-26-2012, 07:04 PM
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This conversation now makes me curious as to the necessity of waiting to add fertilizers. Sounds like conditioners that detoxify heavy metals don't keep the plants from absorbing and using them. Is that correct ?

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post #9 of 20 Old 12-26-2012, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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< Sounds like conditioners that detoxify heavy metals don't keep the plants from absorbing and using them. Is that correct ? >

Now that is something I have to look into. But first we have to understand that the manufacturers detox products are something like a one size fits all. But one manufacturer's technician (Seachem) states that "Prime" will detoxify heavy metals at the levels normally found in municipal water supplies. So that covers most everyone except those on private wells. Using myself as an example, my notes indicate my copper level is 0.18 which I believe is in ppm, but not sure. Now according to a few searches, I only came up with one that stated 0.10 ppm is dangerous for some fish, snails and plants. 0.08 ppm is dangerous for algae and bacteria and 0.03 ppm is dangerous for shrimp. I do not know the credentials of the author.
So I will contact Seachem and get their opinion on whether plants can take up metals that are detoxified by Prime and do the metals resort back to toxified state 24 hours after Prime is used.
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post #10 of 20 Old 12-27-2012, 12:53 AM
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I just add trace mineral's which contain the majority of metal's ,the day after water changes using PRIME.
I add macronutrient's hour after water changes or during re-fill.
Work's well for me,and have seen no adverse effect's on plant's, fishes,shrimp's.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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