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Thread: Water Softener - OK for fish?
12-27-2012, 09:55 PM #1
Water Softener - OK for fish?
We recently moved to the country from the city where we have well water that has really heavy iron and iron bacteria. To keep the water clear and soft we have a water softener and since we moved I believe my aquarium has more algae and my Betta fish's fins look sad. I don't think it is good for them.
Does anyone else have a well treated with a softener who can help me out here? I am tempted to do WC with our bottled water but it will get pretty spendy over time. Help!
Last edited by Waterfroggy; 12-27-2012 at 09:59 PM.African Dwarf Frogs, Betta, Dwarf Chain Loaches, Otocilclus, Ember Tetras, Amano Shrimp in one magical 31 gallon tank
Two pea puffers in another tank!
12-28-2012, 12:10 PM #2
Considering that iron can be deadly, is the water softener taking out enough? There are kits (Seachem) that can measure this down to under 0.1 ppm! Might check that issue.
Since water softeners are safe for humans I would be puzzled if fish could not handle them - these devices just remove ions by a 'salt' absorption/exchange method; that said, one possible issue MIGHT be that the water is too soft; it is essential that some minerals are in the water (especially Ca) and you should measure the water hardness (Both KH and GH.) This could be the issue. If so, as some here have pointed out in other posts there are mineral replacement solutions available (if that is the issue.) I would be surprised if that was the case.
If you are still unsure, consider R/O water and the mineral replacement treatment (pure R/O water is deadly for fish - some minerals MUST be added.) In the long run, a cheaper solution than bottled water. However, see the next part of this post before considering a R/O system.
The issue of algae now growing makes me wonder - what are the tank's nitrates and phosphates levels (and the tap, for that matter; softeners will NOT remove nitrates or phosphates)? These chemicals will feed algae and algae growth; such unwanted growth often occurs if these chemicals are at unacceptable levels. Nitrates above 10 ppm are bad and above 20 ppm are toxic so it would be good to check for this 'waste' asap.
You should have the standard test kit but I find some kits do not give enough resolution (API kit measures 0 - 5 ppm nitrates - way too large a range for my idea of a good kit.) Seachem sells a nitrate/nitrite kit that measures under 1 ppm as well as up to 20 ppm; that is a good range.
Last edited by Cermet; 12-28-2012 at 12:18 PM.
12-28-2012, 12:28 PM #3
Waterfroggy I live in the country and have well water with a softner. Have lots of iron in our well water too. Our softner does a great job of getting it all out. My fish have never had any problems with the water. I usually try and stay with fish that like the softer water.
12-28-2012, 02:57 PM #4
i have a water softener and use that water for my tank, all of the fish do fine but i also have algea problems. no clue what the KH or GH levels are or any of the other parameters however
12-28-2012, 03:16 PM #5Member Oscar
- Join Date
- Nov 2008
I have a well and have had a bba problem ever since setting up the tank. However I do not attribute it to the soft water. I did about a 1 year test where I used RO water and saw no difference in algae growth. It was a real pita to do a water change so I stopped using RO.
One thing about a softener is that it totally removes all GH from the water. If you are trying a planted tank, you may need to add back that GH by using a remineralizer or GH booster product.
KH is unaffected by a softener. So if its high going in, it'll be high coming out of the softener. I have read many postings that say high KH promotes algae and poor plant growth, but I have read equally as many saying its a all bunch of hogwash. My experience with RO water says it doesnt make a difference.
I have read many postings that say the sodium added by the softener is bad, but once again, I've read many others that say it isnt.
Except for my bba issues, my experiences say that using a water softener isnt a problem..
01-22-2013, 12:59 AM #6
All my tanks are run off softened well water and all is fine. I just add GH and KH buffer to my planted tanks to replace the buffer that is removed by the water softener.
01-23-2013, 10:04 PM #7
I have comments about the bacteria in your well water, but let's leave it at, I'm surprised the well or holding tank isn't treated for that.
I will suggest you have your water tested by the local county or provincial public health lab that does that sort of thing. Generally well water should be tested once a year. Follow the suggestions of the local health department though. They know the water in your area.
02-19-2013, 01:04 AM #8Banned Goldfish
- Join Date
- Feb 2013
- Whidbey Island Washington State
I have never had a problem with our water from the softener water however, I use Potassium Chloride. It is much better for your health.. Plants, humans and fish benefit from potassium but it is a little pricy.
02-19-2013, 06:38 AM #9
What are iron bacteria?
Most water softeners are of the resin type. Those do this:
ion exchange devices reduce the hardness by replacing magnesium and calcium (Mg2+ and Ca2+) with sodium or potassium ions (Na+ and K+).
So you got sodium and potassium rich water. It will take your fish a while to adapt to that. Plants should do well on that if you give back a little iron and phosphor.
02-19-2013, 10:13 AM #10
Some types of bacteria (and algae in the ocean) do 'fix' iron (use the free form and then oxidize it) but I've never heard it called 'iron bacteria'. So, I believe that the references above are just about bacteria in the well water; also, the water appears to have a higher iron level (iron, above very low limits is toxic to fish. But plants do need some iron as well as calcium (the ref. to KH.))