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  1. #1

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    Default Understanding TDS


    6 Not allowed!
    TDS is short for Total Dissolved Solids. This is measured in parts per million (ppm) and will be made of both organic and inorganic particles. Your water hardness is (for the most part) is a result of inorganic matter, meaning the dissolved solids/minerals in the water. This is measured by your GH/KH test kits. The inorganic portion will come from solids being added to you water from organic substances breaking down (like decomposing fish poop or plant leaves). Your TDS is a combination of both inorganic and organic matter in the water. This is measure by a TDS meter. TDS is one of the best leading indicators to old tank syndrome or potential current and future problems in your tank. This is why I always like to know what my current TDS is.

    Before moving on, it is very important to clarify one point here. The pH will not always be affected by your TDS. In the case of inorganic solids (like calcium and magnesium), the higher the level of inorganic solids, the higher your TDS count will be along with you GH & KH valves which will also directly affect you pH. However, you cannot assume the same thing about organic solids. While organic solids (like elements release when plant material decomposes) will increase your TDS count, it will have no effect on your GH & KH meaning it will not affect your pH, unless in extremely high levels (such as in "old tank syndrome"). If you have extremely high levels of organic solids, then you pH can be lowered. Understanding this is key in understanding the true effects of TDS in a freshwater aquarium. This also is one concept that is commonly misunderstood in the hobby

    You can use your TDS of your water to generalize your water hardness as well. I have always used the below rule of thumb. Keep in mind, this is a generalization and not a hard-fast rule.

    TDS level - Description
    0 - 70 ppm very soft
    70 - 140 ppm soft
    140 - 210 ppm medium hard
    210 - 320 ppm fairly hard
    320 - 500 ppm hard
    > 500 ppm Liquid rock

    As an interesting point of reference, the maximum level set by the EPA for safe drinking water is 500 ppm of TDS. Freshwater, by definition, will have less than 1,500ppm of TDS


    What can cause your TDS to increase?

    Inorganic sources:
    -Minerals leaching out of your substrate
    -Minerals leaching out of rocks or other objects like shells
    -Un used minerals from fertilizers
    -Changes in your water supply composition
    -Using tap water to top up for significant evaporation in your tank
    -Excessive use of chemicals or additive such as medications or water conditioners

    Organic sources
    -Buildup of fish waste in the substrate
    -Decomposing un-eaten fish food
    -Decomposing plant material
    -Build-up of waste in your filter
    -Use of aquarium salt
    -Changes in your tap water composition


    Some of the effects of higher TDS in an aquarium

    1-Lower oxygen levels. Water can only hold so much “stuff” in it. The higher the TDS levels, the less oxygen can be maintained in the water
    2-Changes to your water’s hardness. As your water hardness changes, it can change to the extent of effecting the pH as well as no longer being suited for the fish and/or plants in your aquarium. This will have long term effects on the health of your fish and plants should this happen
    3-Affect the ability of your fish to breath. The higher the TDS is, the harder it will be for the water to pass through the gills of the fish making it harder for the fish to breath (by affecting the osmoregulation occurring in the gills) as well as affect the passing of water through thier system for other functions such as waste removal. Both situations will greatly reduce their life span
    4-Affecting the blood cells of fish. The higher the TDS, the grater the affect the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. This impacts many other functions including: the strength of the immune system, the ability to digest food, the proper function of the kidneys, and a few other less impactful ones.

    How to deal with high TDS

    Higher levels of TDS over the long term is the biggest contributing factor to “old tank syndrome” and unexplained fish deaths. There are ways to reduce and keep you TDS stable to your tap water levels
    1-Water changes. If you are lowering your TDS level, then daily smaller water changes are required to lower the level safely and slowly. 10 to 25% daily water changes would work in those situations. Once within an acceptable range (as compared to your tap water) then large weekly waterchanges are required. 50% or more weekly water changes would be required in those situations
    2-Aquarium Maintenance. Routine substrate cleaning combine with filter cleaning will go a long way to help keep your TDS count from creeping up. You have to remember, as your ecosystem chugs along, your TDS count will be increasing little by little each day. Without a good maintenance and water change routine, it will build up over time to a level that will cause problems. It’s not a matter of if it will happen, just a matter of when.
    3-Aviod Overfeeding. This one is self-explanatory
    4-Dose only what is needed. Watch your plants carefully and only dose the fertilizers which your plants are in need of and will use, and dose no more than that. Also, avoid over use of water conditions, like prime, to you deal with other situations like higher levels of ammonia or nitrites.
    5-Use Medications in a Quarantine tank. Medications will have a big influence on your TDS. This is the biggest reason for needing extra oxygenation in the water while using medications. You do not want to have to deal with this in your main tank if you can avoid it
    6-Aviod using water that has gone through a water softener. Water softeners add a type of salt to the water to help prevent the corrosion in household plumbing systems. This will greatly increase the TDS count in your water. However, it may or may not effect the pH. That would all depend on the minerals contained in the salt used.
    7-Aviod using aquarium salt. Many people believe that using aquarium salt is completely safe as it will not affect the pH of the water. While it won’t affect your pH, it will greatly affect you TDS levels. Consider the pros and cons of using aquarium salt before you start using it and be very careful not to overdo it.

    The below links can offer some more information about TDS and pH in fresh water aquariums:

    http://www.ratemyfishtank.com/articles/107
    http://www.thefishsite.com/articles/...shwater-ponds/
    http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/m...quarium-73276/
    http://www.wupcenter.mtu.edu/educati...ercheminfo.htm
    http://www.aquahobby.com/articles/e_adjusting_pH.php
    http://www.lenntech.com/aquatic/acids-alkalis.htm
    Last edited by Cliff; 04-19-2015 at 02:15 PM. Reason: Added some links
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL="http://saltwater.aquaticcommunity.com/"]

  2. #2

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Cliff, Thanks for taking the time to post this information. Very helpful.
    Ricky

  3. #3

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Great info Cliff! I had no idea what TDS was until now. Is there a way to measure this?
    "The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress may be judged by the way it's animals are treated", Gandhi
    Shark fin soup... A bowl of Travesty I will NEVER stomach".

  4. #4

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Yes. Google TDS meter.
    Ricky

  5. #5

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    Default


    1 Not allowed!
    I disagree with this statement below about greatly reducing the lifespan of a fish who naturally come from a low TDS environment because my water is hard (400-470ppm) and it has not affected the lifespan of any fish that I have kept since 1997, and these fish naturally occur in a much lower TDS environment in the wild (less than 250ppm easily).

    3-Affect the ability of your fish to breath. The higher the TDS is, the harder it will be for the water to pass through the gills of the fish making it harder for the fish to breath (by affecting the osmoregulation occurring in the gills) as well as affect the passing of water through thier system for other functions such as waste removal. Both situations will greatly reduce their life span
    I would revise this statement to say that many people think using aquarium salt as a tonic or using regularly to promote healthy gill function is completely safe. Otherwise, people may think that using salt for any reason is a no no.

    7-Aviod using aquarium salt. Many people believe that using aquarium salt is completely safe as it will not affect the pH of the water. While it won’t affect your pH, it will greatly affect you TDS levels. Consider the pros and cons of using aquarium salt before you start using it and be very careful not to overdo it.
    Last edited by Rocksor; 02-04-2015 at 07:32 PM.

  6. #6

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Good points Rocksor

    I did not separate the effects of the different type of TDS (organic and inorganic), but only made a generalized statement lumping both together. Just trying to keep my explanations on the simple side of things, but as with all things in this hobby you are going to find exceptions to every generalized statement.

    However, the higher the TDS, the more you are at risk of health problems. That exact level will vary for different types of fish, but at some point it will cause problems, it's just a matter of at what level this starts.

    The proper use of a little bit of salt is safe (even tho the benefits can be debated). The only time it becomes risky is when you overdo it. And by that I mean over use / over dose salt in a aquarium. Unless you are temporarily using it as a part of a treatment, it would be best to carefully consider the pros and cons before long use as this will contribute to increasing the TDS.
    Last edited by Cliff; 02-08-2015 at 05:13 AM.
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL="http://saltwater.aquaticcommunity.com/"]

  7. #7

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Thank you for the helpful information.

  8. #8

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    thanks well written
    My Aquarium Journal
    [URL="http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aquariumforum/showthread.php?t=121427&p=1326262#post1326262[/URL]

  9. #9

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    My water here in nebraska is pretty hard, 250 GH or so. Limestone ogalala aquifer. My Ph out of the tap is 8.4 so although you said "the hardness does not necessarily affect ph" , they do, go hand in hand. Fish do not like water that is soft and alkaline, or hard and acidic

  10. #10

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    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by Rocksor View Post



    I would revise this statement to say that many people think using aquarium salt as a tonic or using regularly to promote healthy gill function is completely safe. Otherwise, people may think that using salt for any reason is a no no.
    I was under the impression that salt did not affect water hardness, hard water being calcium and magnesium and salt being sodium cloride.

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