Never use tap water

Discussion in 'Beginner Discussions' started by riyadhessa, 30 Aug 2009.

  1. riyadhessa

    riyadhessa

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    [FONT=&quot]Never use tap water…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]If you're thinking about setting up a marine aquarium you will no doubt be encountering no end of questions and plenty of decisions that need making. One of those questions may be, Can i use tap water in my tank? Hopefully reading on will answer that question for you...

    What's so important about water then?

    Marine fish have a reputation for being temperamental in comparison to other types of fish. The sea is the most stable Eco-system on the planet and is able to keep its water parameters perfect for the creatures that live there. Your tank will become a mini Eco-system of its own, so it is only fair to replicate the environment as closely as possible by using only the best quality water you can. After all, why spend hundreds if not thousands of rands on setting up your tank, to use water which falls far short of the natural properties of sea water.

    Natural Sea Water (NSW) contains hundreds of elements that are suspended throughout the water column and are essential to the well being of the animals that live there. Elements such as Iodine, Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Strontium, Boron, Potassium etc. These levels rarely change by substantial amounts meaning these creatures are used to specific consistent water parameters day in day out.


    What does tap water contain that's so bad?

    You may think that ordinary tap water is quite ok to use as we drink and bathe in it every day, but in reality you will find no end of un-desirables that, while not harmful to us in the doses that are present, they simply aren't suited to a reef tank..

    Whilst the water is being piped through to your home its likely to pick up other elements from the pipes its travelling through as well such as copper, a metal which has catastrophic effects in a reef tank, fatal to invertebrates it kills anything living within an exoskeleton. The quality of your water will also vary dependant upon the time of the year meaning it would be very difficult to make consistent batches of saltwater for your water changes.

    All this means is that the fish, coral and inverts you're planning on keeping, put simply, are not used to having these unnecessarily added elements present. this means they're not good elements to be adding to your tank. For example ammonia, nitrites and nitrate are all toxic to marine life in varying degrees and most invertebrates are incredibly sensitive to copper. The tiniest amount in your tank is enough to kill them. Algae feeds on phosphates and nitrates, the higher these levels are, the worse your algae situation can be (see pictures) which has a knock on result and will make your PH levels unstable.

    The manufacturers of the major brand salt labels we commonly use, design the salt to be used with RO water. The reason they do this, is because our tap water supply is so inconsistent, it would be impossible for them to know how much of each of the trace elements to put in to the salt so that when we mix our water, the results would have the same properties as natural sea water. You would never be able to keep your water parameters stable, which is your No.1 objective really. This leads us to Reverse Osmosis......


    So what about Reverse Osmosis (RO)?

    Reverse osmosis is basically when water is passed under pressure through a series of prefilters, to remove particles and chlorine, and finally a membrane designed to allow water molecules through but trap everything else present. An RO unit on average, will remove 92 - 97% of the dissolved solids that your water contains. To remove the remaining dissolved solids, most quality RO units will have a DI ([/FONT][FONT=&quot]De-Ionization) pod at the end. This will then, as previously mentioned, give you pure water for mixing your chosen salt with. The DI filter is capable of polishing 100% of the dissolved solids out of your water on its own, but it's costly, hence the reason a mixture of filters are used. [/FONT][FONT=&quot]

    How do we measure the quality of our water?

    To monitor the quality of our water we use a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter. TDS meters measure the amount of organic or in-organic substances that are present in water. The higher the TDS reading you get, the more unwanted properties your water contains.
    There are 2 main types of TDS meters that are used by marine keepers, 'hand held' and 'in-line',. The in-line meters are preferable if you have your own RO unit. These meters normally have a before and after reading, meaning you can see what the TDS is of your water before the filtration process and the end result allowing you to replenish your DI resin in plenty of time, and check your membrane is working ok.
    Hand held meters can be used when you're buying your RO water from your local fish shop, or producing your own.

    How much will it cost me to produce my own RO water?

    The most cost effective way to use RO water is to buy your own unit.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot].
    Most LFS will sell RO water as well, but the quality of the water will vary from shop to shop, most LFS wont filter the water through a DI unit meaning the water will more than likely be of a lesser quality than if you owned your own unit. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]So you can see after a year of buying water from your LFS, you will have probably spent more money than if you were to buy your own RO unit, for water that's of a poorer quality.
    There are running costs to a RO unit, the prefilters which protect the membrane have to be changed at regular intervals, recommended every 6 months dependant on use. But these very occasional costs still add up to being much cheaper than buying your water. .

    Would it not be cheaper to just use tap water???

    At this stage is may appear that tap water is the cheaper option over buying or producing your own RO water, but in the long run this will not be the case. To counter-act the poor quality water being used, more equipment will likely be needed to reverse the effects of your tap water, such as a phosphate reactor. Add to that the monthly if not fortnightly renewal costs of the phosphate removal media, and the fact you will need certain additives to balance your water parameters it is not a cheap option. In the long run, RO water is cheaper, and the better option for your tanks inhabitants.[/FONT]
     
    Mekaeel and jacquesb like this.
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  3. Tony

    Tony

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    I'm with you on this one Riyad. I once thought I could use tap water opposed to RO water and all was fine for a few months and then I developed a nice GHA lawn
     
  4. martinhal

    martinhal

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    I started with tap water on advice LFS (now closed) advice... had nice green growth.
     
  5. brentnorm

    brentnorm

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    that's insane. Can't believe a lfs would actually do that. Obviosly not experienced in marines.
     
  6. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Another way to look at it. Whatever BAD you added to the tank, be it later on or when starting up the tank can only be removed with water changes. Actually things like skimmer and scrubber also, but for this argument let is take a mineral that is not removed by either.

    For simplicity, say you got 100 units of BAD mineral in your tank. Whatever it is, be it copper, iron, mouse food, fluoride, whatever. Let us just call it BAD. If you do a 10% water change every week, in week one, you will remove 10 units. Leaving 90. Week two, remove 9 units.
    Week-units-removed
    1-100.00-10.00
    2-90.00-9.00
    3-81.00-8.10
    4-72.90-7.29
    5-65.61-6.56
    6-59.05-5.90
    7-53.14-5.31
    8-47.83-4.78
    9-43.05-4.30
    After 10 water changes of 10%,you still have about 40% of the BAD units in your tank.

    At this rate, you will take forever to get rid of it.
     
  7. Tony

    Tony

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    The problem Riaan is that a lot of this stuff gets into the rocks and releases when it's saturated, that's when it comes to bite you in the behind especially things like phosphates
     
  8. Drew

    Drew

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    Hi Guys.

    Great thread. Like all things mechanical or otherwise, you get good and bad brands. For a 700l tank and weekly 10% changes, what RO unit is recommended, and what is it likely to cost?... I know squat about these units, I'm still gathering goodies and LOTS of info before I put a drop in my tank.
     
  9. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Where the rocks "absorb" stuff to be released later is ever worst.

    Just trying to proof that whatever BAD stuff is in your tank, will still be there after a lot of water changes. So do not get it in there in the first place. Starting your tank with normal tap water will take a year to get rid of the cr@p that was in the tap water. That is if nothing else absorbs it to release it later, or skimmer or scrubber or cheato does not remove it. And you are not repeating the process of adding tap water.

    Tap water can only be used to test a new tank for leaks. That is it, nothing more. Then drain it. Rinse tank with RO water. Then you can use it.
     
  10. Tony

    Tony

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    Cool Riaan
     
  11. brentnorm

    brentnorm

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    Hi Drew. Welcome to Masa. Why not start a thread in the beginners section and ask all the questions you have. The guys and girls will be sure to provide you with all the info you need.
     
  12. jacquesb

    jacquesb Retired Moderator

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    Great article, Riyad. Many thanks for sharing!
     
  13. Boendoe

    Boendoe

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    Nice one Riyad, probably one of the most common mistakes newbies makes whe starting a reef tank.
     
  14. Giepie

    Giepie

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    Great article, Riyad. Tips like this should be combined into a booklet for all the dummies (like me) who's out there hunting for info, tips and secrets.

    Your comments on the LFS that sell RO water is spot-on - They are only in for the $$$'s. Lucky for me, I found one who's heart is in it and he sells me good quality RO water. He will even go as far as allowing you to test the water before buying / leaving.... so, in that case I don't mind helping him pay his rent.

    Beginners will soon realise the importance of reading up and your article will be a good startpoint. They will also learn the lesson of:
    - No Shortcuts (lighting, substrate, circulation, filtration, etc.)
    - No quick-fix (especialy when it comes to GHA)
    - No cheap alternatives (here I must confess; tried to replace an aquaglobe t8 tube with a normal florecent tube... Outcome = GHA... lesson learnt...:whistling:)
    - Fixing problems caused by above will set you back a lot of time, money and effort

    So... 10/10 for you, bud!:thumbup:
     
  15. Slummies

    Slummies

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    How about Rainwater as a topup?

    and No to topup with tapwater? even circulated through coal?
     
  16. brentnorm

    brentnorm

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    Even rainwater picks up nasties on its way. Definately no tap water
     
  17. crispin

    crispin

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    rain water.....think about the bird crap on your roof disolved through the water before it gets to the collection tank....think about sasolburg and acid rain, think about dying frogs due to rain water.....think lots just dont think about adding it to your tank!

    RO, and good RO at that is all you use (other than NSW obvously:))
     
  18. crispin

    crispin

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    i'll try take two comparitive pics for you, one of my tank kept with RO and one from a LFS in lillehammer who uses tap water.
     
  19. Shaun

    Shaun Retired Moderator

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    :lol::lol:



    Just don't top up with NSW, only RO for Top up's.
     
  20. marine101

    marine101

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    Sorry guys, Ive got a reef for 6 years on nsw and tap water top-up. But yes, ro ismuch better, i agree.
    Posted via Mobile Device
     
  21. Boendoe

    Boendoe

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    I think in some areas the rain water contains more phosphates than normal tap water.
     
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