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FAQs on Tapwater Filtration: Reverse Osmosis, Deionized, Distilled Water Rationale

Related FAQs: RO/DI & Distilled Water 1, RO/DI & Distilled Water 2, RO/DI & Distilled Water 3, RO/DI & Distilled Water 4, RO/DI & Distilled Water 5, RO/DI & Distilled Water 6, RO/DI & Distilled Water 7, Selection, For Commercial/Large Output, RO Water Storage, RO Water TreatmentMaintenance/Repair, Deionizing Source Water Filtration, Kati-Ani DI Units, Kold-Steril Units, Water Make-up, Nitrates

Related Articles: Water Purification Using Reverse Osmosis, Reverse Osmosis, A Multipurpose Tool By Mark E. Evans, Water ChangesWater QualitySynthetic or Natural Seawater, Nitrates

Mmm, choice, use of water filtration gear depends on the quality of the source water, your perceived and real needs...

Reef Tank Questions, RO/DI, Water quality 3/12/10
Dear Crew,
Thank you ahead of time for pointing me to the link or links that offer information best suited for my beginners questions if you can.
<An advanced welcome.>
My 55 gal tank once used for FOWLR was switched to Freshwater but now it's back to Saltwater. I kept the "gravel" however rather than sand and added 95 pounds of Live Rock.
<Hope you cleaned that gravel well.>
I bought new lighting called Coral life Aqua light, it fits across the top.
Output is two T5 Lamps, 1-10,000k and 1-Actinic Blue light 54 watt. I have my protein skimmer, my Emperor 400 but I decided NOT to use the filters so it runs without. I have also have two power heads.
I have 4 corals, 2 fish. My question is, "tap" water. I use tap water.
YIKES! hee hee.
<If you have very good quality water then it is ok, but most people end up having trouble here.>
I live in California in the high desert. I never need a heater, temp is 78 degrees.
<Must be nice.>
I add (Kordon's) to the tap water to eliminate elements. Does the whole house have to change to a R/O?
<Only if you want to. There are many smaller units that are either plumbed into a sink feed line or run with a faucet adapter.>
Do I go to the store and pay for 5 gallons of "distilled water?"
<Can get expensive and often water is of dubious quality.>
Lugging that back and forth once a month? Every two weeks? It seems "water changes" are a huge factor is correcting "phosphate levels" among other levels for reef tanks.
<Are the key to a successful tank in my opinion.>
There are products by "Kent" for Calcium and Kent" for PH Buffers" you use 3 cap fulls a week.
<I would be testing tank levels and then adding accordingly rather than just one a time frame, although with calcium and buffers you are most likely ok.>
Is that needed because people use tap water?
<Is needed even more with RO/DI water which has very little else in it beside H2O.>
I read in my Reef test kit booklet to add API TAP WATER FILTER.
<Have owned this before, is ok but expensive to run over the long term constantly replacing the filter media.>
This mean it's ok to use the tap water as long as I use this "API Tap Water Filter" product. Then the booklet says to use API PHOS-ZORB as another filtration to remove phosphates....hmmm, again is this for people using tap
<Tap water can be a source of phosphate which feeds algae blooms, but it can also come from fish food and other sources.>
I feel as though I'm missing something "very" important with this setup if I'm going to have a reef tank.
<Best to get a decent RO/DI unit, that way you are in control of what goes in your tank>
Something I need to give more attention to that I hadn't given to before.
Is it the water?
<Water quality is everything, and if you start with less than ideal water your results will most likely suffer.>
The Calcium supplements? The PH Buffer?
<http://www.wetwebmedia.com/watrqualmar.htm ,
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm .>
An additional type of Filtration system? (sounds costly).
<All relative.>
Or maybe I'm missing some really important LINKS regarding 'reefs".
<Start here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/maintindex.htm
Also, people say to be patient, corals will grow over time but nobody says exactly how long they're referring to when they say the word "time".
<Depends on the species, some grow very quickly, noticeable growth over days/weeks, others slower. Conditions also play a big role in this.>
Thanks for the help.
Re: Comments about Distilled Water? (RMF, you might want to comment on your comments here)<<RMF>>   10/6/10

Thanks for responding and clarifying Neale and Bob. :)
<Glad to help.>
I can definitely agree on the cost issue for those that do not have their own home distiller. Paying 30 cents or more per gallon at a store is far from economical.
I currently have 2 distillers running in my home capable of producing 30 gallons per day. They only cost around $25 per month to run on average,
<<?! Incredibly cheap. Back in my H.S. teaching days we had one that ran on resistant heat... to boil the water into vapor... I can only imagine what it costs to run nowadays>>
so the cost is much better than going to a grocery store for RO or Distilled water. The bigger the distiller, the more economical they are to run as well usually. A 1 Gallon per day unit usually costs a bit more to run than a 10 gallon per day unit. I've seen some Distillers capable of producing 600+ gallons per day and they can do it for less than 3 cents per gallon.
<<Not in S. Cal.>>
 Granted the initial cost of the Distiller units is very steep, but over the long run they do usually pay for themselves.
<Fair enough.>
For using only Distilled, I haven't really noticed PH swings or anything after water changes. I usually change 10-20% twice per week in my tanks, depending on Nitrate levels. Really as soon as the distilled water mixes with the existing water in the aquarium, it's no longer distilled. Water comes out of my distiller at a PH of 6,
<<W/ aeration, time going by, should come up to near 7>>
 but I find my tanks are usually around 7.2 before and after water changes and I don't use any buffering chemicals. The existing water in the tank has a small mineral/salt content just from fish detritus decomposing, and that effectively is a buffer of sorts I guess.
<Possibly.><<Lo dudo>>
My water tests in the tanks usually show around 80-100 ppm dH/KH.
<Degrees dH and degrees KH aren't the same thing. And if your "distilled" water contains either 80-100 mg/l CaCO3 or CaO, then it's not distilled water. Ask yourself where the general hardness and carbonate hardness are coming from. Yes, 100 mg/l CaCO3 carbonate hardness will buffer water to a certain extent, and should ensure a pH around 7.5, plus or minus a bit, much like you're seeing. But pure distilled water obviously shouldn't have any CaCO3 at all.>
<<Agreed... something is amiss here. I don't think you're using a distillation apparatus, or something is faulty w/ the unit. Am dubious that resident material (substrate, rock, decor...) is supplying this much hardness>>
As long as the tank is cycled with fish in it, and you aren't doing 90% changes weekly, there shouldn't be any real swings.
<On the contrary. There are very good reasons why pH will drop if water has a low buffering capacity. Anything less than about 80 mg/l CaCO3 is low carbonate hardness, and such water can, will experience a downwards pH drop between water changes. Do read:
In my invertebrate tanks I do add 1/2 strength Kent Iodine and Liquid Calcium though. And I have a couple planted tanks that get some plant supplements added. As I mentioned previously, I like to add my own minerals to the water so I know exactly what is in there. :)
<With a freshwater aquarium you rarely need to be so fussy. In my case, my tap water comes out as liquid rock, with very high hardness and carbonate hardness thanks to the chalk aquifer. The pH is around 8. But a 50/50 mix with rainwater produces a very useful blend suitable for almost all community fish. I don't need to worry too much about the details because the carbonate hardness is still high enough to ensure pH doesn't move much either way. Easy peasey.>
I can't agree on the Tap Water quality part. I might have a bit of conspiracy theorist in me though. ;)
If you saw the sludge I clean out of the distiller's boiling chambers every couple months you might not want to ever touch straight tap water again either. ;)
<I'm sure your drinking water is medically, demonstrably safe. Sure, if you accumulate all the detritus over a few months that'll add up to a nice big lump. But if you did the same thing with the air you breathe it'd come out as a big lump of dust and debris as well. The fact is that your body evolved to handle water far worse than anything your water supplier sends down the pipes. Given that the water you get from the tap before you distill it is perfectly drinkable, you're really just wasting energy and water in the process.>
After distilling approximately 500 gallons, I can pull out a quart of scale and sludge. It's just nasty to think that people drink that stuff and the WHO says it's "Ok".
<It's not nasty; it's science. Let me ask you, do you drive? I can bet you that driving puts your life at far more risk than anything in your water supply. The thing with human beings is we tend to obsess about trivia while ignoring the big picture. We're amazingly good at this, and advertisers rely upon. If you were given nothing to drink but your potable tap water, I can guarantee you'd live a long and happy life. Indeed, by cutting out alcohol you might even be a bit healthier!>
On a related note, most US Embassies overseas as well as many of our military bases and federal buildings also run onsite distillers.
<For different reasons. Embassies and military bases need to ensure independence from local suppliers, partly for security and partly for healthcare. If you have a base in country X and someone goes and dumps poisons in the local water, then your soldiers are at risk. Much the same if there's a natural disaster or a cholera outbreak. Distilling water removes these risks, at least on paper.>
Those that don't run RO/DI filtration instead. If tap water isn't good enough for the government, I can't really trust them when they say it's good enough for the general population.
<I don't think this is an issue at all. Governments don't state that water is safe; doctors do. Governments merely enforce standards. You may argue about things like the taste of tap water, but I don't think anyone has said that American tap water is unsafe to drink. Lots of people will sell you hardware to "purify" your tap water, but it's all nonsense as far as the medical facts go. At best, you're spending money to change the flavour of the tap water. But you won't live an extra day longer because of it.>
I can agree that for the casual fish keeper with a single 10 or 20 gallon tank, it's probably ok to use tap water with a water conditioner. Once you start getting over 100 gallons of water though, that water conditioner can start getting expensive if you are keeping up with regular water changes.
<Not at all. Simply buy concentrated pond water conditioner. Much cheaper! In fact I've done this for years and find it very economical. In any event, the energy and water costs involved with distilling water or using RO/DI are massive, and far outweigh the cost of tap water and dechlorinator.>
<<I don't use any conditioner/s at all... Merely change less percentage water, or store water for a week or so ahead of use>>
Also if you have any sort of a top off system running with tap water you can potentially be building up some harmful stuff in the tank water over the long run (i.e. Copper).
<No. Assuming you do water changes, anything added to the tank eventually gets flushed out. So the concentration of copper will remain more or less constant, depending on what the amount is in your tap water. There may be some slight uptake by calcareous rocks or whatever, but the impact is generally trivial. The idea copper builds up in the tank week over week is wrong. Each weekly water change will remove about the same amount of copper that was added the week before. Unless your tank is losing wild amounts of water through evaporation, you shouldn't really see any change in the chemical composition of the water in your tank.>
Anyway, thanks for the comments guys, I appreciate it.
<Happy to chat. Cheers, Neale.><<BobF>>

Reverse osmosis 12/2/08 Is it really necessary? <Not always, rarely a deal-breaker.> Or could you just use a filter that dechlorinates? <You will want to test your tap water for other compounds we try to keep to a minimum in our tanks. Nitrate, Phosphate and the such. If your water is fine other than chlorine/chloramine, read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/treath2o.htm. Scott V.>

Diatoms And RO Units 11/17/07 Hoping you guys might be able to help me out with a few things. <<Lets see what I can do>> For starters, here's some info on my tank. Equipment: 155 gallon bow front 180 lbs of live rock (approx) 1-1.5" sand bed <<Mmmthis is in that no mans land re the depth, in my opinion. Would be better to reduce this by about halfor increase four-fold or so, depending on grain size>> 300 gal wet/dry MagDrive 12 for return, split to both back corners Corallife Super Skimmer 125 Corallife Aqualight Pro HQI (3x150w) Compact (4x96w) Lunar 2 Penguin 550 Powerheads (with plans to add additional) Inhabitants: 1 yellow tang 1 sand sifting goby 1 black/white striped damsel 1 blue/green Chromis 1 yellow tail (blue) damsel 3 yellow-bellied (blue) damsels 1 urchin 1 (clump) green zoo's A few hermits 1 snail (maybe more but I never see but 1) Reading through other questions, it is sounding like I have a fairly large diatom algae problem. <<Oh?>> I don't know conclusively what the cause is however I'm guessing on a few major areas <<Your source waterlikely>> 1) Though I plan on getting an RO unit, I do not currently have one. What makes this a really huge issue in my case is that I am not on city water (good since there is no chlorine) but on well water (lots and lots of silicates from what I gather). <<Ah, yesand possibly other undesirable elements (heavy metals, contamination from pesticides/fertilizers)>> Looking through suggestions you've given to others, getting an RO unit sounds like my first step. <<Agreedand preferably one that utilizes a Deionization-Resin cartridge as well. The DI resin doesnt help with the Silicates (non-ionic); thats up to your RO membrane to handle, but it does do a great job of polishing the water/removing any traces of ionic elements missed by the membrane>> I'm a fan of Corallife, for whatever reason, as you can probably see from my info. <<Yes>> I'm looking into maybe the Corallife Pure-Flo II 50 gpd 4-stage unit. I need something that will remove a lot of heavy metals and organics. Is this a good choice for my situation? <<It looks like it should do fine>> Is there something different you would suggest? <<These units are basically all the same (components will interchange/many are the same between the different brands [re-brands]), even those sold at your local Lowes/HD. If youre a little bit handy, you could purchase a basic unit from the local home store and add to it with components off the Net to get what you need and probably save a few bucks. Otherwise, any manufactured unit that incorporates sediment and carbon pre-filters and a DI resin post-filter will do finesuch as the Corallife unit you have indicated>> 2) I would like to get a really good clean-up crew as well. Specifically looking into Cerith, Nerites, and Astrea snails and they are listed as being good for diatom algae. Are these all good choices and are there others that you would suggest? <<The Cerith snails are the best choice herebut controlling the dinoflagellates is more a function of filtering your source water, ensuring strong/vigorous water flow in the display, maintaining pH in the 8.4-8.6 range, andemploying a quality skimmer>> 3) I've read that both Mangrove and Caulerpa absorb a great deal of phosphates and in return, reduce it in the tank. <<The macroalgae is much more efficient than the Mangrove (grows much faster/utilizes elements at a much greater rate)and I recommend Chaetomorpha over Caulerpa for its user friendliness>> 4) Do you agree with this . . . and would it be wise to consider adding this to the tank (it would be directly to the tank as I do not have a refugium)? <<I do agree, as just outlinedbut this is best added as part of a dedicated refugium for best efficiency. But either way, I strongly suggest you DO NOT add any Caulerpa species directly to your display tank as this macroalgae is quite invasive with the potential to overtake everythingand can be very difficult to eradicate>> And lastly, I'm not certain but I may also have some green hair algae starting. Will all the above keep this in check as well? <<It may, if the source water is the problem here as wellelse, you will need to determine the source of the hair algae and address that too>> Any help you can provide would be most appreciated. Thanks <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

TDS And Efficacy Of RO Unit 10/05/07 Hello crew, <<Hello Steve>> I have recently been using my R.O. water as drinking water as well for my aquariums. (not sure I like it, tastes like Volvic , lol) <<Ha! Yes...and may well be the same (if you believe the rumors about bottled spring water)>> I understand the TDS is a measurement of a mixture of hardness, minerals, metals and chemicals. <<Both organic and inorganic substances, agreed...at the molecular/ionic level>> I now realize that the very high TDS reading we have in our kitchen (not R.O. but a very high quality mains attached filter) gives a high TDS because although it removes the 'nasties', the mineral content is high, nothing wrong with that with the exception of the Phosphates and Nitrates. <<Mmm, yes...a high TDS reading doesnt mean the water is bad necessarily, only that it does contain something. Though as marine aquarists, it is that unknown factor we have to deal with/tend to eliminate through the use of a quality freshwater filtration system>> In fact if it weren't for that I'd use it, not needing the R.O. (We use a 50 gallon R.O. unit by the name of R.O. man). My TDS reading on the R.O. water (installed in middle August this year) was 0 (perfect) for a few weeks, then it began to rise up to around 7, which I am assuming is still very good. <<A Reverse Osmosis membrane is generally considered okay if it is reducing the raw TDS by a factor of ten. In other words, if your input TDS is 700ppm and the RO unit is producing at 70ppm or less then it should be fine (though reef hobbyists are likely to reduce this even further through the use of deionization). A very high input TDS/mineral content can shorten the life of a membrane...installing and utilizing a membrane flush kit can extend this>> I have been in contact with 'R.O mans' helpdesk and I am not certain whether their advice to change the de-ionization unit is necessary since in the literature it quite clearly states that the filters need changing either every 1000 gallons or every 6 months, which ever is sooner. <<This is likely a generalization and is affected by the quality/condition of the source water. But, if your output from the DI cartridge is higher than 1-2 ppm then yes, it probably needs replacement. A measurement of the source water, a measurement of the effluent from the RO filter before DI, and a measurement of the effluent after DI would be helpful here>> To make it even more confusing one of the staff at our LFS (where we bought the unit) says that we shouldn't need to replace anything for around 18months to 2 years. <<Im doubtful>> I've roughly worked out that on my tanks, doing a weekly 25% change minimum = less than 1000 gallons per year. <<But as stated...it is your source water that will determine the life of these filtration components...which may be well less than that stated in the marketing literature for the unit>> Anyway, I now realize that where I live the water is quite hard, asking too much for the R.O. unit capability to lower the pH to ideally an acidic level. Instead when I test the water it reads around 7.4 -7.6 <<Hmm...after deionization, I would expect this to be closer to neutral (7.0)>> I'm sorry its a lot of information but any comments always helpful and I have learned a lot in the past year or so with the help of this service and your website. Warm wishes and kind regards, Steve <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

Nitrates on tap!  3/6/07 Hi Bob,     I have a concern with doing water changes in my  aquarium with mixed saltwater using my tap here at home. I did a Nitrate test on  my tap water, just out of curiosity, and it came out to over 100! <Mmm... doubtful... 100 ppm? Not safe for you to ingest...> That can't be  good for the animals in my aquarium. The water in the tank is cleaner than the  tap! I am considering getting an RO filter, but would that solve the Nitrate  problem? Any suggestions? Thanks, Brian <... learn to/use the indices, search tool... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above... I'd "check the checker" here... your test-kit... Look into RO for you and your livestocks uses. Bob Fenner>

Tap Water and Phosphate  - 02/22/07 Hopefully a quick question.  Can I still have 'problematic' tap water if I am showing an untraceable amount of phosphate in my tap water?   <Yep.> My reef tank is still getting signs of Cyano on the sandbed after 5yrs.  I've tried Chaeto (which is still growing strong ~ despite my last email.... It's still healthy... I figured rotting Chaeto might be supporting the Cyano... but it was just dirty Chaeto that I rinsed in saltwater), water flow is 16x/hr, I underfeed my critters.  I have all kinds of good algae's growing.... But the sand consistently turns a goopy burgundy.   <Nasty!> It must be my water then? <Could be.> Yet I can't get any signs of phosphate from a Salifert test.   <Currently all being used to feed your beautiful Cyano!> I think the last resort is an RO unit? <Or a supply of DI/RO water.  LFS or some local supersaver centers, think Wally world here, sell RO water.  A pain to haul around large quantities of water, but could be a quick fix.  Experiment to see if a large water change with RO water shows any improvement.> On a different note...   ever been diving in Roatan?   <Nope, not yet.  Hopefully some time soon!> If so, how was your experience?  I'm hoping to be able to dive with some whale sharks, grey reefers, maybe even a bull or Mako. <I'm more into the small, colorful, fish myself.  But was quite awed hearing the song of the humpback whale while in Hawaii.  Seeing them breach in the distance was pretty sweet too!> Regards, Dave Brynlund <Cheers, -Mich>

Re: Tap Water and Phosphate   2/23/07 Thanks for the response Mich! <You're welcome Dave!> So basically, tryout some bought DI/RO water in a few water changes... And if it's working, then invest in a unit.   <Yep!> Never woulda thought to buy the water first.   <Sometimes it's the obvious that isn't so obvious.> Thanks! <Welcome!> Re: Diving... Yes, the small critters are certainly cool to look at... <And take pictures of!> But some of these big fish will certainly get the blood pumping. <Are we an Adrenaline junkie?> It's an interesting experience. <Mmm, interesting wasn't the first word that came to my mind!  Hehe!  Better you than me my friend!  -Mich> Dave RO/DI water...   11/8/06 My pure water coming from my DI reads 0 ppm on my TDS meter.  I have a new 32 gallon garbage can in my basement that I am putting the water into and pumping it up into my sump, then into my tank (Brand new system, 125 gallon reef ready). The tank is directly above my water in the basement. It still reads 0 in the garbage can, but when it gets into my sump and then to my tank it reads 115 ppm. <...?>   I have all new plumbing (pvc), and has sat done for over 2 weeks, all shavings were cleaned out.  Why would my ppm be 115 <... a lot of dust in the air?> when it is pumped up into my sump, and is there any way I can get it back down. <Run it back through...>   Is that a really high #. <Nope>   I have 2 AquaClear powerheads circulating the water now.   Also when I add salt to the water will that effect the ppm at all. Thanks Aaron <Yes... adding any solid that will go into solution will increase TDS... Bob Fenner>

What would you do?  An experienced point of view needed please. When in doubt, your own R.O.   8/23/06 Hello crew, Need help here as soon I will be using my current 84 gallon tank as a quarantine and graduating to a 480 litre (English measurements) tank as my main one. I have been using R.O water on my smaller tank and of course everything has much improved especially my phosphate and nitrate and no doubt my fishes health too. I would like to use the R.O water on my soon to be new tank but financially it would appear that it may be more costly than I first realize. <Mmmm> I understand that with larger systems the nitrates etc tend to rise slower therefore sometimes requiring less frequent water changes, <Mmm, depends on what's in them... how much... what fed... what filter gear employed... mostly> perhaps once per two weeks or even once only per month in some cases? <Yes> I may end up buying an R.O unit, <I definitely would here> my LFS are hoping to strike a deal with someone where the units will drop from about 100 - 150 to about 50 - 90 £. <Look to the large hardware, "home" stores here... there is nothing "exceptional" re the "fish store" units and the ones meant for home/potable use> This, though, will be a few months away. Attached to the mains drinking water I have a very high quality ceramic filter. Perhaps as it was quite satisfactory for my small tank it will therefore be even a little more acceptable for my larger tank when it arrives? <... Worth having the resultant water quality checked... I would get/use my own R.O. unit if there were any prominent issues with your/my source water... for pet-fish and my cooking and drinking needs. Bob Fenner> Kind regards team. Steve. RO Water  - 09/14/06 Hi Crew, <Mr. C> I have a couple questions about RO water. For a simple fish and  invertebrate system, with a couple of hardy corals, is RO water really  necessary? <Mmm, nope... depends on what your source water is, what otherwise you want to do...> I feel it might help out a bit. For again, a simple fish and  invertebrate system, would 3 stage RO be fine, or do you NEED the 4th stage,  deionization? <No> Would my system survive if the 4th stage is not provided, and well  water is used? <Very likely so> I talked to a fellow hobbyist and he said he believes using well  water with a RO system would be better than city water because it doesn't  contain all of the chloramines and such. Is this true? <Unless one is adding chloramine...> Doesn't well water have  more minerals though? <Not all... too many vague generalities here... There are tapwater's that are quite mineral laden, and relatively soft wells> Also, what brand of RO filters would you suggest for  someone who has a fairly small (36 gallons) system? Thanks a ton! <A cheapy Home Depot or equivalent unit. Bob Fenner>

Water Softeners Hello!  I love this site (so much information!) but I can't seem to find the answer to my question. Exactly WHY are water softeners (the kind that uses salt exchange) not recommended for freshwater tanks? I have a friend who I have tried to warn against this but she won't accept just "it accumulates chloride ions"....and sometimes I wonder too....(here's the dummy part....we are talking about salt right?) because if you're using the water for water changes, you would be removing as much as you are putting in, right? Not good I'm sure for top offs, but otherwise wouldn't the levels stay the same? And if this is true, then the salt level in your tank couldn't be that high could it? Around the same level as people who use the teaspoon of salt per gallon thing?  Thanks for taking the time to explain this!! Barbara  < Ok here goes. The resin in water softeners uses the sodium (Na+) ions in the salt (NaCl) to exchange with the Calcium ions (Ca++) in the water. So now you water is not as hard but now it has lots of sodium which is not good for fish. To truly soften water you do need to remove the calcium and magnesium ions with a reverse osmosis unit that removes the hard water ions by forcing the water through a membrane that only allows the water molecules through and leaves the others behind. Another method would be deionization. The water runs through a two types of resins that attracts both the positively charged and negatively charged ions leaving essentially neutral water. Distilled water uses evaporation to leave the ions behind while it condenses into pure water. If you just added tap water all the time without doing water changes then the minerals in the water would accumulate and become higher than the water source, unless they were utilized by plants. This is an over simplification but this is how it works.-Chuck>

Need RO Unit?  Bob Fenner,  <Stephanie>  I have a quandary that I'm hoping you can help with. I cant seem to get a straight answer on whether or not I need to consider an RO Unit for my tap water. I'm keeping mostly Clown Loaches (about ten 4" guys and one 9" - 10" guy) and 1 relatively large (about a foot long) Arowana in a 135 gallon tank. (As an aside, My husband is toying with the idea of starting a discus tank, not that our tap water is conducive to discus at all. But that's not my current problem). The clown loaches I've read can be very sensitive to water quality. So I finally was able to get a hold of a consumer confidence report from my local water company. The measurements I am going to rattle off here are the highest levels found:  PH 9.3 <Yeeikes>  Nitrate 4.23ppm <Yowzah, out of the tap?>  Nitrite .02ppm  Hardness (as CaCo3) 246ppm  Sodium 59ppm  Sulphate 23ppm  TDS 384ppm  Aluminum 1024ppb  Chloride 139ppm  Arsenic 1.2ppb  Barium .13ppm  Copper .09 ppm  Lead 10.7ppb  <Umm, you are indeed a candidate>  I've also attached a copy of the water report, in case I'm not reading this properly. But after looking at those numbers... (if I'm reading it correctly) I'm really feeling like I should be getting my butt out to the local Home Depot and getting an RO unit for my fish. But all the LFS keep telling me its an unnecessary expense for a freshwater tank. Can you please give me your opinion, it would be greatly appreciated!!  <If it were me, my source water I would at least "blend" some treated water (and likely reverse osmosis would be the technology employed)... and mix, circulate the new water a good week before using (in a dedicated plastic trash can...), AND I would utilize the RO water source for my drinking, cooking uses. Bob Fenner, whose wife's family are from northern NJ and have great potable water>  <<NJersey Water Report.pdf>>  Thanks,  Stephanie Koll

Tap water quality improvement Hi Robert, great article on water quality.  I'm just getting back into marine aquaria again and have a question regarding water. As usual, water here in Victoria B.C. Canada is chlorinated, no surprise here !  Would a 3 or 4 stage reverse osmosis system solve problems with chlorine and other crap for a marine fish tank water changes ? < An RO unit removes almost all the minerals from water including chlorine. It is so pure that you would have to add everything to make it a complete saltwater mix.-Chuck, Sorry, Bob was unavailable to answer your question.> 

Abbreviations (6/20/04) Awesome, thanks for the advice, I plan to use it. <You're welcome.> Sorry for the stupid question, but what does RO, and DI mean? <Not stupid at all.> I'm sure it'll be obvious once I get the answer, but I saw on the website and message below, but have never heard before. <RO=Reverse Osmosis add DI=De-ionized; The DI is a further step after RO or a method by itself that leaves the water even more pure than RO. Using strictly DI wastes no water, while RO wastes 4 gallons or more of water for every gallon of purified water produced, depending on how bad the water is to start with. Much more info on WWM water FAQs. Steve Allen.>

- RO vs. DI - Hi, hope all is going well there.  Please clarify something for me.  I had planned on getting a Kent's "bare bones" R/O unit, but recently read that if water is only R/O treated and not R/O AND D/I it can still cause problems in the aquarium. <Is this specifically related to silicates? If so, the presence of these is often overrated and blamed for Cyanobacteria outbreak. Problem algae can be avoided by means other than source water, especially if the silicates are reasonable.> Please let me know what you think. <Really depends on the quality of your source water. RO/DI will leave your water stripped and demineralized and then the water will need supplementation to make it suitable for saltwater - for instance adding buffers. If and unless your tap water is complete junk, RO usually does the trick.> thanks, James <Cheers, J -- >

- Bare Bones RO - Hi, I have a 75 gallon F/O tank.  I am considering buying one of the Kent Marine Bare Bones R/O units.  Please tell me if you know anything about them. <Yes, I know a thing or two about them... was there a specific question?> Also, I have never owned any kind of R/O unit.  Are they hard to assembly and/or use? <Should come out of the box ready to use.> thanks, James <Cheers, J -- > - Bare Bones RO, Follow-up - could you tell me if they are a good quality product? <For the most part, the majority of RO membranes are created equal. You will get good performance from this unit. Cheers, J -- >

- Bare Bones RO, More Follow-up - I have read that if water is only purified through a R/O unit and not a R/O / DI unit, that the water can still contain impurities. <Is one way to look at it.> Please explain. <Please read here: http://urila.tripod.com/ and here: http://chemistry.about.com/library/glossary/bldef52900.htm > I also would like to know the difference between R/O and D/I. <Read up. Cheers, J -- >

Do I Really Need an RO/DI Unit? Hello.  I am new to saltwater but have had freshwater tanks for around 5 years now.  I have found that my tap water is just not cut out for saltwater in that my tanks  (72 gallon and 18 gallon) turned pea green literally overnight within a week and a half of each other.  I have tested the water with ammonia, nitrate and nitrite all at zero.  My pH is 8.3, salinity is 1.023.  In researching your site, I found only one post that referenced something called an Omnifilter and it was made in passing.  I have purchased an Omnifilter system and the filter cartridges that I am have are a string wound whole house filter that is rated at 5 microns (first in line) and a carbon filter that has a rating of 2 microns (second).  I am wondering if filtering my tap water through this system will take care of getting rid of the chlorine and chloramine for use in my tanks without the use of a dechlorinator. << I'm not sure, but to me, using carbon is good enough for chlorine and chloramine removal.  Also, if you let the water sit out after the filtering for 24 hours, you should be fine. >>  My thought was to try to reduce the amount of silicates that are in my tap water and increase the quality without going to a full blown RO/DI unit. << I think that is a good move.  Obviously RO/DI is a great way if you can afford it.  Keep in mind many many many people have great looking tanks with tap water.  However, they also have great filtration and lots of corals. >> Michelle Peralta <<  Blundell  >>

Confused About Water Hi Crew, Thanks for the work that it takes to maintain such a great site. I am only asking a question because I'm still confused over the water used in water changes. I have a 46 gallon reef tank with only soft corals (mushrooms, xenia, leathers). Before I had any coral in the tank, I used tap water to do my usual 6 or 7 gallon change every two weeks. I try to get 25% changed per month. However, since adding coral to the tank, I now purchase RO/DI water from my LFS, which is a pain. I mix the water with salt in two 5 gallon buckets and add it slowly to my sump. This was fine, but recently another area LFS told me that somehow RO/DI water becomes ¡°unstable¡± after a certain time and that city tap water (properly buffered and dechlorinated) is a better approach. I have no idea what ¡°unstable¡± means. <Me neither... maybe ask for some specifics from whoever is stating this?> Another friend who maintains systems around my area had the city tap water tested twice with no copper or phosphates. He personally keeps a similar size and type reef tank, and does so very nicely. Despite all this, your site suggests RO/DI units for reef tanks, but maybe only the larger systems? <Mmm, to be more accurate, RO/DI is suggested for localities with suspect source water... that is laden with nutrients, possible toxicants as you state above... Many places the tap water is fine... pre-mixed and stored, aerated and heated for days... a week or two ahead of use. You may well be in this category> Some responses state that water you can drink may be fine for a marine system. <Yes> Is tap water without copper and phosphates, yet buffered and dechlorinated suitable for a reef system? <Likely yes> Are there some trance minerals in tap water harmful over time if allowed to build-up? <Almost never... these minerals are "traded out", diluted along with all else during water changes> What am I missing in this water change process? <Mmm, doesn't appear much> And given all the information from all these sources, how should I care for my corals and fish? Thanks for your time! -Mike <Sounds like you're doing fine Mike. Most important element in your success is an open, curious, discerning mind... You seem to have this. Bob Fenner>

Aquascaping / Pump / RO-DI / Rock 7/21/05 Real quick (depending on your perspective), a few unrelated questions in relation to planning a step-up from a 20 gal. to a 90 gal. w/ sump) 1.  Is it a bad idea to stack rock directly on the sand bed (obviously, having the typical uncovered bed area in the tank front) in terms of structural integrity (since the bed slowly dissolves, etc.), or would it generally be more advisable to either have the rock  placed on the bottom with sand filled in thereafter around the rock (which I did on my 20 gal., but that seems to require far more rock to obtain nice elevation) or have the rock basically supported independent of the sand via a pvc structure (with the first stackable portion of the pvc support layer being maybe an inch or so under your sand top)? <Best to not set directly on substrates, but either on the bottom or other structure that is stably resting on same> Am I making too much of the dissolution of the sand in relation to the integrity of the overall rock structure? <No, not IMO... have seen some real trouble from the effect of this dissolving... is more of an issue than most all aquarists realize... A bunch of carbonaceous material does go into solution... and differentially... That is to say/warn, that folks ought to add to theirs, perhaps take some out and replace after a year, then every half year or so going forward> 2.  For an external return pump from a sump (let's say, for the sake of argument, an Iwaki or PanWorld), is it ok to have the pump sit parallel to the sump as opposed to perpendicular?  By parallel, I mean the pump is connected to the sump with completely straight plumbing directly into the pump, whereas by perpendicular I mean having a short piece of pipe exit the sump, hit a 45 degree angle and then hit the pump (you probably gathered this without my elaboration on "parallel and perpendicular";)). I would like the to do the later for space saving purposes.  I'm guessing that one turn won't cause much grief in terms of flow to the pump intake, particularly if the sump output is a 1 inch hole graduated down to the pumps intake of 3/4 inch.  Thoughts? <Not a big deal either way... of course, given there is no reduction in fitting, plumbing on the intake side> 3.  In general, and in terms of say "typical" city water (realizing "typical" is a loose, indefinable term), will I gain much benefit from using an RO/DI unit vs. simply an RO unit? <Most source waters, no>   Maybe I'm wrong, but long term it seems as though an RO or RO/DI unit will be more economical than a DI unit alone (such as the Kati/Ani unit (unless you try to reconstitute the filter media, which sounds like a major pain in the rear), a Tap Water Purifier (I've used this on my 20 gallon since the tank requires modest water changes and top-off).   <You are absolutely correct here. Reverse osmosis is the cheapest, easiest means> I think I read in the FAQs by Steve Pro or someone that the small Kati/Ani unit that sells for about $139 can knock out about 200 gallons of purified water (high cost per gallon), and my little Tap Water Purifier can knock out about 30-35 gallons at somewhere around $13 to $15 dollars a filter.  Under those scenarios, and absent trying to renew the media, the little old Tap Water Purifier is more economical than the Kati/Ani unit.  Anyway, I digress.  Do you feel an RO or RO/DI unit will long term be more economical, all things considered, than just using DI units? <RO> How do you feel about the current line of RO/DI units by Kent and Spectrapure? <These are fine... know that they're actually not "made" by these companies...> Lastly, for a 90 gallon tank, what minimum flow rate for such a unit (i.e., RO) would you advise? 30gpd?  60gpd? 90gpd? <Even five, ten gpd will do... given storage of the water... I have a small unit for my pet-fish use> I know that the higher the flow the harder your DI at the end will work as more will make it though the RO, but it seems like a 30 gpd unit will be painfully slow in producing water, particularly if you don't have it plumbed into an auto top off / reservoir fill-up scheme (i.e., just brewing water as you go).  I mean, if a 30gpd unit is really about 24gpd, that's obviously a gallon an hour.  How slow is that?!? <Mmm, not very... really... the oceans were made more slowly...> My little DI unit can spit out up to 10 gallons an hour.... 4.  Lastly, my 20 gal. has some rock in it which has been the subject of a hair algae battle from time to time.  Would it be a mistake to introduce that rock into any part of a new system, even if in the sump or refugium?  Under what circumstances might you make use of this rock, if at all, in a new system?      Thanks for your time. <I wouldn't be dissuaded from using this rock... the "local" conditions... light, predators, competitors, water quality... dictate the life, demise of the algae... Bob Fenner> High Mineral Content High mineral content in my tap water.  What is the best thing for me to do to remove it?  I have tried a phosphate sponge, but there are no real directions and I don't know if I am using too much, too little....<I would not use the phosphate sponge. It has never worked for me. My advice is to buy RO (reverse osmosis) water. Or if you want to save a lot of money purchase an RO unit yourself.> I started this because I have TONS of red algae in the tank... it's still not gone.   I am afraid of doing anything too drastic because I don't want to shock the fish.<agreed, I would not use your tap water any longer.>  Can you please help. <Do read more about RO water on our site or search Google. IanB>

Silicate Situation... Hi Purified-H2O Guru: <Well, I consider myself more of a high silicate source water victim! LOL...Scott F. at the keyboard tonight!> I really don't want to RO my tap water as it is pristine, above 8.0 straight out of the tap, and full of hardness (good for marine tanks, bad for everything else.) <No discus for you...> No copper, lead, iron or other nasties ... even chlorine is so low it's almost usable without Amquel-nuking. But, silicates are around 70 ppm...which may or may not be fueling diatom blooms in my tank. <Yep- they are! I know whereof I speak on that one!> I have 2 questions : a.) Isn't natural sea water around 2000 ppm of silicates (or of silicon specifically), and therefore adding 70ppm is only increasing this load by about 3.5% ? <Mathematically correct...But in a closed system- silicates from source water can spell a nasty diatom plague...RO/DI is the way to go, my friend....Preferably, a unit with an extra silicate membrane...> b.) Is there a product that will remove just silicates and leave everything else alone? <Well, there are silicate "removing" products and resins, but they are both expensive to use on a continuous basis, and unreliable. Really a better move to go RO/DI with a good unit, like a Kent Marine "Hi S" model, or a SpectraPure 5 stage unit...Initial investment is high, but they pay for themselves down the line in terms of media replacements and frustration! Good luck! Regards, Scott F> Thanks, SLC

Misguided Advice on How to Use RO Water - 8/10/03 Hi All, Hope all's well, <with hope for you in kind> I wondered if you would mind answering a few questions for me, I have spent the last hour reading FAQ's and am getting a little frazzled! I have a 36"x12"15" reef tank, set up at the end of last summer, lightly stocked, lots of live rock.  Stats:0 Ammonia, 5 Nitrate, 0 Nitrite. Canister filter, Berlin Skimmer, well aerated, lots of current. <if this is a reef tank... do allow a small amount of nitrates to linger else the corals will starve and/or have poor color. Seek up to 5ppm on your test kit (nitrate-nitrogen).> I have been having a few problems, namely pH fluctuating from 7.83  to 8.31 during the course of the day. <Yiiiiiiikes!!!!!!!!!!> (Big mistake buying a digi meter!) Alkalinity is 12 DKH, Calcium 380. As well as we have been having a bit of a heat wave over here and the tank temp has also been moving 4-5 degrees over the day!!. <ughhh!> (Too small tank that is the result of not doing enough research and listening to the guy in my local fish store) <understood> I tried to rectify the pH swings apart from making no difference I managed to raise the alkalinity up to about 25+..! .brains!!..have none!! <staggering <G>> Needless to say my corals are not looking healthy. <glad to hear some are still living <G>> Mushroom coral shriveled, Mushroom Anemone very closed . Xenia closed, Pulse Xenia, ..not pulsing and looking decidedly grey!. Fish seem fine!! phew! After a few major water changes, things seem to be settling down although I fear might lose some corals. <you are on the right track... large water changes to bring you back to par> Anyway now for the good news!!  After finally realizing I will never have a stable 3ft tank I have purchased today a 48"x12"15 tank and am in the process of setting it up and trying to remember all the things I should of done when I first set my tank up last year! I have had the tank drilled I plan to use the three foot as a sump, with maybe an overflow type filter system, in combination with the canister filter,, not too sure yet. Hopefully at the end of it I will have a more stable system! , fingers crossed. (any suggestions ) <hmmm... the larger tank is nice, but it really is not so much bigger as to correct your water chemistry problems... that is a matter of husbandry> Anyway the question really is your opinion on the pH fluctuating. I do 10% water changes weekly...using RO <hmmm... hoping the RO water is first heavily aerated (24+ hours to raise the pH and drive off carbonic acid/CO2) then re-mineralized (buffered) and mixed (12+ hours) and only then considered for use as evap top-off or salted for seawater). Else you have a source of your pH instability (weakly buffered source water)> I am in two minds whether to continue using it. My LFS has their pH at 7.8 using RO and there corals seem fine, perhaps larger more stable system?. <7.8 is irresponsible IMO for reef inverts. Seek a proper 8.3-8.6 soundly.> However I went to another LFS store and they have the most stunning reef tank, around 6 foot, by 3 by 5, and they use ordinary dechlorinated tap water? I could not believe it. <not surprising... the matter is not RO vs. tap water... it is simply about using stable and quality source water. For some folks, that is right from the tap... for others the reconstituted RO water is necessary> All they have is a large skimmer and a trickle filter Am I missing something here , I fear I am. <the trickle is no help (unless there is a huge fish load) and in most cases is a harm (excess nitrate contributions). One or two good skimmers on the tank is crucial for most systems though IMO> I have also been told that continually using RO water, could lead to a collapse in the pH?, <you are being advised by folks that have no concept of the dynamics of water chemistry. Properly handled RO or DI water (back to aerated, buffered and measured before use) is a tremendous boon to reef-keeping. It offers very stable and consistent source water (of known comp).. unlike the best tap water which fluctuates seasonally if not weekly> and that I really should use 2/3 RO and 1/3 tap water, what is your opinion? <get better local advice <VBG>. Ha!> Anyway sorry for the waffle I am sure I will have some more questions for you buy the end of the weekend! <really no worries at all. You will do fine being so inquisitive... keep reading/learning my friend> Cheers for you help Rob. UK <with kind regards, Anthony>

RO/DI Unit Hello WWM crew! A couple of questions; I'll try and make them as quick as possible. 1.) My tank has had some down time. I was having a terrible time with hair algae and got fed up with it and just left the tank alone for almost 4 months now. I didn't have an RO/DI unit and I think that my source water was the culprit. Now that I am making a little more money and have the means to get the right equipment I will be purchasing a Spectrapure 2000 65gpd unit soon. I've done no water changes during the down time and the tank looks like crap! I am planning to clean the algae off the glass and take the rocks out, scrub them off as best I can and add more substrate.  <sounds like a plan>  ( I only have about an inch and a half avg. depth ). I'll put the rocks back in and rearrange them. When I do this I want to make a large water change. <ok> Can I use distilled water as a substitute until I get the RO/DI unit and then do another large water change?  <you could but I would just use regular tap water with some dechlorinator added to it>  Should I just wait and use RO/DI?  <I would just use tap water for now until you get this>  Do you think that the algae will begin to die off after I replace most of the tank water with RO/DI water?  <depends... on how much you feed your fish and the dissolved organics in the aquarium> 2.) I need to upgrade my circulation system as well. I plan to buy a pre-made sump and use an Ampmaster 3000 as my main circulation. I think that I can plumb this pump into numerous returns and still have adequate water flow. If not I'll get the 3500. I do not have a drilled tank. I was thinking of getting 2 CPR 1600gph overflows to feed the sump. What are your opinions on this idea. Any other suggestions besides having the tank drilled ( that's really not a feasible option )?  <I would get the two CPR 1600 GPH pumps> I hope that I did not confuse you on the first topic! Hope to hear from you soon. I will definitely have more questions for you as I am planning to renovate the majority of my system.  <I look forward to it> Thank you,  Stephen Baker  <you're welcome, IanB>

RO water? 11/4/03  I have a 75 gal with a DIY 20 gal Eco-system sump/fuge. This is a brand new system and I am getting ready to fill'er up but with what type of H2O?  <Deionized is best. And with any purified water, be sure to aerate and buffer for a couple of days in advance>  I have city water that is sediment filtered (not sure to what micron size) then it passes thru a water softener and thru a charcoal filter to remove chlorine. Is this water safe to mix with a synthetic salt or should I make a investment and buy from the marine LFS pre-mixed RO saltwater at about $1.00 a gal , or purchase a r/o unit?  <I'd recommend a 2-column deionizer instead like "Kati/Ani columns".>  My softener is essentially a deionizer.  <not correct my friend... you have an ion exchanger... not a deionizer. Two very different things. Using salts to soften water makes poor quality water for aquatic life for the imbalance in exchanged ions>  Would this water be ok to use?  <nope... better to actually take your chances with tap water>  I currently use potassium in my softener instead of salt, could this be a problem.  <yes>  I wouldn't think so since the softener just uses the potassium or salt brine to recharge the resin bed with negatively charged ions.  <and leaves residual chlorides that accumulate and skew the alkalinity pool/water quality. I have seen tanks crash in time (less than 18 months) because of this> Kevin Velleca  <best of luck. Anthony> 

Water Softener 1/4/04 Hi guys, Hope you had a great new year <Hi Chris.  Adam here.  Same to you!> I live outside of the city and am on town water...all water that comes into the house is filtered through a water softener What should I be doing if anything to compensate for this when completing the water changes on my 110 salt FO system What I have been doing in the past, is turning off the water softener and letting the tap run for a while in an effort to get the softened water out of the system... Should I continue this practice in effect working to get the hardest water possible or should I just allow the softened water to enter the tank... Let me know <Water softeners work on ion exchange.  The ions in your city water that are responsible for the hardness (Ca++, Mg++, CO3-) and for scale production are exchanged in the softener for Na+ and Cl-. Over a long period of time, this could cause a slight imbalance in your tank water (more from top-off than water changes).  Regular partial water changes should help minimize this effect.  Adding an R/O unit to filter the already softened water is the ideal solution.  It will remove most of the NaCl, and the softened water is very gentle on RO membranes. If an RO unit is not an option, I would probably use unsoftened tap water filtered through a carbon block/sediment filter.  If you choose this option, please do get a water analysis from your water company to be sure that Phosphate and metal concentrations are acceptable.> thx Chris <Our pleasure!  Adam>

- RO Questions - Hi Bob, <Actually, it's JasonC today.> Hope you're doing well.  Can't help it, gotta say it again. Great Site! Many of us are in your debt, I'm sure.  I have a few questions if I may. First the vital stats:  Setting up and will/do have  75 G, will be reef setup aiming for corals, a few fish (2 or 3 is fine with me, as I like corals equally as much if not more).  Haven't quite decided on models, but will use a wet/dry sump, probably removing bio-balls at some point, 75-100 live rock, and good skimmer. <If your plan is to build a reef tank, how about starting the system with the bio balls out...> I have NO plans to skimp on quality and will decide what I need first, and worry about price later.  I'm in no rush with all this.  I'm having a lot of fun planning and reading. <Good.> 1.  Where is the article for the "Reverse Osmosis Water Purification"?  The link seems to show a blank page. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/h2opurifiers.htm <It's a reminder for those of us that work here that the article needs to be written. Perhaps you will do that for us??? Might I offer a link [with an article] that might help on the subject: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm ><<It's 9/30/06 and still isn't done... sigh. RMF>> 2. I know I need some sort of RO as two friends in my area swear that it was the only way they could keep marine life (bad water here apparently). I will take their advice of course, but I'm a bit confused.  What is the difference between DI and RO?  From the FAQ, it seems to me that in the end, they accomplish same thing, one just does it cheaper than the other. Am I right?  Also, there seems to be some dissension with the folks on your site as which is better, DI or RO.  Is it really just a matter of preference as far as overall water quality is concerned? <Hmm... you are pretty much right on most counts. Typically RO systems have at least one, sometimes two pre-filters which protect the RO membrane from larger particles. What comes out at the end of the filter is very clean water. Some RO units also have a DI[onization] filter that is after the RO unit to further purify the water leaving the RO. Depending on just how bad your water is... you may find this necessary, but for most purposes RO is sufficient. Likewise, you can obtain a filter that is loaded with both resins that attract both positive and negative ions - the Tapwater Purifier is a popular brand - that can do a pretty good job, but the resins tend to exhaust themselves after a while, and the filter needs to be replaced. In the case of combined RO and RO/DI filters, the actual filters tend to last a little longer because they work as a group rather than individually.> 3.  Is the HD/Lowe's units really just as good, <Yes.> and is an RO/DI an RO/DI <Yes.>, or will the staff at these places need to know that I'm looking for one that will be appropriate for Marine Aquariums? <As far as I know, there are none of these filters specifically for Marine aquariums - they are just water filters.> 4.  I'll take your advice and mix in containers first, but for the experienced friend that volunteered to help, what should I tell him when he asks "why not mix right in the tank".  Honestly, I can't think of a reason why it would hurt. <Because it doesn't always mix so well like this... you end up stirring up the sand, etc.> Also, if I do mix in separate containers, wouldn't that mean I would need something like 3, 25 gallon containers? <Yes, although you could do it over a couple of days. I like to use the 32 gallon Rubbermaid trash cans.> Seems excessive for something I'll need once (If I'm lucky ;-) <Use Murphy's law as a guide and keep the trash cans around... you may find that you need them all one day.> Am I looking at this the wrong way? <Not really, but if money is not a concern of yours, then plan for the worst with redundancy.> Also, how long can water sit before it goes bad. <Many factors... if you keep a pump in the mix-vat circulating the water and an air stone as well, weeks, months perhaps.> I know that probably sounds like a silly question. <Not really.>  (I'm guessing it must go bad at some point)? <Without circulation and aeration, the water can go bad in a number of days if the ambient temperature is hot enough.> i.e.- How far ahead can I make it, and leave it in the container(s)? <See my answer above.> Whew!  I think that's it for now. I'm happy to say I just installed my (empty) 75 G reef ready Oceanic, with stand and canopy, and I must say, it looks beautiful already!  Imagine how nice it will look with life in it ;-) Take care, and thank ahead of time. Yours truly, Eric N. <Cheers, J -- > 

Re: RO/DI.....do I have to? OK, so the idea with RO/DI is to keep from adding potentially harmful substances to the tank, causing algae outbreaks, etc. <Right> But in a FOWLR, if I test the source water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, copper, and iron, and of course use a dechlorinator, since it is FO, couldn't that be alright?   I can't get my hands on any more RO water for a while.  Be honest......thanks.<Honestly, if parameters are in line, should be ok :) see here for more http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm Don>   Matt

RO / DI water Hi guys, <Hi Brian> >Wow, I am amazed at how much there is to this hobby, I find it very interesting, just when I think I have read enough to determine an answer to my problem, there shows up a whole other set of questions. <Join the club, Dude! You should have seen MY questions today! It gets better and better!> I have a new reef setup, 2 ½ months old and been using purified tap water (well water) for top-off and water changes. <How is it purified? A Tap Water Filter (DI?) or ?> The brown diatom algae is very discouraging and looks awful. <Oh yes, esp. at about 2 1/2 mo.s! Even with great water it can happen in new set-ups.> I have added various snails, a brittle star, a goby, extra powerheads (helped the most) and still no luck. From what I have read it is probably due to nutrients in my water. <Most assuredly so!> I have a Remora skimmer driven by a Eheim 1250 pump, so I think that is fine, I do get a lot of darkish/greenish skimmate. (55gal tank, 65lb LR, 50lbs fine sand).  I was just about to purchase a RO/DI system until I read about just DI as well as Kati & Ani (hard to find lots of info and products for this).  I already have a sediment filter on my main pipe coming into the house, it would also be very easy to add a carbon filter. <Ah, more for chlorine, taste, smell, etc. for drinking.> Do I really need a RO system?  I see that Bob only suggests RO, but Steven and others only use DI or RO/DI.  I am not sure what to do, from what I just recently read, I believe my problem is from silicates and only need DI not a whole RO/DI system.  What is the difference? Why use of RO only, if it doesnt rid of silicates? Confused again.  Thanks for any advice you can give, I need a clean tank!  Brian <No worries, test your water for these contaminants, like silicates, phosphates, nitrates, etc. then match your pre-filtration treatment to your water. RO with the right membrane removes up to 99% or so silicates, but DI removes the remaining (assuming you are using a silicate removing resin). So, for most situations, a simple RO works fine. Some of the guys don't like RO because of the water used to produce pure water (a ratio of about 3 to 1 waste to product) where DI units including the Kati/Ani systems have no waste water but require recharging of the resin media when exhausted, as do DI cartridges.  DI cartridges last quite a while when used behind an RO membrane to remove the majority of contaminants. RO is very slow, depending on the size unit, where Kati/Ani will be much faster. All of these things plus expense then come into your decision.  Hope this sets you straight!  Craig>  

- RO/DI - Hi guys, <Hello, JasonC here...> I am amazed at how much there is to this hobby, I find it very interesting, just when I think I have read enough to determine an answer to my problem, there shows up a whole other set of questions. <I find that life is this way.> I have a new reef setup, 2 ½ months old and been using purified tap water (well water) for top-off and water changes. The brown diatom algae is very discouraging and looks awful.  I have added various snails, a brittle star, a goby, extra powerheads (helped the most) and still no luck.  From what I have read it is probably due to nutrients in my water.  I have a Remora skimmer driven by a Eheim 1250 pump, so I think that is fine, I do get a lot of greenish skimmate. (55gal tank, 65lb LR, 50lbs fine sand).  I was just about to purchase a RO/DI system until I read about just DI as well as Kati & Ani (hard to find lots of info and products for this). <DI[onization] is the same as Cation and Anion removal.> I already have a sediment filter on my main pipe coming into the house, it would also be very easy to add a carbon filter.  Do I really need a RO system? <You may... you might consider having your water tested to be certain.> I see that Bob only suggests RO, but Steven and others only use DI or RO/DI. <RO gets perhaps the largest portion of... shall we say, 'bad stuff'. Personally, I own an RO/DI.> I am not sure what to do, from what I just recently read, I believe my problem is from silicates/phosphates and only need DI not a whole RO/DI system. What is the difference? <In my opinion, the DI filter at the end of the RO/DI chain just get's the stragglers... RO filtration is more than adequate.> Why waste all that water and use RO only if it doesnt rid all of silicates? <The waste water issue is a non - if you are concerned, you can save the stuff and water you garden with it or whatever you deem necessary, but if you drive your car anywhere, those pollutants do much more damage than the water you would waste creating RO water. Most RO's do get rid of silicates... it's just marketing mumbo jumbo.> I would like to just buy 3 clear filter housings, link them together and run 1 carbon with 2 mixed bed filters (same as Kents Deion 200 but much cheaper) is this a good idea? <Sure... it really all RO/DI filters are.> Confused again thanks for any advice you can give, I need a clean tank! -Brian <Cheers, J -- >

Filters and RO/DI Hi guys hope you are well. I need some advice again please. I currently have a 100g reef tank with live sand, live rock, and a Fluval 404. I have recently purchased a 125 g tank with a 20 g sump. Should I get rid of the Fluval 404 and can I utilize instead by making new salt water mixes and top off water? Do I have to have a RO/DI filter? <Hi Werner, the Fluval is a great piece of equipment, if you keep it clean. Personally, I am kinda lazy and would not give the device the attention it needs so I don't these types of filters. I would think it would work well in the new mix solution. Or, you could use it as a carbon only container. <As far at RO/DI, I would have the source (tap) water checked to see how far out of whack it is. Then if there are high concentrations of stuff you don't want, use the RO/DI (or just DI, higher output/less waste). Hope the helps, Don> Werner

Copper in the water 5/14/03 Hi I got a list of what is detected in my water from my water plant they said there is .023ppm of copper is this an acceptable level I have kept my tank for 2 years here with no signs of die off from my corals? Thanks JM <there is the very real danger of such contaminants accumulating in living tissues ever so slowly over time. Please do not admit any copper in through your source water. Simply filter it over PolyFilter before using for evap top off or making seawater. Best regards, Anthony>

Subject: enquiry to marines? Hello Robert, I am newcomer to saltwater marines. I would like some advice from you. <Study business! Wait, you mean re aquariums> After keeping tropicals successfully for four years, I thought I would take the step.  Basically I purchased a R.O unit, to ensure better water quality... do you use R.O. units, do you make a saltwater mix yourself? <We use R.O. for drinking, cooking water... I only keep African Cichlids presently... they get straight (liquid rock, Southern California) tap water> And do you have any tips for me?  Fish selection as it is a fish only tank. Regards Stuart. <Umm, yes... study. Maybe start by reading our selection pieces, FAQs... see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/MarInd3of6.htm Scroll down to "Selection"... and Read on! Bob Fenner>

RO Water I worship your wisdom. I must admit I'm on your site quite a bit and have learned a lot. I thank you. I tend to follow your (and Calfo w/corals) recommendations. I do weekly water changes(5 gals for a 45 tank). I have been adding corals w/ success (so far) and would eventually like to have a maxima/crocea clam, leaning more towards the crocea. I am fearful I may not be able to suit its needs. I have 250MH and 110PC lighting. I add calcium (Kalk) strontium and very little iodine via drip overnight. My testing has been pretty good, Cal around 400, PH 8.2, ALK 12.5, very low if any nitrate, etc., also very stable in PH/ALK readings. Phosphate and Chlorine is my concern. My tap water-straight form the faucet-has .17 phosphate level. I seem to obtain a .3 to .6 in the tank. I'm waiting on a chorine test so that is questionable.  I use Chemi pure, Polyfilter (it's a tan /yellow brown color when in need of change), and an Aqua C Remora skimmer. We pay for our H2O and RO wastes so much. Barry at ClamsDirect stated he highly rec.s RO/DI for clams. Do you think I could get away with just a 2 stage from home depot? My husband already complains about the time I take between the tank and you (site). I presented the RO issue to him and he does not want to waste the water etc. I read your facts and realize I do need to consider chlorine and possibly other pollutants I can't test for but any suggestions from you would be highly appreciated. Sincerely, Sharon  <Sharon, the company that produces the PolyFilter also has a cold sterilization system with no waste water. You might want to do a search on that. I'm also thinking if you had a 10 gallon tank and ran your makeup water through a hang on power filter with a Polyfilter pad for 24 hours, I would certainly think any pollutants would be removed from the water including phosphate. James (Salty Dog)>

RO/DI Follow-up - Problem Solved? THANK YOU, I did not know the two stage filters waste water too. Yes, the waste water is the problem. I am going with the 10 gal w/ poly filter and I'll get a filter for the faucet like Pur/ Brita. THANKS AGAIN  <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> 

Phosphate and nitrate removal Hi,  <Hello> I understand there is a filter available for treating new water and goes by the name of NITRAGON or similar can you please tell me where I can buy. Thank You  <I haven't heard of it, doesn't mean it's not out there. Personally I think you would be wasting your money. I'm assuming "treating new water" means your top of water or water for water changes. In that case, you would be further ahead buying a R/O unit. James (Salty Dog)> <<... http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-27,GGLD:en&q=nitragon+filter RMF>>

Nitrate Levels After Reverse Osmosis? Are there nitrates existing in r/o water ? If so how much? And, is there any way of ridding nitrates before putting r/o water in your tank?  <Nick, if your membrane in the R/O filter is good, your water should be 97/98% pure. I would do a nitrate test of your tap water and see what the nitrates are out of the tap, if any. I would concentrate on getting the R/O filter working properly rather than incur extra expense in removing nitrates from R/O water. Nick, in future queries please watch your caps and abbreviations. It does save the editor work as these queries have to be corrected before they can be placed in the FAQ's. Thanks in advance. James (Salty Dog)> Thank you  <You're welcome> 

Nitrate Nightmare Hi WWM Crew! <Scott F. here today!> I have a 55g FOWLR, 120g FOWLR and a 20g tank that is currently without fish but running. I have had constant problems with  high nitrates in all three of my tanks.  I recently changed from buying  water from my LFS to mixing and storing my own salt water. I store and  mix the water in a 30g trash can with 2 powerheads constantly running. I haven't yet, but I also intend to add a heater.  So far I have only been using the container for makeup water, so on my first run of using it for a water change, I mixed the salt and Amquel and let the water aerate for 2 days before doing a water change.  Immediately after doing a 20g water change to my 120g tank, I did a water test that indicated the nitrates were high in the tank. <May be in part because of high nitrate present in source water, but also possibly due to husbandry. Do re-visit your maintenance procedures, feeding, skimming, etc., to make sure that these factors are not contributing to the problem. Fortunately, these are easy to correct!> I have the Saltwater Master Liquid Test Kit that uses a color chart for readings, so it's very hard to tell exact numbers, but let's just say it read that the nitrates were fairly high. Anyway, after realizing that the nitrates were high in the tank, I tested the stored water.  I realize that I should've tested it before doing the water change, but I'm learning as I go.  : ) <Hey- at least you're testing! That's great. Don't be so hard on yourself!> I found that the pH level was low, so next time I will buffer the water to bring it to 8.2. <Good procedure> I also  found that the nitrites were high <Bingo!> ....this is where my query comes in.  My thinking on the issue is that by using Amquel to get rid of chlorine and ammonia, the ammonia is converting to nitrite during storage and then to nitrate in the tank.  Does this sound logical? <A very interesting theory, but I'm inclined to believe that the fresh water was high in nitrate to begin with, and certainly not helping the existing nitrate situation in your tanks. When you're starting out with source water that's, say, 5ppm or more nitrate, you're "behind the eight ball" already!> If so, what can I do to remedy the problem? If this explanation doesn't sound right, what do you suggest? <I'd recommend that you invest in a good RO/DI unit that can produce virtually pure water at a modest cost. This way, at least you can be assured that you're starting with good source water> Seeing that I have 3 tanks, it got to be quite cumbersome getting saltwater from the store, so I really want to learn to mix my own water. <Agreed- been there- done that!> Does this sound like a problem that a chemical tap water purifier could fix or is an RO/DI unit in order, or is there something else that I'm missing? <Nope- as above- an RO/DI should help. But do investigate husbandry, maintenance, etc. to help reduce nitrate levels in your tanks.> Thanks in advance for your help.  You guys are the coolest! <Not as cool as our readers! Keep up your efforts at learning and improving your systems! You're doing great! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Water Question... "What is Soft/ened Water"? I have a fundamental question that I can't seem to get a good answer to.  I currently live in a house with softened water.  I am aware that such water is unsuitable for aquarium use, <Why... as in what is it in your understanding that leads you to believe this?> but I have no unsoftened water readily available.  This issue is why I tore down my last tank a few years ago.  I am now researching the feasibility of a new aquarium and would like to find out if softened water can be made suitable again. <Softened... as in/by ion-exchange resins? So?> I am willing to buy an R/O unit... but can not find out conclusively whether R/O will make softened water usable again. <Mmmm, it won't...> Is it simply the sodium content in softened water that makes it unusable? <No... not to most all aquatic life> Does that mean it is usable in a marine tank but not in a freshwater tank? <Shouldn't, doesn't matter in either case> I am still considering my options and have not decided whether to go fresh or salt, so I would appreciate an answer/recommendation for both.  What general advice would you give to those of us stuck with softened water? <Uhh, enjoy, use it...> Thanks for your help and the great web site! <Why at least H.S. level chemistry and physics s/b compulsory... There is nothing "wrong" with "softened water"... only a degree of hard water (calcium and carbonate hardness principally) removed... and all plus reconstituted with the use of synthetic salt mixes... Check your source/tapwater from an "outside" tap at home/work, wherever you are... this is very likely not "softened" and can be combined, used singly to start with as much of your TDS (total dissolved solids) as you can get... to start with... Study and don't worry. Bob Fenner>

Parasites and Spring Water Good afternoon, Need your help again. <Scott F. here, ready to assist> I have 65gal salt water aquarium, the first 3-4 months no problems. Last month or so having fish dying with parasites on them, green dust type algae growing on the glass. The only thing I have changed when I do my water change once a month I have started to use bottled spring water. When I first started cycling the aquarium, I filled the aquarium with tap water and then added proper amount of Aquar plus. Do you think my problem is with the spring water I am using? If so, what type of water should you be using. Please reply. Thanks Rob!!!! <Well, Rob- lots of possibilities here. The parasites may be coming from many different possible sources- live foods, improperly quarantined specimens, live rock, etc. I assume that you are using bottled spring water? Regardless of whether or not it's bottled, spring water is really variable in both quality and chemical composition. Unlike distilled or R/O water, which has  specific characteristics, such as alkalinity, pH, nitrate, etc., spring water is a very vague label. It sounds like the algae problems are due to phosphate, nitrate, or silicate present in the water. I'd highly recommend utilizing R/O water. The money that you spend on a quality R/O unit will really pay for itself over time in terms of improved water quality, diminishing nuisance algae, and better conditions overall. Do some basic water tests on the spring water, and you'll start to get a handle on things, and what steps need to be taken to improve water quality. Good luck!>

RO Water Hi, I want to use a better water source for my saltwater/reef aquariums. I'm wondering about those vending machines outside grocery stores that dispense water. Would that water be safe enough for reef tanks? Also, should I add a dechlorinator to this water? Does RO filtration remove chlorine and chloramines? Thank You, Tim <Safe for use, yes. No dechlorination needed... but I encourage you to look into getting, using either a reverse osmosis unit or R.O./D.I. for home use instead... much cheaper and cumbersome in the not-so long haul. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm and the FAQs beyond. Bob Fenner>

Ro/di for reef ..FO and discus. Hello to all , Happy new year. Ant if that is you Cheers and thanks for the updates, for bocp1. In setting up my fish room, I have been able to obtain a water quality report. while I can figure most out I thought you could help decipher some parameters. Silica @ 4.8mg/l O-phosphate@ 1.08mg/l <This ortho-phosphate level is high for source water> Total hardness and alkalinity are both followed by (CAC03)??? <Calcium carbonate... the largest contributor/component of water hardness> with total reading60.6mg/l and alk @19 mg/l( Why are they both CAC03? Only inorganics (Chemical) found were copper at 0.01mg/l and barium? at the same 0.01 mg/l. <Not a problem with regular, small water changes> Of course no one will tell me ( vendors that is that I do not need some sort of tap water help) <I would use at least a reverse osmosis device here... for your drinking and cooking as well as starter water for pet-fishing> I am not wet behind the ears on aquarium keeping, I am just trying to get at least some straight answers. Total solids at 119mg/l fixed solids @67 mg/l ZINC????? @0.4 mg/l Free cl2(CHLORINE??) @.51 mg/l <All fine> The intended setups are FO Marine Reef  ( soft prop tanks ), Mixed display and (stony prop tanks) Africans, ( RIGHT FROM THE TAP I ASSUME) Discus Amazon sort of biotope ( tetras barbs... the gamut) in an old Odell 150g <Wow, my arms, legs and back are starting to twitch! I've spent some memorable moments moving these fine folks big heavy glass tanks> I saw on the pages that Bob was of the opinion if you drink it , use it in the tank. <For the most part, yes... but I don't have as much phosphate in my tapwater... and still use R.O.> I have decided that if I need a system, I will ro or ro/di in that wastewater can be for Africans and I just don, like having Muriatic acid in the house to recharge Kati Ani type units since there is a newborn in the house. <Yes to leaving, storing this 3 molar hydrochloric acid in the garage, up high... in a locked cabinet. There are water filtration devices that don't use such dangerous rechargers though... like the Kold-Steril unit by the same folks that make PolyFilter> However, I am just not sure that I really need a system at all.  What exactly is TDS and TDS meter ( I know total dissolved solids, but like what?) <Total Dissolved Solids... you can look up on the Internet. Yours aren't too high (ours are treble what you list) for your applications> Hey thanks again guys I hope I can make a decision fast as aquatic reef systems in Fla. is still pushing a 75gpd ro/di at an unbeatable price. <Look at the large "hardware stores" offerings... this is what I use> Though how about stuffing a pvc tube with a poly filter and carbon? <Worth experimenting with. Bob Fenner, who would just get, use a reverse osmosis unit for now, use the tap on the Africans.>

Re: Ro/di for reef ..FO and discus. hey bob, I just got your response and thank you very very much. You did say that you would look into a system for drinking and cooking as well. Is this due to the phosphate? <Yes> I know that you are not a medical Dr. but is there a reason for alarm that you might know of either for we adults and my newborn son.... Please reply I am somewhat alarmed, even though It has be safe by EPA standards. I do boil all water for infant formula. You also mentioned "starting with system with RO" I assume might as well for water changes too huh. Hey thanks so much for everything. It really is appreciated. Kind Regards , Peter Eiselman <Not a problem per se for human ingestion (in fact orthophosphate is better to have/use to rid source water of other metals)... but for pet-fish use I would start with water of low to no detectable phosphate period... and use the same water for your consumer uses (drinking, cooking). Tastes better. Bob Fenner>

Re: Ro/di for reef ..FO and discus. Bob Thank you so very much . I think I will go to Home Depot after work and look. As far as you know ,I guess I could just keep th unit in my fish room and fill empty containers to put in fridge for cooking or whatever and drinking.... Though I prefer BEER! Oh yeah It is a no no to drink DI water though right? And you do not feel I need it given my h20 report. <You can drink all. I prefer the R.O. during the day, beer at night. Bob Fenner>

Tap water vs. RO water Dear crew, Just a short query.  Is it really absolutely truly positively and unconditionally necessary to use RO/DI water as top off water and when mixing artificial salt water? :-)   << I use tap water.  Always will.  But it is safer to add RO water.  I think you get more algae growth with tap water, but I like that. >> I have a 75 gal FOWLR running and have been using tap water treated with chlorine and chloramine remover.  RO/DI water is quite expensive here in my place. << I don't even remove chlorine, but it is a good idea.  Better safe than sorry.  However filtration and feeding can be more of an issue, so focus your attention there. >> Thanks a lot, Carlos <<  Blundell  >> - RO/DI a Must? - Dear crew, Just a short query.  Is it really absolutely truly positively and unconditionally necessary to use RO/DI water as top off water and when mixing artificial salt water? :-) <Positively and unconditionally necessary, no. May be helpful if source water is a mess... yes.> I have a 75 gal FOWLR running and have been using tap water treated with chlorine and chloramine remover. <No worries.> RO/DI water is quite expensive here in my place. <Then rock on...> Thanks a lot, Carlos <Cheers, J -- >

Question about using my tap water versus RO Hello there <Steven Pro> (fill in name of reader) ... quick question about using my own tap water versus getting an RO system. I know that RO is the best way to go for pure water. But if it's not absolutely necessary, I'd like to forego the $250 charge (before installation because I can't do it myself) and also the hassle of installing it into my rented apartment that I plan to move out of later this year. <RO units do not needed to be "installed". Take a look at the Spectrapure site on the links page. Their RO units can be connected to any hose bib fitting and disconnected when not in use. You can also get adapter fittings from your hardware store to make it attach to any faucet.> So, I've been lugging back 20G at a time of premixed salt water from my LFS... not cheap or easy on my back, but oh well. <Definitely, not the easy or economical route.> Well, I got bored tonight so after I tested my tank (all levels ok, except for my way too high nitrates at 70+) I decided to test my tap water. The nitrates read zero and the phosphates were zero too. <1.) These parameters will more than likely vary seasonally. 2.) There is more to be concerned about than just nitrate and phosphate in your tap water. 3.) Typical test kits only test for inorganic forms of phosphate and are unable to record organic phosphate.> I live in Marina Del Rey, CA if that matters... between Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica. Is there anything else I should test for? <The other major contaminants of concern would be copper, aluminum, iron, dissolved organics, etc. Many not able to be tested for.> I didn't bother with Ammonia or Nitrites. Does this mean my tap water is good enough to use to premix salt water? <Not necessarily, see above comments.> I would still "age" the water a couple weeks before using it for water changes. I want to put the water into a large covered Rubbermaid trashcan on my balcony, with a heater, a pump for circulation and maybe an airstone. <24 hours is all that is required> Since my goal is lowered nitrates through many water changes (due to my "messy" tankmates, and Natural Nitrate Reduction seems difficult at best) I'd hate to do it if the water wasn't "pure" enough in your opinion. Assuming it is good enough, what about use as top off water (non-aged), or should I age that too? <All should be dechlorinated, aerated, and heated.> Thanks, my back is looking forward to your reply!! <I would take another look at the RO units. They are not as difficult as you have been led to believe. -Steven Pro>

Well Water Vs. RO Water Just one more question. I live in northern Indiana and my well water is very hard. My ph is usually around 8.1. <Wow!> I get my water for my tank from a home faucet that does come from the water softener. <It will add salt (NaCl) to your mix and may cause problems in the long run.><<Mmm, more likely excess sodium alone. RMF>> I have been thinking about going to my LFS and getting R.O. water for my tank. Is this necessary? <It may not be necessary, but definitely better. Look to buy your own RO, much more cost effective.> Or is my good old well water OK for my saltwater tank? <Hard water is ok, but metals and nutrients are not. You would need to have your water tested and monitored routinely for peace of mind. Seriously look at an RO.> Thanks for any info. Diggy <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nitrates in Tap Water Dear Mr. Fenner: <Bob is off in Australia right now leaving the rest of the WWM crew to pick up the pace.> I have a 135gal tank with African cichlids in it. They are all doing wonderful. Have even had Kenyi produce fry, and Jack Dempseys also. My question is the Nitrate level is always high. Have tried placing reducers in the canister filter, but it really doesn't help much <Not very cost effective either.> so last night I set some tap water out....and tested it this am........and found my problem......the Nitrates are high 50-110ppm in the tap water. <Wow.><<Yeeikes... dangerous for human consumption... RMF>> What can I do to reduce them in the tap water before adding this water to the tanks. <The first thing I would do is request a report from your local water authority. By law they have to send you one every few years and whenever you ask. That seems really high. I know there is a federally mandated upper limit, but cannot recall the exact number at this time. Your only corrective course of action is a RO unit. You may want to consider a large unit to produce drinking water, too.> Please help......all my other parameters are great......do weekly water changes.....with gravel vacuuming...but still can not reduce the nitrates. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Shirley <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

RO Silicate Removal Hello to all. I just have a quick question regarding silicates. do r/o units remove silicates, I am using one and it removes phosphates but what about silicates. I have heard several opinions some saying they do others say they don't. I cant seem to find any test equip to test for them. I want to remove any chance of having diatom outbreaks (hate them). if r/o units don't remove them is there any good products that do. thanks very much, love the site but couldn't really get an answer to my question so I thought I would ask. <Some units do, some don't. It depends on the membrane/brand. Deionization units will remove silicate. -Steven Pro>

Tapwater & Copper I just got my annual tap water report from the local water company and wanted to pass a long some information for those still considering whether or not they should invest in a RO or DI unit. The Federal standard for copper in drinking water is 1.3 ppm. That is the action level, defined as, "The concentration of a contaminant, which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or requirements, which a water system must follow." In plain English, the copper level can get as high as 1.3 ppm before they are required to take measures to lower it. The average of 50 household sampled this year was 0.23 ppm, still plenty high enough to kill any and all invert life. -Steven Pro <Thanks for this... the federal level has "gone up" over the years. I recall it being 0.5 ppm free cupric ion, then 1.0... Bob Fenner>

RO I have high phosphate in my tap water--0.1ppm <<This isn't "high". RMF>>--so I bought a GE brand reverse osmosis unit. This RO water still contains about the same amount of phosphate, so I installed a Kent post DI canister. The water output after the DI still contains 0.1ppm of phosphate according to my test kit. Any thoughts? <although such water purifiers do not guarantee to remove all inorganic/organic phosphate... do consider that your colorimetric test kit is unable to read below .1ppm accurately. Such hobby grade kits really are poor quality. Still useful though. Have you tried to test the effluent of your RO (the reject water) to confirm that a higher level of phosphate exists there? It should... else more reason to suspect the test kit is inaccurate or unable to read. Do try other test kits for comparison. Kindly, Anthony>

Confusion III O.k. - I think we are almost done!. So my system will shape up to be: 1. 75 gal corner acrylic tank 2. AquaC Protein Skimmer 2. Liverock 4. Deep Sand Bed 5. 2 large external pumps for water circulation 6. An RO device Would you add or take away from the above list? <Sounds like a plan.> (I am planning to add a calcium reactor when money becomes available). <Good> In regards to the RO unit, isn't there a problem of cleaning out beneficial trace elements? <Yes, they remove the good with the bad, but the benefits far outweigh the slight negatives.> How do you deal with that? <By adding some extra buffering compounds after you have tested for deficiencies.> If you imagine a very healthy reef system with a few fishes, some of which will be large fishes with messy characters, with a very heavy algae and coral load, does the above system cut it? <Nothing wrong with the system, but your choices or their descriptions do not go together. Large messy fish with heavy algae load and heavy coral load are all mutually exclusive. You cannot fit everything in one tank. You have to make some choices and compromises.> Thanks for your time and enjoy the weekend! Victor Acquah <I will! -Steven Pro>

Water Changes Hello again, Thanks for the feedback on my previous question. I was reading about water changes on your site. Thanks for taking the time to organize all of this for us. I have a water softener at home, but I didn't come across many FAQ's concerning softeners. <One word of caution concerning water softeners. I have read one report of someone using a brand of salt and not noticing that the salt included compounds that alleged to clean the water softener. These compounds, whatever they were, were toxic to fish.> In an article, Bob states that tap water is just fine. <For some applications> Please give feedback to a possible way of preparing water for a water change. I have a 55g tank and currently doing 5-10% changes every week, depending on how much water I feel like carry over to the tank. Here's my thought: What if I : - filled a ten gallon bucket with straight tap water; water is "softened" but unfiltered - I add no "de-chlorinizers", is that a word? <They are called dechlorinaters and I would use them.> - I put an air stone in overnight - Next day, I add Kent Superbuffer. Is this the kind of buffer I need to add? <It should be fine.> Can I just add baking soda, and if so, how much per gallon is safe? <Use test kits to confirm the pH and alkalinity.> - I continue aerating for a few hours - I then add Instant Ocean salt, mix, and wait a few hours before adding to tank <More like 24 hours.> Does this sound like a reasonable plan? <See notes above.> Up to now, I've just either been mixing salt with DI water immediately, then pouring it into tank without waiting; <This can be dangerous.> or I've been mixing salt and water immediately, then waiting overnight to add it. Neither of my current ways seems appropriate, based on the info on the site. Please help me be a better fish/reef keeper. <My strong preference is to use DI water. Aerate and heat that water for 24 hours. Then add the salt mix and wait another 24 hours. At that point, test for pH and alkalinity and adjust as needed. In another 24 hours, it is ready for use.> Thank you, Randy M. Yniguez, MA <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Water softener supply for a reef? Hello Mr. Fenner, <Steven Pro here today.> First I want to thank you for you taking the time to help out all of the people you have. Myself included! I have enjoyed WetWebMedia and found it to be totally reliable and very informative. <I am glad you have found the website useful.> This will be my first question to you as I have found just about all the questions I ever wanted to ask in WWM search engine. <I am particularly glad to hear of individuals using the search engine and FAQ files.> Question? While researching a different topic I stumbled across this article on FFE http://support.software911.com/ffexpress/faqdetail.asp? fid=2691. It seems to suggest that using a water softener on a reef tank could be problematic. Specifically it suggests that " I would not use water from a softener as it has been shown to cause problems with the fish's sodium balance". <Yes. Water softeners work similar to deionization units except when a DI unit absorbs a contaminant ion it releases H+ or OH- ion, leaving nothing but plain water behind. A softener releases Na+ and Cl- ions, leaving salt.> I live in Alaska and our water comes from a well, the well water has no problems other than a high iron content. The iron content is so high that I fear if I utilized the Kent Marine Maxima High-S RO unit before the softener that the pre filter and membrane would plug up in a matter of weeks. <Agreed, place the RO unit after the softener. The RO will remove the salts the softener imparts.> I understand that metals are harmful to a reef tank but iron is not that much of a concern? <There is a great deal of controversy on this matter right now. If you care to read about it, check out ReefCentral for competing views by Dr. Ron Shimek and Randy Holmes-Farley. I side with the chemists on this one and agree iron, in moderation, could be beneficial.> In your opinion, would you connect the RO unit before the water softener or after it? <After> FFE is the only place that I have seen mention that a water softener may be harmful to a reef tank and I can't find any contact information on Kent Marine. Should I be concerned with my current set up (makeup water drawn after a water softener and then run through a RO unit)? <No. Many large public aquarium setups are designed just like this.> My reef tank set up in detail can be seen here. http://www.reefaquariumguide.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=16836 <Your tank looks pretty good.> Thanks a lot, K.P. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Copper Pipes Hi WW crew,  <<Hello, JasonC here...>> I've got a rather unusual question to bug you with, my plumbing in the basement where my saltwater tank is set up has copper pipes.  <<Sounds like my setup too... or at least one of them.>>  Would the copper from the pipes be detrimental to the invertebrates in my tank (brittle star, blue leg hermits, porcelain crabs, button polyps, etc...) and if so, what would be the best cure for it?  <<No detriment, no worries.>><Mmm... not so sure... would test for, likely treat... Even if pipes are "old", can release appreciable amounts of copper given "shaking", work on them. RMF>  I am totally for getting and learning how to use an RO filter if necessary, or would some other fix be better?  <<Nothing wrong with RO filtered water, but I suspect you are worrying about the wrong things in this case.>>  I also can't keep peppermint shrimp alive, the turn opaque and die.  <<Need more info here...>>  Would this be from the copper pipes too?  <<Highly unlikely... are the pipes immersed in the tank? Are the pipes highly corroded and the corrosion dripping into the tank? If not, it shouldn't be a problem.>>  Thanks for putting up with a newbie. Jen <<No trouble at all - all very good questions. Cheers, J -- >>

Well water Dear Mr. Fenner, I've written you before and I do hope I don't become a pain, but you are reliable and so quick to answer. Presently we have a 75 gallon with live rock, some corals, and a cleaner crew no fish due to a previous ich problem). We have recently purchased a 120 gallon tank and plan on transferring everything from the 75 to this one.  <Ah, good> I've read your opinion of city water, understandably, but we have well water. Is it just as bad?  <Hmm, biologically? Use-wise? Only you and your water quality test lab can tell for sure... If you have a concern, do get/use a reverse osmosis unit for pet-fish and cooking/drinking uses...> We are going to transfer the water from the 75, so we are going to have to make up some water to reach 120. Do we have to let the mix sit for a week, being its well and not city water?  <Don't "have to"... but pre-mixing is suggested (by myself)... And not so "big a deal" if this is just "additional water" (as opposed to all-new)> And then how long before we can add fish? ( I have the CUTEST Red Lipped Blenny, with personality, in the quarantine that I am just dying to put into the bigger tank). <Patience is a big virtue, as you know...> Also, we have a ETS Reef Devil 3 for a protein skimmer on the 75 and the stand for the 120 is going to have to be modified for it to fit. IYO, would it be worth it to modify, or better to get this Turboflotor you have been raving about? <Hmm, both are good products, appropriate for the application... Can you use the ETS elsewhere (like the 75?)... > After reading all the recommendations you have been giving for this skimmer, I expected it to cost a fortune. I was surprised to see how cheap it is compared to some others I actually called up one company to make sure the price was what they said it was on their site).  <Yes, a nice group of people making them in Europe, and also reselling/distributing them here in the U.S.> Well that's all I can think of for now! Thanks so much, Mercedes <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Treating Water for my Future Marine Tank! Help! I just moved into a new house. I'm planning on buying a used 135-gallon tank (I wrote to you about this before), and I am starting to evaluate costs. When I set up my little 10-gallon freshwater, I bought distilled water to start with. Unfortunately, I don't have the cash to spend on 130+ gallons of distilled water! The obvious solution is to use tap water and age it appropriately. <Whoa! Hold on... other possibilities are likely more practical... Do read over the "Water" and "Seawater" use sections on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com... Likely you will find a reverse-osmosis system a very good investment (inexpensive, easy to use) for your aquatic and drinking/cooking uses> My new house has well water, so I don't have to worry about chlorine too much. The problem is that our tap water smells like eggs (obviously a sulfur thing). Not only is this nasty when I take a shower, I'm kind of worried about what it might do to the fish. How can I deal with this? <A few ways... I would have your "water district" test your water, give you their input here... and what company's in your area that provide residential water treatment give you bids on the contactor technology they lease> I don't have a lot of room for giant tubs to age the stuff, and I do have a very curious dog who would love to stick his head (and slobber) into any large vat of water. HELP! Sincerely, Gina  <No worries mate... do this bit of investigating, reading, and we'll be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Aging water/Skimmer, WWForum Hi Bob, Hope this message finds you in good spirits/health. Well, I'm back to pick your brain again. My question: would there be any benefits (pet-fish wise, not speaking of drinking, cooking, etc.) in getting an RO unit if I plan on aging my premixed saltwater at least a week in advance?  <Yes> I know you state that gases such as chloramine would be removed, and metals would settle, what about any phosphate in the water? <Most soluble phosphate removed by R.O.,  not by settling/aging> Sorry, I'm not much of a chemist. Also, I was planning on upgrading to a Turboflotor, but after reading through the skimmer selection FAQs, I got a little confused. Sometimes you stated that the Turboflotor needed to be plumbed to the overflow to work properly and that the powerhead was only for mixing air/water. Other times, you mentioned that the Turboflotor only needed the Rio2100 or equiv to work properly.  <Sorry to be confusing. The latter is the case... Aqua-Medic does make skimmers (Turboflotors) that are hang-on and in sump models... there are applications where connecting these to overflows make sense... not many though. And of course the hang ons operate AS overflows back into either main systems or auxiliary sumps/tanks.> If plumbing to the overflow is required, I think I would go with the Aqua-C Urchin Pro instead for ease of setup (little more money, less efficient?).  <A bit less efficient in most settings> Any clarification would be appreciated. By the way, the Wetweb forum is looking good. I hope everybody logs in and contributes! Thanks, and have a good week. <Me too. Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Many roads to aquarium success I have two small (46g & 30g) tanks with live sand and live rock. When the water levels get low, I add just a gallon of straight distilled water. <Reverse osmosis would be fine, cheaper> I don't have regular stand-by salt water mixed and ready to go. When I do my 5% water changes every three weeks then I use saltwater that I make fresh. Is it harmful to a system to be just dumping in water like that? <Not very harmful... five percent is not much> I have seen no visible signs of harm, my tanks have been up and running for almost a year with no livestock problems. I run powerheads and powerful skimmers only. <Your success is all that is important, not specific methodologies. Bob Fenner>

Treating well water Robert, << Not Robert, Jason C doing his best Robert Fenner impersonation, practicing for Bob's upcoming dive trip. >> Thanks for working on a great web site, lots of info here. I am sick of hulling in water for my 110 L and 190 L tanks and now my wife wants a bigger one.  << builds character ;-) >>  I want to get a treatment system for my well water. It is quit soft (25.1 mg/L) and not much iron (0.14 mg/L) Every thing is quite good except high salts (579 mg/L chloride + 1840 mg/L TDS). We are looking at an RO system but I am unsure how low these need to be to become acceptable. We have Balas and Australian rainbows and some tetras. Dow makes a brackish filter that operates at medium presser (15 bar) and has a 99.5 rejection of salts. Do I need to go to this kind of treatment or would removing 80 or 90% of the salts be adequate?  << from a purely statistical standpoint, 90% is outside of the first "standard deviation" which means 90% probably isn't quite enough. Considering your high level of PDS and TDS, I would think that the 10% that would leak-through would still present itself as a higher-than-normal concentration of things you don't need/want. I am unfamiliar with the Dow model, but perhaps just a bare-bones RO which gets you the 99% salt-rejection and then some additional additives to return hardness, etc to the water. Since Bob is still in town, I'm sure he will also reply to this in the event that I am way off-base. >> Thanks........ Colin << you are quite welcome, cheers. J-- >>

Pond water I am setting up a marine aquarium and I have pond water for my home. I share it with my neighbor and he adds the chemicals to the pond. He hasn't added any copper sulfate in years but he does add a bluing agent to keep the algae down. It does come thru our water system and our water is a little blue. Will this filter out and will it cause any harm to fish and invertebrates. <Do check with your neighbor re this bluing agents make-up... It does sound like "Aquashade", an alfazarin dye compound... which is chemically harmless... and can be taken out with activated carbon... or better, with a reverse osmosis device that incorporates a carbon contactor enroute. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Bill Baker

Tap Water Bob, Sounds like you had a good dive trip; am looking forward to some of your new experiences/pictures showing up in WWM material in the future.  <Me too... as I catch up! Yikes> I have a question that you may be able to help me with which could save me a little money. I am moving and the new tap water has the following characteristics: Nitrates 1.3ppm, Phosphates 0, Silica's 10ppm, Sulfates 51ppm, and Chlorides 36ppm (water company gave me this info as of yesterday) . When I store/age my water for a week, will this remove or at least settle out the silicates; <Likely not much, sufficiently...> I don't want to deal with the diatoms but also don't want to buy a filter/purifier. Do you foresee any other problems using water at these levels if it is aged and aerated for a week? <Mmm, some diatom over-growth... at first at least... you can develop/use countervailing strategies... growing macro-algae, a reverse-daylight photosynthesis sump... or even continuously lit one...> Thanks for your help and get some of those pictures out to us; we all don't live/have the traveling life and needs to live vicariously through pictures and a small aquarium system. <I understand... invidiously. Am placing one daily on the "New/Daily FAQs Page"... and on to articles, FAQs headers as I go through, label, scan, add to articles, PowerPoint presentations... and Zo and Jas are going to reveal how to send out to more than Billy.G will allow me on a more-automated basis... soon. Bob Fenner> Sincerely, Mike

New 55g tank, ro/di water confusion!!! ... Hi there. Thank you in advance for any insight you can give me here. I have read so much conflicting info regarding ro/di yes or no??  <Mmm, depends on the quality of the source water, your perceived and real needs...> I am tempted to buy a unit, but in the same sense and tempted to go without a unit and see if I would do fine with tap water and save myself the money and trouble of ro/di initial costs and replacement filters. I am setting up a 55g will-be-reef tank. Is ro/di necessary? Is just plain tap okay in most cases? <I use tapwater in most applications, but a reverse osmosis unit for cooking, drinking water purposes... and on more delicate plants. Our tapwater is politely called "liquid rock"... some 500 or so ppm of total dissolved solids...> If so, what can I ask the water company the results of to determine if my water will be okay?  <Sure> Also, I have seen several people say only RO or only DI is fine. Ugh, so confused!!  <Read over the internet what your choices are here, the rationale for them. I would use only R.O.... Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm and the FAQs beyond> Please help. I also have to figure out some way to dose Kalk into this tank, I will not have a sump, so I cannot use a gravity fed system, must use something that will pump the Kalk upward to the tank. Or, maybe I could just use the Kent gravity dripper during the night hours and go w/o Kalk during the day? I don't want that ugly Kalk dripper in plain sight during the day. So many many things, and I still have to modify my canopy. Thanks for your help!! Great website! Angela <Do search, read through the supplement, calcium sections on WWM again. Don't use Kalkwasser... at the very least develop a "two solution" supplement habit. Bob Fenner> Using well water Mr. Fenner, You had a person saying that his pH was 7.5 and NO3 zip. I am on a well and I can say do not trust one reading from one day to the next. <Good point> If you have heavy rain storm or no rain for a while it can change that fast. He should, I feel do a test for everything just as if testing tank water. This is extreme, but when hurricane Floyd hit Jersey, three of my friends had to have new wells put in for one reason or another. One of them had water that smelled so bad you almost got sick. It was such heavy rain they think the underground steams got diverted, blocked or just fouled their wells. I had to a softener knock pH so far out of whack that it ate the piping and lost about 100 bucks in three days because of it. <Wowzah!> So from my own experience, I don't trust well water. It is not worth the chance, just my opinion. <Thank you for this input. Will post. Bob Fenner>

Mas una vez! One more time!!!!! RO vs. Tapwater Hello all, I am going CRAZY over here at the Cape with my RO unit! I know I have asked this question before, (To RO or not to RO?) BUT, I'm still not straight. I have been wanting to do a water change for weeks now, poor fish! Today, I finally bought the connection I needed to hook up my RO unit . Well, ..it developed a leak! I brought it to another sink, it started to leak too. I guess the plumbing in the house just can't take the pressure of RO units. This is so frustrating to say the least. Can you honestly tell me that if I do a water change with tap water, it will hurt my reef tank? At worst, maybe an algae bloom? <Yes, at worst an algae bloom. For every nutrient you put into the system, it must be taken up by the animals or removed later. I would keep trying to get the RO to work, but doing a few water changes with tapwater is better than not doing any water changes. Please buy a good quality water conditioner/dechlorinator and use as per instructions.> Our local water guy just came to the door to hand deliver the water analysis for the town. Cool huh? Although I don't understand all the numbers, at least if you want to ask me what's in my water. I can tell you. As a matter of fact, I'm going to scan it in and attach it to this letter, then maybe you can better tell me if my water is good to use from the tap. <Your water is acid and not very well buffered, so when you get the water conditioner, pick up some buffer too. The report does not mention nitrate or phosphate. This would give you an idea about potential algae blooms. -Steven Pro> Thank you so much I am going nuts over here! Pamela

R/O or No? Okay, who are you, Steve, Anthony, or Robert???  <You got Steven today.> Doesn't really matter, I think you all know your stuff. <Thank you kindly.> I'm the one with the ugly tank, <I would not say that. Most beginners make many mistakes. At least you have the courage to seek out the truth and to correct your problems.> well, I guess it has potential. I promise, I will upgrade my little Skilter, in the mean time, I want to ask about the use of RO water. What are the criteria for using one? <I prefer to use purified water whenever possible. It stops some headaches and minimizes the variables when looking to diagnose problems.> Originally, my reason was because I was reading about silicates in tap water, which would lead to unwanted algae, DIATOMS!! And if you recall my last letter, out of your million and a half, that was my problem,... diatoms. <Diatoms are a fairly routine problem/occurrence.> Are you following me? <I hope so.> I put off and put off water changes because I have to hook up the RO unit, then wait at least 3 days before I have enough water made for a change ( yes, I bought the cheap unit!). <Temperature has an effect on the performance of RO units. Perhaps your will speed up once the weather improves and your tapwater warms. Always use just cold water to feed the RO.> I have a 55 gal. I miss the fresh water days when I would just hook up the Python and let 'er rip! Do water changes REALLY have to be this complicated? On a limited budget, please! <You can still use the Python to drain water. I use a 30 Rubbermaid garbage can to hold my purified water. It is allowed to aerate and heat first. Then salt and buffer are added and allowed to mix. I then use a pump to send water back to the main tank.> Thanks! Pamela

Mo' R/O Rubbermaid huh? Well, that's cheap enough. But where do you keep this amount of water? Surely not next to the tank!  <My tanks are in my family room. I keep the new water in my laundry room, which is beside the family room. The Rubbermaid is about 20 feet from the tank.> UGH!....... AND, just as important, the pump,...... what do you use and are these units just a bit costly? <I use a Mag-Drive 500. I do aquarium maintenance for a living so I always have a plethora of pumps, hoses, heaters, etc.> Yes, I am a beginner for sure. I thought with the 20 some years raising so many fresh water species, that I would at least know SOMETHING! But I feel like such a beginner. For starters, I ALWAYS. used a UG filter, now I guess they're a bit primitive in reefs. That took a bit of convincing. And all this talk about sumps, overflows, pumps, plenums (sp?) ahhh, so much to learn. And I don't want my livestock to suffer as I learn, understand? <There is always something new to learn in this hobby. I learn something just about everyday.> Well, thank you for your time Steve. <You are very welcome, Pamela.> Pamela <Steven Pro>

Questions about RO/DI Hi, <<Hello, JasonC here standing in for Bob while he is away diving.>> I'm starting my first saltwater reef tank, 92 gallons, should I use treated tapwater or RO water (is RO worth the extra money?  Thanks, Ed <<The compelling reason to switch to RO water is usually based on some problem in the tap water that isn't being addressed by standard water treatments - things like high phosphates, silicates, etc. Do check the following link on the WWM site - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm Cheers, J -- >>

Alternatives to RO/DI <<JasonC here, Bob has gone diving somewhere tropical>> Good Day and happy recovery from the overeating I'm sure you did during the Thanksgiving holiday (I sure did!). My question is regarding the aging of saltwater after mixing. Currently, I mix my water well in advance (up to several weeks) and circulate with a powerhead in the garage. My questions are these: Is there a problem with stagnation when mixing the water this far in advance? I have never noticed any odor, or any measurable chemical impurity (ammonia, no2, no3). I have about 10 lbs of live sand (probably not really live any more) in my mix container. <<not as long as you keep a pump circulating the water>> I do not use r/o water. If I add activated carbon in a cartridge to the powerhead in my pre-mixed water, should I expect an appreciable decrease in phosphate/silicate levels, thereby seeing a decrease in diatom growth after water changes. <<probably not - activated carbon isn't really known for removing either of the two which is why the RO/DI market exists. In fact, some brands of carbon are noted for leaching phosphate a byproduct of manufacture, so pick your brand carefully. You can fill your head with carbon errata at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chemFiltrMar.htm >> Is there a product that I would be better suited to use for the above mentioned phosphate/silicate removal? <<an RO/DI filter>> On another note, I have a Sebae anemone that I purchased about 3 weeks ago. It seems to be doing well. Currently it is situated with it's foot deep into a crevice in the LR, and it's tentacles showing during the majority of the light cycle. I also purchased a tomato clown to hopefully be a symbiont with the Sebae. It has been about 2 weeks since the addition of the tomato and just yesterday I noticed him rubbing against the tips of the anemone. Naturally I was thrilled and went to take a close look. The tomato proceeded to run and hide. Bummer! Hopefully this is the beginning of something special. Thanks for your insight. Jason Harris <<your patience will pay off. Good luck, J -->> By the way, my yellow tang, tomato clown, and striped damsel really LOVE Nori! That stuff is so much easier to deal with than romaine lettuce. <<also much better nutritionally for fish who would never encounter romaine in the wild. Cheers.>>

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