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Well water and ADA Amazonia?


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Hi All!  New to the forum and looking forward to catching up on all the topics.  

So I intended to use mineralized topsoil in my new 75 gallon but the process of getting that ready isnt going to fly at home right now so i am looking to switch to an aqua soil.  Leaning towards ADA but i do have some well water concerns that i am hoping you all have some experience with...
My well water is naturally very acidic at ~5.6-5.7 but after aeration raises up to almost perfect neutral (know this from our radon aeriation system).  According to my last drinking water test It is also high in sodium (93.7 mg/L) manganese (0.193 mg/L) and hardness (90.8 mg/L) and waiting on this year’s test results to see if anything has changed in the last 3 years.  
Since I have a whole house softener and I don’t want to use that water in my tank, I need to fill directly from the well into a holding tank to bypass the softener and aerator.  I plan to heat and aerate prior to use during water changes but since ADA lowers ph I am concerned of the swings that might create in the tank.  Should I use a more inert substrate that needs to be supplemented with root tabs to avoid the PH changes?? I know stratum still lowers PH but not as much but I dont like the longevity of it.  

Am I over thinking this?  Been hesitant to have a tank at home since the one in my work office is just too small to do what I want.  Thanks

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Water softener systems use sodium as an ion exchange to replace hardness in water. I have not had one on my house I am just going off what others have said, in that there is usually a bypass on the softener system that you can use.


It sounds like you have a bit of carbon dioxide in your well water which is likely why aerating the water helps increase the pH as it promotes gas exchange and removes dissolved carbon dioxide. I would have this parameter tested if you can as dissolved carbon dioxide is very beneficial for plant growth.


Do you know what your kH is? This variable is directly responsible for buffering pH and is important for knowing whether or not you would experience swings in pH. Personally I wouldn't be concerned about ADA lowering your pH to a crazy degree, but maybe you could test it with a small sample if your LFS sells the tiny bags (0.5L-1.0L).

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Thanks for the response!  I have a gh/kh test kit coming to see where those land.  I haven’t found anywhere local selling Ada so I will have to decide if I want to risk the purchase from Amazon. 

I do plan to bypass the softener which means only cold water so I will still want to heat and aerate.  

I thought the same regarding CO2 but I am reading that off gassing Radon can do the same thing to ph so I’m not sure which one is responsible. If the water does contain CO2 would that mean I should make sure to do water changes early in my light schedule so the plants have a chance to consume it? 

thanks again 

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I think of the two CO2 is more common, but you are correct. As for water changes if you do have CO2 it would be beneficial to do water changes around the start of your light schedule. Doing at night would lead to increased CO2 as plants respire when photosynthesis isn't taking place. 


Update me when you have test results in hand. Amazon purchase is a bummer I couldn't find a bag smaller than 3L on my search. Hopefully it doesn't become an issue for you.

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so just got the gh/kh test and the results are 8-9 degrees GH and only 2 degrees KH.  Not sure what I am going to do here.  I have tried nurmerous ways of filling from the well to try and raise the ph but it still doesnt get above 6 unless I run an air stone for a day or so...  With the KH so low i am concerned about swings anyway so  it looks like i will need to get a holding tank.  Then i can aerate the water before i pump it in to the tank.  That isnt a tragedy since that was what i was planning originally, but now it looks like i may i need to add some buffers to the holding ttoo.

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That makes sense.  I don’t think I am going to test more at this time. I am already in a lot after the basic well test and the other test kits.    I may try some alkaline buffer or crushed coral in my filter.
With the python I hope to be able to fill the tank with aerated water (ph 7) that skipped the softener. Although it will be cold water only. I just need to add 1-2 degrees of KH for stability. 
I should have the well test results today or tomorrow to see if there are any other surprises 



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So my well drinking water test is in and some questionable numbers. 
With high chloride and sodium levels I am curious of what the actual salinity will be once filled.  

Seems like this water would be better suited for African cichlids (with a ph/buffer raising substrate) rather than the heavily planted South American tank I actually want.  



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Thanks Biotope, your input is invaulable.  I know an lfs that has a salinty meter and i am going to take a sample there tomorrow to see what he detects the levels at. I didnt want to go through the process of returning the ADA and other items i purchased for the planted tank.  

So you think i shouldnt aerate the water before adding to tank and let the ph stay at <6?  I am just concerned that radon would be bad for the fish and since i know we have pretty high levels in the water....(not sure why i even bought this house)    


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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally was able to brace the floor and get the tank setup.  After 2 days the PH was back down to 6.0 or lower.  (lowest my kit goes)  I will continue to test over the next few days but it appears that between the driftwood and ADA v2 it is lowering the PH back to almost what the well is normally. 

Plants were a bundle from an online seller that included ( i doubt all of it will survive and thrive...)

My planned stocking once fully cycled was going to include but will have to review the ph ranges of them all to see if it will work...

  • Serpae Tetras 
  • Emperor or Black Neon 
  • Bolivan or German Blues (prefer bolivan but germans like it more acidic) 
  • Otos
  • Congo tetras
  • Pristela Tetra of lemon tetras
  • Electric Blue Acara as centerpiece

My cleanup crew would include

  • nerite snails
  • MTS 



Edited by procyg
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