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I have Chloramines in my Tap Water, I Stopped Using Dechlorinator for a Year, Nothing Died


Buckman
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Just what the title says. I stopped using dechlorinator for about a year, and absolutely nothing has happened. Nothing died.

I want to clarify a few claims first. I am not saying that dechlorinators are bogus or deceptive in their claims. I am not claiming that everyone should stop using dechlorinators. What I do may not work for you. This isn't some sort of click bate thing meant to cause a big argument in fish forums. So let me tell you how this came about.

I live in a major metropolitan area that treats their tap water with chloramines. If I get water out of the tap and test it right away, Aquarium Co-op test strips rightfully tell me that chlorine is present. I used to treat this with a very common big company chemical dechlorinator. But here is what I noticed: it took about 3 or 4 hours for the chloramines to get "processed" before I could use the water. I started testing every 30 minutes or so after adding dechlorinator to tap water and made some interesting observations. 

1. Testing water immediately out of the tap shows no ammonia present, but chlorine is evident.
2. After adding dechlorinator to the tap water, there is soon be an ammonia spike that is detectable with Aquarium Co-op test strips. (I think this once led to the death of some fish. I used dechlorinator and added this water to the tank too quickly.)
3. The ammonia dissipates and is no longer detectable about 3 hours after adding dechlorinator.
4. After 3 or 4 hours, no ammonia and no chlorines are detectable with test strips. This is when I usually add this water to the tank and call it a day.
5. The odd thing is that after 3 or 4 hours, the test strips show no chlorine or ammonia, but nitrates and nitrites are through the roof. It looks like it would be harmful to add this to a tank, but when I do, everything is fine. In fact, I can test the water in an aquarium immediately after a water change and it shows what I usually get with a planted tank: nitrates are at about 25ish and nitrates are undetectable. In other words, things are back to normal.

This was my water change setup when I started all this:

I have a 27 gallon plastic tote set up to receive tap water slowly from a hose in my basement. I have a horse trough set up where the hose shuts off when it is full. The tote is set up with an airstone for flow and a 200 watt titanium heater hooked up to a thermostat that will bring the cold tap water up to 78 degrees over time. I started with a 5-gallon bucket to condition water, but after getting up to about 10 tanks, this was my "upgraded" system. This setup was created more for temperature control and ease of use. I have a hose with a valve and the tote is above all my tanks in the basement. I look at the temp reading, and when it is up to temp I add water to tanks with a gravity fed hose. Easy.

I used to add dechlorinator, but had an "accident" when I went too fast with this setup. I wanted to speed up my water change because I was pressed for time. So I mixed warm and cold water till I got to 78 degrees, added dechlorinator, and put it in the tanks. This is when I discovered this ammonia spike problem and started reading up on chloramines. 

So, through my obsessive testing, I discovered that adding dechlorinator to the water did not change the timing or the condition of the water. If I added dechlorinator, an ammonia spike would occur, and 3 hours or so later, the water had no ammonia or chlorines, but looked trashy with nitrates and nitrites. Add it to a tank, and all is well in the end. If I didn't add dechlorinator, nothing changed.

So apparently, time and the mixing caused by the airstone is all that is needed. So one day I had sold a lot of fish out of a tank and there were only a few left. I wanted to do a water change, and I wanted to attempt doing it without adding dechlorinator. There were about 5 guppies left in this tank so I decided to roll the dice. I added the water without treating it with dechorinator and everything was fine. The next day, I did with a big 40 gallon breeder full of fish. Everything was fine. Nothing happened.

Fast forward to today and this is now my process. I have been doing this for about a year. I can reliably get about 25 gallons out of my 27 gallon tote. I plan water changes accordingly. After I add water to tanks, I turn on the cold tap water and fill the tote. No more water changes on this day. I usually wait till tomorrow. I never really have emergencies anymore, but if I want to do a water change on the same day after filling the tote, I test it to see if the the ammonia spike has dissipated and the chloramines are gone. This takes about as long as it takes to bring the temperature up anyway. About 3-4 hours. But mostly, I just refill the tote and don't use it again till next day. I don't test the water anymore. Every time I do test a tank, everything is healthy and fine.

I haven't bought dechorinator since I discovered this. It has been well over a year. I still use the dechlorinator for one thing and one thing only. I clean airstones by pulling them out of a tank and putting them into a tall glass milk bottle filled with a 10% bleach solution. I let that stone run in the bottle for a couple minutes and then transfer it to another tall glass milk bottle with tap water that has been treated with dechorinator. This does a really fine job of deactivating chlorine bleach. After the stone runs in the "dechlorinator" jug for of a couple of minutes, I put it back into the tank. So, this chemical does work. And I am about out of it. Time to buy some more. But I am going to buy a small bottle of it and that will last me for the next couple years. I'll never put it into a tank again. Why would I?

I would like to re-iterate...this is just MY EXPERIENCE. I do not endorse anyone not using dechlorinator for your tanks unless you know what you are doing, test things properly, and proceed with caution. THIS MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU. I do not want to be responsible for people killing all the fish in their tanks. But I also don't want you to buy chemicals you don't need. Do you condition your water in a container over night simply to get the temp up for the next time you use it? What you are doing now might make using dechlorinator unnecessary. 

Good luck and swim at your own risk. Have any of you had similar experiences?

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This is why the OG Aquarists used to always say “rest your water.” I wonder if there’s much gas-off as you use the tote. 30% or less WC shouldn’t necessarily require treatment, especially if you are working with hardy species.

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After some googling, I guess the process is that a product like Prime will break chloramines down into chlorine and ammonia, and then removes the chlorine. Whatever ammonia is left is bound by Prime and handled by your biological filtration and plants. (I am not sure what "bound/bind" means in this context, assuming it infers "safe".) Seachem also claims that water treated with a dechlorinator can lead to false positive ammonia readings 🤷‍♂️

https://seachem.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115000122593-FAQ-I-tested-my-tap-water-after-using-Seachem-Prime-and-came-up-with-an-ammonia-reading-Is-this-because-of-chloramine-Could-you-explain-how-this-works-in-removing-chloramine

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Yeah, when I started this hobby during covid, I fell into some bad habits and made things too complicated. I bought iron I didn't need. I bought anti-algae stuff that doesn't work when what I really needed to do was get a light with less power and save some money. I bought liquid fertilizer that helped to grow that algae. Why am I adding liquid fertilizer to a box that poop fish in? I played with CO2 until I figured I should start plants closer to the surface and let part of them float on top. They get their own CO2 from the air that way. Duh. Plant them in the substrate when they are long enough to reach to the top. I spent some stupid money on "crushed coral" until I found that crushed oyster shell can be found at farm supply stores for a fraction of the cost. Psssssst...this looks exactly like what you pay $40 bucks for in a pet store. At the farm supply store they sell it as a chicken feed supplement for $7.50 a bag. If you look at the chicken feed supplement it says it is mostly oyster shell and may contain some crushed coral. If you look at the bag for crushed coral it will say it is mostly crushed coral and may contain some oyster shell. I think they are identical products produced by the same companies and placed into different bags for different markets. Now I don't even use dechlorinator. 

"Rest your water" is something I have heard as well. My wife has made a hobby of terrestrial plants for some time now. She often sits water in a bucket for a while before watering her plants. She says that certain species don't like the chlorine and she's letting it "off-gas." To be honest I do some baking occasionally and I do this myself to help the yeast out. I didn't equate the two.

Bottom line, if you are trying learn your way in a hobby that has been around for 100 years or more and you are fretting and worrying and buying chemicals, you are probably doing it wrong. A great parallel example is cigars. In the late 19th and early 20th century, folks kept their cigars properly humidified by making a slurry of water and kosher salt and putting that in a small dish or ramekin in the same container you keep your cigars. Every week or so, add a little water to that and stir it around. That container will naturally stabilize into a perfect 70% humidity for your cigars. You can buy some crazy expensive crap to hydrate cigars nowadays when all you need is kosher salt and a plastic bag.

I should know better. My father worked in advertising.

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For others reading this thread I would be very careful with not treating the chloramine/chlorine in your water for 2 reasons:

 

1. Often times chlorine or chloramine in municipal water supplies is dosed in such a way as to prevent bacterial reproduction in the lines from inflows of ground water. It's not at high enough levels to instantly kill everything as is sometimes described in the hobby. This is a constant low level dose that is probably what the original poster is experiencing. However municipalities sometimes spike the dose of chlorine/chloramine to very high levels temporarily in response to issues in the line such as large leaks or breaks or their own testing of bacteria in the system. This spike may only last a few hours but if it happens to be the time you're changing water you can have a big problem.

 

2. Your municipality may change their minds on how and what they're dosing at any time without any notification to you the end user. You are basically relying on things to stay the same forever and if they don't you won't know until you have problems in your tank.

 

Best of luck

 

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On 2/5/2024 at 5:02 PM, Buckman said:

She often sits water in a bucket for a while before watering her plants

Has she considered using water from your tanK(s)? Try saving a bucket next time you do a waterchange. Most plants will love it (unless you're treating with salt) 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/6/2024 at 3:24 AM, doktor zhivago said:

For others reading this thread I would be very careful with not treating the chloramine/chlorine in your water for 2 reasons:

 

1. Often times chlorine or chloramine in municipal water supplies is dosed in such a way as to prevent bacterial reproduction in the lines from inflows of ground water. It's not at high enough levels to instantly kill everything as is sometimes described in the hobby. This is a constant low level dose that is probably what the original poster is experiencing. However municipalities sometimes spike the dose of chlorine/chloramine to very high levels temporarily in response to issues in the line such as large leaks or breaks or their own testing of bacteria in the system. This spike may only last a few hours but if it happens to be the time you're changing water you can have a big problem.

 

2. Your municipality may change their minds on how and what they're dosing at any time without any notification to you the end user. You are basically relying on things to stay the same forever and if they don't you won't know until you have problems in your tank.

 

Best of luck

 

This is what killed my tank almost 20 years ago and caused my dropping the hobby.   

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