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Am I wasting $$$? RO Water vs Tap water for African cichlids


LaurieinIA
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I’ve been purchasing RO water from my LFS for water changes. I’ll soon be setting up a 75gal (for the cichlids), then will redo my 40gal (to a planted community tank), and still have my 5gal betta setup

With the additional tank, buying water will add up fast not to mention it will be tedious to haul around, etc.  I was thinking about buying a submersible pump and a large trash can on wheels to do water changes using tap water.  No more carrying buckets and lifting a gallon at a time to refill by hand.

My water parameters are always good with the RO water, so I hate to ruin a good thing.  I do use Malawi buffer to ensure pH stays nice and high as it does get a little low without it.  Other than that, numbers are good/stable.  

Assuming I change my cichlids over gradually, will they be OK?  What would I need to watch for, other than doing extra water testing?

Installing my own RO system is not an option at this time.

 

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1 minute ago, Dwayne Brown said:

What tanks fo you plan using the ro filter for? What type of chiclids do you have? Some can handle harder water also how hard is your water?I have no experience with ro filters my water is so soft i have to add crushed coral to make it okay for tetras and South american chiclids.

Right now I purchase RO (10 gal / $5.20) for both my tanks... one African Cichlids (Lake Malawi) and one betta tank.  My tap water is hard - I don’t have test numbers available right now, but I’ve lived in this town all my life and based on the faucets and my skin it is hard.

In my scenario, I would STOP purchasing RO water and switch over to using tap water.

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You're really flying blind without knowing your water parameters, knowing how hard your tap water is, exactly, your pH, etc. Many fish, including many african cichlids, like hard water and may do even better than they are now with RO water, but you'll need to test to know what you're looking at.

You'll also need to buy some water conditioner like Fritz Complete or Seachem Prime, which will dechlorinate your tap water and neutralize other harmful compounds as well. But the cost per gallon will be far, far less than RO water from the store.

Other than that, you're good to go! You may want to look into a Python water change system which hooks a hose up to your faucet to make water changes even easier.

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Rift Lake African Cichlids tend to like hard water. You may be wasting money and effort buying RO water just to remineralize it. You should test your tap water to get the parameters. You'll want to know ph, gh, kh, nitrates. Share them here once you have them, you can get either liquid test kits or test strips from aquarium coop or your lfs. You'll also want to know if your town treats water with chlorine or chloramines and if it needs to be conditioned.

 

Edited by ererer
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@Kirsten@ererer@Dwayne Brown

I wasn’t home earlier, which is why I didn’t have numbers readily available. Just checked tap water 2x (to be safe) using tetra 5 in one strips just for a quick check.

Here’s photos of the results.  Nitrates are under 20, nitrites 0, GH 300? It doesn’t match anything to my eye, KH 180-300?,  pH 7.4-8.4

B77DC747-4F86-4997-AD75-3556EAC24DD2.jpeg.83fc0d6ea7e5c1a51f8f5ef7cd246893.jpeg19F4E483-2095-4736-A5B3-E700A63C6576.jpeg.0891ff775662f0feab7240787b8d302a.jpeg

 

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Your tap water besides rhe chlorine looks almost ideal for most african chiclids. If you want soft water an ro filter is not the most cost effective way you spends loads getting water to have 0 hardness then you have to make it a little harder. For african chiclids just use tap water and dechlorinator. If you want softer water I would use tap water in a bucket with peat moss and let that sit for about a week.

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@Dwayne Brown I agree that it appears I’m wasting money, time, and effort by buying and hauling water... at least as far as these readings go.  I’ll probably do my liquid tests too, just to reconfirm.

What other things should I be checking?  I’ve seen tests for things like phosphate and calcium. Should I be concerned about testing for these?

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1 hour ago, Dwayne Brown said:

Considering that I’ve been using RO water, I think I’m doing pretty well 🤔 but it appears my tap water will be better. 

My substrate is the CaribSea Eco-Complete African Cichlid sand and the only thing I add to the water is a bit Malawi buffer to boost the pH a touch more. It was always more like 7.2-7.4 before I started adding the buffer to push it up. I’ve hit 8.0, but it stays at 7.8 pretty consistently.

here’s the most recent aquarium record, using test strips.  I take the time to do my liquid tests about every 3rd week, unless something really looks different in the strips. 

985544B1-0A0E-4A44-B2DE-8CBA08B036EE.jpeg.859ea62c88f582a0cbe00321860bb77e.jpeg

Edited by LaurieinIA
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The buffer was basically just adding back in to the RO water the minerals that are already present in your tap water. With your tap water, you shouldn't need the Malawi buffer anymore. Your tap water may be a bit harder than your tank water, it's hard to tell with just the strips, you'll get more accurate gh and kh results if you have the liquid tests for those. 

Edited by ererer
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21 minutes ago, ererer said:

The buffer was basically just adding back in to the RO water the minerals that are already present in your tap water. With your tap water, you shouldn't need the Malawi buffer anymore. Your tap water may be a bit harder than your tank water, it's hard to tell with just the strips, you'll get more accurate gh and kh results if you have the liquid tests for those. 

I don’t have liquid tests for those right now, but based on what has been discovered today, I think changing to tap water will be a good move.  Thanks for your input!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Update and a bit frustrated...

On April 3, I set up my new 75 gal African Cichlid aquarium and changed to using tap water instead of buying/hauling RO water from my LFS store 30 miles away. My pH is great (8-8.2) without buffer. Ammonia and nitrites at 0. Unfortunately, I’m battling nitrates. I can’t seem to get them under 40.

Per past posts (above) I did check my tap water prior to making this decision. Nitrates were under 20 according to the tetra strips I had. I was also using the Fluval liquid test, which indicated the same. 

I have added Matrix as well as another Nitrate reducing pad to my other media.  I’ve been doing 25-30% water changes about every 3 days, using Prime to treat the water.

I have also changed to using the API liquid test because I was having trouble reading the colors on the Fluval one (it was running out, too) and it indicate nitrates from the tap to be closer to 20.

I don’t over feed... I actually cut back from what I was feeding these same fish in their previous 40 gal home, so I’m confident that isn’t the issue.  I’ve been considering adding live plants, but that will take a bit to establish and with Cichlids, might no go well anyway.

I really don’t want to keep doing water changes every 3 days forever... not when I was doing them every 10-14 days before.

Were my previous testing results (Fluval liquid and/or tetra strips) just that far off?  Will the Matrix, media pad, etc eventually help?  Do I need to switch back to buying/hauling RO water?

 

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I think an issue you may be seeing here is that it's harder to drop nitrates with water changes when you have nitrates in your water source.  RO water had no nitrates, so say you're diluting 40ppm tank water with 0ppm RO water...you do a 50% WC, and you have 20 ppm nitrates.  When you're diluting 40ppm tank water with 20ppm water (I'm not sure yours is actually that high), you're not going to go down nearly as far.  

As to how to solve that...well...that's harder 🙂  Usually the answer is "add plants", but not sure what will work with African Cichlids.  I think there are some plants that work, but others may have better specific advice!

Edited by KaitieG
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4 minutes ago, KaitieG said:

I think an issue you may be seeing here is that it's harder to drop nitrates with water changes when you have nitrates in your water source.  RO water had no nitrates, so say you're diluting 40ppm tank water with 0ppm RO water...you do a 50% WC, and you have 20 ppm nitrates.  When you're diluting 40ppm tank water with 20ppm water (I'm not sure yours is actually that high), you're not going to go down nearly as far.  

As to how to solve that...well...that's harder 🙂  Usually the answer is "add plants", but not sure what will work with African Cichlids.  I think there are some plants that work, but others may have better specific advice!

Thanks for the reply!  I understand that my tap water will never cut the nitrates as far down as RO water did for exactly the reason you mention.  However, either due to the change in my testing method and/or a change in the water itself, the nitrate out of the tap seems higher than originally accounted for.  

Per the photos of my tetra test strips (above in this thread) nitrates from the tap were reading well under 20 - at least to my eye. If they were 20ish like I feel the API liquid test is giving me, I might have re-thought my decision to add this third tank and switch to tap water. Maybe not?  I kind love my fish 😊 But, buying/hauling water for a 75, a 40, and a 5 will get old fast.

I have used treated tap water in my 5 in the past with no noticeable changes.  That’s what makes me wonder what changed at the source... will it come back down and when?

The 40 is empty right now, but will soon be a planted community tank so I’m sure that I can get away with tap water there. 

I think I might have a few of those tetra strips left.  I’m going to check the tap with those again tonight just to see how it compares. 

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It would be interesting to see the comparison!  I'm not sure where you live, but I know around here (rural WI farmland) Nitrates tend to rise in wells in the spring as everything thaws and stuff (manure/fertilizer, etc) moves into the ground water.  Not sure if you could be experiencing something similar with your tap water source.

I would probably do my best to ride it out for a while if I were you and if nitrates aren't going crazy high since hauling all that water would get old really fast, but that may just be me!

Edited by KaitieG
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7 minutes ago, KaitieG said:

It would be interesting to see the comparison!  I'm not sure where you live, but I know around here (rural WI farmland) Nitrates tend to rise in wells in the spring as everything thaws and stuff (manure/fertilizer, etc) moves into the ground water.  Not sure if you could be experiencing something similar with your tap water source.

I would probably do my best to ride it out for a while if I were you and if nitrates aren't going crazy high since hauling all that water would get old really fast, but that may just be me!

That would make sense!  I’m in rural NW Iowa.  On City water, but they have to get it somewhere... 

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@KaitieG here’s the results. To my eye, the test strips show lower results than the API liquid test.  I’m reading the tap strip as under 20.  The aquarium strip as 20-40. On the liquid tests, I see 10-20 and 40-80? 

I wish there was an affordable way to just get an actual number instead of comparing colors 


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12 minutes ago, LaurieinIA said:

@KaitieG here’s the results. To my eye, the test strips show lower results than the API liquid test.  I’m reading the tap strip as under 20.  The aquarium strip as 20-40. On the liquid tests, I see 10-20 and 40-80? 

I wish there was an affordable way to just get an actual number instead of comparing colors 


 

Given those tests and the fact that I can never differentiate between 40 and 80 on the liquid tests (or 10 and 20 for that matter) I'd vote that you're around 40 ppm--that would fit with the colors for both the liquid and strip tests, right?  And that's not so bad, especially if it's temporary!

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13 minutes ago, KaitieG said:

Given those tests and the fact that I can never differentiate between 40 and 80 on the liquid tests (or 10 and 20 for that matter) I'd vote that you're around 40 ppm--that would fit with the colors for both the liquid and strip tests, right?  And that's not so bad, especially if it's temporary!

I’m hoping it’s temporary.  Thanks for your opinion!

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