Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Aquascaping Answers: Water Softners

Each week in Aquascaping Answers, I do my best answering your aquascaping and aquascaping related questions. Just leave your question in the comments section!

Well I didn't get any questions on last week's post (which was pretty big anyway!) so I'm going to dig up a question that I got in my email for this week:

How do you avoid a temperature change when doing the water change? I can't use tap water because we have a water softener. I can use the outside faucets, because they aren't on the softener, but then I can't control the temperature. This is an 80-gallon tank, so that's too much water to heat on the stove.

If you can't use your tap water (which I'll touch on later), the only other way is by investing in some big containers that you can fill up via the outside taps and leave inside so they warm up to room temperature (which should be somewhat close to your tank temperature). You may have to leave them overnight. You can also throw an old aquarium heater and a power head into them to speed up the process if you have an extra.

This sounds like it may be a lot of hassle to do weekly though, so I'd test your tap water and see what it looks like. You may be able to use your tap water after all. Well water and water in rivers and streams contains magnesium and calcium. A water softner just swaps out magnesium and calcium for sodium. Test pH, GH, and KH and see if it's within limits or at all similar to your tank water. I'm guessing the tank was originally filled up via the outside taps? If the water in the tank is much harder, and the tap water is softer, but within reasonable limits, I'd simply do a series of small water changes with tap water, maybe a few gallons a week, to acclimatize the fish and plants to the new tap water. Keep testing and once your tank water is about the same as your tap water, you should be ready to start doing water changes from the tap.

In the end, it's much easier to acclimatize your fish to your water chemistry than the other way around. Most fish and plants will do fine in stable water conditions, no matter if they are hard or soft. The key is to minimize large changes. Good luck!

Ask a question about aquascaping, keeping aquatic plants, plant-friendly fish, lighting, CO2, fertilizing, or any other aquarium plant related question in the comments to this post, and I'll answer them in next week's edition.


  1. I'm trying to do a natural tank, currently with low light basic fluorescent. I want to add some high light requiring plants and use natural sunlight for a few hours, probably in the morning. Is there a 'right' amount of natural sunlight. A proper amount of time and portion of the tank to receive light? What other considerations and temperature controls should I consider?

  2. Any tips on making DIY caves? I'm going to make some for my fish soon - preferably from natural materials. Any suggestions?

  3. I used soft water for over two years on my high-tech planted tank before I even heard that it was "bad". It's not. As the author says, "unstable" is bad, stable is good.


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