One of the most important factors for the health of your aquarium is the hardness of the water. The hardness of water is the number and amount of dissolved salts present in the water, including sulfates, chlorides, bicarbonates, and carbonates.
The majority of fish are used to soft water which doesn’t include these mineral salts.
These fishes need aquarium water to have the same chemistry to maintain their health. Fortunately, such water conditions can be recreated in the aquarium using the right techniques.
Identifying Whether Aquarium Water is Soft or Hard
There are numerous means of determining whether your aquarium water is soft or hard.
The hardness of water has two measurements – Carbonate Hardness and General Hardness.
- General Hardness (GH) – this is the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the aquarium water. The level of GH has an impact on the tropical fishes, which is why it is essential to have the right GH level to maintain and enhance the health of those fishes.
- Carbonate Hardness (KH) – this is the measurement of bicarbonate and carbonate ions in the aquarium water. It helps in determining the amount of pH fluctuation in your aquarium. The higher the KH levels of the aquarium water the more pH stability. In case the KH levels are too high in your aquarium, you need to lower the KH.
The most common way of measuring the hardness of water is to look for scaling within the tank. If you notice white residue in the water then it is an indication that the aquarium water is hard.
Another way to measure your water is through a testing strip. All you need to do is to dip the strip in the aquarium water and the color change will tell you whether the water is soft or hard.
Ways of Soften Aquarium Water
There are various simple ways to soften the aquarium water to ensure the comfort and safety of all your fishes.
It is important to keep in mind that switching the hardness of the water level in an aquarium that is already active must be gradual. Sudden changes maybe lead to grave issues for your fishes.
Here are the five effective ways to soften aquarium water:
Method of Reverse Osmosis (RO)
This method is the most effective way of decreasing water hardness without utilizing any harmful products or chemicals. The Reverse Osmosis eliminates 95% to 99% minerals, chemicals and other particles and leaves behind clear and clean water.
This method forces the hard water through a somewhat porous material at high pressure. It is a slow and gradual process, which is why it is ideal to process the water in batches and store the excess in another tank until you run it through the process.
You might have to mix the processed water with the normal tap water to create a balance between the softness and hardness levels. This will ensure that the pH levels are stable in the aquarium water.
You can also add special salt mixtures to stable the pH levels in the RO processed water.
To make it easy for you, it is ideal to take notes of all the steps you perform, the quantities you used and the outcomes you received. This way you can repeat the steps the next time with more reliability.
This process is all about consistency, which is why writing it all down the first time you perform this method is essential. For future applications, you can simply follow the same techniques and steps to save your time and efforts.
Using Water Softening Pillow
This is another effective way of softening the aquarium water. The water softener pillow utilizes a chemical filtration media, usually ionized resin, to decrease the general hardness of the water.
It reduces the magnesium and calcium levels in the water and increases the level of sodium. You can recharge and reuse this medium by soaking it in a solution of salt for a certain amount of time.
The majority of the water softening pillows can be included in the water filter and can effectively reduce the general hardness. This method is ideal if you have a small aquarium, which can hold about 25 gallons of water.
However, it can work well for bigger aquariums too but will need more frequent recharging.
The downside of this method is the increased levels of sodium as it might have some negative effects on your fishes in certain cases. It is like trading one contaminant for another one.
However, this mostly depends on the fishes you have picked for your aquarium as some fishes might not experience those negative effects.
Rain Water Method
If you want to opt for an inexpensive, but effective solution then rainwater can work for you. However, it is essential to ensure that you are living in an area with good air quality and the water is free of chemicals.
Moreover, you must also make sure that the water capturing system and the water storage containers you use are sterile and thoroughly clean. They should also be food grade to reduce the chances of any chemicals entering the stored water.
Rainwater is extremely soft, which is why you might have to mix it with some amount of aquarium salts or tap water to balance both the GH and KH levels in the aquarium water.
Adding Peat Moss
Peat moss is also helpful in softening the aquarium water as it binds the magnesium and calcium ions, while also releasing tannic and gallic acid. These acids degrade, attack, and bicarbonate in the water which further reduces the pH levels and carbonate levels.
There are different ways of utilizing the peat moss in the aquarium water, including:
Put the peat moss in the existing filter of your aquarium. This ensures that a continuous water stream passes through the peat and enhances its effectiveness.
You can also soak the peat in a water-filled container for at least two weeks before using it. When you are about to add the treated water in the aquarium, you can just strain it using a fine sieve.
Another way is to place the peat moss in the pillowcase or a cloth cover then put it in the aquarium directly. Just ensure that the aquarium is properly aerated to prevent the levels of oxygen from decreasing.
No matter which method you opt to use, you must first sterilize the peat most. This can be done by boiling it in water for a few minutes. Make sure you only get the untreated peat which has no additive.
Keep in mind that there is a drawback of using peat moss in your aquarium. It will turn the water slightly brownish in shade for a certain period. Don’t panic, it is not going to harm your fishes. This occurs due to the release of tannins. It will look unappealing for a while but will disappear gradually.
Placing in Driftwood
Driftwood is easily available in the market, but it is best to get it from any fish shop or you can buy it online. This will ensure that you avoid the invasive species and parasites from infesting the water. However, just for safety measures, you should boil the driftwood for a few minutes to reduce the chances of any nasty surprises.
If you add the driftwood directly in the aquarium, the water will turn brown. This happens because of the release of tannins just like in the case of peat moss. This is completely harmless to your fishes, but the aquarium water turning brown is not something you would want. To avoid this, you can soak the driftwood in water for at least two to three weeks before using it.
When you add the wood in the aquarium, you must ensure that the water is aerated and constantly moving. Keep a close watch for the first few weeks for potential growth on the driftwood like slime algae. Changing water frequently can reduce this.
Creating a healthy environment for your fishes is significant and one of the main responsibilities of the aquarium owners. Use these methods to reduce the water hardness as needed.
Handling water hardness fluctuations is far easier than starting from scratch, which is why measuring it regularly, is important. You can use different tests to measure the hardness levels of the aquarium water so that you can immediately take the right measures to soften it if needed.
There isn’t the need to study the chemistry of water to understand, determine and soften the water in your aquarium. Merely the basics can help you in ensuring the health and safety of your fishes.
If you don’t soften the hardness of water then it can result in severe damage to your fishes. Therefore, ensure that you are making efforts to regularly monitor and utilize one of the above-mentioned methods to soften the water for your fishes.
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- Can Distilled Water Be Used in a Saltwater Aquarium?
- What Should Be the Water Test Results of My Aquarium?
- Can Ocean Water Be Used in an Aquarium?