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Well water - What do I test for before using it?

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I'm starting up a 10 gallon planted tank (low tech) for shrimps and a small tetra school. I live in an area where we get well water, and will have to use this for my tank.   It's treated with a salt system, and I know very little about this. (I moved here a year ago, and had public water before that). 

We do have a reverse osmosis system attached to the sink that gives us 2 gallons of water, filtered, at a time. Is it necessary to use this water (or bad, for that matter.. wondering if it removes the nutrients)  or can I use the normal well water? Are there any tests I need to run to check for possible issues? It would be so much easier to use the water from the well vs the filtration system. Any help or concerns regarding this would be appreciated! 

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I'd get a sample of your water tested by the state or whoever in your area does it.  I live in Maine and I built my house, so I got the water tested after we dug the well to see if it was drinkable.  The report will give you all sorts of data about your water.  Like it's hardness/softness, mineral content, bacterial content etc. etc.  And then I would call them and ask them what the salt system is doing to your water.   Or find the manufacturer's name and model number on the system and call them.  I was lucky, I didn't need any kind of filtration system or anything.  Ours was drinkable and moderately soft.


Some well water has excessive minerals in it that need a system to filter it out.  That's probably what the salt system is.  You can always use the water from your RO system and just remineralize it with a remineralization product.  I use" Salty Shrimp" but there are a lot of similar products out there.


At least you don't have to worry about chlorine!  And it's only a 10 gallon...  I'd just use the RO and remineralize it.



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Pretty much what TheGlassBox mentioned.  It's nice to just use RO water and have control of what you want in it (remineralized).

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yeah,but are those "salts" safe for shrimp/fish in a house RO system?

i kinda like to know,just to know.

they are made for humans.


all i know,well water can have super high nitrates,especially if near a farm.

in the united states,city water has a limit of 10 ppm.

well water could have well over 100 ppm.

that would be a good reason for a house RO system.;)

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I'd look into your RO system and learn a little more about it.  Check the manufacturer, make and model.  Honestly I don't know much about RO systems, (but i suspect I'll be buying one in the future as I want more shrimp tanks  :)  )  I do know that they have parts that need to be periodically replaced (like membranes and filter resins?) for them to work.  So I'd definitely look into your system and make sure those parts have been replaced on schedule and that it's working up to par.  If not, replace them.  If it's in good working order then it should be fine for your fish and shrimp, as well as for your own consumption.  RO water is great.  It filters all the bad stuff out, like nitrates and excess undesirable minerals and make the water very pure.  I once rented an apartment that was part of a house on a well.  Every time we took a shower the whole apartment smelled like sulphur.  Obviously that house needed some kind of filtration system.  If you have too much iron in your water, your whites will look pretty shabby when they come out of the washing machine.  That's what these filters are for.


The resins in the system are perfectly safe.  Just make sure they've been replaced and keep replacing them on the recommended schedule.  I've heard some folks keep track of when to replace the resins by monitoring the TDS...  When they start going up it's time to replace.  That being said, I've never owned one.  So hopefully someone who's owned one will chime in.


As for the salts that are used to reconstitute the water for your shrimp, of course they're safe.   That's what they were made for.  They were made to make RO/DI water have a perfect GH/KH for shrimp with all the minerals that they need.  I wouldn't drink the water made from it...  It might taste funny.  Heck, I don't know.  They're not made to make great tasting water for humans.  But heck, I'll taste a little the next time I mix up a batch  LOL!!!  I'll let you know.  Maybe it'll beat Poland Spring!!!



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Your local water softener sales people will also check your water for free trying to sell you a unit.  Sterilize a pint jar and take it to them with your concern about your well water.  Fla is usually alkaline with high TDS due to limestone in the aquifers.  Our well water here in Ohio is usually hard with calcium and iron in it.  Even then I won't put in a softener due to the extra salt going into our bodies as well as our septic system/leach bed.

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Thanks so much everyone!


I ended up talking to the owner of the company that takes care of our well system. He said the TDS on our water is incredibly high and it will have salt used to treat the system in it. (You can taste it, its the reason we got the RO system). Our water is also very soft, due to the treatment process. (Trying to shower in this water is a nightmare when you aren't used to feeling "soapy" even when clean.) 

I also talked to him about the water produced by the RO and found out that the system re-mineralizes the water. So I've opted to use this, coupled with Prime (just to be on the safe side..). 

Our water is also testing between 7.0 and 7.4 in PH. In my established 2.5 tank, that's always used the RO water, it tests at 7.0 consistently. I think the leaf litter and calcium rocks help stabilize this?   Its an ugly brown water, but I'll take ugly over non-habitable. Coming out of the RO system, the water was ranging widely but after changing the RO system filters (which were completely clogged) the PH seems to be 7.0 or 7.2. 


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Any salts used in the prefilteration system should be removed by the RO unit, giving you essentially pure water as long as the resins are replaced and it's maintained.  


So you should be okay by just reconstituting it with Salty Shrimp GK/KH+ (or another equivalent product).  Not sure what shrimp you have, but both Cardinia shrimp and Tetras love soft water and do better in it.  So you've got that going for you.  If you're looking for a lower pH, there are special soils available that buffer the water to ~6.5, which both Tetras and Cardinia shrimp love.  But you should get a GH and KH test kit to use these, so you can be sure you add the right amount to get the GH and KH values that you're aiming for.  Some folks use a GH product only, essentially giving them a KH of zero.  I guess CRS breed better in this environment.  But I'm shooting for A KH of 3 because I'm new and scared of the pH fluctuations that could occur without any buffering ability at all.  It's the KH value that provides a buffer for the water to keep the pH stable and prevent pH swings.  A KH of 3 is usually considered the minimum value to have enough buffer to prevent these swings.  I need to talk to some folks who know more than I do and find out how thier tanks run at zero....


I'm using ADA Amazonia (powder) soil, but it's $$$ and a pain because you have to cycle it for a few weeks as it leaches ammonia.  There are other cheaper soils out there that are easier.  Just google "dwarf freshwater shrimp soil" and compare the different brands.  Plants do love the Amazonia though.


You know, since it's only a 10 gallon you could always buy distilled water at the grocery store and use that.  Just reconstitute it with the Salty Shrimp GK/KH+ (or another equivalent product).


I have an 11 gallon shrimp tank and that's what I'm doing because I don't have an RO system.  I hope to get one in the next few months.  But if you're RO unit is functioning, it should be removing any contaminants to the water.  That's what they're for.


One thing to note, a 10 gallon is kinda small for a school of tetras and shrimp.  (Neons maybe okay).  But I have cardinals and they're little piranhas.  You might loose a lot of baby shrimp to them...  I keep Bloody Marys with my Cardinals in a 40 gallon breeder that's heavily planted so there are plenty of places for the baby's to hide.  And they do very well.  That being said, I'm sure my Cardinals have a great high protein diet available to them at all times as I'm sure they do get some of the babies.  You might want to up it to a 20 gallon and plant it heavily.  Doesn't have to be high tech with grow lights and CO2.  Low light plants and lots of moss are great hiding places for the babies.


I think I heard that Petco was getting ready to have another "buck a gallon" sale....  Water parameters would be more stable as well.  The nitrates won't build up so fast if you don't over stock it.  I think a 10 gallon will need a lot of water changes with that mix.  Maybe 2 a week.  And Cardinia shrimp are very sensitive to nitrates.  Just a suggestion...

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