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"Perfect" water

tgc

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14 Nov 2007
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Wirral NW England
Hi there.

I've been away from planted tanks for a good few years and I'm looking forward to see how things have progressed in the industry.

While I've been away I've been heavily involved in the Reef Keeping industry and I also run at home a high tech SPS reef. This reef is run on a method called the Triton method which is based around dosing balanced solutions to keep the water at a very stable set of parameters, which are confirmed by sending water samples to a lab in Germany to be put through an ICP-OES machine. This basically breaks the water sample down into it's elemental components which you can then in turn adjust individually.

I now have the opportunity to convert one of my tanks to a high tech planted fresh water.

So, my question.

What are the agreed "Perfect" parameters for a planted tank?

If you could build your perfect water what would it be? If you started with RO/DI and effectively empty water what would you add to it and more important what wouldn't you want in it?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Cheers Tim
 
Joined
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I know that having your water parameters perfect is essential in reef tanks (I own a mixed reef tank), but if your tap water isn't to hard or soft you don't need to worry about any parameters other than getting enough CO2 injected (O2 is also important, but this is another topic) which is measured by KH and pH comparing. As you are planning to go for EI ferts, you don't need to worry about not having enough, just keep up your water changes ones (or twice) a week and you're good.

BTW isn't Triton very expensive? It is about the same as DSR (Dutch Synthetic Reefing), but you do your own measurements.
 

EnderUK

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What are the agreed "Perfect" parameters for a planted tank?

Cheers Tim

That it's wet and out a drinking tap. Oh and declorinated of course.

Life is much simpler in fresh water, even a high tech planted tank probably much easier then running a low tech SW (no experince but have thought about SW). Most plants will adapt to any fresh water conditions, some might struggle in soft water and vise versa but these are rare exceptions.

If you must be in control conidtions get yourself an RO-unit (you probably already have that) and get some GH-KH booster and get the GH to around 10 and the KH to around 5.

More important things to consider are CO2 (if you're adding it or not), flow, light (turn those reef lights right down then put them in storage because they're probably still throwing out far to much PAR). You're plants will be fed using fertilizing salts using the EI method so you don't need to worry about neutrients.

Best of look,
 

foxfish

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Guernsey
Hi Tim, we see lots of reefers or retired reefers on the this forum, perhaps one a week!
Most guys want to carry across some of their equipment and methods but the whole concept is different in our world.
Test kits are mostly redundant apart from a good PH pen and we add all the thngs you try to remove from a reef tank :)
On the surface a planted tank looks like a walk in the park but not many owners survive an algae free ride or achieve their dream design on their first attempt (or ever)
However there are tried and tested methods that work if you can resist the temptation of bright lights and accept adding chemicals instead of removing them....
 

darren636

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Depends which fish you want.

Soft water fish only thrive in soft water, so a reverse osmosis unit might be needed, although some parts of the country have excellent soft tap water.

Hard water fish will quickly succumb in soft water, so need plenty of calcium for them to thrive, of course, many counties in the UK have hard tap water that needs no manipulation.
 

tgc

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Wirral NW England
I know that having your water parameters perfect is essential in reef tanks (I own a mixed reef tank), but if your tap water isn't to hard or soft you don't need to worry about any parameters other than getting enough CO2 injected (O2 is also important, but this is another topic) which is measured by KH and pH comparing. As you are planning to go for EI ferts, you don't need to worry about not having enough, just keep up your water changes ones (or twice) a week and you're good.

BTW isn't Triton very expensive? It is about the same as DSR (Dutch Synthetic Reefing), but you do your own measurements.

The expense of Triton depends on what you are comparing it to. It is basically the same as baling but with the added knowledge gained from accurate water testing, so you are dosing accurately and not guessing, like you do with most other methods, including EI for FW I guess. If you just do it without going crazy on the traces it is cheaper than water changing which you no longer need to do.

If you must be in control conidtions get yourself an RO-unit (you probably already have that) and get some GH-KH booster and get the GH to around 10 and the KH to around 5.

Thanks yes this is more of the info I'm after, yes I have a full RO/DI production that I use for the reef.

Hi Tim, we see lots of reefers or retired reefers on the this forum, perhaps one a week!
Most guys want to carry across some of their equipment and methods but the whole concept is different in our world.
Test kits are mostly redundant apart from a good PH pen and we add all the thngs you try to remove from a reef tank :)
On the surface a planted tank looks like a walk in the park but not many owners survive an algae free ride or achieve their dream design on their first attempt (or ever)
However there are tried and tested methods that work if you can resist the temptation of bright lights and accept adding chemicals instead of removing them....

Absolutely no problem adding chemicals here, you should see my shed!!

I guess I am asking a strange question as you say tap water in most cases is good enough and plants will adapt. Maybe nobody knows what the perfect conditions are (without sampling and running an ICP of the amazon of course).

Another question....

Why water change?

And i will explain that question first.

In the reef keeping world people have always carried out water changes with the belief that they replenish consumed elements and remove nutrients, which they do, kind of, they also cause massive instability in the system because weekly there is a massive inrush of elements then over the next week they deplete (well some of them) before they are all added again. This means that every time you water change your inhabitants have to get used to the water again before they start growing As for nutrients in SW traditionally WC would be around 10-20% weekly otherwise they cost too much so you are in effect only reducing the NO3 by 10% which isn't too efficient and we can use the nutrients anyway be growing macro algae in a refugium. More and more people no matter what method they run have seen benefits from stopping WC and managing their water correctly by removing nutrients either naturally or chemically and only adding what they need and not just guessing or following a bottle, but for this to work you need accurate water testing.

The method I run uses no routine water changes at all (still used as a tool if there is a problem) so why do you do them routinely in FW? The same theory? Just because that's what I've always done?

Cheers Tim
 

darren636

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What about fish hormones?
Surely you don't want them hanging around in the water.
 

tgc

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Water changes are used in the freshwater side of the hobby to remove waste and organics from the tank, IME the cleaner my tanks the less algae I have.

Yes that I get as it is the same reason most people say for the SW side, but what are the natural ways of dealing with nutrients?
 

darren636

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Yes that I get as it is the same reason most people say for the SW side, but what are the natural ways of dealing with nutrients?

Plant growth, nutrient removal via water changes (dilution, as per lakes and rivers)

As for measuring hormones- I have no idea.
But the effects can be observed by fish stunting.
 

tgc

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This is what I am getting at, in the SW world the nutrients are taken up by the macro algae and the animals by making sure they have what they need to thrive in a controlled manner, so why can't that be done in FW?

I will come back to other accumulations later, one thing at a time :D

Dont get me wrong I am not against water changes, I'm against doing things just because that's the way it has always been done.
 

EnderUK

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This is what I am getting at, in the SW world the nutrients are taken up by the macro algae and the animals by making sure they have what they need to thrive in a controlled manner, so why can't that be done in FW?

I will come back to other accumulations later, one thing at a time :D

Dont get me wrong I am not against water changes, I'm against doing things just because that's the way it has always been done.

If you go low light low tech then you're tank can go several months without a water change simply because everything is balanced. In a high tech you're not really removing fish waste, what you're removing is the increased 'waste' from the plants as they go into rapid growth mode (You'll see dust like dirt in your tank on the substrate and leaves). If this decaying matter is not removed with water changes you'll start seeing issues with algae as you tanks balanced starts going past a 'critical point'. More light, CO2 and neutrients the harder it is to stay below this critical point.
 

tgc

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Ok that is good information thanks.

Have there been any studies into the use of individual elements being dosed into planted tanks?
 

EnderUK

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Maybe nobody knows what the perfect conditions are (without sampling and running an ICP of the amazon of course).
Companies do do this, espically shrimp companies selling you the 'perfect' GH KH boosters for certain shrimp species. The thing is that most aquarium fresh water plants grow emersed on the sides of rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps which when flooded can survive immersed. Coniditions most of the year around might be high TDS water but rapidly change during the rain seasons when pure rain water runs into the water ways. So most plants will adapt and there really isn't perfect conditions for them.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
This reef is run on a method called the Triton method which is based around dosing balanced solutions to keep the water at a very stable set of parameters,
I think the main difference is that sea water is much more uniform and stable than any fresh water. There are a lot more salts (obviously including ~35ppt NaCl), and pH is stable because of the carbonate buffering etc. Live evolved in the oceans, which have had similar water chemistry for hundreds of millions of years. The high level of salinity also effects dissolved gases, with sea-water holding considerably less dissolved oxygen than fresh-water at the same temperature and pressure.

No fresh water is like that, the closest fresh-water analogy would be <"Lake Tanganyika">, but even then you are dealing with a system where there is much more variability, and where the level of salinity doesn't effect oxygen levels .
which are confirmed by sending water samples to a lab in Germany to be put through an ICP-OES machine
This is another difference, plasma spectrophotometry is very effective for measuring the elemental composition of a sample (your water). In the case of sea-water you have a <"known datum"> to compare your sample with. Testing in fresh-water is more problematic, because we have low and fluctuating levels of many ions and we don't have always have a datum to compare them against. Even with modern analytical equipment, scientists still use <"biotic indices"> and <"5 day BOD tests"> as a best metric for estimating water quality.

I've come at this from a slightly different direction, from our work on <"landfill leachate">, I knew that planted systems, with floating or emergent plants, and a high degree of oxygenation, had the potential to drastically reduce the BOD of very polluted "water". From this I realised that you could use the same approach to maintain high water quality in aquariums. One of the parameters we measured in the waste water treatment was conductivity, so I used an approach where you use plants/microbes for <"phytofiltration"> and conductivity was the only measurement that I took. Conductivity isn't the measurement you would like, but it was the only measure where a relatively cheap dip meter would give an accurate reading over a wide range of water conditions.

I don't add CO2 and I regularly change small volumes of water to keep the tank water within the <"conductivity range "sweet spot"">. I use the vigour and leaf colour of a floating plant to decide on when I need to add nutrients. I've called it the <"Duckweed Index">. It isn't the most scientific or analytical approach and it isn't suitable for many aquascapers, but it is "<a simple and robust technique"> for maintaining water quality.

cheers Darrel
 
Last edited:

Manuel Arias

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I agree in most with Darrel.

There are a few of differences, not only in chemistry but also in biogeochemical cycles between fresh and sea water. There are also further reasons impacting in such a difference:

The differences in volume of water vs organisms in both systems. Sea water tanks tend to be much less populated by macro organisms than freshwater tanks, and specially planted ones. In the last ones, the amount of biomass respect to the volume of water can be very high. Because of that, the speed in what the conditions of the water can change is really high. In a well developed marine aquarium/tank, the conditions tend to change in a slower way.

Other factor, and related to the above, is the fact that aquatic plants grow quite fast when the conditions are right. They can remove nutrients from water at high speed. This has two effects: a) It depletes the water from specific nutrients they need, so it can cause a lack of nutrients if not compensated by fertilizers; b) more important, it changes also the PROPORTIONS between such nutrients, so water changes are required to balance these proportions in an easy way, when no automatic detection tools are in place. This is, in fact, part of the origin of the EI: You cannot guess the specific needs of nutrients for your tank, so you just ensure they are available, and compensate unbalances with water changes.

It is possible to get balances in some ways. For instance, in my tank, I have not to worry about kH, gH and pH, even if I am adding CO2 to the tank and using RO, which is also to the right level of bubbles. The key in this point was the combination of soil and rocks I use. A high CEC in the substrate helps a lot to give stability to those parameters in water. The rocks are providing the Mg and Ca in right levels as well as the carbonates. Nitrates are also fine by the decaying of the organic matter and the wastes of the fishes. I keep water changes, though, as my tank tend to accumulate nitrates since I removed part of the plants to make a change in the aquascape. However, I do it once a week, only 25% and that is fine.

Other parameters are more problematic for different reasons. More specifically, iron and phosphates. The former one tend to become in Fe3+, being then not available for the plants. Even the organic forms of iron are degraded within the time, and then suffer oxidation. Phosphates chemistry is all a world apart. It is very complex and it is due also to the high reactivity of the phosphates to many metals. Phosphates also last a short period of time in the tank before becoming in stable minerals, so you need to keep pumping it on it.

Oxygenation is important to ensure the right degradation of organic matter and cover both Chemical Oxygen Demand and Biological Oxygen Demand. This usually is not a problem at all in planted tanks with CO2 as the plants saturate in oxygen during the light period (that is why they pearl). During the nights is advised to provide oxygenation to the water to compensate the loss of production of O2 plus also the additional consume of O2 done by the plants. Most people manage this just with the right outlet system that ensures a right combination of gases in the water, but some prefer to include an air diffuser.

Apart from that, the specific target parameters are depending a lot in the type and amounts of plants and organisms you keep in your tank. Because of that, there are no specific golden rules. Each species uses a different NPK, they have different lightning requirements or optimal temperatures. General rules apply, but it it really really hard to stabilize a tank so is essentially self-maintained. Usually, I target some general numbers and tune them by controlling the behavior of the tank and monitoring the parameters. Contrary some guys, I truly believe testing water helps to understand what is going on in the tank. However, that is only really useful if you make regular tests and track the evolution somehow and comparing that with the status of the tank. This has helped me a lot to obtain the best conditions for the plants and also avoid algae issues.

Cheers,

Manuel
 

aaron.c

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Interesting thread, lots to digest.

I have an RO unit on the way for the fish tank and for making better water for coffee (our tap water is soft and lacks anything required to make nice coffee).

Plan is to remineralise the water for coffee with perfect set of minerals.

Going to be doing my 50% water changes with RO remineralised with TNC GH/KH boost and some iron.

Should I be adding anything else to the incoming water?
 

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