Water quality report

Discussion in 'Reef Chemistry' started by HiFidelity, Sep 15, 2014.

  1. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    Not sure if anyone does this but I like to take a look at the annual water quality reports and see the figures as to what's coming out of the tap before RO/DI takes everything out. I figured if some of you guys haven't done so I'd share the report here;


    Would anyone like to chime in as to how good our water is? some of the info is simply just numbers to my eyes.
  2. Corallus

    Corallus BAR Sponsorship Coordinator

    HiFidelity - thanks for inadvertently starting a thread that I have a lot of interest in!

    I'd like to put a question out to folks, specifically anyone who gets their water from Hetch Hechy. I know this has been discussed on other forums, and there's lots of write-ups online about this (some good, many useless) - but I'd like to know if anyone on the forum uses, or has used, conditioned tap water, instead of RO or RO/DI for their reef aquarium? And if so, what, if any, problems have you run into because of it?

    I understand potential issues with chloramine, phosphates, nitrates and metals but it seems that these could be managed by treating with some of the various available products (thiosulfate based de-chlorinator, GFO, Chemi-Pure) prior to mixing with salt. My thought would be to fill a bucket w/ tap water, run the mentioned media in a small reactor (like this http://www.bulkreefsupply.com/cpr-nano-tumbler-media-reactor.html) for a couple of days, and then either mix w/ salt or add to ATO. Does anyone do anything like this? Is this crazy?

    The reason I ask is, I'm considering moving to a larger system (from 25g to ~100g) sometime towards the end of the year. Water change and dosing water is not a problem now; I don't mind picking up 5 or 10 gal every other week, but if I need 20 or more gallons at a time, that may be chore that keeps me from moving to something larger. And yes, I have thought about getting an RO unit for my place, but I'd like to avoid that if possible. At this point, I'm seriously considering experimenting with my system, but I'd really like to see what people's thoughts on this are first.

  3. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    One of the members I was riding with on Saturday said she only uses tap water.

    Straight out of the faucet in san mateo. No dechlorinator. No RODI unit. Nada. And her reef tank is fine. No algae issues. She got acros and all sorts of lps.

    I heard the same thing from a guy in San Francisco.

    Your mileage may vary depending on what your TDS is.

    I also know a lot of people who don't acclimate corals. Some don't even dip.

    Which leaves me to say...do what you want to do if you're happy with the results.
    jonmos75 likes this.
  4. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    well you are in luck, I just cleaned, bleached, disinfected and recharged my RO/DI system (new cartridges & new carbon). Naturally every time I do this I take a report of how my system is doing with all the new cartridges. My Tap water measured at a very very impressive 28 on my TDS meter, of course RO/DI brings this down to a lovely zero.

    Here are a few factors I recommend you take into consideration based on my experience and what I know about hetch hetchy water;

    -What is your TDS out of the tap? it can differ from city to city, building to building, for example if my neighbor's house is built in 1960 and mine in 1990 we will both have different TDS due to the age and condition of neighbor's plumbing. City by city of course the municipal piping is not all the same, additionally water tanks play an effect, my house comes from a tank 300 feet up from me (I live on a hill at 600 ft above sea level, tank sits close to 900 ft).

    -What does your municipality add to the water? mine puts both chlorine and chloramine into the water, this is an issue because chloramine is not as easy to remove as chloramine, good old carbon does not do it. I have no idea how well prime fares against chloramine but even your basic 4 stage RO/DI system won't cut it. This also means that while my 28TDS tap water is quite impressive, it's not as simple as that number alone.

    -Prime is great at removing chlorine, but does nothing against metals and minerals which can affect your tank either positively or negatively, you have copper to worry about, if calcium is through the roof that could be a problem, iron, etc. etc. the list is long.

    -Muddy water (wait what?) haha well "muddy" is an exaggeration but what I'm talking about is sediment, my best guess is sediment does not show up on a TDS meter because "Total Dissolved Solids" tells me that a TDS meter can not measure sediment since sediment is suspended solid (thinking of sediment being dissolved simply doesn't add up in my head). This became a point of pondering for me because I religiously replace my sediment filters 4 times a year and I only buy them from BRS so I know my cartridges are quality yet every time I throw out an old filter it is a solid brown color, in fact my last carbon block I threw out had started turning brown which tells me the sediment filter failed to stop all the sediment and i ended up with clogged up my carbon block as a result. Consequently, I've installed a 2nd sediment filter in hopes that 2 1micron sediment filters can hold back sediment from getting into my carbon. This has only occurred on my most recent carbon block which I installed back in January.

    I had heard that when reservoirs run low sediment goes up, though I can't verify this claim and have no data to support it, my observation of the behavior in my RO/DI system seems to support it and the timeline aligns with our drought problem.

    The science says all of this is bad for your tank but then again there are plenty of people who run tanks on tap water, I personally would rather err on the side of caution and run a meticulously maintained RO/DI system which also pumps out 100% of drinking water in my house.

    I hope this answer all of the questions adequately :)
    Coral reefer likes this.
  5. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    I think tap can work, definitely use a dechlorinator though! Chloramine is some nasty $hit that will not off gas
  6. wpeterson

    wpeterson Webmaster

    I sprung for an RODI unit when we moved here and setup our new tank. My meter reads 20-30 TDS in from the tap and 0 out. With a larger system I wanted to use proper RODI water for top off.

    When we lived in Massachusettes, I ran our two nano tanks off of treated tap water. I was able to setup a thriving mixed reef in our 29 gal tank, but managing nutrients was harder. I can't say if that was due to condensed nutrients from tap water or lack of sump or a bigger filtration system - it's hard to know.

    Our 90 gallon tank can easily evaporate a gallon or two per day depending on the heat, thinking about every trace element and nutrient out of the tap being concentrated that way makes me glad I have an RODI system now. It's been much easier managing phosphate in this tank - again, perhaps due to good habits from inception, better nutrient export in our sump/reactors/skimmers, or due to less nutrient import from evaporating tap water as top-off. It's hard to isolate which factor caused it, but it's been a better experience for us with our tank.

    Some folks seem near religious about RODI use at all times for all cases, but I only care I'm dealing with a quantity over a gallon - which means RODI as a base for fresh saltwater and as the sole source of top off water. I'm happy to rinse frozen food in tap water or even mix alk or other solutions with tap water. But when the scale gets above a cup or two, I use RODI to make sure I'm not importing trouble in bulk.
  7. bluprntguy

    bluprntguy Webmaster

    I used tap water for my nano for about a year and didn't really have any issues other than the normal start-up/new tank syndrome.

    FWIW from seachem's website: "Prime® is the complete and concentrated conditioner for both fresh and salt water. Prime® removes chlorine, chloramine and ammonia. Prime® converts ammonia into a safe, non-toxic form that is readily removed by the tank’s biofilter. Prime® may be used during tank cycling to alleviate ammonia/nitrite toxicity. Prime® detoxifies nitrite and nitrate, allowing the biofilter to more efficiently remove them. It will also detoxify any heavy metals found in the tap water at typical concentration levels. Prime® also promotes the production and regeneration of the natural slime coat. Prime® is non-acidic and will not impact pH. Prime® will not overactivate skimmers."
  8. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    well then at 28 tds at the tap maybe I should try only removing sediment and use conditioned water for a little while haha
  9. Corallus

    Corallus BAR Sponsorship Coordinator

    Thanks a lot for the insight you guys have provided, much appreciated! This whole water chemistry thing is both interesting and frustrating at the same time... So, of course, that means more questions... For the TDS readings, and it sounds like I should probably pick up a TDS meter if I'm considering this, those numbers seem to be pretty tricky. If the majority of those TDS's are Ca & Mg, balanced with carbonate or sulfate, I can't imagine that would be much of a problem for your typical reef tank. Again, please let me know if I'm off here, but it would seem, check your levels, dose accordingly, and all is good (does anyone care about sulfate?). I know what's meant by "muddy water", I lived in a place in San Mateo that literally had brown water coming out of the tap. It had to be the pipes in my place, but it was unbelievable. Thankfully now, I have basically no residue that I can see. I've been treating chloramine in my freshwater tank with either Prime or Amquel for years with no issue, but again my understanding is any thiosulfate based de-chlorinator should work well cleaning those up. Heavy metals concern me, especially building up over time, but some will complex quite nicely with sulfur based compounds (particularly copper), so perhaps that's where de-chlorinators get their claim? I would think carbon could filter out the complexed metals - but I have not looked into that. And for nitrates and phosphates, I would be relying on GFO or something similar, before mixing and adding to the tank.

    At this point, what I'm thinking...
    - Per @HiFidelity look into the specifics of my water source, and see, what, if any details I can get (if anyone knows how track this data down for SF, I'd be very thankful!)
    - Get a TDS meter and see what comes out of my faucet.
    - Order (or make) a small cheapo reactor, and pick up some media.
    - The fun part - testing water out of my tap, post treatment, and even try adding some nasties (copper phosphate, etc) to see how well they get removed. I should be able to qualitatively look at a lot of different dissolved things in my water (using equipment at work), but quantitating them may be difficult.

    @bluprntguy - do you still use Prime treated tap water for your tank? What part of SF do you live in?

    As before, really interested to hear experiences and thoughts. If folks are interested in this, I'll update as I play with things.
  10. bluprntguy

    bluprntguy Webmaster

    I switched to RODI water a few years ago, but I can't say that I've really noticed a difference except that water changes take longer. I'll probably start using tap more often because of the drought and the inherent wastefulness of the RODI water. I'm trying to use the waste water of my RODI for water plants and other things, but my reservoir for the reject water fills up faster than I can find uses for it.

    I'm in lower haight in SF. My TDS from the tap is usually around 15-20.
  11. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    I will say this, if you don't run RO/DI at the least do a 3 stage filter, it's cheap, it wastes no water as long as it has no RO stage, you can run 1 sediment filter, 1 loose carbon cartridge and 1 carbon block, this way there is less to be concerned with when it comes to what conditioners can & can't do. I plan to get an expansive water test kit & run a full battery of tests on water before & after a 3 stage filter, I know it won't remove TDS (my 1st 3 stages don't) so the test kit will perhaps tell me what that 28 TDS comprises of. This is all in theory by the way.
    Coral reefer likes this.
  12. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    You can still run DI as well, just might get eaten up kinda quick, but won't waste any water.
  13. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Being in apartments in sf, I've run tap water for years. However, I use nsw for water changes, and top off is a 50g drum of kalk. I clean out the precipitated kalk every six months, and it's usually discolored. Using this system I haven't been constantly fighting algae as you see predicted on forums, and have kept even "difficult" corals.

    I recently bought an rodi unit because I wanted an option for emergency use. (Also because my landlord finally let me plug into the plumbing in the laundry room.) Whenever I had a large emergency I'd do a 100+g water change, usually with salt mixed water because of the hassle of carrying that much water. Using tap plus salt mix always resulted in a small algae bloom that usually went away after a few days. Most recently I drained the tank to replace a bulkhead, used 120g of salt mix water, and have been fighting dino + cyano since. This algae bloom seems particularly nasty, and is also lasting much longer. I'm seeing other types of nuisance algae crop up as well since its lasting longer. However, draining the tank caused some coralline die off and my refugium is also "stalled out" for some reason. Either of those could be driving the bloom by itself.

    I know it's not scientific, but in the last year my Brita filter in the kitchen has gone from lasting 3-4 months to clogging in less than a month. Perhaps it's just my house, perhaps it's not the cause of my algae trouble, but perhaps water quality in SF is down and it is.

    Either way, I just switched away from tap. The big test for me will be the next time I do a 100g wc and use rodi instead of tap. I'm hoping to see less algae.
    Enderturtle likes this.
  14. Corallus

    Corallus BAR Sponsorship Coordinator

    I do like the idea of a filter to pull out any sediment + dissolved organics prior to conditioning - I'll look into what's available. I even have a hole for an extra, small faucet in my counter.

    Anathema, as far as the obnoxious bloom you're fighting with now, have you tested your water to check nitrate and phosphate levels? Curious to know if what you're dealing with is potentially being caused by the "usual suspects", or something else that most folks don't monitor. Perhaps with the drought, this is the wrong time to think about going this route. Seems not only do we have less water, but what we do have is not of the quality we're used to...
  15. anathema

    anathema Guest

    I test calcium and alkalinity. Magnesium when I dosed it.

    Water changes if anything looks "off."
  16. anathema

    anathema Guest

    Now you've got me curious. If I was to test for nitrate or phosphate, what would be the purpose? I know what happened, and any solution to the problem is going to equal water changes.

    The tank is normally very stable, so I don't see any benefit in chasing phantom numbers after a die off.
  17. Corallus

    Corallus BAR Sponsorship Coordinator

    I had to think that over a little bit before responding - which is a good thing. I guess ultimately, healthy tanks can handle small phosphate and nitrate additions pretty well. I see your point, why bother testing when you know what's causing the problem and it's in the process of being taken care of. My initial thought was "well, are PO4 and NO3 causing the blooms?" I suppose the obvious answer to people more experienced than myself is "yes". It would be interesting to know if the nutrients are coming directly from the aded water, or some other temporary stress on the system, and it seems the best way to know that would be to test the new water prior to adding to the tank, and then test the tank in the midst of the bloom.

    And now for stupid question of the day - the TDS values that folks are listing, are those PPM, or some unit of conductivity (which is what the ppm values are extrapolated form anyways)?
  18. bluprntguy

    bluprntguy Webmaster

    I seem to recall that San Francisco adds phosphate to the water to help maintain pipes. For me, running the water through some GFO eliminated the minuscule amounts that were left by the time it reached the tap. My tap phosphates were around .07. You may want to test yours. Doing water changes with new water that contains phosphates won't help eliminate algae blooms and could promote them. It's easy enough to deal with as long as you know what's happening.
  19. anathema

    anathema Guest

    I'm certainly not trying to pull rank as a more experienced reefer. I just think we have different ways of approaching problems.

    Yours might be better, I don't know and I only asked to see what your thought process was on recommending tests.

    Back to the main subject though, I provided so much background in an effort to help you with your decision. I used tap water for years, but I don't feel it's accurate to say that without qualifying it by adding that I only use it for kalk topoff unless there's an emergency.

    The rest of my experience with salt mix + tap could be entirely irrelevant simply because I only do that type of water change if something is wrong with the tank.

    I'm trying to say I used tap water without issue for years, but not in the same way you are contemplating, so it might not be useful information.
  20. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    After reading everything I would narrow this down to these few points;

    A. What is the current phosphate situation in your tank?
    B. What is the phosphate measurement in your tap?
    C. Based on both variables above I would decide how to use, ie; my tank is currently suffering from high phosphates so if my tap water tests positive for any amount of phosphates then it's only logical to deduce that it's not a great idea to use tap water 100% of the time. If the tank reads 0 phosphates and the tap water shows low measurement, there might not be a problem using tap.

    It sounds to me like conditioners are resolving any chlorine/chloramine issue, also if sediment filters + carbon are used there is very little left to be concerned with.

    Frankly this discussion has gotten my interest at this point. Once I have dealt with the high phosphates in my tank I will be entertaining the idea of at least partially using tap water for the tank, after a battery of tests that is (to the tap water not just the tank).

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