Tons of newbie aquarium enthusiasts are terrified of learning about water hardness and chemistry. But, knowing the basics and essentials of water chemistry is a must because it will improve the health of your aquarium’s ecosystem immensely.
Since the quality of water directly impacts your fish’s well-being, aquarium hobbyists must understand a bit about water chemistry.
With basic knowledge in water chemistry, you’ll surely find it a whole lot easier to maintain a safe and healthy ecosystem for your finned pets.
And, one of the must-know and most significant parts of water chemistry in aquariums is water hardness.
Depending on your location, the hardness of your water may or may not directly affect you. But, your tap water’s hardness level can adversely affect your fish tank.
That is why you should explore ways and solutions on how to soften aquarium water.
So, how do aquarists soften the water of their aquarium? And, what are the best ways to soften the water of an aquarium?
We know that you are eager to find the best answers and solutions. But, before I reveal the best ways to soften aquarium water, let us first talk about water hardness.
- What Exactly is Water Hardness?
- How is Hard Water Measured
- Hard Water Properties
- Why You Should Soften Aquarium Water
- How To Know If Your Aquarium Water Is Soft Or Hard
- How to Soften Aquarium Water
What Exactly is Water Hardness?
Water hardness can be, at times, quite confusing. As a result, it has become an overlooked aspect of fishkeeping, even though it’s imperative, as it is related to the water’s levels of pH.
Most fish only thrive and survive in certain water hardness levels. And, if the water hardness levels are outside the ideal parameters, it may lead to fish stress or even death.
Furthermore, you cannot maintain the water’s optimal pH level until you get the exact water “softness” or “hardness” in your tank.
Water hardness, in its simplest term, refers to the number of minerals dissolved in water.
Soft water has little mineral content, while hard water has a rather high one.
The most common water mineral is calcium, but there may be other minerals present in your aquarium water.
Tap water is either a little soft or hard, depending on its source. But, in most cases, tap water is hard, which makes it challenging for some aquarists.
Well water from locations with plenty of limestones (contains plenty of calcium) is usually hard. Water from rainwater and lakes is mostly devoid of minerals, meaning it is soft.
As an aquarist, it is highly essential to know how the hardness in water affects your aquarium’s pH. With a high mineral content, hard water has, for the most part, high pH levels.
Soft water, with its low mineral content, is typically low in pH level.
The hard water’s mineral functions as a buffer that fights off the water’s aridification. That is why hard water is more alkaline and has higher pH levels.
Some fish species flourish in soft water, while others need hard.
Here is an informative video about water hardness:
How is Hard Water Measured
The water’s hardness is measured in a couple of ways: GH (general hardness) and KH (carbonate hardness) or also known as alkalinity.
KH measures bicarbonate and carbonate ions, while GH measures calcium and magnesium.
When measuring the aquarium’s water hardness for fish, aquarists mostly use dH (degree of hardness) or ppm (parts per million).
A degree of dH equals to 17.85 ppm.
Here are some important notes when softening aquarium water.
- The water hardness is soft or too soft when ppm is between 0 and 100, and dH is between 0 and 6
- The water is either hard or slightly hard when the ppm is around 101 to 440, and the dH is between 6 and 25
- Water is deemed as very hard or “liquid rock”, when ppm reading is 450 or even more, and dH reading is 30 or more.
Hard Water Properties
Water that contains a vast amount of dissolved minerals, such as magnesium, manganese, and calcium, is considered “hard water”.
Although hard water is not a serious health risk for humans, it definitely is a nuisance for fish pet owners. After all, it can cause mineral buildup on glass and fixtures as well as lead to weak detergent or soap performance.
Here are a few more facts about hard water.
- Hard water leaves behind a white and chalky residue, after evaporating
- Boiling can temporarily remove the water’s hardness
- There are two types of hard water: permanent and temporary
- Hard water has high quantities of mineral ions, like magnesium and calcium
- Permanent hard water needs chemicals to get soft
- Hard water kills certain species of fish
- Without proper water hardness, you cannot get the optimal pH level for your aquarium
Why You Should Soften Aquarium Water
Soft water conditions are, in general, preferable for most aquatic pets. Plus, it offers a host of other benefits as well, including:
- Most species of fish thrive in soft water unless it is exceptionally soft and devoid of all minerals
- Soft water can help you save money in the long run
- Aquarium appliances like LED light and canister filter tend to last longer in soft water
- Makes fish tank cleaning easy because it avoids limescale buildup
How To Know If Your Aquarium Water Is Soft Or Hard
There are a lot of ways to simply determine if your water is soft or hard. And, if you are not sure how to figure it out, I am going to share a plethora of tips for you.
Ask Your Local Water Supplier
At first, this method may seem more of a Plan B or an alternative rather than an actual solution. But, truthfully, it is pretty useful.
You just have to call your local water company and ask about their water softness or hardness.
From pH and hardness levels to chemical treatments, they have all the information you need about your tap water.
And, they can immediately tell you if your tap water is soft or hard.
Test Using Soapsuds
Are you a DIY type of aquarium keeper? Then, see if your water is hard by using soapsuds.
To me, it is the easiest and simplest way to test the water’s hardness.
With this DIY solution, there is no need to buy any testing instrument or call your tap water company.
You just have to follow these steps.
- Get a transparent and empty water bottle
- Fit ⅓ of the bottle with your aquarium water
- Add some liquid soap to the water and intensely shake it for a couple of minutes
You will know if your aquarium water is hard when the water inside the bottle looks milky and does not have any bubbles.
Use Aquarium Test Kits
While soapsuds are handy and practical, they are not 100% accurate. And, if you need accurate readings and results, you should embrace a more advanced aquarium test method, such as using aquarium test kits.
I have been using test kits, like pH meters, for years, and I must say it has done a lot of wonders and magic for my aquarium water.
From measuring hardness to checking ammonia levels, these kits have a plethora of applications that can help you create a thriving ecosystem for your fish.
Test kits for aquariums are available in strips, powder, and liquid form.
Mostly, experienced fish owners like me use strips. And, if you are not sure how to use them, make sure to heed the tips I have shared below.
- Fill a transparent and empty container with your aquarium water
- Insert and dip the test strip into the container
- After a few minutes, remove it from the container
- Observe the change of color and compare to the color chart that comes with the kit
- Using the chart, see if your water is hard
Check out this cool video about aquarium test kits!
How to Soften Aquarium Water
Softening your fish tank water means you have to remove a few dissolved minerals that practically harden your water.
And, if you need help doing that, below are some tips that will undoubtedly come in handy for you.
Of course, you will also need test strips to monitor the progress, and see if you have successfully softened your aquarium water.
Add Rainwater To Your Aquarium
You do not have to break the bank, and spend a fortune to soften your aquarium’s water, especially if you have tropical fish.
To soften water without spending a dime, you just have to store some rainwater in a container, and gently pour it into your fish tank.
There are, however, a couple of necessary precautions you need to take before collecting rainwater.
First, the place where you are living should have fresh and decent air quality to make sure it is free from chemicals. Second, your storage container must be sterilized and cleaned.
Also, take note that you might have to add a little taper water or aquatic salt to get the ideal hardness level for the fish species you are keeping.
RO (Reverse Osmosis) is, hands down, one of the most popular and effective ways to reduce water hardness. And guess what? It also does not use any harmful products or chemicals.
As a matter of fact, RO removes around 95 to 99% of dissolved particles like minerals and chemicals, leaving behind only clean and pure water.
You have to add tap water to the RO filtered water since it is crucial to find the perfect balance of hardness and softness.
Additionally, you may have to add some aquatic salt mixes to maintain the aquarium’s pH level.
Learn more about RO by watching this YT video!
Use Water Softening Pillows
Water softening pillows, for the most part, use an ionized resin that functions as an aquarium’s chemical filter media.
And, a water softening pillow is exceptional when it comes to reducing your water’s calcium and magnesium levels. Although it increases the level of sodium, it nevertheless effectively reduces your aquarium water’s hardness.
These solutions are rather proficient in reducing the water’s GH level and may be added with ease to your current water filter.
They are ideal for tanks with a capacity of 25 gallons or smaller.
You may use it in a larger aquarium too, but you need to recharge it a bit more often.
Peat moss is absolutely a terrific solution to soften your tank water at an optimal level since it perfectly works by binding calcium and magnesium ions.
It, however, also releases gallic and tannic acids in your tank water, and attacks your aquarium’s bicarbonates, resulting in the level decrease of carbonate and pH.
Planning to use this solution? Then, check out these techniques when using peat.
- Method 1: Put the peat inside the tank filter. This method essentially maximizes its effectiveness and ensures a consistent stream of water over or through the peat.
- Method 2: Add peat into a clean bucket and let it sit for around two weeks. When it is ready, pour the water from the bucket into the fish tank using a fine sieve.
- Method 3: Submerge the peat directly into your fish tank by adding it to a pillowcase. Just do not forget to keep the levels of oxygen balanced by keeping your aquarium fully aerated.
On the low side, this solution may turn your aquarium’s water to brown for a little while due to the tannins the peat releases. But, you do not have to worry about it because it is totally harmless.
Add Driftwood to Your Aquarium
Driftwood reduces the levels of pH and GH of your aquarium water very effectively. Even better, it helps prevent parasites and unwanted species from infesting your gorgeous fish tank.
To get the best results, use clean and fresh driftwood. Also, you may get rid of any potential toxins by boiling it or scrubbing the driftwood.
Like peat, driftwood will turn your tank’s water into brown as well.
Are there Any Fish That can Survive Hard Water
Hate to go through the softening process even though it is elementary? There are actually some fish species that flourish in hard water conditions.
And, if you are planning to keep these kinds of fish, then there is no need to soften your tank water at all.
Here are some of the common fish species that are suitable for hard water.
- Paradise Fish
Fish, like humans, deserve a healthy and happy life. And, as their owner, you should learn the basics of water chemistry and master the art of water softening.
Trust me, it is a process that will give your fish a long and fruitful life.
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