Aquarium adventure 5

October was beginning and most of my plants had turned into mush and I was with tweezers pulling them out pretty much daily. So I took the advice I had been given, and started to investicate different substrates (the sand-gravel-soil-pellets you put on the bottom of the tank).

I discovered that substrate selection really is a major decision with planted aquariums. You choose wrongly, and nothing will work from then on. That said, considering I had good 50 litres of gravel under some 430 litres of water and stones and fish, I was not too keen to remove it either. I finally resorted into obtaining some Caribsea eco complete high end substrate, and carefully pouring it in by using some (cleaned) takeaway curry pots. It actually went in rather nicely, and more importantly, it was a lovely change to the previusly algae green base. If it had a slight vindaloo twang or not I don’t know, but as nothing died as a result either the fish like curry, or they were drunk from the chili. I knew my weekly vacuuming was going to mix the new substrate with the gravel, and that was also the plan. No blenders needed, just sit and wait and let gravity take over. I think its one of the only times I was friends with gravity. I think most ladies in their 40s would agree with me.

Then I got new plants, pushed them into the substrate, and again it looked pretty nice.

I then investigated the infamous reverse osmosis, or RO water. Our local aquarium shop is selling it £5 /20 litres, so I made a quick calculation that I would be changing some 150 litres a week, which would be a cost of £35+, and going back and forth to the shop and dragging those containers, and I saw sweat and pain and not at all nice life.

It hit me just then that I just had to get one of these machines. But what? The technology of RO is really simple, but when I didn’t know at all what I was looking for, it was one of the most confusing things I have ever studied. I think it took good 3-4 weeks before I just gave up. One day I bit the bullet and called one of the manufacturers, and asked stupid how is it installed. Like how much output do I get. Like what does a pump do in that system. Like how much do the replacement cartleges cost and how does one change them and when. Its also good to be a woman. I can go and ask the stupid sounding questions, and as long as I don’t appear too clever, most specimens of the male species are more than happy to explain complicated things in the simpliest ways. One of the nice things I suppose.

Trademark aquatics were super nice since first contact. They explained I would benefit from getting a custom built double RO system, so that the water would go through the system once, and that then the waste water (the reject part) would go through a second RO stage. That would give me a much higher recovery rate. They also told I should get a version with a pump, so that the recovery percentage is higher.

I was all up for it. I said I want it soooo big, that it does not need to run all week. Like the bigger the better (hehehe) Like I prefer it large enough to get the water without needing to store canisters of water in our flat. They recommended the double RO custom built, with a pump. Tested, connected, all set for easy installation. I made the order, and it came some days later.

I had decided it had to go into the cupboad under our kitchen sink. That back there we had some 55cm high wall space, and then I would not need to see it, and to change cylinders would be only every 6 months, so who cares how difficult it is to crawl there…but it would still be close and hidden and handy.

RO system connected to main waterline with a closing valve at the back of sink downpipe, its the pipe with upright uniflow valve attached to the back. RO reject line (pink uniflow part) connected to the horizontal waste pipe with a black saddle valve. RO water output is through the coiled thin pipe, which can be placed directly into water containers or bucket. Turning on and off works by plugging the machine to the mains.

All in all the entire installation took 2 evenings, from which first went to understanding how dishwasher legs can be lowered (there is a screwhole you turn in front lower panel, doh!) Once we had plugged an extension lead to the mains, thus enabling ourselves to have an actual electric socket under the sink, it was couple of screws, lifted in and turn it on to test. And oh boy does it work. Our small system produces over 1000 liters/24 hours.

Now, you cannot put pure RO water into an aquarium. Or yes you can, but then your fish become stargazers and you get to go and deposit more of your funds to the local aquarium store. Basically what RO does is that it removes all the salts from the water. RO water tastes..wet. Just wet. Its not really water, because curiously water tastes like water, or rather a selection of salts that have dissolved into that water. But when you remove these salts, its just..nothing, its wet.

Fish on the other hand live in water, and they have salts inside their bodies. So if we were to put fish into pure RO water, the salts from inside these fish would start to exit into the water. The fish would die, from lack of electrolytes. Fish actually die if they are in pure water.

So we need to add minerals to compensate for those we took out. We remove pretty much all, and then we add what we want. That way you get to control what is in the water. Happy fish, happy owner. You add too much, fish die. You put too little, also fish die. But the difference is that you choose what enters the water. You remove whats not good for your fish or aquarium. With tap water we are at the mercy of the water company. If their technician turns wrong valve our fish pay the cost. Also in tap water there are tons of additives, that are not poisonous to us humans, but absolutely destroy aquatic life.

So I bought a petshop own brand remineralising powder, and after quick guess-calculation I desided I needed to put 4 teasoons / 20 litres. I dolloped them in after each RO container, and like a rock they fell on the dark substrate. It said they’d dissolve within few minutes. No They Don’t.

I consulted dr Google, and saw an advert for Seachem Replenish. A lovely bottled liquid version that would remineralize freshwater tanks. So I ebay’d it and few days later I had a liquid remineralising agent. Easier to dose, tidy, dissolves. Just what I needed, right?