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Aquarium enthusiasts know that water quality is a critical component of healthy fish. Water that is contaminated with chemical residues, dissolved minerals, and disinfection byproducts can harm fish and other aquatic creatures, leading to illness or even death. An aquarium reverse osmosis system is the preferred choice for managing water quality to ensure healthy aquariums and their occupants. These systems remove dangerous substances from the water used to maintain aquariums.
Water Quality Matters
In an aquarium, water quality is of utmost importance. Fish depend on clean water for respiration; contaminants can interfere with critical biological processes. Straight from the tap, most household water supplies contain traces of a wide range of contaminants. Municipal water treatment services use powerful disinfection agents to kill microorganisms; byproducts of these disinfectants like chlorine and chloramine are commonly found in household water supplies. These two contaminants are extremely toxic to fish, corals, and invertebrates, especially those that live in aquarium environments.
Other potential contaminants in water include:
Some aquarium owners use well water, which typically does not have trace amounts of disinfectants like chlorine and chloramine. Unfortunately, well water often has little or no dissolved oxygen, which is critical for the respiration of aquatic organisms. Well water may also contain contaminants like agricultural runoff, bacteria, and viruses. One of the most dangerous potential contaminants in well water is hydrogen sulfide, a highly toxic chemical compound that comes from decaying plant matter in water supplies as well as bacterial action. If this compound is present in water supplies, the water will give off a distinctive odor of rotten eggs. At high levels, hydrogen sulfide can kill an entire aquarium full of fish in a matter of minutes.
An aquarium reverse osmosis system can effectively remove these contaminants, helping to ensure proper water chemistry for the fish and other organisms you keep in your tanks.
Dissolved Minerals and pH
Many water supplies, including both municipal water and well water, contain high levels of dissolved minerals. These minerals – calcium and magnesium carbonates – alter the pH balance of water. The pH scale measures a substance’s acidity or alkalinity; neutral water is 7 on the pH scale. Acidic water is that which measures below 7 on the pH scale, while alkaline water measures greater than 7 on the scale. Most aquatic organisms prefer neutral water, although certain species have preferences for slightly acidic or slightly alkaline water.
Water high in dissolved minerals is classified as “hard water”. In areas where hard water is present – about 85% of all households in the United States – the dissolved minerals can cause a wide range of problems, including streaking or spotting on dishware, clogged pipes, and skin irritations. In the aquarium environment, hard water can interfere with delicate biological processes as well as irritate the skin and gills of fish.
Nitrates and Fish Health
For those who have raised fish in aquariums, nitrates are of particular concern. Nitrates are formed when oxygen binds to the nitrogen in organic materials, such as uneaten food or fish feces. These organic materials are typically filtered out of the water using a carbon filter element or maybe strained with a sediment filter. Filtration is not always adequate to protect fish health. For example, if fish are overfed, the oxygen dissolved in the aquarium water can cause nitrate levels to spike, leading to algal blooms that rob organisms of the oxygen they need to breathe.
Nitrate levels are measured in parts per million (ppm). Freshwater fish can tolerate up to 40 ppm of nitrates, but saltwater fish are more sensitive. Nitrate levels as low as 0.25 ppm can kill marine fish and corals. An aquarium reverse osmosis system is ideal for creating water chemistry free of nitrates; as waste nitrates are produced by the organisms, filtration and nitrifying bacteria typically take care of this production.
The Power of Reverse Osmosis
Now that we have gained an understanding of how critical water quality is in aquariums, how can we create an ideal starting environment for fishes, snails, and other aquatic organisms? The key to success is the aquarium reverse osmosis system.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a mechanical process that mimics a natural cellular process. In RO, untreated water is pumped under pressure through a semipermeable membrane equipped with tiny pores as small as 0.0001 micron, or one-millionth of a millimeter. These pores serve as an incredibly effective filter, trapping tiny particles and even chemicals while allowing clean water to pass through. The contaminants trapped by the filter membrane are drained away as wastewater.
An advanced aquarium reverse osmosis system typically contains multiple filter stages. The first stage removes large particulate matter from the water source, including sediments, sand, and silt. Then, the water passes into the reverse osmosis chamber. After contaminants are removed, the water is piped through a final filter element containing activated carbon. Chemical contaminants are further removed, and the water is improved in taste, odor, and clarity.
Reverse osmosis is extremely effective in removing a wide range of contaminants, and the systems are relatively easy to maintain. Reverse osmosis typically removes up to 99% of all contaminants from water supplies, including both municipal and well water sources. To maintain them, periodic filter changes and replacement of the RO membrane at manufacturer-recommended intervals are all that is needed.
Creating Water Balance with Reverse Osmosis
Water quality is a critical aspect of aquarium health. So too is the water chemistry. Each freshwater or saltwater organism has a specific preference for water hardness, pH, and chemical composition of water. With an aquarium reverse osmosis system, the aquarist can control these parameters, ensuring an ideal living environment for the fishes and corals of the aquarium.
With an aquarium reverse osmosis system, you can be sure the water starts at an ideal baseline: neutral on the pH scale and slightly soft in terms of dissolved minerals. All potentially harmful contaminants are removed, including water treatment chemicals like chloramines, fluoride, and organic residues. For fishes that prefer slightly harder water, aquarists can add minerals to the tank or use remineralizing buffers. Nitrate levels can also be balanced, with additional filtration added to remove potentially harmful levels of waste nitrates. Nothing is more essential to a healthy aquarium like a reverse osmosis filter. An aquarium reverse osmosis system puts you in control of water quality, helping you to create the perfect environment for your aquatic pets.