The Planted Aquarium Water Parameters – Environmental Indicators – Chlorine/Chloramine

by Jun 20, 20207 comments

Every healthy ecosystem requires a balanced environment, including the environment we lived in. Just like we humans and land animals cannot survive breathing polluted air or drinking contaminated water, aquatic life (faunas and plants) will have a difficult time living in sub-optimal water. Of all the balanced factors that go into a successful planted aquarium – the filtration, lighting, CO2 injection, fertilization, substrate – I would insist that the quality of the water used in our planted aquariums may be the most important. In this article, we will be discussing all about planted aquarium water parameters.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Knowing Good Water Parameters
Environmental Indicators
Chlorine/Chloramine
Stressing This Out Again
Conclusion
Closing Remarks

Weekly water parameters tests from the beginning weeks to months of your planted aquarium are critical to making sure that your parameters are in check, don’t let others say otherwise. The way co-hobbyists talk about good water parameters can be confusing at times. Add that to the fact that you may have different water sources and parameters due to your differing location/city, and you may not be able to replicate what works for him/her. That is why every planted aquarium is unique, and you have to find the balance of what you’ve got in hand.

Sparrow Drinking in Faucet

Sparrow Drinking in Faucet

Knowing what makes ‘good water’ for your planted aquarium is critical for maintaining a healthy environment for your fish and plants. It will help us understand the intricacies of a planted aquarium and will arm you with valuable insights on what to do if you notice any problems. Knowing good water parameters even helped me think outside the box, formulate theories, and tested it to see what works and what doesn’t, which I will explain later below.

The planted aquarium water parameters can be further broken down into categories, namely:

Nutrients

Ammonia/Ammonium

Nitrite

Nitrate

Phosphate

Minerals

Carbonates and Bicarbonates (KH)

Calcium and Magnesium (GH)

Environmental Indicators - You Are Here - Chlorine/Chloramine

pH

Temperature

Dissolved Carbon Dioxide

Chlorine/Chloramine

TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)

After we discussed the Dissolved Carbon Dioxide part of determining good water parameters for our planted aquarium, we will now be discussing the Chlorine/Chloramine part, what are their effects, what happens if you have too much or too low, what can you do if you have too much or too low, how to test them, etc. We will also provide the acceptable water parameter ranges for different types of freshwater planted aquariums near the end of these articles.

Environmental Indicators

Chlorine/Chloramine

At the most basic of things, and as I was stressing time and time again, your water source should be chlorine or chloramine free.

If you are sourcing your aquarium water from a commercial water system (tap water), that water should be treated to ensure it is safe for human consumption. The water is cleaned and filtered, then add chemicals to prevent anything harmful from developing in the water while traversing the pipes leading to our homes.

Most water treatment plants used chlorine to disinfect and kill all harmful organisms in the water. This small chlorine dose is safe for human consumption, but not for our faunas and beneficial bacteria.

The problems with chlorine are it is unstable and quickly dissipates from the water. This is why many hobbyists stock up on tap water and let the chlorine evaporate for several days to a week. So the water treatment plants add more chlorine to make sure that some will remain in the water as it reaches our homes.

Water Sources

Depending on your location, some water treatment plants have started to use chloramine to treat our water. Chloramine is the combination of chlorine and Ammonia (that’s no good). If you remember, Ammonia is bad for our faunas. So we are dealing with two harmful substances that we will use as our aquarium water for our planted aquarium.

However, from the water treatment plant’s perspective, chloramine is more stable than chlorine alone, and it will not easily evaporate from the water. It is more unlikely to combine with other chemicals too. But chloramine is less effective as a disinfectant than chlorine, so higher levels of chloramine are used.

Adding chlorine or chloramine into our water for human consumption is safe but can instantly kill our beneficial bacteria that keep our planted tank stable and our faunas.

Beneficial Bacteria Living on Filter Medias and Hardscapes which can be Killed Easily by Chlorine or Chloramine

We can use commercial dechlorinators like Seachem Prime, which can remove the chlorine instantly and detoxifies Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates so your biological filter can effectively remove them. The API Tap Water Conditioner can remove chlorine instantly too and detoxifies heavy metals in our tap water. Still, it doesn’t specifically say that it can detoxify Ammonia, so only use API Tap Water Conditioner if you know that your water treatment facility is just using chlorine for water disinfection. Contact them.

You can also switch to a chlorine-free or chloramine-free water sources such as Reverse Osmosis/De-ionized (RO/DI) water, Deep-well or Springwater, or Distilled Water, but not without any disadvantages.

Seachem Prime

Seachem Prime

API Tap Water Conditioner

API Tap Water Conditioner

For example, starting up a Reverse Osmosis water filtration system in your home may be costly (depending on your preference, it may set you back as low as 100 to 200 $ on the lower end), especially if you are planning to use it for your aquarium. But if the plan is for using the system double as drinking water for the family, it will save you money in the long run. Another disadvantage of RO water to be used for your planted aquarium, while it is very pure and clean water, most of the good nutrients and minerals that will benefit your plants and faunas are removed too. So you have to buy GH/KH boosters, dry fertilizers to remineralize it.

Your deep-well water can be a source of chlorine-chloramine-free water too, but you have to test it first. Deep-well water quality varies from one location to another, and there are still many unknowns in your water. If you can drink it, it doesn’t mean it is safe for your faunas. You can still use Seachem Prime with the combination of API to detoxify heavy metals, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates, but what is the point if you still need to condition it?

I was using our deep-well water before. It is safe for adults’ consumption but not for the rest of the family, kids, and my baby. It has no chlorine, zero Ammonia, zero Nitrites but adds about 10-20 ppm of Nitrates into my aquarium. It seems fine. I was using it since I was keeping a fish only tank almost 3 years ago. But one thing that really annoys me is the lime/calcium deposits that develop in the glass, which makes my water hard (15 dH + I didn’t bother to continue with the test.).

I am now using 50 cents per 5 gallons of Reverse Osmosis water from a nearby water refilling station for my water changes. But I am planning to acquire my own RO Filtration system for my home.

Distilled water may be cheap per gallon, but it will add up quickly on your monthly cost, most especially if you have multiple tanks. Like RO water, you have to remineralize it before using on your planted tank.

Deep well Water

Stressing This Out Again

I want to stress again. Every planted aquarium is unique. What worked for others may or may not work for you. We all have a differing degree of planting, tank sizes, water parameters, water sources, stocking, maintenance schedules, lighting (intensity and spectrum), injecting co2 or not, filtration, aeration, substrates, even external factors like extreme weather conditions and ambient temperatures, etc. it is up for the hobbyist to find the balance of all these factors.

You can also ask for help from others who are willing to help and have the experience. A sensible co-hobbyist will ask some questions first before jumping to conclusions (even if he had the same symptoms before) like what is your water parameters, how old is your tank, did you perform any tank cycling, or do you even know what tank cycling is, what did you changed before the problem happens, what is the size of your tank, filtration used, the substrate used, how is your stocking, your feeding schedule, and maintenance, to name a few.

From your answers, he may be able to create a hypothesis and test it. He may ask additional questions to prove his theory further until you both reach a conclusion and resolve the problem.

Conclusion

Chlorine or Chloramine is added to our tap water to make sure it is safe for human consumption, but the same substances can harm our faunas and can kill the beneficial bacteria that make our planted aquarium stable.

Always use water conditioners in your tap water before using it in your tank. Or you can use known chlorine-free water sources such as RO/DI water, distilled water, spring or deep-well water but not without any disadvantages.

RO water can be costly during start-up (100-200 $ at the lowest range), but if you already have an existing RO water filtration system for your drinking water, by all means, use it. You have to remineralize it, though, as it has 0 KH and very low GH. At least it is very clean and pure water, and you have fewer unknowns in your water.

Distilled water may be cheap per gallon, but it will quickly add up to your monthly cost if you have multiple tanks. Plus, you also have to remineralize it first, like RO water.

Spring or deep-well water is chlorine-free in my area, but there are many unknowns in the water, and it is hard water (15 GH +), causing mineral deposits in my aquarium glass (which means very high TDS too). Plus, it adds 20 ppm of nitrates to my tank.

Closing Remarks

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have additional questions or want to share your experiences with the Chlorine/Chloramine parameter in your planted aquarium, please leave a comment below. Next, we will be discussing the TDS Parameter for our planted aquariums.

7 Comments

  1. Lynne

    I would very much think that your water in an aquarium must be chlorine free otherwise it would just kill all the plants and aquatic life wouldn’t it? I had never heard of chloramine before but it sounds even more harmful. This is the first I’ve heard of dechlorinators and that sounds like it might be the best option as other water sources come with problems of their own that I was not aware of. 

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hi Lynne,

      At the most basic of things, yes your water source should be chlorine or chloramine free. If you are using your tap water, it is treated with chlorine or chloramine. Aquarium water conditioners can help.

      There are other water sources that are chlorine or chloramine free but not without any disadvantages as I discussed in this article.

      Reply
  2. Joy

    Hello there! this is an amazing review you have got here. Planted tanks are a popular and rapidly growing segment of the aquarium hobby, one that allows hobbyists to combine the beauty of nature with the benefits of a balanced ecosystem. 

    Unlike a traditional aquarium, live plants are the primary focus, with fish being an accent or compliment to the overall effect.

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Joy,

      Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating the article. Indeed a planted aquarium puts you more closer to nature and understanding how nature balance everything out.  

      Reply
  3. Nic Castle

    This is a very interesting article. What is in our water? Whether it is affecting us in our home, our aquariums or even what we are putting into our water that is then sent throughout our ecosystem. I just have one question by putting more chemical in the water are we causing other problems in the short or long term? Would people be better installing filtration systems to get rid of what we don’t want in the water

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hi Nic,

      Thank you for visiting my site and taking interest with my article. Using just water conditioner products to remove the chlorine is fine, it may add to the TDS but that is fine as long as the chlorine is removed. Or you can just stock the water minimum 24 hrs before using so that the chlorine can evaporate if you don’t want to use dechlorinators. We don’t experienced any short or long term problems as long as your tap water is good enough chlorine aside and have stable water parameters (not wandering off).

      Well of course, having your own water purification system is better. It may cost you a lot at the start, but will save you money in the long run.

      Reply
  4. Brianna Kraushaar

    Wow! What an interesting read. I knew chlorine was in the water but this is the first time I stopped to think about it! That can’t be good to drink! I will be rethinking my own water choices after reading this article.

    Reply

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