View Full Version : RO unit and aging barrel setup newbie questions- please help

02-14-2014, 10:49 PM
I am a newbie to discus and have been reading a ton from this site for 2-3 months now- very helpful. I have a 55g aquarium (48"L x 12"D x 20"H) and have fallen in love with the look and variety of discus! especially in lightly planted tanks: Anubias nana, Eleocharis parvula, Tiger Lotus plant, driftwood, with some BN plecos and school of rummy nose tetras....

I had originally planned to cycle then raise the plants for a few months, add the community fish, and lastly- after everything is running like clockwork, I've achieved stability and consistency with frequent water changes, testing the water, plant fertilizer etc. I would add ~5 adult discus. Of course, this would require quarantine, and I don't currently have a 2nd tank.

The more I read the more I feel I should follow advice to start BB....as much as I love the look discus with plants and community fish...but I know it will be worth it to be patient :). I realize a 55 g tank is the bare minimum size to have discus- 5-6 (as I've read this is the minimum # to keep) so I would be pushing it to have plants and other fish anyhow! I'm now thinking I should start BB, with one piece of driftwood with Anubias nana, and start with 5 adult discus and keep them happy! Once I'm comfortable keeping them and (cross-fingers) they remain healthy and thrive I would like to purchase a larger tank 120-140 g that I would start plants in, move the discus to, and then add community fish (the 55 g would then be used as a quarantine tank which I would keep the community fish and one discus in for wks to assure all was well).

Does this sound like a better idea? If so, I have several questions::confused:

RO question???:
I need to set up my Coralife Pure-Flo RO unit (Kh is 16) to our bathroom sink faucet and will keep an aging tank there. I have links to find a faucet diverter I will purchase (so I don't need to hook/unhook RO unit constantly but can still use the faucet). I only have a 24 gpd RO unit and am not that patient! so would like to change the membrane out for a 150+ gpd one. Is this possible to purchase but use in the same unit- I've read I would also need to change out the flow restrictor- could someone explain please. What flow restrictor would I need for a 150 gpd membrane? I've also read I may need a booster/pump of some sort to add in increasing the output- what do you recommend?

Aging barrel RO/tap water mix???
Ok, I'm picturing running cold water (as to not ruin the RO unit membrane) through the unit to the aging barrel- I have read Rubbermaid Brute 32 g is food safe?, the discarded water probably returned back down the sink. I presume I would add my tap water mix at this point- how do I know what RO/tap water ratio to mix? (trial and error until I reach Kh ~6-11?). I would have an air stone (is one enough?) and heater in the barrel which would be on, aging for 24 hrs. I've read it's recommended to use a lid on the barrel (to keep things from spilling in) with a hole for CO2 to escape.

Pump needed???
I could then use my python to suction water from the aquarium to discard in the sink or tub, then use the python perhaps to move aged water from the barrel to the aquarium. Would I need a pump for this?- if so, what would be a good size for 32 g barrel transferring to 55 g tank about 20 feet away?

I welcome any comments to improve my plan above, any advice! thank you

Keith Perkins
02-14-2014, 11:55 PM
I like your train of thought to start with a BB 55. It's better to crawl before your try to run. Your plan of going to the bigger tank later also sounds reasonable to me.

RO - generally it's COMPLETELY unnecessary unless your breeding discus, and not always even then. I'd save your money and not bother upgrading your Coralife. If you ever end up with a pair and want to set up a 20 or 29 as a breeding tank the Coralife would still handle that. Of course it usually doesn't stop at one added breeding tank and you might have to upgrade later, but that could be a couple years down the road if you even want to take that path. It's not for everyone.

I personally use Brute Rubbermaids for my aging barrels and have no problem recommending them. There are lots of other good options as well, but they work. I keep a lid on mine more to keep the heat in than anything, but I think that's pretty optional. I don't have any holes in my lids, they don't seem to fit that tight, but I doubt it would hurt either.

As far as pumps go I use Mag Drive MD-7. My runs are about the same as yours and it fills or empties at a pretty decent rate.

Good luck and enjoy.

02-15-2014, 12:26 AM
Thank you for the reply. I will buy Brute and look into the Mag Drive MD-7! Ok I should add- not only is my water kh 16 but I have a whole house ion exchange water softener (salt) which I can't work around -urgh! and have read mixed reviews, but the majority of posts state this could cause health issues (particularly in raising juves which I am not going to start with!) I know the RO unit would filter out this salt and I would only be using a small amount of tap/water softener water to mix and assumed this would be healthier for the fish? If you agree with using the RO unit I have many questions- see above.

Keith Perkins
02-15-2014, 12:36 AM
I have used tap water in the past that had first gone through a water softener and I definitely had problems. There must be some way you can tap into your water supply before it goes through your ion exchanger, you might just have to get creative...or hire a plumber for an hour.

02-15-2014, 10:17 AM
There is a tap is in the basement just before the water softener unit. Problem is my aquarium is 2 floors up (I want to see my beautiful discus...have a display tank...not have them hidden in the basement :) ). I do not wish to perform major construction on my house re: plumbing 2 floors up, or carrying buckets 2 floors up- I felt using an RO unit we already have purchased for this purpose on our bathroom faucet right next to the aquarium makes more sense, no? Do you foresee this being a problem? I realize I will need to invest in a higher gpd membrane (which is not $ prohibitive) and replace it every couple years, backwash the unit every few wks, and buy a float valve for the aging barrel but is not that big of a deal is it? I know consistency, stability is key for discus but a float valve and adding a set amount of tap water would be consistent. I know I need to age no matter what because tap water is pH 7.4 and aged is 8.0 (higher than the <0.3 difference recommended).

I want to avoid construction to our 2nd floor because as stated, truly over the next yr or two if all is running smoothly I'd like to purchase a larger aquarium, do some major furniture rearranging (by that point we would have been able to afford to redo our living room floor, etc) and have this in our first floor living room...in which case- yes! I could see logistically using tap pre-softener aging barrel water +/- RO water post-softener and keeping the mix in an aging barrel in the basement and pumping it up with hose 1 floor up (which is ~45 feet...perhaps not doable?) to my large aquarium or sump at that point.

And besides, most of what I've read states Kh 16/Gh 18 (my tap well water pre-softener) is too hard/not ideal for discus especially to breed (which I may or not ever do) or grow out juveniles. So I would need to use a RO unit anyway? Do you disagree?

I do really appreciate your comments! Thank you for taking the time to respond

Keith Perkins
02-15-2014, 11:20 AM
No, I don't foresee a problem with your plan. I was just trying to save you money. I would want to carry 5 gallon buckets up 2 flights of stairs either. I use to do 1 flight of stairs and that was plenty. I saw on another thread someone recommended Jehmco to you for RO unit help, I like Jehmco for a lot of stuff. Personally I get my RO stuff from Air, Water and Ice.

If you're not breeding I probably wouldn't worry about your water hardness at all. My non-breeding discus are in water with a TDS of 350 or so and perfectly happy. Not sure what your house configuration etc. is, but there is a good chance your kitchen sink water is not on your home water softener. Something worth checking.

02-15-2014, 11:56 AM

Unfortunately everything in the house and even our outdoor external hose faucets are post water-softener :( Again, we do have one tap pre softener in the basement- maybe I would use 100% this water with aging barrel in the basement eventually and don't need the RO unit then?...when I have my aquarium on the first level on our home....however not sure how great it would be to take Discus from ~11 Kh mix RO/post water softener tap water to 16 kh pre water softener tap water- if they could adjust. I would not want to shock them. I may just continue at that point to use post water softener RO water mix with tap water so the Discus wouldn't see such a swing in hardness.

In any case, I'm curious -have you raised juveniles successfully in TDS 350 water? I've read reports of fin growth problems? thank you!

Keith Perkins
02-15-2014, 12:13 PM

In any case, I'm curious -have you raised juveniles successfully in TDS 350 water? I've read reports of fin growth problems? thank you!

Absolutely, all the time. Normally gill plate problems etc are blamed on too low a TDS, not the opposite. When I switch fry over from RO to tap I usually do it in 3 or 4 WCs. First time go RO to tap 75/25, next time 50/50, then 25/75, then all tap. Adjusting really isn't that big of a deal. Once your tank is only one flight up from the water supply perhaps you could just pump water up to the tank with a potable water hose or something. You need a beefier pump, but the price difference wouldn't be that great and it beats carrying buckets.

It's crazy even your outside faucets are on a water softener, what part of the country are you in?

02-15-2014, 12:41 PM

that sounds EXCELLLENT- not having to use RO water would definitely save time! Thank you so much for the advice re: adjusting them to tap water over several WC's- makes sense. Yes, I would plan to use the highest mag drive pump to pump up 1 level then (which I read in other posts the highest mag drive would work) . Could I buy even a mag drive 18 pump now or would that be too aggressive/cause too much agitation in transferring from aging barrel to my 55g 20 ft away/same level?

I live in NW rural Vermont...not sure why my location isn't showing up. Will fix that. So I wouldn't be able to use outside faucets year round anyhow, even if not on the water softener system!

Keith Perkins
02-15-2014, 01:11 PM
You can put a PVC shut-off valve on the pump or hose to reduce the pressure for the time being so you don't need to buy two pumps. I'd check with Jehmco, Ryan at Aquatic Eco-Systems, or somewhere to find out exactly what pump you'll eventually need. The last thing you want to do is find out you've bought a pump that doesn't have enough umff to get your water to where you want it. You need to know the total distance your going to pump the water and also how many feet up your going to go. There are charts out there to calculate this as well, but I usually make a call and ask the professionals instead.

I wasn't thinking about running water in from outside, I just wondered what part of the country had plumbers who would hook up outside water to a softener.

02-15-2014, 01:18 PM

Our water softener was add post-building our house (after we noticed thick white calcium build-up on everything!!!) so the water softener company came and set it up....I presume in the easiest corner of the house where the water enters in from the well and this happened to be before our copper pipes branch off and exit the house for the external faucets or enter our radiant heat piping.

I will talk to the experts re: the pumps. thank you!

Keith Perkins
02-15-2014, 01:22 PM
That explains a lot. They put the unit in as cheaply as possible, or perhaps the only way it could be at that point.

02-15-2014, 01:26 PM
If you buy a mag 18 and are worried about too much pressure, don't be. You can always put a small valve on the discharge end and close partially, won't hurt.

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02-15-2014, 01:42 PM
Don- thanks for the info and reassurance

02-16-2014, 02:12 PM

Can you use the pump itself 24 hrs to agitate the aging barrel water? (I think I'd be best to buy the grey <food safe>Rubbermaid Brute 44 gal- plenty to do 50% WCs for my 55g and probably buy an oversized ?Mag Drive 18 pump so as to use this in the future to pump up one level in my home) OR is it recommended to use an air stone and only the pump to transfer water out?

If an air stone is best- what do you recommend to agitate ~30 g or so of water? There's ceramic cylindrical stones, flat disc stones, small, medium, large??? thank you

02-16-2014, 02:20 PM
The mag 18 is probably overkill for just circulating water in your barrel. I have a very small mag drive pump to do just what you're saying, to circulate water in my 200 gallon water storage barrel. It takes water out from the bottom, and returns it to the top. The tank is 6 feet tall, and just a very small pump works great.

If you want to aerate water in your storage tank, then any air stone will be fine.

02-16-2014, 02:44 PM
got it -thanks!