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[APD] Howdy! & Water Quality/RO Question

  My name is Steve, I'm a graduate student at Texas A&M University in College Station (WHOOOOOP!!!!!!!!!), TX.  BEAT THE HELL OUTTA WHICHEVER TEAM WE'RE PLAYING THIS WEEK!!!!!  WHOOOP!!!!!!!!!! I am an environmental studies major and will be doing my graduate studies in Geography, Environmental Sciences, and especially coastal wetlands, which I have been studying along Galveston Beach and Bolivar Peninsula on the upper Texas Gulf Coast.
  I've been doing months worth of research on planted aquariums, and I am ready to start trying my luck/skill at my first stab, a 55 gallon tank which will house an angelfish community tank.  I have kept plantless community tanks since I was 7 or 8 years old, so for 16 or 17 years (I'm 23).  I have the basics of compatibility, NOx cycling, fish density, water changes, disease management, snails/algae (in non-planted tanks), etc completely mastered.  I consider myself an ADVANCED novice or a BEGINNING Intermediate level of knowledge.  
  First off, let me assure you that I EXCEL (I repeat, I EXCEL!!!) at digging up the dusty corners of the internet looking for answers for my questions.  Since I am asking you, my excavations of the various sources I have consulted have been fruitless.
  This link is to my city's webpage which talks about water quality for the City of College Station, TX and what exactly is in my water.
  Things I know about my water/area:
  1) Tap water kills YES KILLS!!!!!!!!!  terrestrial plants.  I have killed ferns, houseplants, succulents/cacti/aloe, before I started buying RO water to use for them.  Now my houseplants thrive on RO water.
  2) The dominant ion in my water is SODIUM (YUCKY!!!)
  3)  My water tastes and smells like it would kill a human!!!  LOL
  College Station gets 100% of its municipal water supplies from groundwater supplies.  College Station is UNIQUE (or almost unique) in the nation in that its water supplies are derived from a single aquifer with a single dominant dissolved ion (sodium).  
  Here's how it works in my area:  Our aquifer (Carrizo-Wilcox formation) is overlain by a thick layer of coastal plains/bottomland forests, which desposits lots of organic matter on the surface.  Precipitation percolates though this decaying organic matter, bringing humic acid down into the subsurface.  There, the humic acid dissolves calcium (present in calcium-carbonate, limestone, which underlays much of the state)...  this calcium interacts with our smectite clays in the area, which release sodium in favor of grabbing and adhering the dissolved calcium.  Thus, our water is sodium rich. 
  Here's my water chemistry report as provided by the City of College Station in accordance with Safe Drinking Water Act.
  To see the whole report, click http://www.cstx.gov/docs/csu_2004_ccr.pdf
    Alkalinity (bicarbonate) 366 ppm
  Alkalinity (carbonate) 11 ppm
  Alkalinity (phenolphthalein) 5 ppm
  Total alkalinity 377 ppm
  Calcium 2.96 ppm
  Chloride 56.8 ppm
  Fluoride 0.36 ppm
  Magnesium 0.65 ppm
  pH 8.46
  sodium 200 ppm
  specific conductance 891mhos/cm
  sulfate 6.78 ppm
  total dissolved solids 541 ppm
  total hardness (as CaCO3) 8.14 ppm
  1) Can someone explain to me whether this is OK for planted tanks?  My local petshop "wisewoman" says no, and tries to sell me more RO water for 35 cents/gallon.
  2) Do I need to buy my own RO filter?
  3) What type of RO filter do I need?
  4) Can I pass my tap water over something else, like crushed coral calcium or something, to get my water OK for aquarium plants without buying an RO filter?
  5) Does anyone have a recommendation for a portable, easy-to-install RO filter for a student-on-the-move housed in a rental property?  I can't go putting holes in the pipe (at least until I have my rental deposit back!!!  ROFL)
  Thanks so much for helping me make sense of my local water quality and chemistry and how to apply it to aquarium plants.
  Please let me know if you need any further information, I'll dig it up somehow.
  I've been enjoying browsing your archives and FAQs, and I am overjoyed (and awed) to have found such knowledgeable people!
  Cheers & Gig'Em Aggies!!!!!!!!!!!,
  Steve '05

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