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Re: Testing of water (was: Water quality)
Doug Dame wrote:
> We've seen the obviously good advice along the lines of "know your water, get a water report from your local water company." .... how do people get equivalent information if their water source isn't a public utility, but a private well ? The state department of agriculture type testing services are inexpensive but seem (not unreasonably) to focus on whether the water is suitable for human consumption, not for the raising of sometimes finicky fish.
> Any ideas or experiences to share ?
I think Cornell U. also has an inexpensive testing service. You may want to
go there, if you suspect heavy metals, pesticides, etc. However, your county
or state ag. agent *should* be looking for those. They should also tell you
the hardness (in equivalent ppm of CaCO3) and alkalinity. pH is pretty
meaningless as lots of things can change it.
For fish, what you may most want to know is how hard, how buffered, and how
saline? [For plants you may also want to know if enough iron is present.]
I assume no chlorine in a private well.
To a rough approximation (which is all most of us need) A simple GH, KH and
tds test will tell all of that (except iron). The GH/KH test kit is usually
under $10, and the tds probe (in the US) is under $15. For the cost of one
water-sample test, we can therefore set up to do many.
The GH tells us if rainforest fishes will have egg problems* (if much over
4-5 degrees), the KH tells us if peat or other stuff can adjust pH or not
(not much if higher than 6), and the tds tells us the rest of the dissolved
"stuff" which is often mostly sodium chloride, (subtract GH from the meter
reading). Since GH is in degrees, and not ppm, multiply the degrees by 17 to
get ppm, roughly.
If you are in an agricultural area, you may also want to test for ammonia.
The slightest trace of it is cause for using some Amquel, Prime, or Ammo
Lock 2 in your change water. Baby fish are harmed by considerably less than
0.1 ppm, so get the most sensitive test you can. If it is a Nessler's
reagent (as opposed to salicylate) test, the stuff has mercury in it, so be
careful how you dispose of it. Never dump it into any sewer system. Double
the drops to increase sensitivity, and always look for faintest hints of
color tint against a bright white bowl or a sheet of new typing paper, under
very good light (sunlight?).
The main difference between fish needs and human needs is that a few fish
are more adversely affected by the hardness stuff (and sudden tds change)
than people are. Otherwise, both have similar needs, even though the fish
are submerged in it, so may show the symptoms quicker.
PS. I recently communicated with a killy guy whose tds was bouncing all over
the place! Turns out his well was near the coast, and the changes
correllated strongly with rainfall and maybe even the tides. Guess he was
getting some brackish backflow from the ocean, into his well. Without the
Hanna tds meter, he might never have known that and could have killed many
fish with unpredictable water changes.
*Rainforests have mineral-depleted waters, because the centuries of rains
have washed away all the soluble minerals. Many fish that have adapted to
that abnormal situation seem to have trouble producing viable eggs if the
water has too much of the divalent metal ions, like Ca++, Mg++ and Fe++.
Those are a major part of GH.
Wright Huntley, Fremont CA, USA, 510 494-8679 huntleyone at home dot com
Politicians and diapers have one thing in common.
They should both be changed regularly
and for the same reason.
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