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Water softeners, very hard water

I recently moved back to a place with very hard water - the 1999 Water 
Quality Report lists the weighted average hardness, as CaCO3 at 439. They 
also state "water hardness ranged from 130 mg/L to 680 mg/L (7.6 
grains/gallon to 39.7 grains/gallon). To assist residents in adjusting 
water softeners, the average hardness was 25.7 grains per gallon."

I'm getting ready to set up my aquarium again and have a few questions 
about this:

1. What do all these #'s mean? I know it's really hard based on what I've 
read, but beyond that I'm at a loss. What exactly are they measuring when 
they say things like "130mg/L"?

2. Everybody in town has water softeners installed, but they're usually not 
connected to the cold water tap in the kitchen, or to the outdoor spigots. 
But if I use either of those sources for water changes (or to initially 
fill the aquarium) then I have no choice but to use fairly cold water (if I 
include a little warm water then it's been softened.) So, is the softened 
water dangerous for plants or fish? The water softeners all require salt to 
be added on a regular basis, and I always assumed that was going into the 
water. I haven't actually tested any parameters of the softened water yet. 
When I was growing up my Mom used to tell me that the softened water was 
bad for plants and that I shouldn't drink it, but I never asked why...



"Being humble is why I'm a great person."
Daniel A. Segel
dsegel at pacbell_net