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re: Water softeners, very hard water

>Water softened with an ion-exchange water softener (the kind recharged
>with salt) is bad for plants and planted aquariums.  The hardness that
>they remove consists of calcium and magnesium, both of which are
>essential for plant growth.  The softener replaces those elements with
>sodium, leaving a lot of sodium in the water and rather little calcium
>and magnesium.  The high sodium concentration can effectively block your
>plants' ability to use the little calcium and magnesium that is left.

Some people use potassium chloride in their water softeners instead of
sodium chloride. This, at least, substitutes potassium for the sodium, but
the problem of lowered levels of calcium and magnesium would still exist.
I'm in somewhat the same boat. Best I can tell though, ALL my taps are
hooked to the softener. I am going to have to supplement calcium and
magnesium, I guess. My plants grow really well, but I think my hygrophilia
is showing signs of calcium deficiency in its newest leaves. All softeners
should have a bypass switch, so you might try that. Of course, since the hot
water is tank-stored, it will likely still be softened. Last night I did my
weekly 25 percent water change and used half softener water, then switched
on the softener bypass and let the tap run a while to clear the pipe before
using the unsoftened water to complete the refill. I've not yet tested the
tank's water parameters (I usually wait a day after water change before
testing). My softened water tests at ph 7.8, GH 1-2, KH 12-14. The bypassed
water has the same pH, but GH and KH are more or less equal at 12-14