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Can the water be recycled?

Discussion in 'Are you new to aquatic plants? Start here' started by viejo, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. viejo

    viejo Prolific Poster

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    I mean: most of you use the EI method. I've read about it, and there is just a single thing that will prevent me to use it: the water wasted.

    Let me explain, maybe I'm wrong about the whole thing. The EI method is, from what I've understand, an overdosing of plant nutrients in water, with massive weekly water changes.

    It's not the work (albeit I'm a lazy guy) that scares me, it's all that wasted water.

    Let's return to my project: 300 liter tank, with weekly 50% water changes will mean 150 liter wasted each week. 7800 liter per year.

    Do you know a way to prevent that water waste? I mean, some way to keep the water in a different place until it regenerates. You must make all those changes because with the excessive fertilizations and so the water will become a "danger" (I cannot remember the reason, but I suppose will be algae-related, with all those excessive nutrients floating around). How can we clean that excess from water?

    Let's suppose it exists a way to do that.
    - Week 1: fill the tank: 300 liter
    - Week 2: put 150l of "EI" water to another (empty?) tank, add 150l of "new" water
    - Week 3: put 150l of "EI" water to a third (empty?) tank, put the week 2 water into tank

    And so on.

    I don't know how the water flows where you live, but we had water restrictions this year because the lack of rain, and waste a single liter of water hurts me more than an ugly tank.

    Any thoughts? Maybe algae tanks could do the work...
     
  2. jmacego

    jmacego Junior Poster

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    By the very nature plants and algae (and bacteria) are going to be about the only thing removing most nutrients from the water by incorporating them into their own structure. (The actual removal is only when you remove the plant mass from the tank by pruning.)

    To do what you are asking requires actually setting up a biological cycle where input and output of nutrients are balanced. The most common method is probably going to be the "El Natural" method pushed by Diana Walstad. I can't remember her site off-hand and google isn't loading for me at the moment, for some reason. These tanks use a nutrient rich substrate (potting soil) and overfeeding of the fish to introduce nutrients. These tanks have months, or years, between water changes and might be a viable option for you.

    I currently live within spitting distance of a large river, but have in the past justified my water use for aquariums like this:

    For water changes I tend to justify a smallish tank by comparing the numbers to my overall water use.

    My toilet uses 6l / flush, at 6/day that's 252l / week.
    My shower uses 10l/min, 10min/day is 700l/week.
    My dishwasher uses about 40l/use and runs twice a week for 80l/week.
    I drink 5-6l/day, so 39l/week.
    Washing hands, pots, misc, food prep, brushing teeth, shaving, etc probably accounts for another 10-20l/day, so 150l/week.
    My irrigation system uses an insane amount of water, but is not metered.

    So, to justify 150l/week I could cut back on any of these activities. Reducing my shower by 2 minutes per day would do it. Or reducing my shower by 1 minute, using the toilet 1 time fewer, and limiting my dish use so that I can run the washer once a week would also save about 150l/week.

    Here, also, during the summer the water gets used for plants in the yard, this is in addition to irrigation water, but elsewhere could be instead of. You could also, theoretically, use it to replace water used in other tasks such as toilet flushing although that would either require plumbing changes or buckets.

    I'm not advocating water waste, but I'm pretty sure you are more on top of it than most other people in your area. So, I'd be less concerned about your 150l/wk compared to people putting tons on their lawn. I moved here from Las Vegas and the sheer number of people who left hoses on outside with water running down the street... it's worse, here, though.

    -JM
     
  3. viejo

    viejo Prolific Poster

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    I've read about "El Natural", and yes, it spares the water changes up to 50% every SIX MONTHS, if done well.
    And it's a method that will fit my tank's placement (near a window). My goal is to reach something like "El Natural" but without being too much "natural".

    Also, once I've decided to face the weekly water changes to be able to get greener plants and more fish in the tank, I want to find a way to save water. I've reduced myself the shower time, flushes and so while educating my daughter in the water-care way.
    If I do minimal water changes weekly, I can use the water for watering plants, but I have not a garden nor a yard, I have just 3 square meters with three little trees and some garden plants... eight liters per week are enough for watering it.

    I have a 38l tank with platy. If I move the platy to the new tank, I would be able to use it for water changes or so.

    What about a pure "algae tank"? The water changed could go there, where algae booms will clean the excess of nutrients, and I shall be able to return the water to the main tank (after filtering it, of course). Each water change would include take the algae and throw it over my trees' soil, giving additional fertilization, I'm sure I can get enough algae until I'll be bored of it.

    If I cannot find a way to save it, I will start with minimal water changes, testing the water daily. When I'll find the amont of water that allows my tank to be safe, I will decide then what to do with the water. My goal is reach changes around 10 liters, weekly or each other day. I will hate myself if I start throwing more than 50 liters per week :(
     
  4. waehner

    waehner Junior Poster

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    I use all of my aquarium water in houseplants or in the garden. The leftover water from the EI technique might be a bit rich to use on houseplants, but it should be great for the garden or lawn. Of course, transporting the water is a challenge…

    The algae tank would work, but unless you have a sunroom you would be trading a lot of electricity for a little water. At any rate, I would use emersed plants rather than breeding algae.
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I've never used tap water to irrigate the lawn/landscaping plants. Water is also recharging the ground water, none makes to the storm or sewer system, even there, the waste water is still used in many/most cases for other purposes.
    Simply installing a low water use shower head, using the dishwasher vs hand rinsing etc, good irrigation of the water and landscaping choices etc, will save 100X of more water.

    So if you are honest.............you will focus on those things to conserve and reuse water, not buy into the baloney that EI is this anti ecology based thing. What you do with the post water is really up to you, it's not waste, much like the cardboard, cans, plastic, glass, paper recycled waste.

    Stuck in past thinking.

    Some are honest about simply being too lazy, not motivated enough to do the water changes, fair enough, but they do not try and say it's about waste and environment either.

    We recycled 95% of all the waste I generate. That's right.
    We produce about 1 cft of garbage per week. That's about 1 small bag.
    Less than a grocery bag(I don't use those either, Canvas thank you, they do not break).

    Let me rephrase this for you: We add non limiting nutrients, then do a 50% water change weekly. Massive and excess have a rather negative meaning. Non limiting and a good sized water change means you are taking good care of the plants and being preventative and providing high quality and stability for the fish/plants.

    You should look at the benefits, not just the negative trade offs, which can be reduced or eliminated. Other methods suggest test kits and no water changes, yet the testing and the chemicals used for those test kits are hardly healthy and virtually never disposed of properly.

    Go figure.

    What about electrical waste?
    You should also go after the folks that use or advocate high light, because clearly it is not required or needed either.

    How about fish tanks in general? We do not need them either and they waste electric etc. Point is, this and the hobby are luxury items.

    Don't kid yourself.
    Look at the trade offs and benefits fairly, be honest with yourself, don't fool yourself:eek: We do it more than we often think.

    Let's switch out the shower head to a water saving type and you will save far more than that. Still come out clean too. What about the landscaping outside, can it use water? Do you own a lawn? Lawn waste far far more water than any aquarium can. They use an average daily volume of 450 gallons per day, per person in Sacramento where I live. This is due to lawns in a dry hot area, not fish tanks or pools.

    2000 gallon per year is very little and can be used to irrigate the landscape, water plants etc. The shower head:

    Most water saving types use 1 gpm less, so say 1 shower per day for 5 minutes(pretty quick shower for some) per person: 5 gallons, x 365 days 1825 gallons, or about 6900 liters. If you have more than one person in the home, which you must, then now you have saved far beyond the aquarium volume for the year.

    Such math and use does not lie.
    If you are really wanting to do better:
    Replace the toilet and the clothes washer with low water models.
    H2ouse.org

    The non limiting nutrients are added to grow the plants well, without having to waste time, $ and chemical by products by doing the water changes. You can slow the rates of growth down and go for a more sustainable approach, but folks do not like those trade offs either, "too slow".

    We add CO2 and ferts and then higher light to amplify the rates of growth in these systems, that is where the issue starts...........

    That's not sustainable nature conservation based approaches..........that's impatience and most everyone in the aquatic plant hobby is kidding themselves if they think differently. We want it now. That's the trade off, you do not get something for nothing.

    I'd do other things about conserving water, it seems where you are at, water is far far more important than just doing the aquarium, you need to go whole hog on this. Spend the $ there first(see above) if you have not already done so.
    In CA, this will start to really hit home dramatically in the next few years.

    I'd go non CO2, see how the method I described for this does:

    Hardly the ugly old tanks shown above:)


    [​IMG]

    Well scaped, good choice of plants, good design and maintenance.
    No water changes, just top offs.

    DW is not good at scaping, but this does not mean the method does not work, eg: the method does not define whether you are a good scaper or horticulturalist.

    Likewise, a nice aquascape does not imply that a method is that great either, this applies to EI as much as ADA or any method.

    Given the issues you have, I'd go the non CO2 method and use T5 lighting at about 1 watt/gal.

    You will not get to use some species, but you still have a lot to chose from and it will require much less work than these other higher light/CO2 enriched systems.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    There is also a mid point option here, using Excel dosing along with minimal water changes, you can also do the dry start method to get the tank going really well prior to flooding it.

    Excel dosed tanks you can likely do about the same type of dosing as with the non CO2 method and then do a water change once every month.

    This might be a better trade off.

    I would not dose more than say 20ppm of KNO3 for the month, so 5 ppm a week or so, + a nutrient rich soil type sediment.

    It's not likely you will ever build up to NO3 at this dosing rate and not run off too much either.

    Trade off: you need to dose Excel daily.
    Still, you can save the water and use it for irrigation, watering plants etc doing this.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. viejo

    viejo Prolific Poster

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    Ok ok... First of all, I was NOT saying anyone or any method is anti-ecologycal, just that use the EI method at MY HOME will be a heavy water waste.

    I use most of those water-saving methods everybody points. I've reduced the flushes, added reductors to my taps and all those things available that doesn't require an amount of € I cannot reach without hurting family economy.

    I use the changed water from my 38l to water my mini-garden. EIGHT LITERS per week are enough to keep my plants healthy. I have no lawn nor any other way to reuse the changed water.

    But 150 liters are too much for me. I cannot educate my daughter into the "water culture" while I throw away 150 liters/week. Will be hipocresy.

    I think I will be able to reuse around 50 liters/week (albeit I will try to reach a lower amount) more. But if we would be able to find another way to reuse the water, it will be far better for everybody that don't have a lawn to water.

    Maybe I can start re-reading all I've read about water changes. If I can understand far better the reasons to do them, maybe I will be able to think another way to solve the problem water changes do without having to do them when my daughter is not at home...

    Thanks for your contributions again. While I try to understand the water changes, I will take another look at "El Natural" method and chances or try to find a join between EI and EN. It would be a success or a failure, but all methods started with that risk :)

    As I said: thanks

    PS: when you said "T5 1w/g", you meant US or UK gallons? What's the difference between T8 and T5 watts? I know T5 offer more intensity per watt, but no one seems to be able to give me numbers about them. Everybody keeps talking about w/g or w/l without saying "1.5 T8w/g or 1 T5w/g". I've create a thread about lighting too (yes, I'm a newbie trying to learn, and it means a lot of questions after a lot of reading), and there I'm trying to get some light about lighting (pun intended)
     
  8. jmacego

    jmacego Junior Poster

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    If you are in an area where 150l/week is a concern, then, definitely go with one of the methods requiring less water to be changed out. There is no reason that you can't create a tank that rivals an EI tank.

    There's no hard, fast ratios for efficiency between the various lighting types. It's too dependent on reflectors, bulbs, ballasts, tanks, etc. So saying "Use 1wpg" is extremely general advice, general enough that it doesn't matter if you use US or UK gallons, or just read it as 1W/4l. Many here advocate use of a PAR meter to solve this, but that cost may or may not be worthwhile to you. (I don't, at this time, consider it worthwhile to me). Having actual readings is a far more accurate way to judge light than just number of watts.

    I, for one, will be looking forward to seeing your new tank and, especially, hearing about your methods for water conservation with it.

    -JM
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    No, I think you are on the right path personally.
    You might misunderstand me and my intent there:)
    You are ecologically minded more than most.
    You have little choice due to cost issues.

    Then the trade off here if that is what your goal and economics are, go non CO2.
    It can look nice, do not judge it based in Diana's ratty looking tank pictures.


    You can still do this. Not a bad idea with this little bit of water.

    Yes, you can teach her a lot more with the non CO2 method and show a sustainable cycle. Which goes well with low water usage;)

    Also a good thing, those damn lawns suck all the water out and are the biggest waste here at least. Folks had lawns to show status back in the past, it showed that you where wealthy since you did not need to farm that land and could devote it to a large lawn.

    The hobbies of the rich stayed with the landscaping habits, and kids need a lawn to run and play it(Heck, I never had a lawn, I had the natural woods, the dirt, the sage brush, I did okay)

    Why bother?
    You will have a large trade off here no matter which way you will go, this is the easiest path given your goal, time, and $. Give up the CO2, it drives the system really hard and fast. Consider the Excel.

    Do not try and have high light+ CO2 and no water changes or few.
    Go whole hog on one of these methods. Go Excel, small dosing, or non Co2.
    There are few plants you cannot grow using Excel also.

    No!
    You do not get this trade off. Stick with one method or the other.
    You do not get to do a "little of both methods" for the trade off, it does not work this way. Avoid water changes altogether, or do them consistently in larger amounts. You can use test kits and then you also need to calibrate the test kits to ensure they are correct. So this starts to become more complex and you will do more water testing and you cannot slack on that. Many do and think they can skip it.

    Each method has a trade off.
    Do you really want really fast growth?

    Does not seem like it.
    You say you want more a biology experiment and nice looking planted tank, save water. less work, labor.

    Non CO2 is the best suited method.
    The next would be using Excel/Easy Carb etc and doing them 1x a month.

    Forget about EI. Do not try and change the % water changes, you risk much larger ranges that are suitable. also, do not try and expect faster rates of growth without adding CO2. Excel is about 1/4-1/3 as fast as CO2 growth. You'd likely be okay doing 25% 2x a month using that and about 1/3 EI dosing.

    If you want to do less water changing, then slow the system and growth rate down.

    Yes, look around and see what is available, you can use T8, say 1.5 W/gal for those. US Gallons.

    also, you might consider joining UKAPS if you are in the UK. With the water issues, sounds more like Oz.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    If you want to use higher light intensity than you can, with el natural tanks, you might look into the labor intensive method of fertilizing, where you test the water every day and fertilize to meet target amounts of each nutrient. That greatly reduces the need to do big water changes so often.

    It is still very good for the aquarium to do big water changes, so you would most likely want to do 30-50% water changes every month or two, but that is far less than doing that every week.

    I don't have a link to how to do fertilizing by testing and dosing per the tests, but some research on the internet should enable you to read about it. One of the biggest problems with that is the inaccuracy of the test kits we use. If you want to try this method you absolutely must calibrate your test kits regularly - http://www.barrreport.com/estimative-index/3263-how-make-no3-po4-reference-solutions-repost-left-c.html
     
  11. dixgomez

    dixgomez Junior Poster

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    I'm taking the water in my plants on my gardens.... i'm not going to waste it, i'm recycling it that way....






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