My Discus Fish Massacre and Reverse Osmosis Repentance

So here we are a few months into our Illinois adventure. Three days after we moved here I killed my fish, the pretty big ones I’d been chronicling since January. I thought I’d researched the water conditions we’d face here well-enough, but I did not. And I have the empty tank to prove it.

They made the drive fine in five gallon buckets with aerators. I slowly added the new water so they would get acclimated and then plopped them in the tank.

Now the water comes out of the faucets out here at the hundred year old farm house with an unbelievable amount of fine bubbles that can take a while to dissipate. My fish swam and then immediately went horizontal up to the top, where they laid floating on their sides. I thought I’d killed them, but within an hour they came-to.

Two days later, it was time to change the water. I drained the old out and filled it back up. The fish seemed happy they schooled in circles, playing in the current of incoming water. But then suddenly stopped and floated to the top–like before.

@$#*%! Fool me once…

I blamed the first time on the travel and change it water. Well, it was the change in water alright and it killed all of them. I was stupid and now sad ta boot.

So, some research let me to believe the dissolved bubbles could have been carbon dioxide and could have killed the fish. Otherwise, the salt from the softener and iron not removed by the softener could have done it. For repentance I decided to install a reverse osmosis [r.o.] system. Perhaps the good coming out of the terrible end these guys met would be clean water for my wife, me and our future fish. Now all I had to do was set it up.

After brain storming with my father and a family friend who happens to work for Culligan we thought the brine storage tank for a water softener would be the perfect size to hold 50 gallons of water. It even has a float to automatically shut-off incoming water when it fills up.

I picked up a Culligan r.o. system and storage tank on craigslist. To me it’s important to get a good r.o system. Reverse osmosis is an inefficient process. The particular system can make it more or less so. Cheap systems are incredibly inefficient and can waste three to seven gallons of water for every one gallon of water that comes out purified. This system throws away about two gallons for gallon produced. The waste water is still pretty clean and can be used for watering plants or washing clothes but I don’t have anything currently in place to harness this water for good. Future project.

I mounted the filter on the wall. Attached the blue tubing from the system to the storage tank and to the faucet for us to drink from. Attached the drain line from the system to drain the waste water. All I had left was to tap the cold water line to supply the system with water to purify. It’s important to tap a water line after it comes from the water softener. Had I sent our hard, hard water through the r.o. unit, I’d be replacing the filter cartridges every month.

I tapped the cold water line next to the feed to the automatic ice cube maker. I used the same style piercing valve as the one for the ice cube maker and it worked like a charm. It made the hole, I attached the tube, and we were in business. I let the system run overnight into the drain, as the directions recommend, to flush the carbon particles out and then let it start filling up the reservoir.

It takes about two days for me to get 50 gallons, which is a little longer than it’s supposed to but will work for my one tank. I threw a 300 watt fish tank heater in the bottom. With my r.o. redemption complete, I’m ready to think fish again.

I’ve been obsessing over what type of discus I’m going to replace mine with but don’t know. My wife has been a saint dealing with me and being the voice of reason. She suggests waiting for ones I really want and not rushing out to get some nice discus only to regret it a few months later when my dream discus become available.

Like always, she has a good point and I’m almost able to wait. Right now I’m leaning toward Piwowarski discus and maybe a couple of incredible wild discus sustainably imported from Brazil.

9 thoughts on “My Discus Fish Massacre and Reverse Osmosis Repentance

  1. Pingback: My Discus Fish Massacre and Reverse Osmosis Redemption | And … | Water News

  2. I would really to know what happened after this was posted! Did you get your discus? I was about to suggest going to DiscusHans, but certainly you have done something since 2012.

    • So far I haven’t gotten any more discus. My wife and I are going to be moving in August and are going to be traveling for most of the summer so I am holding off. When we settle in our new home, I’m not sure if I going to get more discus. I’m thinking I might stay with planted freshwater tanks and cardinal tetras or start getting into saltwater.

      • I can really identify with you on this. I am a 1-year discus keeper now and I have worried the whole time that something would take out my 7 terrific discus. Being a “born again aquarist” (took about 25 years off from the hobby), I had lost all my cumulative info on how to keep the best conditions. However, have only lost one fish just a couple weeks ago. Your screen name, itjustencouragesme, encourages me to write to you and others that it’s worth every bit of the blood, sweat and tears.

      • Originally, I set out to have a planted discus tank–my dream. The one thing that I’ve learned in a year is that you really need at least 6 months of keeping a full tank of fish to prepare the filter and gravel for plants. I know you’ll read many things on the net that says you can do it earlier, but after one year, my canister filter for a 55-gallon tank is just now at its prime filtering ability. I have now begun to place plants in it and they are taking off. I will be setting up CO2 and propagating the plants with a whole lot less stress! Hope this tip helps.

  3. I am a graduate student and I intend to get back to my aquarium hobby with discus. I was keeping angels for a long time. I am very near hans discus in Baltimore and I wish to visit him sometime.
    Since I also run on a slightly slim budget, I opt to use sponge filter on 75g barebottom tank with driftwood.
    I would like to get some suggestions to beginners from you. Like which type of discus to buy, rookie mistakes, is it necessary to age water etc etc. Please lmk.


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