Terrible Advice Tuesday: Tap Water Is Just Like Saltwater


Terrible Advice Tuesdays: Tap water has the same quantities of elements as saltwater.

The Rest of the Story: I’m still laughing at the absurdity of this idea after reading it on a forum a couple of days ago as I can’t get over how terrible the advice is. If tap water really contained the same quantities of elements as saltwater then several things would hold true:

  1. Your salt mix would largely be useless because all that you would need to add to tap water is the salt (NaCl) itself. All the other elements (calcium, magnesium, strontium, alkalinity, trace elements, etc) would be handled by the tap water, which of course isn’t true.
  2. Any pipe, faucet, etc in your house would get calcium deposits on them just as fast as your saltwater equipment. Those of you that live in a hard water area might experience calcium build at the same rate as you see in your saltwater tank. For the vast majority of you, I’m 99% sure you’ve never had to de-calicify your faucets.

Back to laughing now…

(Thanks John C. for sending me forum link to this one.)

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Comments for this article (12)

  • JasPR says:

    well, i’ve often been accused of ‘elitism’ in my hobby as I try to do it the right or most logical way, and often I find myself chuckling at hard core hobbyists that seem to think that if control of everything is not stayed on top of until the variables are at .0000000000001, that everything will be dead in the morning need to take a chill pill! LOLs But truly, this saltwater advise idea that saltwater is just salt and the rest, will be provided by city or well water is — well– naive or uninformed.
    I think the two extreme camps are driven by ‘on the cheap’ solutions and on the other extreme edge- a desire to suspend nature and have technology replace it! Apple does not keep marine species alive ( don’t think Jobs ever had a marine aquarium?:)) In the end, marine keeping of any strip is a rather expensive hobby– you can’t do it well on the cheap ( or at least ultra cheap). and on the other end, you don’t need to pay double for a salt mix because it clams to have the much needed cryptonite additive, buff said, JasPR

  • Adam Baggett says:

    I have seen this or questions about this exact statement. You must be crazy to think it is the same except the salt. But is that is the case why did I buy this fancy 7 stage RODI filter. LOL

    Thanks Mark

  • Stu Whisson says:

    I’m amazed if anyone said this ever, but apparently they have and believe it too. I should hate to think of the state of their tanks. There is still an incredible amount of ignorance out there, and sadly, it’s mostly newbies thinking they’ve found some new way of running or doing something. I’ve been in this hobby now 10 years. I’m still learning, I still screw up, I still know that I know much less about it than I care to admit, but to believe that tap water is little different aside from the salt, is simply ridiculous. As JasPR has rightly pointed. This is not a cheap hobby, never enter it thinking it can be achieved any other way. A friend of mine thought about wanting a small Marine tank and looked at me saying ‘Would £300 ($500) be enough?” – I told him that may buy you a basic skimmer and a RODI unit, but perhaps add an extra zero on the end and you may be more near what’s required. Part of the problem I feel, is the increase over the years of so called ‘one box’ mini systems, which having had one as an experiment, are next to useless. Bottom line, it’s not a cheap hobby, don’t cut corners, but don’t go crazy over every tiny detail either.

  • joel says:

    Oh maybe thats why my fish always die and my corals shrivel up. Hmmmmm. LOL!!!

  • Patrick says:

    I’ve been in the hobby for almost 30 years, and these remarks, and many other have never left the hobby. (Stupid is as stupid does!) So they say. However; price point is a very sticky subject as I have learned, the most expensive new peace of equipment, and or addictive won’t bring instant success, and I think prices of reef equipment have always been over bearing, and a bit ridiculous, most high priced equipment, and reef gadgets are priced, and sold as prestige , or vanity status. ” My systems better then your system” keeping up with the Joanes. Understand the animal, and charges in our keep goes alot further then throughing money at them. It’s never been cheap cause the industry keeps it that way. But intelligent individuals and some good DIY ingenuity can save you much money. But there is common sense, and as usual just plain stupidity. We won’t change that but we can educate, and walk the talk.

  • ska d says:

    I’ve noticed also that the harder I try to keep paremeters exact the worse my tank looks. When i relax and keep it simple the tank looks awesome. But I feel a lot better knowing I start with pure water from a ro/di. Even if tap water did have all the elements needed I’d still use purified water as there is no way to tell what else might be in that tap water

  • Murali krishnan .R says:

    how to make nano marine

  • Greg says:

    I am actually one of those people that deals with extremely hard water…so hard, it’s off the charts and I do deal with calcium buildup on my faucets and countertops. Needless to say, I still do not use tap water for my tank, lol

  • Pierre Bouic says:

    Were do you find these clangers Mark, the one spread this obviously doesn’t own a RODI unit, or if he does then has no idea of what is does.

    I really think you Mark should make a list of who and where these pieces of terrible advice come from, I’m fairly sure the establishments that employ the people who invent them would give the worker a new job.

  • Damion says:

    I guess this is for the Christmas bunch that just got a tank last week. A little too for noobie for most, but thanks.

  • Susan says:

    One statement I must make because I work in healthcare. There is a huge problem with drugs (i.e. chemotherapeutic medications and narcotics) which are dumped into water supplies. If you want your fish and corals to be exposed to toxic agents, then by all means, use city water.

  • Dave says:

    I have problems with calcium build-up on my faucets and I wish I knew for sure what else. I have a well. Well water comes from a highly variable source, so even if I spent a lot of money to have it tested for the wide range of compounds we want and/or don’t want and found it acceptable last summer, this winter it would likely be very different. And since my neighbors and I use septic systems, I expect the water table is rich in nutrients even if it’s “clean” by human health standards.

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