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water softening with plants?

 
Rob Sigg
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Does anyone know if you can use water plants to soften water? I know that certain plants like watercress will remove heavy metals and purify it, but I am not sure if they will soften the water. I would love to measure our water now and then put a permaculture solution into place for the water, and then measure again to see what kind of changes are happening. I just have to determine what to test for!

Also, what about removing algae with plants? A friend of mine has an aquaponics business. Periodically he has trouble with surface algae clinging to floating trays mostly in the less turbulent water. Can we plant anything with the rest of the crop to remove algae or is it just a function of not putting so many nutrients into the water?

 
                    
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I have seen a number of systems that purify water for aquaculture ... most involve running the water through created wetlands, or beds of rocks that build up a biofilm of bacteria that soak up the nutrients.  This also can improve aeration, reduce pathogens, etc.

Hardness is most commonly an indication of calcium compounds (but could be magnesium, etc). Not sure of any systems that are especially designed to take this out of water, but an artificial wetland would help some.
 
                        
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g'day blitz,

the softness or hardness of water surely would have more to do with the ph of the water if it is too the acid side it will be softer than if it is to the alkaline side, our drinking water should best be to the alkaline side, but is there any plants that can make this change in water i can't answer that one. like if you want to acidify soil the use of pine needles is ofter used.

if the water is too acid then that could affect some plants that like it more alkaline. might be good starting point to take a watersample to a testing centere (not sure that a pool shop would be the place?) and determine the current PH then maybe ask them how to modify the ph if that is needed.

len
 
paul wheaton
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I thought water hardness had something to do with mineral content.  Like water with lots of minerals in it was considered "hard".  Not so?
 
                    
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Yes, usually calcium. But increasing the content of the mineral sodium reduces the hardness.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Calcium oxalate is not very soluble in water, and oxalic acid is produced by quite a few plants: the whole plant in the case of wood sedge (oxalis...no coincidence there), and the leaves of rhubarb, are two famous sources of it. I could see adding some weed juice and letting the oxalate crystals settle out. The sludge might be used to make quicklime at a lower temperature than chalk would, but possibly with a greater overall carbon footprint (small kilns are so inefficient, it might actually be much lower in some cases...hard to say).

You'd want to clear the oxalic acid out of the water afterward, though, for most purposes.
 
Rob Sigg
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I was actually thinking I would plant some vegetation in my water holding tank. It comes from the city, then to my holding tank and then into my main water area. The water is pretty hard....looks like there might not be a solution for this without using chemicals or a complex process at least.
 
                    
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Here is a pretty good article explaining basic concepts of hardness from a perspective of aquarium and pond owners. One of the treatments they discuss is peat - ie, Organic Matter that has high CEC which binds calcium and magnesium.

http://www.sydneycichlid.com/aquarium-hardness.htm
 
Ardilla Esch
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The algae blooms your friend is experiencing are directly related to the nutrients in the water - the most important being nitrogen compounds.  You can use plant to reduce the nitrogen and by extension reduce the algae.  But if there is a lot of excess nutrients, the plants may not reduce the concentrations enough to make a significant difference.  I would look into sedges and maybe cat tails.  There are some wetland sedges that take up quite a bit of nutrients.  The plants can be cut back quite a bit and can be used as mulch or composted.

The hard water is more difficult, but I would also look into sedges.  They can use a decent amount of calcium.  I'm not sure it would be enough to make a big difference in water quality.  It probably depends on how hard the water is and how big the plant beds are. 

I've heard of people making floating rafts with these plants growing on them.  That could be an interesting option for a holding tank.
 
Rob Sigg
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Cheers. I might suggest to my friend that he cut back the nutrient richness as well since the source is fish, he might be overfeeding them rich food or he might have too many per plant intake.

As for the water softener, I was going to make a suspension netting that the plants set into over the water and since the water level is always the same the root levels will be fine. In essence I hope to achieve the same results as the floating raft. Thanks for the specific plants, I will look into them though I suspect cattails are a great choice.

 
Ardilla Esch
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I think the sedges may do better given their growth rate.

But cat tails are nice, and you can eat the roots/shoots.  They are a lot like mild leeks.

A mix would probably work although each will compete for space.  A little thinning would probably take care of that.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Hm...doesn't comfrey take up Ca and Mg in large quantities, and tolerate wet feet?

The holding area might be the best place to contain it, too...you know it won't spread from there.
 
Rob Sigg
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Hmmm now that is interesting, the only problem I will have is light, this unit is in my basement so the plants would be in the dark unless I throw my growlights on it. Im doing a test right now with watercress to see how it responds in darkness…so far its been 4 days and it looks fine, but then again it might not be actively sucking up anything.

 
Chelle Lewis
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blitz1976 wrote: The water is pretty hard....looks like there might not be a solution for this without using chemicals or a complex process at least.
The only way we have ever been able to adequately soften our water is using sili-phos crystals. Very simple to use.... just place in tank. They attract out the calcium... then we dry them out.... bash off the calcium... and re-use quite a few times. We live in Kalkheuwel... Lime Hill in Old Dutch ..... and without this we would have clogged pipes.

Wish I knew of plants that could adequately take care of this calcium overload but I think it would have to be a pretty large filtration pond to even begin to make a difference. Will follow this thread with interest.

Sorry that I have nothing to add to main topic.... but thought I would write just in case you are faced with what we have.... and how we solved it. Very simple too....

BTW... if watercress draws off heavy metals.... does that make it safe to eat still? Always thought it was supposed to be a very healthy addition to diet.

Chelle
 
Rob Sigg
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I have read that you shouldn’t eat watercress that have been used to remove pollution, in a normal “clean” garden it is fine. Which makes sense, but you never know what is lurking in the ground!

 
Chelle Lewis
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Makes sense....

Have heard that soybeans draw up and store alluminium very easily.... causes Alzeimer's. I have been using it instead of milk... lactose intolerant. So much conflicting info out there! SOme say soy is excellent... others very harmful. Who to believe.

Chelle
 
Rob Sigg
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Yeah I hear ya, I have worked in the food industry for over 10 years now and even with our company there is conflicting sources, this is organic Im talking about! I made up my mind to eat vegetables, fruits and grass fed meat only from organic sources, it’s the best possible scenario right now as I see it. 90% of this I can grow myself, so Im going to try 

 
Chelle Lewis
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Complete sustainability is my goal too..... as close as anyway.

Perhaps growing in proven alluminium-free soil is the only way to go with soybeans. Wonder if there is such a thing? Or using the soy plants for a number of years to pull it out the alluminium and then maybe OK.... ? Much like what you are wanting to do with your water. The problem is all the tesing required on soil and plants. I haven't a clue how to go about this and it would seem to be essential to really know you are achieving your goal. Continual sending away of samples is pricey here.

Chelle
 
Rob Sigg
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I dont know this for sure but some local organizations that promote sustainable agriculture might be willing to test for free or discount. In my local project the USDA rep has already volunteered her services for free testing. You might have a similar situation. But as you said maybe the key is to build the soil and purify it for a while. I have been listening to a audio course by BM and one of the questions was about polluted run off water from roads, and he eluded to the fact that those pollutants are cleaned by the time it goes through a natural ecosystem, more specifically a forest. So maybe there is hope.
 
paul wheaton
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blitz1976 wrote:
I have been listening to a audio course by BM ...


BM?

 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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Bill Mollison...sorry
 
paul wheaton
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Dave Miller
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I can vouch for using a biological filter (containing water plants) to clean suspended algae in a pond.  I have a small "experimental" pond.  Here's a photo of the pond taken in August.  The pond is in full sun, with no fish or chemicals (though lots of frogs & water insects which have appeared over the years).  Before I made the biofilter the water was completely green.  The water temperature when this photo was taken was probably 75 deg F.

I can explain more about my biofilter if there is interest.

 
tel jetson
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I don't know about water softening, but yucca root is used as a wetting agent.
 
                    
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Cyara wrote:
Complete sustainability is my goal too..... as close as anyway.

Perhaps growing in proven alluminium-free soil is the only way to go with soybeans. Wonder if there is such a thing? Or using the soy plants for a number of years to pull it out the alluminium and then maybe OK.... ? Much like what you are wanting to do with your water. The problem is all the tesing required on soil and plants. I haven't a clue how to go about this and it would seem to be essential to really know you are achieving your goal. Continual sending away of samples is pricey here.

Chelle


Aluminum is one of the most common elements on Earth - many minerals and soils are aluminum oxides.  Maybe if you had silica sand with organic matter there would be little aluminum, but the average clay or silt has 5% or more aluminum. One thing about aluminum is that it is not very soluble at normal pH, but becomes much more soluble at very low pH. Green tea and black tea tend to have lots of aluminum as it is grown in acidic soils, and sulfur or aluminum sulfate is often added to make sure the soil is acidic.
 
Luke Townsley
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They aren't plants, but I wonder if shellfish would have a softening effect on water.
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul and Anna Birkas do a podcast review of the Natural Swimming Pools DVD.

They talk about water softening with plants.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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