RIP Earl – Hard Water and The Story of Mike’s Betta Fish by Cindy Dittfield



Over the years every time we’ve gone to the pet store, we inevitably come home with a Betta fish. Regardless of how old my kids get, they see them and it’s a must have.

Recently, while out on a date with his girlfriend, my son, Mike, must have had a flashback and picked up a Betta fish. I suspect that “I wanna pet fish” thing doesn’t go away with age. This beautiful blue Betta was quickly named Earl and placed in one of my large clear vases on Mike’s coffee table. Earl was flourishing and loving life in his new private vase-condo. He especially enjoyed the attention he was getting from all of Mike’s visitors.

While Earl was getting along just fine, I began to notice this awful hard ring around his vase where the water level stopped. I knew it was a hard water deposit because I’ve seen it before on so many things in my home. Living in Passaic County New Jersey I’ve seen the telltale signs of hard water deposits all over my glassware. Did I mention that Betta fish are soft-water fish? Water Quality for Your Fish

Maintaining the proper pH level in your fish tank or fish vase-condo is the most important element to your fish. Another is insuring your chlorine level isn’t too high. Remember your town is treating your water for human consumption and we, as humans, can handle the amount of chlorine the town is using to insure we are safe; however, the Earls of the world – not so much. A simple way to lower your chlorine level is to let your water sit out overnight. A good amount of the chlorine will automatically dissipate. There are also chemical products to reduce those levels.

pH, however, is derived and influenced by the hardness of the water. Remember, limestone and other minerals in the earth affect the hardness of your water. Calcium and magnesium, if heavy, will create mineral deposits if the water sits stagnant like in a fish-condo.

Some Guidelines from our Friends at Petco

The hardness of water is defined by the amount of dissolved mineral in the water. Hard water has high levels of dissolved minerals and is usually high in pH (pH above 7). Soft water has low levels of dissolved minerals and is usually low in pH (pH below 7). In soft water, pH levels can change rapidly but pH levels in hard water tend to be more stable.

Each species has its own water hardness tolerances; we recommend that you consult a book or other resource to determine the correct water hardness for your fish. If you need to change your pH as a result of the water hardness or if you would like to change the hardness of your water, there are commercial products on the market for this purpose. When adding buffers or water softeners, you will need to monitor the pH level to make sure it is not fluctuating too much. Consult a Petco aquatic specialist for guidance in treating your water.

Be aware that some decorations, such as coral or rocks, could affect the hardness or softness of the water. Coral, for instance, is not good for soft-water aquariums because it contain high amounts of calcium carbonate.

How to Fix It?

Certainly, Earl’s passing was a little hard on Mike, but ultimately, he’s in the bigger pond somewhere. The idea is that had Earl’s vase-condo water hardness been lower, he may have been with us a little longer. Alas, the hardness was too high creating an unhealthy pH environment. Having hard water in your home is tough on the smallest fish and also on the bigger species — humans. Water softeners help to provide your home with ideal levels of chlorine and help to keep the pH levels in check to insure all creatures always enjoy the freshest water possible.

~ Cindy Dittfield, writer for Passaic Bergen Water Softening

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