Water Conditioning: General Considerations
Water conditioning is the process of altering water so that aquatic life can survive and thrive in it. Municipal water sources are treated so that the water delivered to the tap is free of viable disease-causing bacteria, viruses and other organisms as well as appearing clean and clear and being free of disagreeable odors and flavors. While such water is typically suitable for human consumption with no further treatment it is almost always quite deadly to aquatic life.
In broad terms, a water conditioner must remove or mitigate those substances which are toxic to aquatic life and add those substances which promote the health and well being of aquatic life. ClorAm-X is just such a water conditioner and continues the long tradition of powerful and safe water conditioners developed and distributed by AquaScience Research Group, Inc.
Water Conditioning: Specific Considerations
Water from different sources will have different problems which need to be corrected before it can be safely used for aquariums and ponds.
CHLORINE: This is the most commonly used disinfectant substance found in tap water in the world. This is because it is highly effective and inexpensive and the technology, in water treatment, is well documented and understood. The chlorine content of any water sample can be easily determined with available chlorine test kits. The best kind of kit is one which will give two different, but related, measurements: (1) "free, available chlorine" and (2) "combined available chlorine".
In the United States the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and various federal, state and local public health agencies have required that for overall human health that the amount of trihalomethanes (mostly as chloroform, CHCl3) be significantly reduced or totally eliminated from drinking water. The source of trihalomethanes in drinking water comes mainly from the reaction of "free, available chlorine" with low levels of dissolved organic substances in the treated water.
The obvious problem with reducing "free, available chlorine" is that disease-causing organisms (e.g. polio virus, typhoid fever bacteria, and fecal coliform bacteria) would likely make it through the water treatment process and arrive at the customers' taps.
"Free, available chlorine" is known, chemically, as "hypochlorite". The hypochlorite ion, OCl-, is the same ion that is found in common, household bleach products. As every homemaker knows, bleach is one of the best disinfectants available. Some small water treatment companies even "batch treat" their water supplies by adding the required amount of industrial bleach solution to a large tank of water before it gets distributed through the water supply system. The larger water treatment companies simply add chlorine gas directly to the water treatment stream and thereby produce the hypochlorite in situ.
The actual concentration of hypochlorite in the delivered water will vary from day to day and from season to season depending upon the conditions of the feed water and how the chlorine is added to the water.
The removal of chlorine; called "dechlorination" is relatively simple and can be achieved by a number of chemical substances. In addition, when water contained almost exclusively "free, available chlorine" it could be strongly aerated for a few days at room temperature and most (but usually not all) of the chlorine would dissipate. This was called "aging" the water.
The actual chemical reaction that occurs between hypochlorite ions and ClorAm-X is illustrated in the following chemical equation:
OCl- + HOCH2SO3Na H2NCH2SO4Na + Cl-
This results in the formation of chloride, Cl- and sulfate, SO4-2 ions
As natural water sources around the US and, indeed, around the world became more and more polluted it became necessary to more aggressively treat water to insure a healthy product. This also meant adding increasing amounts of chlorine so that the water treatment agencies could insure that the chlorine residual being delivered to the customer was sufficient to maintain safe water throughout the ever aging distribution systems.
As chlorine content (as "free, available chlorine") increased so did the trihalomethane content. Trihalomethanes are known cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). To counteract the trihalomethane threat and still provide safe water is was known that by increasing the "combined, available chlorine" content one could both make the water safe and eliminate the carcinogens. "Combined, available chlorine" is better know as "chloramines".
CHLORAMINES: These substances are formed from the reaction between chlorine (or hypochlorite) and ammonia or ammonium compounds in water. There are three substances which can be called chloramines. These are (1) monochloramine, NH2Cl, (2) dichloramine, NHCl2, and (3) trichloramine, or nitrogen trichloride, NCl3. The formation of these compounds are relatively easy to understand if one looks at the ammonia molecule, NH2, which consists of a central nitrogen atom, N, with three hydrogen atoms, H, attached. Any or all three of the hydrogens can be removed in a chemical reaction and each can be replaced by a chlorine atom, Cl.
The chemical reaction between monochloramine and ClorAm-X is illustrated by the following chemical reaction:
NH2Cl + HOCH2SO3Na H2NCH2SO3Na + H+ + OCl-
The OCl- is hypochlorite. This ion then reacts with the sulfonate end of the ClorAm-X molecule for form harmless chloride ions, Cl- (see the previous section CHLORINE above).
In water treatment the first such compound, monochloramine, is the most desirable due to its stability in solution and its ability to kill viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms. In actual practice, there is always a small percentage of the total chloramine content present as dichloramine, but never any trichloramine. The trichloramine is very unstable and rapidly decomposes to free nitrogen and chlorine (that's why one should never mix bleach and household ammonia or ammonia-containing cleaners).
When dechlorinated with ordinary dechlorinators the chloramines release the bound ammonia into the water. In addition, the chloramines are resistant to dissipation, even when the water is strongly aerated. The removal, or destruction, of chloramines is called "dechloramination". There is only one substance which not only dechloraminates water, but is also stable in solution, is nontoxic and has been determined by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it does not come under their regulation*. ClorAm-X is, therefore, suitable for use on fishes and aquatic invertebrates intended for human consumption. This substance is found in ClorAm-X and is protected by US and foreign patents.
AMMONIA: Ammonia comes from many sources in aquariums and ponds. These include accumulated and decomposing feces, uneaten food and dead plants. In aquariums, however, it has been shown that the majority of the ammonia in the water comes from the living fishes. Fishes expel ammonia directly into the water from exchange sites on their gills. This means the ammonia enters the water directly without having to be first mineralized from feces, etc. This is why starved fishes will still pollute their water with ammonia even though little or no fecal matter is produced.
The actual molecular or ionic form of the ammonia present in the water is directly dependent upon the pH, temperature and salinity. The pH is the most important factor affecting the equilibrium between molecular (= "free"), NH2, and ammonium ion (="ionic ammonia"), NH4+. As the pH increases the percentage of molecular ammonia increases, and as the pH decreases the percentage decreases. Another way of understanding this is to remember that at acid pH's (pH < 7) the ammonia becomes less toxic to the fishes and at alkaline pH's (pH >7) it becomes more toxic. ClorAm-X reacts with ammonia in is free, or unionized form. ClorAm-X will not only remove the "toxic ammonia" but due to the concentration present in standard dosages it will also remove all the ammonia as the equilibrium between ammonia and ammonium ion shifts as the Nh2 is consumed in the reaction. At low pH's this reaction proceeds slower than at pH's above 7, but in practical terms the reaction proceeds quickly enough to provide complete ammonia removal in an hour or less.
The actual chemical reaction between ammonia and ClorAm-X is shown below:
NH3 + HOCH2SO3Na H2NCH2SO3Na + H2O
The reaction product, H2NCH2SO3Na, an aminomethanesulfonate salt, is nontoxic and is capable of being metabolized by ammonia-oxidizing (nitrite) bacteria. If the ClorAm-X is dosed at levels higher than needed to react with the ammonia present in the treated water, the excess may react further with the aminomethanesulfonate salt. This secondary reaction, however, will proceed slower than the initial reaction, and dosing with excess ClorAm-X to react with anticipated ammonia levels, such as in shipping bags or tanks, over a long period is recommended. The aminomethanesulfonate salt is stable at pH levels less than 9.0; at higher pH levels the compound will start to react with hydroxide ions, OH-, and some free ammonia may be produced.
Unlike other water conditioner which claim to remove toxic ammonia, ClorAm-X will do so even if the pond, tank, or aquarium is not cycled, is overstocked or is improperly filtered (this is why ClorAm-X can be used in live-haul tanks and shipping bags where there is no filtration and where the number of fishes per volume of water is typically several times that found in an aquarium, tank or pond). Additionally, when using ClorAm-X to remove ammonia there is no need to do water changes nor to vigorously aerate the water to facilitate is action. This does not mean that ClorAm-X should be used instead of proper water maintenance, but when ClorAm-X is used water management is made more efficient and effective.
* FDA Letter regarding ClorAm-X
ClorAm-X Material Safety Data Sheet
The United States tariff code for ClorAm-X is 3402.90.5010 - "Cleaning Products", class 55.
There should be no restrictions on importing ClorAm-X into any country. The product is non-toxic and non-hazardous.