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Distilled vs. Spring Water: Which is the Crystal-Clear Choice for Your Fish Tank?

By Erika

Providing high-quality water is one of the most important aspects of keeping healthy, thriving fish. But with so many types of water to choose from, how do you know which is the right option for your aquarium? Two of the most popular choices are distilled and spring water. But what exactly are the differences, and which is better for your finned friends? Let’s dive below the surface and explore the unfiltered truth about these two types of water for fishkeeping.

Distilled Water: The Pure and Pristine Option

Distilled water is water that has been boiled and condensed to remove impurities, resulting in a very pure, mineral-free liquid. In terms of aquarium use, here are some of the notable qualities of distilled water:

  • No impurities: The distillation process removes chemicals, heavy metals, minerals and other potential contaminants that can be harmful to fish. This makes distilled water an ideal choice for sensitive species.
  • Low mineral content: Distillation removes most of the naturally occurring minerals and trace elements normally found in water. The resulting water has a very low mineral content.
  • Neutral pH: Distilled water typically has a pH of around 7, neither acidic nor basic. This neutral pH provides a good starting point for adjusting water chemistry.
  • Clear and clean: With no impurities or minerals to cause cloudiness or discoloration, distilled water has a crystal-clear appearance.

Given these qualities, distilled water provides aquarists with a clean, pure slate to work from. The lack of minerals allows for precise control in adjusting water parameters like pH and hardness to meet the specific needs of different aquarium inhabitants. For keeping delicate species that require pristine water conditions, distilled water is an excellent choice.

Spring Water: Nature’s Elixir for Aquariums

Spring water comes from underground reservoirs and flows up naturally to the surface. This earth-filtered water picks up a unique mix of minerals and trace elements as it travels through layers of rock and soil. Let’s look at some key qualities of spring water for aquarium use:

  • Natural minerals: As it flows to the surface, spring water dissolves naturally occurring minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. These minerals can benefit fish health.
  • Trace elements: In addition to minerals, spring water contains a variety of trace elements such as copper, zinc and iron. These elements help support fish metabolism and wellbeing.
  • Stable pH: Spring water tends to have a stable, moderately alkaline pH between 7.5-8. This pH range is ideal for most aquarium fish.
  • Varied composition: Not all spring water is the same. Mineral content and pH can vary depending on the geological formation of the source. Popular brands include Mountain Valley Spring Water, Fiji Water and Evian Natural Spring Water.

The minerals and elements in spring water can promote healthy osmoregulation, stimulate fish’s natural slime coat and speed the growth of beneficial bacteria in filtration systems. For replication natural habitats, spring water may be the ideal choice.

Head-to-Head Comparison: Distilled vs. Spring Water

Now that we’ve covered the basics of distilled and spring water, let’s directly compare these two options and weigh their pros and cons for aquarium use:

Distilled Water


  • Lack of impurities beneficial for sensitive fish
  • Mineral-free for full control of water chemistry
  • Neutral pH good for adjusting different parameters


  • No beneficial minerals to support fish health
  • Requires remineralization and pH adjustment
  • Not a natural replication of most fish habitats

Spring Water


  • Natural minerals benefit osmoregulation and health
  • Trace elements support fish metabolism
  • Stable pH matches most fish preferences
  • Mimics composition of natural freshwater habitats


  • Minerals can interfere with desired water chemistry
  • High mineral content unsuitable for soft water species
  • Varied composition between brands

As you can see, there are compelling benefits to both options. Distilled water provides purity and control, while spring water offers minerals and natural properties. So which is better for your particular aquarium?

Making the Right Choice for Your Fish Tank

The ideal choice between distilled and spring water depends on several factors specific to your aquarium setup and inhabitants:

  • Intended water parameters: Test kits can analyze pH, hardness and other parameters you want to maintain. Compare these to the properties of distilled and spring water sources to assess compatibility.
  • Fish species sensitivities: Saltwater fish and soft water species do best in mineral-free distilled water you can customize. Spring water suits hard water species. Know your fish!
  • Filtration system capabilities: Filters with chemical media can remove excess minerals from spring water. Systems without such capabilities may require distilled water.
  • Remineralization: If using distilled water, remineralizers can add back needed calcium, magnesium and other elements. But this requires careful monitoring of concentrations.
  • Water changes: The choice of replacement water is especially important. Spring water maintains mineral levels, while distilled water requires remineralizing with each change.

Testing your aquarium frequently is key to maintaining proper water parameters. Track pH, hardness, ammonia, nitrates and other factors and adjust water chemistry accordingly based on your choice of distilled or spring water. Getting the water right goes a long way to keeping fish healthy in any setup!

Conclusion: The Clear Winner for Aquarium Health

Providing high-quality aquarium water is essential to the health of fish and the maintenance of suitable environmental conditions. Both distilled and spring water have their advantages based on factors like fish species, water chemistry goals and filtration capabilities. Distilled water gives aquarists complete control over mineral levels while spring water offers fish a natural concentration of healthy minerals and trace elements.

Ultimately, there is no universally superior option between these two types of water. The right choice depends on your specific aquarium inhabitants and setup. Testing water frequently, choosing suitable water sources, and adjusting chemistry appropriately will result in happy, healthy fish regardless of whether distilled or spring water is the crystal-clear winner for your fishkeeping needs. With a little research and care, you can provide your finned friends with the high-quality water they deserve.

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