Discussion: Fewer Water changes / No water changes - Page 9 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #81 of 84 Old 03-14-2010, 03:09 PM
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Thought I would throw out this article which is linked in Part two of this post by Carl Stohmeyer:

" It is also worth noting that most of these “Reasons for Water Changes” are inter related, so addressing one reason often has an affect on another and on the negative side of the equation ignoring one reason of has a domino affect on others
(1)* Nitrate control- A nitrate level of 15-20 ppm or less is best saltwater fish (1 ppm or less for Reef), 40-50 ppm or less for FW (you want a Nitrate level of at least 15 ppm for planted FW aquariums, as plants need some bio available nitrates in the water column). Use your nitrate level as a gauge (in an established aquarium) when to change your water. If your goal is to keep nitrates below 40 ppm, change water whenever nitrates reach this level.
I often have told my customers that Nitrate removal was an important reason (not the only) for water changes, and utilizing vacuuming as a method of removing organic mulm is an effective way of maintaining low nitrates (especially in the absence of nitrogen reducing anaerobic filter bed).
In freshwater aquariums (especially in the absence of a large amount of thriving plants), water changes using a gravel vacuum to remove ALL the organic mulm before it goes through the full nitrifying part of the nitrogen cycle is of the only sure way of controlling nitrates in a freshwater aquarium. The importance is amplified for tanks where Under Gravel Filters are employed (with these filters it is best to occasionally remove the lift tubes and siphon directly under the plate).
(2)*GH and Electrolytes ( positive mineral ions); this is related to the above point. Water changes will often replenish necessary electrolytes (when tap or well water are used). This is why RO water should ALWAYS be re-mineralized.
This is an important reason that is often missed in determining whether or not adequate methods, frequency, etc. of water changes are being utilized. If your aquarium GH (minerals/electrolytes) are falling, you are likely in need of a water change or should be employing products such as Wonder Shells and possible aragonite (although aragonite often will not respond rapidly enough to lower mineral levels as compared to Wonder shells, buffers or simple water changes).
Without adequate mineralization, your fish will suffer from poor osmoregulation and as well this will lower your Redox balance.
Importance of Calcium, magnesium and other electrolytes on aquariums(3)*Ph and KH control- Maintaining a proper ph (ph levels have a tendency to drop from biological activity), KH is the buffering ability of the water and that too can decrease. KH is VERY important and a major problem I have seen over the years in my maintenance business when calling on customers who seemed to always have problems with their aquariums and claimed cleaning their aquarium caused their problems, which of course is not true. Maintaining a proper KH between cleanings is important. SeaChem Buffers and to a lesser degrees aragonite or Wonder Shells may aid in this as well.

It should be noted that is large volumes of water changes are necessary for whatever reason, it is important to make sure that the new water added does not result in “roller coaster” pH reading, for which the osmotic stress on the fish is usually much harder than pH reading that is less desirable, but is usually tolerated fish more than many aquarists realize. This consideration is especially important with fish such as Discus where a water change may cause a sudden spike in pH (unless re-mineralized RO water is used that is also pre-adjusted to pH).

(4)*Lowering of DOC & Removal of Organic Mulm (Sludge); DOC stands for Dissolved Organic Compounds (some refer to the ‘C’ in this abbreviation as Carbon which would relate to carbon based molecules). This is inter-related to some of the other reasons such Redox, Bio Load, Nitrates, even KH & pH (has often high DOC will have an end result of lowering pH). This also includes removal of mulm/sludge from under under-gravel filter plates (placing a siphon tube directly under a plate often has worked well for me) as well as removal of this mulm/sludge from canister and sometimes even wet/dry filters.
This is one of the more important reasons from my years of experience as well as some controlled tests since DOC in the water column and Organic Mulm/Sludge under the gravel, decorations, rocks, etc. can have a profound effect on so many aspects of aquarium health such as the previously noted Nitrates, Redox, and even opportunistic diseases, in particular Saprolegnia/Fungus and Aeromonas.

This is achieved two ways in cleanings:
[1] Simply removing water on a regular basis removes DOC from the water column.
[2] The second aspect is surprisingly misunderstood, even by experienced aquarists and that is by thorough vacuuming of organic mulm, you remove a major cause/source of DOC. This is amplified more by the use of re-circulating micron filter cleaning methods such as the Aquarium Cleaning Machine where as you continue to vacuum the mulm and detritus even after you are finished removing water, after which you throw out the debris/mulm caught in the micron filter which would other wise add to the DOCs in the future. A Vortex Diatom Filter can perform this as well, although the gravel must be constantly stirred to make this device fully effective, which not only is this not usually possible, but this is also much more stressful to fish (I have used Diatom filters for years and they are still excellent devices, however when the Aquarium Cleaning Machine became available, it blew the Diatom filters out of the water).
Another device, the electric (battery powered) “Bag” vacuums do NOT compare to the Cleaning Machine or Diatom Filters. These use a bag that does not even trap 25% of the DOC causing mulm that a true micron filter can (such as the two noted above), my tests measuring Nitrates, KH, & Redox show this.
An exception to this would be the Eheim Sludge Remover Battery Vacuum, as it uses a much better reusable micron filter than the older style “Bag” battery Vacuums. Although the Eheim Battery Vacuum is not nearly as efficient as the Aquarium Cleaning Machine, it provides a reasonable alternative for small aquarium owner or those on a tight budget where the Aquarium Cleaning Machine is simply not practical. I should be noted that none of these devices still take the place of a water change in my experience/tests, however at least the Aquarium Cleaning Machine allows for discharge of water prior to switching to re-circulate.
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post #82 of 84 Old 03-14-2010, 03:10 PM
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Part two of Carl's article, link at bottom:

(5)*Removal of harmful elements; There are many toxins that can be introduced, airborne or in other ways enter the aquarium that are not easily measured.
Carbon may help with this as well, but should not be over used.

(6)*Control of Bio Load; Although cleanings are not the long term answer to an over crowded, over fed, and under filtered aquarium, cleanings are certainly necessary to lower your bio load by removal of decaying organics in your gravel, under décor, and often in under maintained filters as well.
A common symptom of a high organic load is rapidly dropping pH and KH as well as sighting of Detritus Worms during cleanings or when oxygen levels drop (these worms will rise to the surface when oxygen levels are low seeking oxygen). These Worms are often misidentified as Planaria by many here on the internet, however they are not Planaria (which can be present too), Planaria are not a worm!
(7)*Redox Potential ; this is an often unknown parameter to many aquarists but is actually quite important, especially with newer research I have uncovered. That said most freshwater aquarists usually do not need to worry about this if water changes and other aspects of good aquatic husbandry are observed (for marine aquariums this is even more important and is often not as easily maintained). However, I would recommend learning more about this parameter if you are a serious aquarist, and the purchase of a Redox meter if you can afford one (they sell for over $200) may be a useful tool as well.
Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle, cycling methods(8)* Removal of waste before it can go thru the Nitrogen Cycle. This is related to other aspects/reason for water changes, although here I specifically mean the removal nitrogenous waste molecules in the water column that begin with ammonia, to nitrites and then end up as nitrates.
Water changes can lower these nitrogenous molecules (ammonia, etc.) prior to the cycling process thus resulting on lower nitrates as noted in section #1.
(9)* Control of algae growth; this aspect is often missed, yet is very basic. Water changes (assuming replacement with water that has natural balanced nutrients) will generally return the proper balances of Macro nutrients (PO4, NO3, K) to a freshwater tank for plants to out compete algae.
(10)* Rinsing of bio-sponges, media, etc. in used aquarium or de-chlorinated tap water (generally not straight tap water). This includes sponge filters, bio balls, and ceramic media in canister filters (canister filters need to be cleaned more often than many aquarists think due to nitrate producing and KH reducing mulm buildup).
Occasionally I do not use de-chlorinated tap water or used aquarium water to rinse all parts of a canister filter such as mechanical filtration poly pads, or even some sponges, the reason is if there is more than adequate amounts on ammonia/nitrite reducing nitrifying bacteria and nitrates are quite high (I always leave at least the ceramic, volcanic rock, SeaChem Matrix or other bio media rinsed in only de-chlorinated water so as to preserve nitrifying or de-nitrifying bacteria behind). As well either at the time of water change or a midway point (or similar) between water changes, chemical filter products such as Carbon or SeaChem Purigen should be changed.
Rinsing of filter media is not quite a “reason for water change” (more a reason for maintenance/cleaning), but is certainly a part of regular tank maintenance that should not be ignored.
(11)* Disease eradication; changing water for disease eradication may not solve the problem, but may be a step towards the problem when done in conjunction with medications/treatments (even bleachings and subsequent aquarium re-starts).
* All these reasons are based on 30+ years of professional aquarium maintenance with some of the largest accounts in Los Angeles, CA
The above section is the most objective aspect of this article, everything that follows is more subjective and utilizing what ever cleaning method, frequency, or combinations there of are all determined by achieving that above criteria which admittedly is not all as important as each other, however I would consider points 1-8 essential based on both experience and scientifically controlled tests/studies.

Summary of "Reasons for Water Changes;"
My point is that a 25% water change every month may be all that is required by one aquarist but not adequate for another aquarist!
Or one aquarist may do fine with the German or flow through method while another may fail and the use of products such as the Aquarium Cleaning Machine may be necessary for DOC control.
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post #83 of 84 Old 03-14-2010, 05:46 PM
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Kymmie, you're morethan welcome! Everyone is invited! April 17-27, 2010...hurry! Good book it!

Natalie, I hope I see change like that! So much growth my hoos will be about to pop off! hahaha! Probably not in 12 days, but I'm expecting to notice a big difference
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post #84 of 84 Old 03-14-2010, 06:33 PM Thread Starter
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*Checking flights as we speak* lol

Just wait & see what'll happen.

~ Life Is Too Short, Break The Rules, Forgive Quickly, Kiss Slowly, Love Truly, Laugh Uncontrollably And Never Regret Anything that Made You Smile.
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