For the Non-water changers in the crowd. - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 11:05 AM

I guess that iam in the short end of things because I don’t change aquarium water on a regular basis nor am I concerned with water chemistry. In fact I only change the water occasionally due to the doom and gloom preaching.

Back in 96 or so I had a 55 gal aquarium with two Oscars and about 3 green severms. I changed the water once or maybe twice by the time I tore down the tank in 2001. What is that five years. I never cycled this tank nor did I ever check water chemistry or use any water conditioners. This 55 gal aquarium had under-gravel filter, plastic plants. I am not bating you Bryon or any other person but I added salt to the above defined aquarium and never observed the negative effects described in salt in freshwater aquarium. I add salt to the aquarium because scientific fact that chloride ion will prevent the up-take of nitrate through osmoregulation.
If I remember rightly in the salt article the ratio of salt to water was one table spoon per 16 gallons of water, which is about a teaspoon of salt for every 5 gallons of water; whereas I used a ratio of 1 tea spoon per 55 gallons of water.

Do not fret I have learned a lot from the posts and articles presented and have a lot of respect for everyone’s knowledge about fish keeping. Just because I question ideas doesn’t mean I doubt or disregard the concepts.

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post #12 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 11:08 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Chesherca View Post
Dunno, Jeff. . . I suppose it all depends on how you look at things, really. The average aquarium HERE, on THIS forum, and among fish heads like US. . . does tend to get it's weekly water change. We understand the effects, more or less, on the inhabitants and the system as a whole if we fail to take proper care of our fish, and we LIKE our fish, and do our best to give them proper care.

That said, I know entirely too many people here in the 'real' world that have fish tanks. And it seems to me, at least in my area, that fish aren't so much regarded as animals or pets, so much as a decoration - like a picture in a frame or a vase of flowers. MOST of the people I know that have aquariums DO NOT change the water, EVER. And when/if they do, they almost always do it in such a way as to cause a full-tank cycle - and they never even seem to notice.

So in my PERSONAL experience, I'd say that the majority of people who keep fish do NOT do regular water changes. And while I don't think it is in any way the proper way of taking care of the wetpets, somehow. . . somehow they all manage to continue to have living fish! I don't understand it, but there it is. And no matter how much I talk to them and try to convince them - it doesn't work, because their fish are 'just fine' after all of these years. *shrugs* Fish can adapt to anything given time. And they might not live as long as they could have, but they manage somehow. . .

MY fish, on the other hand, are used to clean, fresh water. And if I were to stop doing water changes, I'm quite sure they'd die. . . I remember when I first started keeping fish - I didn't do research, and I did things wrong entirely. ALL of these people told me the same thing. "When you bring home fish, some of them die - it's just the way it is. The ones that live will be fine, though..." I refused to believe that people would buy a pet with the knowledge that it'd probably die, and that's how I found this site. If I wanted to buy 3 kittens, and was told that 2 wouldn't make it. . . I don't think I'd keep cats. Same goes for fish...

*sorry, random...*
Hmmm.... very good points. I know I read that 60% of fish bought don't survive initially and 60% of fish keepers quit before the year is out. I've never paid any attention to any aquariums that I might have seen in homes.... I've seen very few in fact.

Perhaps I should change how I put the 95% out there, perhaps 95% SHOULD be changing the water regularly. Or that 95% don't consider the water quality in their tanks at all. Perhaps it is the 5% that are concerned and take the time to educate themselves on tank maintenance and fish care properly.

All in all I don't expect to become a non-changer and the stats don't really matter much to me as they don't apply to me. I think that I have jumped in with both feet, as might be apparent by my posting here I suppose, and, like all my hobby endeavours, Gung-Ho is the word.

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Total years fish keeping experience: 7 months, can't start counting in years for a while yet.

The shotgun approach to a planted tank with an LED fixture

Small scale nitrogen cycle with a jar, water and fish food; no substrate, filter etc
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post #13 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 11:42 AM
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In this post I am only going to offer some comments on this assumption that fish adapt to this or that.

Fish never adapt to inappropriate water parameters or inappropriate water conditions. They "manage," but they do not adapt, ever. In nature, fish, like other animals, adapt to changes by what we term selective evolution. Evolution is on-going; it is not something that happened in the past, but it is continuing today. Existing species are evolving as their environment changes. But this evolution is very slow, over thousands of years in the case of fish.

Fish managing is very different from fish living. A Betta can exist for years in a glass of water on the shelf. But none of us [I hope] would suggest this is "OK" for the fish. A mature Oscar at 12 inches can exist for years in a 10g tank. But this is not living.

I get quite annoyed every time I read that someone doesn't do this or that and their fish are fine and healthy. Unless you are the fish, you are unlikely to have any idea as to the state it is in. There are clues along the way that some of us can read, but most if not all of these "fine" fish will never come close to their normal lifespan, and that in itself is significant. If a fish will not live to or past the normal lifespan, or will not spawn, or does not behave normally in your aquarium, then there is almost certainly something wrong with the water or the environment. And this does affect the fish, to some degree, whether or not you see anything.

This is what Dr. Neale Monks, a biologist with 20 years of experience keeping fish aquaria, says:
In the early days of the hobby, aquarists believed that ‘old water’ was somehow better for fish. Because old water contained a lot of nitrate and organic chemicals, it tended to become rather acidic. If you did a big water change and added water with a basic pH, you ran the risk of exposing the fish to a sudden and extreme pH change - something that could kill them.

It made sense to do small water changes instead, so that the fish could adjust to any slight changes in pH.
Modern day aquarists now understand that the more the water is changed, the better. Indeed, many fish simply won’t put up with old nitrate-rich water at all - cichlids, mollies and marine fish for example.

Weekly water changes of at least 25% will dilute the nitrate and organic chemicals that cause acidification in the aquarium, preventing that particular problem.

Big, regular water changes keep the aquarium much fresher than would otherwise be the case, meaning that your fish will be happier and healthier.
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Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #14 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 11:47 AM
Simply saying a fish was 'fine' for years does not mean anything. An animal caged outside may appear fine for years as well, that has no bearing on if its environment is suitable or healthy for it. Animals and fish avoid showing stress as much as they can, its a sign of weakness and likely predation. Fish are also very tolerant of dealing with unsuitable water tho that does not mean it has no long term chronic effect on them. Also many fish are built to deal with short term poor conditions, especially fish that live with drastic dry and wet seasons like in the amazon. Sure tons still die during the dry season but some manage to make it.

Water changes are done for much more then nitrate. Its as simple as that. Nitrate is actually one of the easiest compounds to control without water changes, its the others that we rarely or never test that will gradually become a problem. Phosphate, kH, GH, TDS, and alkalinity to name a few. Example many nutrient cycles produce acidic compounds which will gradually consume carbonates to the point where you loose all buffering( and thus stable control of pH). In a normal aquatic system carbonates are always consumed, but they leach in from run off and bedrock so are normally not exhausted. Changing water replenishes carbonates and removes the bound up/neutralized carbonates which only add the TDS. Its pretty much impossible to compare or try to replicate a fish tank to a stable lake or pond. The lake is as complex as a city and your tank in comparison is a house in that city. Lakes, rivers, and ponds are truly amazing when you get down to just how greatly complex they are. Freshwater ecology by Walter Dodds was a really good textbook I used in college that covered the simple things to the really indepth things. And is a very very informative for anyone interested in how aquatic ecosystems function from the chemical levels up to the trophic levels.

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post #15 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 12:19 PM
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Hey, I'm in the top 5%!! Haha...just kidding. But, seriously, this is an interesting thread. There are really 2 different schools of thinking, those who believe in the benefits of regular partial water changes and those who believe it's better to just leave the aquarium alone. OK, maybe a third category....those people who, as mentioned, just have aquariums for ornaments and don't want to or don't realize that they should be doing regular maintenance/PWC's.

I, for one, am a firm believer in regular water changes. I have seen the benefits. My sister in law never does water changes on her tank. She is always buying new fish to replace ones which have mysteriously died. I think the longest living fish for her has been maybe a year or so. She is always commenting on how colorful and healthy my fish are. Recently she and I took a trip to a LFS and we both bought some Dennison Barbs. A couple weeks later she was over at my house and commented on how much bigger and more colorful mine had become compared to hers.

My nephew also never does water changes and has had his tank crash on him and lost all his fish. He asked me to come over and help him with his tank. I tested his nitrates and they were off the charts!! His Ph had dropped to 5. Our tap water is 7.8 with Gh and Kh of 5 dH and this is what my tank Ph reads also and what his should have been since we are in the same town. I explained to him about nitrates and how I equate them to air pollutiion for us. It's like living in a smoggy, polluted city compared to the fresh air of the mountains. Sure fish can survive for awhile with no water changes but their lifespan is shortened and eventually they get sick and die. An average fish should live 8-10 years (just a generalization), not 1 or 2.

I realize everyone's experiences may be different and am not trying to preach to those who don't do water changes. Ultimately, it is your tank and if it has worked for you then kudos. But I can't imagine not maintaining my tanks without regular fresh water.
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150 Gallon - Mostly American Cichlids
135 Gallon - Angelfish Community
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20 Gallon Long - QT
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post #16 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 01:08 PM
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i'm a regular water changer,as i think that my fish swimming around
in the same water isn't very nice,and a breath of fresh air can't be a bad thing ?

when you set up a new tank,hide an extra
sponge or two behind some decor,that way you have
something seeded for you next filter.
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post #17 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 01:14 PM
Originally Posted by JDM View Post
I have a question, well, two.

What is the smallest tank that you think can successfully be set up to run with no water changes?

What is the smallest you have run that way, and for how long?

I may have others along the way but let's start with these.

When I first looked at an aquarium, just before Christmas, I asked the LFS guy about running such a setup as you guys do. He gave me that look that you give, unintentionally, to the extremely uninformed. So I am curious.


1 guart (or less) betta bowl. 3 years.

maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish and marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

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post #18 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 01:17 PM
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Just to clarify. . . in no way was I implying that water changes aren't necessary, or that the fish who live in these conditions are healthy, or thriving. I personally feel strongly that it is nothing short animal cruelty to keep fish in these conditions, and I've been very vocal to fish owners that I come in contact with regarding my thoughts on the matter. I'm actually known for bringing my test kit over and showing some of these people exactly what is happening in their tank (in every case nitrates, phosphates are off-the-charts high), and explaining to the best of my ability the SCIENCE behind why this is not 'okay.' Through my involvement with the Kindergarten tank, I've come in contact with more than my fair share of fish-keepers - the little ones often 'tattle' on their parents, and insist that they talk to me, as the children have now been taught how to properly care for a tank, and have taken steps to 'bully' their parents into water changes and such. There have been quite a few cases in which I've managed to bring understanding to these people, and was able to help them turn things around, little by little, and they now have a healthy tank. But in the majority of cases, these owners insist that their fish are 'just fine,' and leave it at that. It's heartbreaking, but it really seems to be the 'norm,' at least in my area, for fish-keepers NOT to do water changes. And, to be fair, for the most part they never even realized that it's a necessary thing until I pointed it out to them! Granted this is no excuse, as many of us on this forum (myself included) started off with no knowledge or prior research, and have gone well out of our way to set things right and learn what is necessary for our fishy friends to thrive. . . It boggles my mind that a basic fact sheet on the care of fish isn't given out with their purchase, as tends to be the case with other animals. . . what really boggles my mind are those who continue to refuse to do maintenance, even after they've been presented with the facts. Depending on the size and setup of the tank, it would truly take most of them no more than 15 minutes a week to keep their tanks healthy. I don't understand why this is so difficult. . .
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post #19 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 01:18 PM
Originally Posted by Nilet699 View Post
wheres bealsbob on this thread?
I'm calling you out....
AS you are the one man i see saying ''dont change the water'' all the time..... you'd think you had an opinion here surely?

I finally posted just above this one.

BTW water changes will limit but not prevent the build up in tds and everything else.

So there is that more like it.

maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish and marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

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post #20 of 104 Old 01-25-2013, 02:32 PM
I am with you Jeaninel that I could not imagine not doing water changes with my tanks.

That said there are a lot of people in this world that keep animals. They all have different reasons. For me I keep animals as companions. As such it is very important to me no matter what kind of animal it is that they are given the absolute best that I can give, and given what is necessary for good health.

There are many people out there that think their animals are "Happy" because the animals are alive. Alive is not the same as happy. Alive is not the same as healthy. Animals put up with what situations we give them because they have no choice in the matter. Cows can't leave their pen for better pasture no easier than fish can leave their tanks to seek better waters.

A caged dog can only whimper and cry. What can a boxed in fish do when presented with less than ideal conditions because their owners have fooled themselves into thinking they are fine? The only answer is cope. So those of you who think that your animals are fine even though you don't do water changes...just remember. Animals cope with what we give them. Coping =/= healthy.
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