07-29-2011, 10:59 AM
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I disagree with the advice here - test kits are good, but you really shouldn't use them to determine water changes. Frankly, I don't have a test kit and have yet to have a need for one! (although I do have ammonia alert monitors in my tanks). Once you have an established tank and practice good maintenance, test kits are really unnecessary... nice to have, but really not required.
In Nature fresh water is fresh because it is constantly being renewed by rainfall - which results in creeks, streams, rivers, springs for ponds, lakes, etc. Our aquariums are very small systems of confinement and in order to keep the water fresh, we need to remove and replace amounts of 25% - 50% weekly.
In the N2 process, bacteria processes ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate, but this is only part of the story (discussed at great length in many threads). There are all sorts of dissolved 'crud' in the water that we remove and dilute during the weekly water change. Don't be fooled, these 'no-see-ums' are in there and must be routinely removed to keep the aquarium water quality at a level the best promotes the health and well being of your stock. Even if you have a lot of living plants (which dramatically aids in water purification) the weekly water change is an essential part of aquarium maintenance.
While we're on the subject, along with routine filter maintenance, unless you have a well planted tank, periodic gravel siphoning is also beneficial in keeping the aquarium functioning well.
I have no idea why any LFS/LPS would suggest not routinely doing water changes - everyone in the business 'should' understand this requirement.
As far as your fathers issues, when doing water changes, if your tap water has chlorine, you must use a water conditioner to neutralize it. Also, the water needs to be at a temperature close to the tank temperature or 75-80F in order to not shock fish (who often tend to come and swim in the fresh water fall as new water is added).
I hope you find this helpful.