Water Changes In The Aquarium
Maintaining your aquarium is vital to the long term running of a successful set up, not only keeping your fish tank clean but also performing regular partial water changes to keep the water quality high so that your fish live long and happy lives. Unfortunately the water changes are sometimes kept to a minimum as they are a chore to many fish keepers and may seem a lot of unnecessary hard work but they are vital for the water. Some keepers will perform a water change once a month and some keepers, especially of the planted tanks may never perform them at all, I have always stuck to the schedule of changing at least 10% of the total water volume on a weekly basis, in my view I feel that this not only keeps the water quality high but prevents sudden changes in the water parameters that sometimes occurs when larger water changes are performed.
But why do we need to perform the water changes in the first place?
Over a period of time, the nitrates will build up until they reach high enough levels to start affecting the health of the fish and algal outbreaks can occur spoiling the overall look of your aquarium. Fish can tolerate nitrate presence up to a certain level but once they get too high the fish will become stressed which in turn will lead to their immune system being weakened and the inevitable outcome of this is the introduction of diseases and parasites into the tank which the fish, under normal conditions, can usually fight off.
I am still of the old school and prefer to use buckets for my water changes along with a length of syphon tube, this is now considered an old fashioned method of performing a water change but I have had no problems with this, just make sure that you can carry the buckets of water as they can get heavy, using smaller containers may take longer but is easier on your back.
Working out how much to take out is easy for me as I run a 100 gallon tank, 10% of this equates to 10 gallons. I use a 5 gallon bucket that has been scaled by myself and the syphon tube cost pence from any aquatic supplier.
Beforehand I prepare the fresh water in a separate bucket, I always keep outgoing water buckets and ingoing water buckets separate, just a habit of mine to reduce re-adding any gunk that I have just removed. The water is conditioned and a heater dropped in so that the temperature rises to the same temperature as the tank water. This can now be put to one side while the water change is started. Once a month I also use a gravel vac instead of the syphon tube as water changes are an ideal time to do a bit of cleaning around the tank as well.
When emptying the water from the aquarium ensure that the submersible heaters remain below the water surface and also check that the flow from the filters is still running at the normal speed, if they have slowed down it is a sure sign that the filter sponges have become clogged and need rinsing in the old tank water.
Once you have removed sufficient water simply replace with the fresh conditioned water that you heated earlier. I normally spread the old tank water around the flower beds, the plants love it so it is really classed as free fertiliser, if I can save money then I will !!
Of course everyone has their own preferred method for performing the water change, a friend of mine always ran a length of hosepipe from the aquarium and straight out if his room window, recently the invention of the python has reduced the time it takes to perform water changes. This is attached to the taps and by means of a specialised valve it can empty the water from the aquarium and with a flick of the switch, refill again.
The percentage of water that needs to be changed really does depend on each individual aquarium, if there are a lot of plants in the tank then generally less water changes are required, the same for tanks that have low stocking levels, the fish produce less waste therefore the filters produce less nitrates after the beneficial bacteria have dealt with the ammonia and nitrites. Perform a nitrate test before and after a water change so that you will know if you are replacing enough water with each water change.
There can be some confusion between topping up an aquarium and actually performing a water change. Top ups simply replace evaporated water, as the phrase suggests, only water evaporates any dissolved compounds and nitrates remain in the water, due to the lower water level, these compounds are now more concentrated, topping up simply dilutes them again. You can only remove the compounds and nitrates by performing the water change, this should be part of your regular schedule, skimping on this task will lead to problems with the aquarium eventually.