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Ecofriendly usage of water

Discussion in 'Talk to Tom Barr' started by corlis, Jun 6, 2011.

  1. corlis

    corlis Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Tom

    I have used your EI methods for a couple of years and a have had great results. I have now reached a situation where your method is not viable. To clarify I have a water supply problem. Your method requires a 50% H2O change each week. Due to limited water supply I cannot continue this approach. What are the alternatives
    1. go to chemical testing of water parameters and reduce water changes
    2 use walsted method of low light tanks.
    I am asking this as I find your method relies on an unlimited availability of appropriate water.
    In a sensitive global problem of diminishing suitable drinking water is your method ecological suitable. My situation is I need to dispose of 200,000litres hyperfertilized water/year using your method. What are your thoughts?
    Do you think this is sustainable? I would like to suggest on your forum a section of how to recycle used tank water
    I think this could be an environmental issue if it is not addresed.

    I thought I should ask you first before I bring this issue up on ither forums
    Doc
     
    #1 corlis, Jun 6, 2011
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  2. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Lifetime Members
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    I don't think what we dispose of in our tanks compares at all with agricultural run off. The broad environmental impact of a home aquarium is minimal. Although, I agree that small steps taken by many can have a large impact on environmental conservation.

    If water supply is an issue then low tech El natural could reduce water changes, but not eliminate them.

    You could drain your tank water to a garden or flower bed instead of down the drain. Come to think of it, I could do that considering the garden and the drain are about the same distance from my tank...I compost some of my unused, unsold, or ungiven away plants.

    There are better ways to save on water in the home, some newer eco conscious home builders are using gray water recycling. A holding tank stores gray water (non sewage water) and uses that for flushing toilets Probably expensive and eco friendly but not money saving for a long time.

    Those of us that use RO send a bunch of water down the drain, but that water ends up in the regional/global water system and is not "lost". It may get treated down stream and drank, it may evaporate, it may do all sorts of things.

    Doesn't water shortages have more to do with location vs availability than a broad lack of unusable water via pollution? Although water treatment is running across problems removing things like medications and hormones from water.

    An interesting thought, Corlis. It is good to be environmentally conscious.
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Errr? Requires 50%?

    Never have I ever stated it requires a 50% water change.

    I do 50% once a month on two of my own tanks.

    Read this for options and myths concerning EI.

    http://www.barrreport.com/showthread.php/4882-Confusion-about-EI-and-other-myths

    You basically can start high dosing and then progressively and slowly reduce the amount you dose till you hit a negative growth response, then bump back up to the last highest dosing rate.
    This is personal tweaking the method to suit the individual tank. This is up to the user and often lost when folks read things.
    Fairly simply, but requires a little patience, and less patience if you watch and do not have fiddle with test kits and calibration solutions, but that is another way to get at it.
    They should result in the same thing.

    So you can certainly avoid testing and still test with the plants if.......you are observant and can dose a little less/more as needed.

    The ecological issue, see the next post.
     
  4. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Since we are concerned about minimizing the impacts we have on the environment, is the Aquarium a luxury item or something we require?

    It is a luxury.

    So is all landscaping.......

    So is indoor plumbing for that matter.

    So are toilets.

    For the sake of argument, let's say the Aquarium is not a luxury item and we want to use a Best Management Practice(BMP's).

    This is a common acronym used by use ecological Biologist types of which I am one.
    What are the main impacts from aquariums? Cost wise anyways that we can minimize?

    Lighting, temperature and flow/pumps.

    Lighting from the typically 3-4 W/gal down to the 1.5 W/gal range leads to a savings in CA, USA on a 55 gallon tank of: ~35-55$ a year electric cost.
    Water? 1400 Gallons, the cost?

    Folks waste more than the 27.5 Gallons use for the weekly water per day, about 100-200 gallons here. That's a lot of waste. So do you have a low flow toilet? Water reduction shower head?

    Irrigation or water a lawn?

    http://www.marinwater.org/

    I'll use their lowest Tier 1 rate:
    110 Gallon used per month, monthly bill is 31.25$ for 162 Gal use per day, or 4750/4860 Gallon = you saved a whopping 70 cents per month or.........8.40$.

    Marin has some of the highest water rates in the USA.

    Energy waste?
    Well, the electric aspect certainly has a lot more waste associated with it, you cannot do much with wasted lighting..........wastewater is not really waste.

    So say you decide to do a BMP for the aquarium, but say....you wanna keep CO2 and say try lower light. Now you run the Biology at it's peak efficacy. This makes CO2 management much easier. And ultimately an easier tank and one that does well over time, since it REALLY IS a LUXURY, we ought to make it fun and not a headache and lots of labor.

    So high light should almost never be advised......... period.
    Folks on these forums give a FREE PASS to high lighting, but howl over water waste curiously. Fear not, this is not directed at you personally:), a certain plager that routinely bashes EI loves this comment, but if you think through it and look at the logic and critically consider it, it makes virtually no sense, it's called pandering to what you believe rather than what are the facts. Political spin essentially.

    I'd argue that Diana's suggestion is about the best BMP you can do over all, but it has limitations horticulturally.

    I have such tanks myself and support this method strongly.
    I do it with the water column and the sediment.

    No water changes.
    Her method relies more on the sediment only, some waste from fish etc.

    If you wish to accept say one water change once every 1-2 months, then low light + CO2 is good, but you should do larger water changes, not lots of smaller ones, because those remix and you waste the water fraction you could have done doing a single large water change vs several smaller ones.

    Pumps: in general, a good environment is produced for larger tanks, say 40 gal or over with a nice high grade pump, and a wet/dry set up. Canisters also offer good energy use, but offer less flow. Good flow has trade offs as well(more energy) but many low pressure high flow pumps are availabel and having a larger sump return pump is not hard to adjust to get just the right amount of flow without using a valve to restrict flows.


    Temp, perhaps the largest use of energy.

    Reducing the temp down 2-4 degrees can have a huge energy savings.
    Do we need sensitive warm water fish? No, not really.

    But..again.....trade offs.
    Things grow faster and are harder to keep up on, O2 levels are lower at higher temps as well. All things that go against the general philosophy of BMP's.

    I view the aquarium much like a farm.
    I raise and breed livestock(see Sturisoma fry I recently pulled out), Staorugyne I sell in larger amounts(my crop), Fire red cherry shrimp I sell locally. Other plants from time to time.

    I make about 3000-4000$ a year, spend about 1200$.

    Not bad.

    My water ends up on my ivy and other landscaping weeds.
    So instead of using the irrigation system and 1200 Gallon s a week min, I use about 300 Gallons total but with nice non chlorinated tank water with ferts that are dilute and help the bacteria in the soil grow. Chlorinated tap is not good for soil and plants, kills some fungi that attack plants, but kills the good fungi and bacteria also.

    You can chose to focus on one issue or take a more critical approach to BMP's.
    This is really up to the individual, and you can spin this many different ways, but we should be fair about it.

    Water by and large from aquariums as stated above... is not a large factor.
    Cost or ecological and when the larger issues are entirely ignored.... sort of ironic at the end of the day.
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Answered most of the above and then some.

    Walstad suggest low light, but...........using CO2 actually allows you to use even less light. Why? Plant allocate more resources to gathering the little bit of light that is there and less to sequestering CO2.
    Fairly simple.

    And well supported in the litrature.

    See Ole and Troel's article from Tropica here:

    http://www.tropica.com/advising/technical-articles/biology-of-aquatic-plants/co2-and-light.aspx

    [/quote]
    I am asking this as I find your method relies on an unlimited availability of appropriate water.
    [/quote]

    So does indoor plumbing and the toilet:)
    Irrigation systems, most of the Western USA.

    Compratively speaking very much so.
    Test kit reagents are much more toxic to the water waters, folks dump them right down the good old drain.
    Ant spray is one of the worse items that ends up in ou local creeks etc, storm water run off issues.
    It's a small issue in otherwords compared to toilet flushing, showers etc.

    Well now you are like the commericial ornamental nursieries a little West of me.
    They basically do hydroponics and with a nutrient solution. They use sand and bark for the potting mix.
    Fertigation basically.

    This recirculates and over time, gets pretty foul and they cannot use it much after about 3-7 days.

    This water is 20X worse than anything EI suggest.

    To kill the bacteria and fungi, we apply Magnicide, nasty stuff, kills everything in about 24 hours, they can then reuse the water and dilute the TDS down with well water from their pumps.
    They also ship off some dust reduction water to the orchards here locally for a fee. so they make some $ back and have zero waste.

    At this scale, you can do a few different things.

    Do you have a 1000 Gallo aquarium or something?
    That's about the typically estimate for 52 weeks, 50% weekly water change.

    You can certainly knock this down with some care and consideration.

    EI was never meant to be used without any reagrd, but........folks have the FREE will to do that, or make a reduction.
    I support the reduction, but many do not READ this part of my advice.

    I can repeat, I can nag, I can scream like a Howler Monkey in heat.........but to little avail.

    No, feel free............ this is a welcomed topic since it is a typical assumption by many about EI and hits on many issues , not just water usage. I look at the bigger picture. Folks can minimize many aspects in this hobby. I have NEVER advocated high light. I know of no other person other than Diana Walstad that does this. No one. I give a talk about light limitation and bring up many of these issues in my discussions with aquarium groups.

    I can move it to a general topic if you prefer.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  6. corlis

    corlis Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Tom

    Thankyou for your response. I agree whole heartedly with your ideas on lighting, heating etc. I only run 1.3w/g LED lighting plus CO2 on my tanks and these are run during the night when electricity is cheapest. I rarely heat my tanks(generally stable at 26C), as solid block construction of my shed reduces thermal loss. (I live in Sydney Australia which is not tropical). The water I dispose of goes into an underground tank which is then used on my vegetable gardens. I don't water my lawn.

    I also use high flow/low pressure water pumps for water circulation in tanks. This reduces electricity usage significantly when compared to powerheads.

    Yes I do reuse grey water on gardens and also used ecofriendly reduced water volume toilet and low pressure shower heads. I dont use AC or House heating

    Regarding the 50% weekly water changes. I may have misunderstood your instructions http://www.barrreport.com/showthread.php/62-The-Estimative-Index-of-Dosing-or-No-Need-for-Test-Kits

    The Estimative index is a simple method to dose nutrients for any tank without test kits. In a nut shell, the aquarist doses frequently to prevent anything from running out (plant deficiency) and does large weekly water changes to prevent any build up (Plant inhibition).

    The aquarist is not limited to 50% weekly water changes, they can change more precentage, for example 75% and this re sets 75% of the water volume just like making a standard solution for measuring and calibrating a test kit. More frequent water changes can also be performed, but hitting the target set by the aquarist can be achieved relatively easily for those less confident of 50% weekly changes.

    Regards
    Doc
     
    #6 corlis, Jun 7, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2011
  7. corlis

    corlis Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Tom

    Regarding my tanks. I have 8,000 litres of tank space which houses approx 250sp of aquatic plants. I am not a commercial operation, only an avid aquatic plants collector. I willl look at reducing water usage by modifying my fertilizer methods ie adjust ferts by looking at plant growth. This should slow the build up of fertilizer levels. Thankyou for correcting me on the supposed need for 50% weekly water changes. I am sure many other aquarists also misinterpret the need for 50% weekly water changes. If aquarists can use the EI method without the need for weekly 50% water changes then this should be emphasised, which will lead to a reduced water usage and more time to enjoy their plants

    Doc
     
    #7 corlis, Jun 7, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2011
  8. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I have been around Sydney and quite a few folks there do not use heaters. Environmental issues are quite high on the list of concerns in Oz.
    I wish we could say the same, O land of Consumerism and consumption that is known as the USA.

    You folks have those nice native black bee shrimp, Rainbows all over the place, native Sualul species, nice crays etc and plenty of native plants (see Dave Wilson in Darwin NT).
    A great wholesaler, Picese, who has lots of hardscaping materials and nice high grade plant production.

    50% water change makes the reset easy and the math simple mostly.
    But.......from there, folks can tweak as needed. Most are fairly concerned and have been taught to be so, about water in Oz more than most countries.

    This is fine for the folks starting off, and until the tank stabilizes and the user can tweak and observe well, they generally do the larger water changes AND MORE FREQUENTLY.
    But where water usage is a priority, then they cana dn should tweak after the 1-2 month mark once plants have filled in.

    FYI..........ADA, Aqua Design Amano, suggest the same large frequent water changes, more than I do for the 1st 1-2 months. We both suggested this quite independent of one another for similar reasons.
    Criticisms leveled to wastewater with EI must also be leveled at ADA.
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    That's a lot of tank, eg over 2000 gallons of plants that you NEED eh mate?
    I can tell you how to reduce your the environment impact! Cull the tanks, reduce the tanks, reduce the "collectoritus", haha.

    There's no need to keep that many. Try a few at a time, do not try and keep EVERYTHING all the tiem all at once, you get to know a species far better in higher no#'s and are much better able to care for, with considerbly less labor I might add, with fewer tanks. Hehe, you do have the collectoris disease.

    I'm teasing you.

    But there is truth in what I say. I have known many an aquarist with "Collectitus". Tanks everywhere, trays of killis here, Rift fish there, Rainbows over there, well, you know.......

    I and a few others figured out if we could limit ourselves and combine the thing we really want into one tank, or one area of the biotope we like, this could reduce the no#.
    I have 5 tanks inside my home.

    This is the limit. I keep 3 quarantine tanks in the garage. That's it. I make these tanks nice, and change out a plant species maybe once every 3 months, which is about the rate a new weed appears on the market.
    Balance.

    What is the balance for you personally?
    Well, this is something you must come terms with holistically.
    I cannot say or judge this aspect for you. I would look at the big picture if I where you here.
    What is it that I honestly and really want here??

    Would it be better to consolodate several tanks into one nice custom made dazzling display?
    Things to ponder. I this might achieve your goals and with far less ecological impact and ultimately, you will be happier and prouder of the displays.

    I view displays like my avartar as collectoritus, but, I old 200$ a month from this tank at the local fish club every month.
    I had about 30-40 species in the tank, still tried to make it look good design wise etc.

    Since I evoloved and redefined my personal goals and limited things.
    I have client's who had 40-50 tanks and guest house filled with tanks and aquarium rubbish, now they have one nice large tank.
    Many folks breed fish, so they often have many many tanks.

    Do they need them? No, but that is their passion, as it might be yours.
    I would approach it philosophically. "What is my goal here?"

    I think this goes beyond any method of fertilization.

    You need a greenhouse.

    The other thing is amongst a group of hobbyists, they can each keep say 20 species each.
    This way on eperson need not keep 200 species and if they want to switch or get others species, they can trade within a group.
    This also promotes the local clubs and hobbyists, as well as comaprative methods and abilities to grow, and thus teach.....new folks coming in.

    I think Syndney is big enough for a group and I met a lot of people interested in the club.
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, it should reduce the work load for you more importantly, and reduce the cost of water usage.
    Ecologically, that's likely 3 rd on the list realitistically. If I can save folks $$, then...........this is universal, and the ecological aspect is nice to boot.

    It's best when we can save $ and help the ecology, sometimes they go hand in hand. Win-win.

    Some feel it is implied and do not ask. I do not advocate rampant waste for no other reason.........but water changes do not hurt either. This depends on the person and their living situation
    Apartment dwellers have no lawns often...to irrigate........

    Some folks do not get the red flag raised if the advice is more commonly used from books etc, say 25% once a week, but the differenc ein waste is realitisically not that much more and you do get much better efficay if you do a large water change if waste reduction/build up is the concern. If you bother to do a water change, go big. Otherwise you offer little reduction/removal for your effort and thus waste the more of the water for the intended goal.

    Observant experience aquarist can and likely should try less light, good CO2 and then sediment rich ferts.
    Diana Walstad also came with me to Oz that trip and gave a great talk as well.

    I advocate soils and rich nutrients in sediments.
    This adds a back up if the water column is limited.
    Thus the two methods are synergistic, they compelement the other.

    If you forget to dose, then the soil is a back up.
    If you dose leaner to avoid water changes frequencies, then you also have a back up and can dose less to the water column.

    If you still dose heavy and do large weekly watwer changes, this still works as well, this dual location of ferts is very resilient.
    You should consider this, but redoing many tanks and adding soil might cost a lot and take a lot of labor........but one tank once every month could be done.
    This could give you a chance to cull the tanks you really do not want and sell off some items to pay for nicer upgrades.

    Then redo them with the nice scape idea.
    These are not bad ideas to ponder.
    You have to arrive at them yourself, I cannot force someone to do anything.

    I have done large water changes mostly for my fish
    I can observe that the fish like it and are healthier an eat better, breed more often etc.
    I also note that the plants pearl and growth better after water changes.
    These are common observations amongst all aquarist.

    Still, here's a tank that has once a month water change routine and uses modified EI and has plain sand:

    [​IMG]

    I still do about 60% water change, but hardly do a lot to the tank.
     
  11. ismenio

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    Frankly I think the impact of EI or another method is minimal.
    Most members that has tanks have small ones and this is a hobby for a few people.
    And the water that we discard from or tanks have minimal impact when return to the water cycle, just the fertilizers have really impact but small one if compared with the agriculture.
    The simple act of flush the toilet will probably waste much more water in 2 ou 3 days, more then we waste in ours tanks in all month.

    So, what will be the really impact from all the tanks in the world ?
    1 % ? I don´t think ! Maybe 0.000000....0001 from all the water wasted without any necessity around the world.
    We need swing pools when some country's in Africa for example don´t have almost water ?
    I´don´t think so, but no mater we do to avoid the unnecessary water waste that the water will not go to Africa anyway.

    But by other hand some species of fishes will disappear and only will live probably in our tanks, probably will be the last stronghold for them.

    Look the big power plant they are building in China or the other big one they will buid on Amazonas, can you imagine that ?

    For me make more sense decrease the power consumption in ours tanks, that could make the difference.

    Regards
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    While the impact is minimal relatively, with this many aquariums, I think labor becomes the overriding factor for Doc, if ............I where to guess.
    If I could avoid water changes 75% of the time.........I'd avoid it.
    The point is really this is a goal and how to do the BMP's for this issue.

    Sure, fewer tanks, less light, enriched soils etc.....these all help..........however, many folks are not willing to go whole hog. I could bike to work and back, about 38 miles or so....windy ugly ride. Not much traffic. But.......I've ridden 40 miles roundtrip because the ride was scenic and the traffic was hell to work etc.

    I could have 1 medium sized tank as well.
    Will I in the name of ecological minimal impact? No.
    I do some conservation and some resource usage.

    We rationalize this stuff and justify it to make ourselves feel better.
    Mental defense systems.

    Still , just because "so and so does it", does not imply we should. I think Doc can save a lot of labor here. I also think some $$, and be able tell friends that he modifies the method to conserve water, which......is popular in Oz more so than many places.
    Oz is very water conscience. In California, we do all sorts of things to water and huge long (decades etc) water legal battles are waged and are being waged. This issue shall not go away.

    Farmers versus urban usage also is a big issue here and likely in Oz and elsewhere.
    So being able to offer easy practical management options is a good thing.

    Aquariums, farmers, natural resource management, conservation, weed management and prevention, aquatic habitat protection, chemical toxicity etc.
    I do all this.

    This is no different.

    I think from an ecological perspective the non CO2 method is about the best sustainable method there is.
    But like my bike rides.........folks are not going to jump on board too easily.
     

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