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Is it really about "Saving" water and reducing waste? Water changes are bad? a Retort

Discussion in 'Estimative Index' started by Tom Barr, May 16, 2009.

  1. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Some have suggested that the cost of water is rather high, at least in relative terms to the needs of aquariums. Thus we should do as few of water changes as possible.

    This is **supposedly** based upon Environmental Concerns and Ecology.
    We should conserve and every "little bit" helps.

    Fair enough.

    Let's apply this to HLD folks, of which many that claim this baloney about being concerned about Environmental issues often curiously..........have high light.

    Aquariums are luxuries, I do not try and rationalize anything else. If you are really trying to play this card, you likely should not keep any aquariums............and if so, go non CO2 for sure.

    So....I did a little cost analysis based on electical cost to do a 50% weekly water vs having 2w/gal vs 4w/watt lighting.

    This is based on the electric cost in CA, and the water cost, which are much higher than most places in the world.

    A 55 Gallon tank is the model size.
    1 weekly water change = 27.5 Gallon assuming 50%.
    This is = to 1430 Gallon annually.

    The cost to deliver an acre ft is about 70-100$, for drinking water it will be a bit higher, about 190$. An ac/ft is 325851.385 gallons or so. A lot.

    So the cost in electricity is 1430/325851 X 190$= .83 cents per year.

    Ohhh yea, ouch, look all that wasted energy and money..........

    Now let's look at the HLD folks with 4w/gal vs 2w/gal:

    110w extra x 10 hours x 365 days x .13 kWh= 52.20$

    83 cents vs 52.20.

    Hummm............if waste and environmental impact, economics are honestly the concern.........seems their logic is off by several orders of magnitude:eek:

    At actual delivered water in small counties with limited water: rates would cost 5.62$ per year based on Marin county water rates(tier 1). Still, 10X less cost. electric and water can be based on tiered billing. This water, unlike the electrical use, is recycled into the landscape and can be red used, the extra light is wasted no matter what.

    So no matter how you add this up, the argument against water changes is rather poor, it's more an issue of being personally unmotivated to bother to do the water change, then trying poorly to rationalize your lack of care by claiming something that's simply not true when you do the accounting for environmental impact and waste.

    This does not also include the mercury in the extra set of light bulbs, their waste and disposal and shipping, the added energy demand overall, the test kit use and the reagents and the cost of the test kits per year(has to be at least 20-30$ for several parameters, what happens to liquids in the test kit vials after wards? They are typically dumped down the sink, is this good? )

    With exception to a non CO2 low light approach, water changes appear to be a much wiser approach and using the light to limit growth and demand is a far better trade off if you are honest about being concerned about "waste".

    I know of no plant that cannot be grown at 2w/gal ranges using PC/t5 lighting to a nice level, the ADA contest top ranks are peppered with such tanks........

    At 2w/gal, you can certainly get away with say 25-30% water change every 2 weeks or 50% etc. You can also still do 50% weekly water changes. Demand is less and you can run things leaner, doing so at higher ppm's does no harm and like the water change, the cost using KNO3 etc is extremely low over a year's time frame. Adding just enough light(use a test device for this) and CO2(no real good alternative here as of yet), not just nutrients, is a better approachj and gets at the root of the waste.

    Don't be fooled by those who do not bother to compared the trade offs, cannot do a simply cost and electric analysis of the use per method over a year.

    I do not pay for water at all, so the cost is 0.00$ vs electric cost for lighting only.
    Many renters do not pay for water. Even if you use high light, you can do so for 1-2 hours, then drop it back to 1-2w/gal after a burst.

    Cost much less to run things this way and much easier to dial in any nutrient routine, any algae issues, dialing in any CO2 method etc, all become much easier..........since all growth starts with light. Light cost the planted aquarist the most in virtually every cost and waste analysis.

    FILTERS AND FLOWS CAN ALSO BE ADDRESSED IN SIMILAR FASHION, YOU CAN CERTAINLY HAVE A LOT MORE THAN IS "NEEDED", "JUST ENOUGH" ETC. Canister filter tends to be some of the better energy efficient methods and adding a small powerhead with a propeller style wave powerhead for the higher flows if needed/desired.

    Why some folks come down on water changes, but not high light and excess filter power consumption is ironic. Logic, cost analysis, waste reduction and practical methods suggest otherwise.
     
  2. tedr108

    tedr108 Lifetime Charter Member
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    Oh sure, Tom, bring some straightforward analysis and common sense into the argument ... er ... discussion. :p

    I'm not feeling so smug about saving a little water with my non-CO2 tanks any longer. Thanks for humbling me. :cool:

    Thanks for posting this ... it is good to know.
     
  3. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Some of those who want to eliminate water changes live in drought stricken areas, where water rationing is in effect. On the surface, they have a good reason not to do water changes. But, that 55 gallon tank needs only 28 gallons of water a week if you do 50% a week changes. Average per household water usage here in California is more like 100+ gallons per day, not week! So, an additional 4 gallons (average) per day doesn't seem like a lot. Most flush toilets use 1.5-2 gallons per flush, so 4 gallons a day can easily be saved by not flushing after Number 1, but only Number 2, and years ago during a really bad drought here that is what my family had to do. We didn't suffer, as far as I could tell. So there are many ways to save water that save a lot more than not changing water in an aquarium.
     
  4. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Tom, I couldn't agree more. I think the emerging trend of arbitrarily attacking concepts as environmentally unsound without examining the issue first is some sort of sublimation for the disappearance of the witch hunt or klan lynching. This is not to say that there aren't valid concerns, but I notice once in the culture, it's sometimes more group dinamics than sound reason.

    I don't see cost being equivocal to environmental soundness, my self. For the most part, I don't see energy consumption as being something to shame the average person over. In my mind, it is the production source rather than the consumption level that needs to be looked at. Wind farms are not just a novelty idea, and solar is quickly becoming viable.

    You've mention re-using water in the past; this seems like an easy first step. We use ours for live food cultures, which seems to do wonders for black worms. Using the water diluted by 50% has functioned well for low light/bioload aquariums. Diluted by 50% then re-topping the nutrients for terrestrial growth of aquatic plants is another application. After all of this has been satisfied, we water our house or garden plants with far more nutrients than they'd get out of the tap. By the time everything is done, some of our water is used three times over.

    When those complaining about water usage start to shower with the same water twice, or take a dump in their toilet thrice before flushing, they can start to criticize EI and fish keeping as a whole. I'll get the plunger :D

    -Philosophos
     
  5. SuperColey1

    SuperColey1 Guru Class Expert

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    You say this and yes windfarms are a great idea and particularly viable for the UK with our weather however............

    ............it is the average person that needs to be shamed in the UK because they tick the box of we want to be green on one form and then shout very loudly against a wind farm being within view of their house!!!

    Our country is full of hypocrits who push for environmentally sound policies yet campaign as hard as they can against anything that could bring their house price down!!!

    This is in an area where there are 5 huge (talking 5+ cooling towers each) coal powered stations within view :)

    Most people in the UK are a case of we want X but not on my patch.

    A similar argument to complaining that their mobile phone doesn't get a very good signal when a week earlier they campaigned against a mast being built in their vicinity. lol

    Therefore we are the opposite to the above statement. The suppliers want to do X but the consumer blocks their attempts. In the UK we have to blame ourlseves the consumer.

    I reuse the 60 litres that comes out of my tank each week. In a dry spell (2+ days in the UK :D ) it lasts me 2 days watering the garden. If the water butt is full then it will contain 125 litres so rain+tank lasts 4 days after which the tap has to be used for the other 3 days.

    And don't forget that CRT TVs use one third of the power of LCD/Plasma yet we all have them :)

    AC
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Try 497 gallons per day in Sacramento.
    That's right, even in LA, the water is only 289 gallons per day per household.

    2 Days in Sac on average.......there's a year's worth right there.
    Concerned about waste? Come to the Capitol of CA and bitch about the waste of water, Farmers hate urbanites, their lawns and other wasteful practices.

    However, aquariums really are not wasteful when it comes to water.
    Something that is often implied, assumed and stated on line.

    If you bother to try and reduce every little bit and help in general with going Green, do so holistically, not just to further some silly dosing agenda.

    Start with light, then consider CO2 carefully. Then you might not even need to use KNo3, KH2PO3, Traces and other things that require energy, electric, gas etc to make, ship and all........... it cost some $, same for test kits......

    So if you really buy into that line of argument, you need to go whole hog with it.
    Do not get me wrong, I'm all for greener approaches, but not everyone is.......and importantly, how much real waste is going on here?

    How much risk to the generation of waste is really occuring?
    Water is still a pretty damn good deal, regardless of what some bohoos are claiming.

    Many folks that rent do not pay for water, so what the heck?
    Seems like some need to stretch and pull some grand hyperbole to make their argument.

    I sure as hell don't.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yep good points.

    Here's the real deal if going green is the issue: population control.
    This means women's rights and control over their social, culture and economic desinty.

    This is the basis for enviornmental sustainability.

    Seems weird, but if you had only one sibling, and everyone did, then there would not be as many aquariums, cars, coal plants etc.

    Consumption would be less.
    Now we can do little tricks and save here and there, but it all gets back to population control.

    Still, a simple approach to analysis for a given set of trade offs for a given issue(say keeping aquariums/planted tanks etc), will show which has higher impacts and what simple things can be done to reduce and use less and what factors are more critical than others..........

    Unlike some folks who use it to poo poo, I actually discuss it, look at many methods, look at many aspects of going greener.

    My goals more to educate and use the brain to find more tricks that are practical, cost effective and things folks will actually do/use, not merely to say and claim "my method is superior because I save a bit more water and it's more ecological soun/environmentally friendly....."

    That's a frigging joke and anyone can do the analysis and see that.
    Why are these same clowns not poo pooing people with high light Disease(HLD)?

    Is it because they have HLD to begin with.............they do not wanna hear this and claim some crap like they want this and do not care since it gives them the look/reds etc they claim they like only with the higher light watts, yet they do not win the ADA contest either...........getting beaten by folks using much less light and still getting excellent growth and reds?

    Time and time again, both my own tanks and in many other folks, many whom I've never met etc, have demostrated that is can be done and consistently with less light. I ask and demand where is the cost and risk to the environment with water changes, particulrly when reused for landscaping or house plants? Those are the facts, these are the cost and analysis.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    I can't say I see it as population control or efficiency alone. I've always thought of it as interdependent between population, resources and knowledge. Population is a short-term answer, but seems to be an inverse function of standard of living. In poorer nations, children are a form of economic wealth within the family unit. To improve these standards, education fills the gap better than handing out resources or technology within the next couple generations.

    Right now we're in the midst of a major change in fuel sources. This is not a small thing. From every change in major fuel sources, humanity has experienced a major acceleration in technological advancement and standard of living. Hopefully this next change over will allow a world wide increase in quality of life and environmental stability. It's not the wealthy countries that can afford standards that are the major sources of environmental degradation.

    Thinking about all of that really does make me wonder where not only fish tanks fit in, but the fact that we spend more time worrying about hybrids than the impact of our economic model on the lives of people in other nations, and the environment.

    As a final comment, I'd say keeping a fish tank has made me more aware of how ecosystems function than any other single area of interest or activity in my life. Getting in to the hobby, I never would have guessed that I'd end up pondering things like how RuBisCo adaptation relates to increased atmospheric CO2. I think this sort of education is a good enough excuse for anyone to expend a few more gallons of water.

    -Philosophos
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    True, but I think because some poder the ecosystem within.......they automatically assume that the water is waste if removed, it's not, not water is wasted truly, it recycles back. How we use/reuse it and our attitudes towards it make the big difference.

    Same for electric consumption and lighting, filter/pump efficacy, heaters, these things play a larger impact and much larger when it comes to cost and waste.

    However, some seem to squabble over petty differences and unwilling to address the real issues with waste/ethics in the hobby. I'm not saying I am high and mighty, far from it, I'd much rather change some minds and how they think, questions they might ask.

    A thinking, critically mindful aquarist is much better than some faith based zealot.
    What should we promote?
    What works well for a large set of goals?
    What is simple?
    Where can we modify things to reduce use or what trade offs should we expect if we use more of a resource vs another?
    Can we capture and reuse some resources?
    What are these trade offs?
    What about aquarists attitudes? Can they change? How would we do that?

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Well this is semi-off topic but this is the thread that inspired me, so here it goes...

    Tom, I honestly think you need to write a book about planted aquariums. Your post starting this thread, as well as many others related to environmental awareness deserves a chapter. If you aren't ready to put one out now, then at least try to do it during your life time. You have enough ideas that many people have found reasonable, have been successful in using and contradict existing opinions on both planted tanks and aquaria in general.

    Almost any freshwater forum may know who you are, or at least of EI, but this isn't the case in the average local fish store that I've been to. Most seem to be concerned about hitting 6wpg and low phosphates, while running off bubble count if they have CO2. They have copies of planted tank books that nobody should use to start a planted tank, and don't believe the internet has accurate information about anything.

    You're well known enough to get mention in TFH magazine. I'm betting this isn't the first time you've been bothered to write a book, either.

    -Philosophos
     
  11. shoggoth43

    shoggoth43 Lifetime Charter Member
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    I'd probably buy it. But I'll need some of the pretty pictures you've posted to be in there.

    Heck I'd LOVE to see a chapter or two just on the 180g tank. You could show the overall evolution of the tank. Here's what it was like with this equipment, I adjusted this and got this result. Changing over to this configuration got X. You could put in the recommendations you'd give on the equipment and the thinking behind those configurations so we could see over time how the thinking has let to improvements and so on.

    -
    S
     
  12. jeremyh

    jeremyh Junior Poster

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    I'll put in my advance order for a copy right now, please. :)

     
  13. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    The 180 is interesting, I have really much better CO2 control and resiliency using less light and without any issues with color or changes to the species, they still look the same, they do grow a tad slower, which is great, less work.

    I've head to baloney about using nutrients to tweak and reduce the growth rates, or location of the nutrients, however, this tank has both water column and the sediment sources.

    So those are not factors(one place or the other).

    So the rates of growth have been greatly controlled, the appearance is still very nice and the same, even the red pantanal is as red.............and I have much more play with the CO2, easier to add it and less stress to fish.

    The criticisms of using lower light affecting reds and color is BS near as I can tell and have been able to for many years. However, I wanted to look at it a few different ways before coming to any real conclusion/s.

    1. Nutrients and their location do not matter, they can be used, but light is a much better trade off and far far more stable and cost effective, easier to control algae and virtually every facet of planted aquarium keeping vs nutrient management.

    2. CO2 control is far superior using lower light and allows a wider effective range and upper bound, making it easier to maintain CO2 stability, the major issue with algae and stunting, fish death among many other issues.

    3. The cost/environmental impact analysis shows that the priority should be given not to the dosing method, rather, to the light intensity. This light should be measured(and in general, very rarely(1-2X over a couple of years) and the test is very easy for anyone), and then the cost and labor involved testing nutrients goes away. It seems disingenuous to suggest testing for nutrients, and not for light. If you run with the "we should test" banner/flag, it should apply to each part that affects plant growth, otherwise the comparisons have confounding factors.

    4. With less light, dosing and CO2 is much simpler, and easier, as well as more flexible, thus makes those much easier to maintain over time, errors more on the forgetful nature that Humans often have.:eek:

    5. We already know that excess nutrients do not cause algae or fish stress that can affect longer term health/growth and breeding, nor stunting as often claimed. These nutrients can influence other parameters when limited however. CO2 kills more fish and causes more issues for planted aquarist than perhaps any other.
    Using less light resolves most of the issues with both of these "downstream" plant growth factors.

    I find it interesting how the revolving door of blaming nutrients and their being some sort of key to everything is often used. First is was algae, and in some cases, still is for some aquarist, next is was fish health, that too failed to pass the muster...........then it was plant growth/stunting........this too failed the test, next is was excess K+, again, falsified...........next is was using nutrient limitation, (slight.moderate) to control the rates of growth and slow things down.........but light does it and does it better, without wasting the energy, $$$, added start up cost. Some suggested location of the nutrient made a difference. I agree, it makes it easier and more flexible by adding N and P sources(as well as any others) to the sediment, if you forget to dose the water column, you have a back up, if not, then the sediment will have less draw and the sediment will last longer.
    Some suggest water changes, but that's addressed above.

    A conclusion has to support both observations, not just the one you might have in your aquarium. If I did not consider light, I might think it's all nutrients. Or if I did not consider indirect effects, I might still think BBA is caused by excess PO4.

    If I can provide an example, and others can repeat it(whether the critic can or not does not matter), where we have high PO4, or NO3 etc etc.and the affect is not seen, it brings into question whether that can be the correct conclusion.

    However, if an alternative that has better explanatory power to the observations we see comes along, simply trying to rehash the same old argument over and over does not work(hasn't since 1996), let the sucker go.

    Move on and see what else can be learned with light, or CO2, different plant species, current, filtration, reduced labor, reduced cost etc.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  14. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    So we'll call this the first page for your introduction then? :D

    Light has been a frustration to me, and others I believe. T5's are expensive compared to CF, and CF doesn't create nearly so nice of a distribution. So what do most of us do the first time? Get more light. The rest follows in an algae filled mess as you've expressed. Is this a matter of just spending the money for the results? Is there something we've been missing?

    -Philosophos
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    No, not at all.
    T5's vs T8, vs T12 is more an issue of better watt/PAR output, but the spread and evenness is the same.

    You get good spread based on where and how you add the PC's, T5, T12 etc, even the HQI's(more an issue of raising them up higher to get good even light, vs hot spotting).

    So the type and $$ issue is not really a factor, adding too much is.........

    But many get more light their first time and learn the hard way.
    The trick is the help new folks to avoid that issue, and turn some off later.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. cggorman

    cggorman Prolific Poster

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    Holy crap! My family of four (plus two aquariums, two dogs, and four cats) uses about 150 gallons per day average. That includes RO brine and softener brine....and we don't even have low-flush toilets or water-saving faucets/shower-heads because I cherish my drenching showers.
     
  17. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    By CF vs T5 cost/spread I was meaning it costs more to get two or more T-5's than one CF of equivalent wattage, offering better spread. My mind had glazed over the concept of multiple T-8's. I'll have to go digging on PAR per watt comparisons. Anyone happen to have a link handy?

    Thanks again for the help, Tom.

    -Philosophos
     
  18. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, we have lots of trees, no water meters(they are slated to add them by 2010 now!), live where it gets 40-45C routinely each summer, it's windy, the humidity is really low most of the year etc.

    A semi desert.

    Then folks want lawns..........like they do in the the midwest, but here, they want them all the time, all year due to the warmer weather, in the Midwest, folks do not mow their snow covered lawns nor need to add water because they live where there is enough rain/snow melt etc.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  19. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    T8's are great and a much cheaper option than the Tek T5 or the other higher tech trends.

    Many in Europe used these and many still do.
    No real reason to switch to T5's really, maybe add a decent reflector etc, but not much else, the DIY options are many.

    If you have the $ and the prices have come down and if you look, you may get good deals on T5's as well, PC's certainly as well.

    The PC's on my tanks are rather well spaced, the 60 Gallon cubes and the 180 have 14" spacing between the banks, are raised up 14" above the water and cover a 24' wide tank at 24" depth.

    So the spread is good for those tanks with that spacing, but lousy on a 55 gal tank with 110W 2x 55W using PC's. 2x54 W T5s on a 55 gal tank spread 8-10" apart is ideal, or a 70 Gal spread 10-14" apart(even better).

    That's pretty good usage of the light and energy.
    Would 3x 32 W T8's do the same thing with reflectors? I'd say yes.........

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  20. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    This hobby is probably worse than heroin for grabbing at your pockets. Looks like I've got a DIY T-8 lighting system to keep in mind on the list of purchases. I'm glad to hear the T-8's are still viable compared to the T-5's, though.

    -Philosophos
     
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