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The Water Change

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by MediaOne, Sep 16, 2007.

  1. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    In the marine aquarium world we do water changes to replace vital trace minerals and nutrients, and to some extent lower our DOC content. We don't use them to lower nutrients unless levels are drastically in excess.

    In contrast, my planted aquarium needs water changes to prevent excess buildup of nutrients (when using the EI method).

    However, if I am using calibration fluid (and comparative analysis using the water from my aquarium) and testing my aquarium frequently to ensure levels do not increase/decrease from optimal, why do I need to still do water changes?

    Do I?

    What benefit could the water change provide if my water parameters are already in check?

    Thanks for your thoughts!
     
  2. growitnow

    growitnow Lifetime Charter Member
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    Nice question. You will likely (and I hope you do) get more a sophisticated answer than mine, but I expect evaporation is one.

    Consider a marine/brackish tank where salinity increases as evaporation proceeds. Same deal I believe in freshwater where among others Ca2+ density would increase.

    Maintaining stable osmoregularity is important for fish health, moreso than stable pH per se, I believe. And WC help maintain that stability.

    A completely different answer is that some do in fact report having quite excellent results (meaning stable, healthy system) with "low tech" tanks in which water changes are quite infrequent, as implied by your question.
     
  3. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    One benefit of water changes is that whatever is in the tank water gets diluted with each water change. Most of the time that may be of no benefit, but other times that may keep the tank healthy. Low light, no CO2 tanks do work fine without routine water changes, so it isn't always an essential activity.
     
  4. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    What are the cost differences between doing a 100 gallon water change weekly on a marine tank vs a Fw tank using tap water?

    About 50$
    Every week..........

    What about the time involved?
    Can you just dump the salt in while the tank is refilling?
    Nope.

    DOC's are not the issue, they build up and then level off.

    If you are using good testing methods and feel that is easier and you can test all the parameters(NO3/PO4/Ca/Mg namely) and it will cost you less $ and save you time, sure. Why not?

    However, I measured the time it took for me to do a simple 50% water change, the amount of dirt and muck removed, the differences in redox levels/O2 levels, the ease of cleaning the glass when it's 1/2 full, the time it takes for me to change filters/clean filters, CO2, tidy up etc while the tank is refilling etc..........none of which I can do while I use test kits.

    So I spend much less time and have a clearer, cleaner tank and I do not have to play chemistry merely to monitor the tank:cool:

    If I really want to "learn", I use the test kits to answer a purpose driven question(say, does 30ppm of NO3 cause algae independent of other parameters??), not added work and long term monitoring.

    FOLKS HAVE DONE NO WATER CHANGES for well over a decade, I kmnow Dave did none for 2 solid years, so did a client with discus etc.

    The trade off is: is it easier and cheaper. for marine critters worth a lot of $, perhaps, still for a nano reef, remove the skimmer and all the high tech stuff, the simple 50% water change once a week on a 30 gallon tank is worth every penny for the 15 gallon of salt mix. 3000 gallon tank?
    Then it's more likely to do the monitoring.

    When folks compare FW systems, they often suggest that it takes then too long to do a WC, this is baloney hyperbole excuse.

    Even a hillbilly like myself can figure out how to drain and fill water without using a bucket:p

    You use a hose or a little giant pump sump to pump water out of the tank and to refill using the tap/RO etc, water never touches the floors(Gee, clients really do not like that!) nor does it take long.

    Some folks suggest/argue it's faster/easier to do the testing, well, I'm not sitting there testing while the water is draining and filling! I'm cleaning the tank.

    Takes me 2 hours a week to do a 50-80% water change on a 300 gallon tank.
    I go to the bathroom, I eat, I prune the 8x2ft footprint layout, I feed the fish, I change the Ehiem canister filters, I clean the sponge filters, I wipe the entire glass, I net out any muck, I fluff the organic matter out of the sediments, I rearrange things, I add a new CO2 gas tank, I dose the fertilizers, I talk to the clients.

    I got lots of time while things refill, none which I can do if I have to sit and test.
    Ever try and clean the back corners of a tank in a 24-48" deep tank? Not unless you have a snorkel or scuba:cool:

    Why drag all that test kit or have a client pay for it and have calibration solutions etc all over? Water change is simple, effective and cost less and takes less time.

    It takes very little skill or expertise to tell someone how to do it.
    Try that with explaining how to make a claibration solution as well as why they should?

    It's just far simpler.

    Now say you still do not like water changes...........well, use the brain, not an excuse............set up a techy automated or semi automated water changes(turn a valve to drain, turn another to refill). AWC's use a solenoid, just like CO2 to drain when open slowly.
    Then a float switch replaces water slowly.
    Some folks do over flow drain and constant drips for refill.
    We do this at the lab.

    Then no testing and no water changes and you can have high growth/dosing without any issues etc.
    Use your head to avoid work you do not have to do. :idea:
    No need to accept the barriers imposed by others who really have not bothered to think things through.

    In a 10 acre lake, you cannot really do a water change/manipulate the system and test kits where used in science to investigate things.

    In our tanks using FW, it's easy.
    Monterey Bay Aquarium has an open system, they can use the water right there and it makes things much easier for them.
    Waikiki Aquarium cannot(even though they are right on the ocean, they cannot take water in there) and must make their's.

    If you have a easier method, use it!
    Do not place barriers in your way.

    Keeping a nice algae free plant tank is not all science, it's basic hands on in the tank work, pruning, cleaning and staying on top of things and consistent.
    It's horticulture, not nature.

    I will say that it can be done(no water changes and using test kits) and I've done many years ago in our group. We found the tank did much better with at least 25-50% weekly water changes. Even the pickiest of scapers have said this(CAU, David Oliver, ADG, Amano, Myself, a number of Dutch in the NBAT etc).

    It's more of a maintenace, keeping the tank clean and easier to work on it when it's lower. Who is going to buy 5-10 test kits and calibrate everything and micromanage? That's a hard pill to swallow for a newbie or even someone who's done the hobby for sometime.

    You can do it for awhile, but most don't after a few weeks, months, ..years...... etc.
    They use the plants and then stop and then mess something up and have to redo things or get a bad algae outbreak etc. So do folks that slack on their water changes.

    We all slack off no matter which method, but the water change set up correctly can be the easiest way to manage that.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  5. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    It is interesting to hear you mention that DOC's build up to a certain quantity and then level off. I have never read about this in marine aquariums. Is there something different about the FW environment that changes things?

    I was just thinking about a system that could do smaller daily water changes using float valves.... maybe I will toy with that idea further. In the meantime my Python will carry me through lol.

    I definitely don't mind doing water changes to correct/maintain things. I just like to always know why I am doing them :)

    My tank is looking better than ever by the way. This coming week I am going to see if I can give it even more CO2, while still keeping the fishes happy.

    Regards,
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    The DOC's should level off in a marine tank. They do in natural marine environments, such as Mangrove forest, just like they do in FW swamps.

    They are not quite sure why, but bacteria likely get going and take care of it.

    The smaller daily WC's works well.
    Alan did this several years ago with excellent results for some trade offs he wanted(way way way way too high a fish load to mitigate algae and still keep plants).

    Basically what I am saying is that WC's or test kits can be used or as most suggest on most forums, a combination of both. I used to suggest test kits and water changes about a decade or so ago.

    Most did.

    I gave it some thought and a reality check on how folks actually test, why we really need test kits, then applied it to EI. However, you can do the same using test kits and not doing water changes, with good CO2, the results are quite good as well.

    Thing is, name one person who really likes using test kits week after week after week..........can you automate testing/test kits?

    Not for NH4, NO3, PO4, K+, Ca, Mg.

    So.........

    Can you automate water changes?
    You bet.

    So go with which method you can reduce the work load.

    I really think given responses I've heard from the anti water change PPS crowd that they never thought this through very well.
    Most would like to avoid a WC, same with test kits, but only one CO2 method allows you to avoid both:idea:

    Also, if you plumb the solenoids correctly, you can back wash the canister filters when you do a water change(turn a couple of balls valves from the drain to direct the wastewater through the canister backwashing it clean)

    Now:
    No testing/test kits
    No manual labor water changes
    No filter cleaning (or greatly reduced)
    More consistent flow rates(filter is cleaned often, less organic matter, higher O2 levels)
    Much better export.

    More time to spend gardening etc.
    The concentration ratios suggested are also basically EI light which, well, is not hard to add less and dosed daily.

    The same can be done by reducing the rate of growth with the non CO2 planted tank approach. No need for water changes, testing(you can if you want, never seen a need as far as care goes), and greatly reduced gardening requirements.

    I'd suggest doing a small non CO2 tank as well.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Crazymidwesterner

    Crazymidwesterner Guru Class Expert

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    I have always wondered about the environmental effect/cost effect of fish shops changeing water in their tanks.

    I would love to some day open a shop dedicated to this hobby but feel afraid to due to the guilt of all the wasted water, and the cost of that water bill.

    I'm curious how aquabotanic and freshwateraquariumplants.com grow their plants. They don't seem to be emersed so I wonder if they do water changes like most people on this forum. They must have a ton of tanks. Any ideas how or if they grow their plants and keep water costs/environmental costs down?
     
  8. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Then you should be enormously offended about Aquaculture practices, that destroys Mangrove forest for shrimp and trout farming.
    Or salmon farming, or heck, any farming that uses N based ferts......cattle lots, pig farms etc etc..........all that/these industries produce many metric tons of N based waste that is added to the environment.

    If the water is disposed of correctly, eg, to a wastewater treatment facility, then the removal of N can be done via a number of methods.

    Depends on risk.

    BTW, farms and any aquaculture is going to use a lot of water.
    Still, these are better than 20 new homes built and filled with people, flushing toilets daily. showers, soaps, detergents, Endocrine disruptors (eg the Pill), herbicides, pesticides down the drains etc.........ohhh..........there's a long list here.......

    They buy them from other wholesalers in many, most cases and keep things in holding tanks I'd imagine. FAN, Tropica, Oriental aquarium and most other growers are much larger operations and labor and volume are critical.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  9. Crazymidwesterner

    Crazymidwesterner Guru Class Expert

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    I know there are much worse offenders out there and I do my part by showering daily, but to survive in the social landscape we are in, showers are necessary. Having a fish/plant store is not.

    It is easy to say "well everyone else is doing it why not me?" but I figured since most enthusiasts in this hobby seem to care strongly about the environment I was hoping someone would have come up with something better.

    I'll be honest I care about the environment but I am not going to try to get any laws put in place or hug any trees. I drive a Honda civic but hummer owners don't offend me. I wasn't offended by the idea of fish shop water changes, simply curious. I'm not trying to act holier than thou, as I do weekly WC on my 75G and 10G and most of the time it just goes down the drain, it just makes you wonder about the impact of our hobby. If I can do something to lessen my environmental impact without changing my lifestyle drasticallyI am all about it. That's mainly why I was asking. I want to open a shop so wanted to know what I could do to lessen the environmental impact of that shop. This is simply me dreaming but thank you for the response:)

    Oh yeah I'm not willing to stop having a planted tank to lessen my impact :D
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Sure, it's a luxury item to keep fish tanks, so don't keep them at all:)
    Still, we rationalize and say the trade off is worth it or I do not care that much for the small dent I make etc.

    Still, when folks take a stand on something, be sure to talk about the trade offs involved.

    There's no way you are going to get folks to stop keeping fish tanks.
    So while realizing that, how do you reduce the impacts?

    I suppose going non CO2 planted would be the best advice and has the best strongest argument.

    Some clowns think that EI is bad ecologically.
    Yet, scoff at non CO2 methods.

    That's a pretty narrow view, so narrow in fact, that one might call it an biased argument.

    If you start with a logic for your reasoning, at least stick with it all the way through, and/or acknowledge the various trade offs fairly.

    A lot of aquarist just do not do this.
    The irony in accusing me with EI being irresponsible(a small crowd that will not debate me directly, Chicken feces), I have and do ecology or rstoration and kill aquatic weeds in natural and water conveyance systems here in CA, as well as being very vocal about weed and aquatic issues. Far far far more than they ever have been.

    But this same crowd does not acknowledge that part.
    Nor the fact I teach college biology students about these topics every semester and do professionally what I can to mitigate the impacts to the environment. Additionally, some of the clients I have have the power to do great things to help and preserve these wetlands. Hopefully through this and other hobbies, they will take that next step.

    What's wrong with hugging a tree?
    Folks talk like that's bad or folks that do it are nuts.
    Planting trees and keeping what little we have left is admirable, these are not "bad" people that should be demonized by big business and developers.

    They are made for off road military type abuse, use. It's like buying a Super cross bike and driving back and forth to work on the highway.

    Oh no, I'm not suggesting you or myself is any better...........however, not all think that way..........all we can do is think and try to do better... and hopefully make more sense!

    Neither are most of us:)
    I think having a mini wastewater treatment plant might be an option.
    Also, if you live where you can grow weeds year round..........then you use plants and solar energy to clean the wastewater and reuse it.

    This cost more initially but has far less impact and it takes up more space etc.
    Bacteria and anaerobic digestors also work to remove N.

    So there's a couple of methods.

    Just consider wastewater treatment+ sun/solar power, biological hands off processes. Let nature do the work.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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