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Water Changes?

Discussion in 'Planted Aquariums' started by tackful, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. tackful

    tackful AC Members

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    Hello All,
    Had an interesting discussion with the owner of Ocean Aquarium (freshwater tanks) in San Francisco about water changes. He considers them not only unnecessary but also a bad idea, citing the harm done to fish by subjecting them to the Bay Area's high level ph tapwater on a regular basis. He also points out that ammonia is far more toxic to fish at higher ph levels, having a less desireable ammonia/ammonium ratio. As evidence he cites local retail fish stores that have gone out of business in past years due to increases in tapwater ph from the Bay Area all the way up to Sacramemto. The health and vibrant appearance of his 100+ tanks are further proof that this theory can be made to work.
    At Ocean Aquarium the plants are nourished through root tabs placed in a sand or gravel substrate, thereby avoiding the need to "reset" tank nutrient levels through the periodic water changes practiced by those of us who use EI or a similar dosing method. If one were to keep a closer eye on nutrient levels, however, and adjust our dosing routine as needed to avoid excessive levels, then perhaps regular large water changes might not be needed.. Only the small amount of tank water used for regular filter media rinsing would need to be replaced.
    Does this seem valid?
     
  2. qwe123

    qwe123 AC Members

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    There's a big debate about this issue. Many have gone months or years without water changes because of planting heavily. Others claim this is a bad idea, as more than just nitrogen (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) is building up in that water, including TDS and such.
    I am in the camp of water changes not being necessary, depending on the inhabitants. Usually, the heavily planted tanks keeping nitrogen levels at 0 is for understocked tanks, whereas LFS tanks are overstocked a lot of the time. But I would imagine they are testing to see if there is any nitrogen buildup in their tanks?
    What is the pH like down there, anyway?
     
  3. tackful

    tackful AC Members

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    My tapwater ph in Marin County is 7.5, Sacramento area is between 7.5 and 8.1. I agree that although in a heavily planted tank nitrate buildup should not be a problem, TDS might be. Hoping that someone could shed some light on this particular concern. In the absence of a TDS meter, I guess the best we could do would be to track GH levels over time.
     
  4. Rbishop

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    It's all a balance. Never just one right method for ALL tanks. It depends on many factors. And I think you will find most experienced hobbyists will tell you to track TDS. High end systems have the ability to monitor things that make THEIR tanks meet their needs. Most hobbyists do not have the technical experience or equipment to test for things their tank needs as it is just too costly.
     
  5. fishorama

    fishorama AC Members

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    Oh, yeah, I've heard that's owner Justin's "thing"...did he make you bring a tank water sample too before he'd sell you fish? He truly believes that adding pH down & no water changes works & it seems to for him. But IMO that's why his livebearers & bettas are so happy, they don't mind high TDS, lol. Look up "old tank syndrome"...but he does have a lot of plants in many tanks & that can help too. I loaned my TDS meter to a friend that doesn't do WCs, mostly only top-ups & her #s were quite good, surprised the heck out of me!

    To be fair, I haven't bought fish from him (yet) & my friend is "known" to him, so I "may" not get the lecture, high pressure pH fixer sell, or mandatory testing. I do respect that his heart is in the right place but his experience is very different than mine.

    My East Bay EBMUD water has a 7.5-ish pH but low TDS, low KH & GH (snow melt). Low hardness of both of those led to problems on the east coast but lower pH (acid rain?). That's sometimes why my plants did poorly until I added coral sand to the filters & only 30-40% WCs weekly. Most fish & plants don't like big fluctuations...especially of TDS.

    As Bob said, it's a balancing act...& choosing fish & plants that work for you. BTW, TDS meters are not expensive, I got a Hanna TDS-3 for under $20 including shipping, I like knowing!
     
  6. tackful

    tackful AC Members

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    I used to follow the EI method and changed 50% weekly. Got tired of so much work and went to 50% every two weeks with no noticeable difference. Right now it's about 1/3 every two weeks, everything's still good. Next move is to go lower still, replacing only the few gallons of tank water used for filter cleaning.
    Came across an article recently that suggested "ph shock" after a large water change might actually be due to a shift in TDS. If true, this might suggest a more conservative approach, or at least dripping the new water in very slowly after any significant WC.
    Purchased 8 Ember Tetras from Justin yesterday and all are lively and colorful. His fish always look healthy to me.
     
  7. FreshyFresh

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    tackful, as said above and like you've read, it absolutely can work, but it's a balancing act and IMO, a lot more work and more risk than doing weekly water changes.

    You know what it takes; 1) Small bio load. Very few fish. 2) Lots of stem plants along with a setup that can support them. 3) Little to no fish food added to tank. 4) Much more monitoring of water params beyond basic ammonia, nitrite, nitrate.
     
  8. tackful

    tackful AC Members

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    Beyond the basics, would TDS be something to keep an eye on?
     
  9. Rbishop

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    I've never noticed a "pH shock" because of a large water change. My WCs are frequent and large, keeping the tank at the source water value. I cannily see that happening if you do large infrequent changes or your source water varies wildly in small periods of time.
     
  10. FreshyFresh

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    TDS, KH and GH will need to be monitored more closely. Figure all the components left behind as water evaporates, then you top off, more evaporation happens, etc. There's more bonuses to water changes beyond nitrate management.
     
  11. tackful

    tackful AC Members

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    Concerning "ph shock", I've often noticed that my fish are quite lively and energized after their usual water change. I thought this might be due to increased oxygen levels, but Justin suggests that it is a stress reaction due to new water. My experience is not sufficient to make a determination one way or the other.
    Online reading seems to discount the idea that there is a single best practice for all tanks and all aquarists, regardless of their goals. In my situation, I wish to simplify the process and also minimize water use because of California's ongoing water problems. Accordingly, I would be discarding only the water in the cannister itself along with the few gallons used to rinse out the media in a small bucket. I would be going from a 12 gal WC every two weeks down to about 4.
     

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