Many Hats of Me: Aquarium Water Change System

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Aquarium Water Change System

Love Affair with Fish


I set up my first tank when I was 10 years old. It was a standard 10 gallon and I filled it immediately with colorful gravel and plastic water plants, and about 20 fish. Every fish was dead in the next two weeks. I was extremely disappointed. A few years later, a school friend was moving to live with her father in California and she gave me all her fish. She assured me that her fish will survive, since she does nothing to keep them alive except feed them. She never changed the water. Ever. Her tank water was thick and green so that you couldn't really see the fish.

To my great surprise, her fish survived in my old 10 gallon tank and did so for about a year until my heater broke and caused the tank temperature to rise to 100 degrees and literally cooked my fish. I've learned a lot about fish and fish tanks since then.


Today, I have 5 tanks in my house: 
  1. A 1 gallon bowl filled with freshwater plants
  2. A 10 gallon that houses a 4" orange parrot fish and 2 corycats
  3. A 29 gallon with cherry shrimp tank and 2 albino bristlenose plecos
  4. A 40 gallon with 3 discus fish, 2 German Rams, 3 albino bristlenose plecos, 3 assorted corycats, and about 18 black tetras

Water Changing the 40 Gallon


Discus thrive in clean water, and they LOVE water changes. I change 75% of my water every other day using a semi-automatic water change system.


Materials List



Water Draining


I used 3/4" PVC pipe and elbow connectors, and a hose barb to attach the Python water change hose and the Quiet One water pump. The percentage of water you wish to change determines the overall length of the PVC pipe. For example, if you wish to make a 50% water change, the pipe (on both the water and dry side) will measure 50% of the height of your tank. The best thing to do, is to bring your pump, Python hose, and tank measurements to the home improvement store so that you can discuss the overall dimensions with the retail assistant. You can piece together the entire contraption at the store and make fine adjustments on the spot.

I also suggest that you consider which side of the pump will be facing the tank glass and which side will be facing the fish. I placed the side that sucks the water facing the glass to prevent fish from being sucked into the pump.

To ensure the pipe never falls off the hose barb, I use a hose clamp. The suction cups are attached to the pipe using zip ties; it keeps the pipe and pump from banging into the glass.

What's great about this system is that when I turn on the water pump, I just walk away from my tank until I hear the pump complaining that the water level is too low (it makes a lot of noise).  I don't need to babysit  this stage of the process because it will ever drain more than the length of the PVC pipe. 













Hose Clamps




Suction Cups


Water Refill


The water refill apparatus is made up of  1/2" PVC pipe. I asked the shop guys at the Home Dept to cut them into lengths lengths to connect the elbow connectors that make a U-shape that hooks the pipe to the rim of the tank. The spray wand was a little loose, so I wrapped some teflon tape at the end of the PVC elbow connector. I used a female and male thread hose connectors to attach the potable water hose. If you don't have an old spray wand, you can use a "funny pipe" used in lawn irrigation systems (Home Depot). 

Why use a spray wand and not just pour water directly into the tank from the pipe? Water from your tap is highly carbonated and this irritates fish gills and causes them stress (think bubbles in a can of soda). These carbon bubbles are released when the water is forced through the tiny openings of the spray wand and into the tank from a great height. When the water hits the water surface, more carbon bubbles are released. 







1/2" pipe for the water return





The 1/2" PVC pipe connected to the potable water hose. 
Blue Discus is curious about what I'm looking at too.



video

Water Filtration


I use tap water because it allows me to use warm water to fill my tanks. However, before the water enters the fish tank, it goes through a 2-stage water filter first. A small 5' potable water hose attaches the to the 2-stage filter to the faucet. Then a longer 25' hose is attached from the 2-stage to the water return PVC pipe on my tank. I use a garden water valve so that I can direct the water into the 2- stage once the correct temperature is set.





Potable water hose attached to the laundry sink faucet. 
The other tube with the blue outlet is from the water pump that's draining my tank. 





2-stage filter



video



I use a 1 micron sediment filter in the 1st stage, and a coconut-carbon filter in the second. This thoroughly cleans the water of rust, dirt, and even pathogens, like cryptosporidium. The carbon filter takes out chemicals, including chlorine. Please check your water filter specs to ensure that they can take warm water. Some are only for cold water. See above "Materials List" for where to buy.


Water Conditioners



The 2-stage filter removes most or all of the chlorine, but I use a water conditioner that removes the chlorine anyways. Better safe than sorry (real sorry!!).

I use a powder dechlorinator called Safe by Seachem. This is much cheaper than using the liquid variety. One bottle should last you for years.  I use Laguna Peat Granules to naturally soften and bring down the PH of my water. I pour a cup into a filter bag, rinse, then place in my tank filter. It will color your water a brown color but will lighten up after a week of water changes. Check the PH of you water to make sure it's not already acidic. In the Midwest, water is very alkaline and very hard. For filtration, I use an AquaClear 110 that is actually meant for a much larger tank. I do not use carbon, since that defeats the purpose of using peat. I also have a double sponge filter and an Aquatop 10 Watt UV filter powered by an Eheim Aquaball Powerhead.










Laguna Peat Granules for Ponds are safe for fish tanks


More Reading:


My Quarantine Process
For New Aquarium Fish



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