Aquarium Water Change System Updated 2023

My Love Affair with Aquarium 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 aquariums 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 cory cats, 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 drain and fill system at the store and make fine adjustments on the spot.
Aquarium water drain system design
Aquarium water drain system design

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 contacting 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 noises).  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 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 spray wand kit from Amazon.

Aquarium water refill system design
Aquarium water refill system design

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. I also use a large piece of aquarium foam on top of the spray wand to break up the water further. 

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.

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

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 Alarm New for 2023

I found this amazing and inexpensive tool, a high  and low water sensor and alarm that is battery operated, and water and dust resistant. It has two water level sensors, one for high level and one for low level. When the water is too high, the device will flash and sound a very loud alarm. 

I wish I had this 10 years ago, as I had  forgotten that I was filling the tank and it overflowed. I highly recommend using this tool to prevent flooding and damage to your home. I also suggest to set a timer on your cell phone to alert you to check the level of the tank. 

Aquarium 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 (really 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 Fluval Aquatic Peat 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.

Please Support ❤️

This page may contain affiliate links to products I use and/or recommend. If you purchase something through a link from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation at no extra cost to you.

Aquarium Tools and Supplies

28 Gallon Breeder Aquarium with sump: 
Freshwater aquarium light for rimless tanks: 
Aquarium heater:

Live gravel:
Ceramic grow media:

Water Quality: 
Aquaclear 50 filter for medium size tanks:
UV filter:
Kaldnes media:
Water polishing filter:
API water test kit:
Seachem Safe water conditioner:
Almond leaves:
Aquarium gravel vacuum and water changer:

What I feed my pleco and shrimps: 
Fluval shrimp granules: 
Omega One Food:
Wilted spinach leaves

Anubias Barteri:

Cherry Red Shrimp:
Discus, albino bristlenose plecos and shrimp:
1440 Arcade Street (Suite A), Saint Paul, MN, United States, Minnesota (651) 330-8077

Auto Water Top of System for Aquariums

Flow Tamer Spray Bar Kit

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My Quarantine Process
For New Aquarium Fish

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