balancing tank for no water changes
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:22 PM   #1
naturelady
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balancing tank for no water changes


I've read about how water changes are bad for no CO2 setups, because they re-introduce CO2 to the tank, upsetting the balance that the plants have. But whenever I try to implement this in my tank, fish health suffers. I know some of you out there are doing a great job: what are you doing to make it work?

Tank: 29 gal
Light: 65watts power compact fluorescent about 8 inches off the tank- I just got a new bulb and it seemed WAY too bright so I added a wire mesh screen. Alas for no PAR meter...
Substrate: Black Diamond (sand blasting grit)
Fertilizers: Dry ferts- dose nitrate & micros every other week, and a very scant amount of phosphate once a month or so (I suspect my phosphates of being high). Root tabs- Rootmedic complete (or something from that line... he came out with new products so often...) refreshed annually
Filter: Eheim 2213
Livestock: 4 bloodfin tetras, 1 oto. 6 ghost shrimp and 2 dozen or so red cherries, 4 nerites, some ramshorn snails, MTS, and planaria

My underwater plants were doing okay, but within a week of putting on the new light (its been about 2 weeks now) I noticed what looked like new BBA specks over all the anubias leaves, so I added the wire screen over it. It is now more dim than I would like, but I'm afraid to take it off for fear of the algae.

I have plants in riparium planters to absorb extra ferts and shade the tank a bit. My african violets are absolutely flourishing, they bloom nearly non-stop (probably 7 weeks out of 8), which is why I suspect my phosphates of being high (also, they have been high in the past).

I know with the high phosphates and planaria, that overfeeding is a possibility. I honestly try not to- they are fed no more than once per day, about 5 days per week (I forget some days), and I try to keep the amounts small.

I have been doing ~40-50% water changes once per month. I use 1/2 tap and 1/2 RO water.

Any suggestions for fine-tuning my setup? Obviously the recent algae growth is a concern, but I also feel like I have always been missing something in my tank setup - the algae has never gotten out of control, but its always been around, also. Sometimes the plants grow faster, sometimes they are just at an even pace.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:43 PM   #2
seuadr
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tank: 36 gallon bow-front
light: 2x 42 watt 6500 bulbs
Substrate: Black fluorite, 2'ish inches
Ferts: flourish once a week or so
Filter: Fluval 205, with 2x bio blocks and a bag of carbon when the water starts to smell
Livestock: 3 harlequin tetras, 2 black neon tetras, 2 cardinal tetras, a bunch of MTS and other assorted snails, 2 amano shrimp and a gold platy.

plants consist of just sword chains. I had some amazon swords that got WAY too big for the tank, and the sword chains took over everywhere. I kind of like them, but i'm considering adding some more plants.

used RO water for 2 years, ended up just using Tap water to top it off.

for the first 6 months of the tank, we did 5% water changes daily, dosed liquid carbon and macro/micro flourish products and did all kinds of maintenance. after about 6 months, everything stabilized pretty good. I went from checking it every day to once a week, then once a month. honestly don't know what i "did right" but i only add water once a month or so to replace evaporated water and feed the fish every other day with blackworms.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:56 PM   #3
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I'm not so sure about this. As a hobbyist I think you'd be better served learning how to stabilize BY DOING water changes, rather than the reverse.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:07 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naturelady View Post
I've read about how water changes are bad for no CO2 setups, because they re-introduce CO2 to the tank, upsetting the balance that the plants have..
That is really not true. Water changes will benefit any setup as long as your still providing what the plants need. Reducing the decaying/dissolving organics is the best thing you could do as long as your not stripping the tank of what the plants need.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:14 PM   #5
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Well, the concern with the water changes is the dissolved CO2 in the water. I've read some about this on Tom Barr's site. It was an older article, however. Perhaps he has changed his idea on it since then?

I've always been somewhat ambivalent about the idea, because it seemed to make sense for the plants, but probably not so great for the livestock.

seuadr, thanks for sharing your experience. Maybe some day my tank will stabilize a bit better...
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naturelady View Post
Well, the concern with the water changes is the dissolved CO2 in the water. I've read some about this on Tom Barr's site. It was an older article, however. Perhaps he has changed his idea on it since then?
..
Why would co2 cause algae? If the added co2 fuels plant grow then you just have to make sure your dosing the tank, other than that their is NOTHING more beneficial then a water change, It's great for the fish and keeping algae away. It also gives you more flexibility with light and other parameters.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:28 PM   #7
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Sorry. I am not explaining very well. The issue is not CO2, per se. The issue is constantly changing CO2 levels. When the tank consistently has a low level of CO2, the plants adapt to it. When you do a water change, you are introducing water with a high level of dissolved CO2, thus the CO2 level increases drastically. Therefore, the water changes cause constantly changing levels of CO2. The thing that plants like best is consistency. Algae can adapt to the changing levels of CO2 more quickly than can plants, therefore, doing the water changes gives the algae an advantage relative to the plants.

Of course, this is only applicable to no-CO2 setups.

Well, that's the theory, as best as I understand it, anyhow. Does that make more sense? So the idea behind no water changes is to keep the level of CO2 stable, albeit low, because plants will do better in those stable conditions.

The thing I am wondering is how people keep fish health in that kind of setup. I have found that very challenging.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:37 PM   #8
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http://buddendo.home.xs4all.nl/aquar...dfield_eng.htm
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:38 PM   #9
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No I do understand what your are saying about the change in co2 levels, but it's really a crock. The benefit of removing organics from the tank during a water change far away any slight increase in co2 from tap water. Most here change 50% of their water weekly, what do you think happens to the co2 levels in the tanks? What about those that turn their co2 off at night and the tank doesn't recover optimum co2 levels till afternoon? I've always made large weekly water on my non-co2 setups and they are pristine. The biggest risk of algae is too much light and too much dissolved organics.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:52 PM   #10
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I'd have to disagree with the dissolved organics and algae connection. Of my 5 non-CO2 tanks, the only one that doesn't have a spec of algae is the one that gets the least water changes. All my other tanks consistently get diatoms and green algae. Green algae especially I've noticed LOVES water changes.

Now, all that said... my tank with the least amount of water changes also has nitrates through the roof and I suspect that hasn't been great for the fish in there. I know there are people on here who miraculously do no water changes AND have healthy fish but I haven't figured out that magic formula. So I'd say, if your goal is to have no algae, skip the water changes. If your goal is to have healthy fish, a weekly 25% water change is your friend.
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:52 PM   #11
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m00se- I've heard of the Redfield ratio before. I always just thought it was the source of "too much phosphate causes algae" which I thought was a myth. Are you suggesting this isn't true? Or its more complicated than that? Or.... what?
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:57 PM   #12
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Are you dosing your tanks with NPK or relying on fish waste and food?
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:59 PM   #13
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Quote:
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I'd have to disagree with the dissolved organics and algae connection..
So are saying it doesn't matter how dirty your tank is with waste it won't have a bearing on how much algae you get.

Last edited by houseofcards; 02-23-2013 at 12:16 AM.. Reason: c
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Old 02-23-2013, 12:32 AM   #14
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I am a firm believer in doing water changes. Removing fish waste and plant detritus is vital for a healthy aquarium. I would worry less about the varying levels of CO2 (because the difference in these levels is minute compared to the variance of levels these plants would normally experience in a natural environment) and more about the overall health of your tank.
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Old 02-23-2013, 02:57 AM   #15
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So are saying it doesn't matter how dirty your tank is with waste it won't have a bearing on how much algae you get.
Yup. Just in my experience.
This is all anecdotal, but the way I originally got into this hobby years ago was by buying one of those "Frog-o-Spheres", a half gallon "tank" with bamboo and two dwarf frogs. I followed the horrible instructions that came with it and did a water change a few months after I bought it. Horrible, horrible, I know. I didn't know any better at the time ):

Anyway, in the months before the water change, there was not a spec of algae in the tank. AFTER the water change, the glass became so green I decided to just ditch the tank and get a real one because there was no fighting the algae. Was the water filthy with organics before the water change? I would imagine. And yet there was no algae until tap water introduced fresh CO2 into the system.

Beside my own personal experience, if algae results from excess nutrients, how are people able to dose EI? isn't the whole point of EI to flood the system with nutrients above and beyond what plants need?

Again, not arguing against water changes at all. It's MUCH much easier to keep a tank healthy with regular water changes than without.
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