water changes bad? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 04:04 AM Thread Starter
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I was talking to another planted tank owner recently and I said that I believe in lots of water changes. I do about one large water change (about 50%) on my 55 gallon planted tank a week and a few other smaller changes (about 2-6 gallons) through out the week. He said that I shouldn't do it that often because those kind of frequent water changes will eventually kill my plants and be stressful on my fish. I like my tanks crystal clear and relatively algae free. With the kind of lighting I have I try to scrape algae off the glass of my tank about every other day. His tank only has about 1.5 watts per gallon (I'm guessing, I'm not sure; he has about 65 gal tank and a twin tube strip light and the tank is 36" long I think). He doesn't dose CO2 and rarely fertilizes, he says that the fish poop does most of the fertilizing he needs. He also says he wants to put a UGF in his plant tank eventually; he like the UGF in his other tank (just a couple of plants in that tank). So what I want to know is:

1) Is there any truth to frequent water changes be bad for your plants?
2) Aren't UGF generaly bad for planted tanks (I personally HATE regular UGFs for ANY tank, but that's my personal opinion)
3) I think I read one time that fish poop isn't really that great for your plants, but people just think that it is? Does anyone know if that is true?

Thanks,
NFish
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 04:09 AM Thread Starter
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Sorry, just realized I put this in the wrong section, can someone move it to the general planted tank section?
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 01:07 PM
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well i wouldn't think so. One of my friends that i got interested in having fish , is a moron and talked to ppl says water changes once every 6 monthes, or one said one every 6 yrs
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 01:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NFish
1) Is there any truth to frequent water changes be bad for your plants?
2) Aren't UGF generaly bad for planted tanks (I personally HATE regular UGFs for ANY tank, but that's my personal opinion)
3) I think I read one time that fish poop isn't really that great for your plants, but people just think that it is? Does anyone know if that is true?

Thanks,
NFish
Your friend is flat out wrong. Water changes are never bad for fish unless you aren't treating chlorinated tap water. I could go as far as to say that any more than 50% a week is a bit unecessary for a planted tank, but your care and enthusiasm will pay off in the long run.
Your friend has GOT to be pulling your leg abotu UGF's. You might as well try to catch a flight on the Wright Brother's plane.
Fish poop is not a good fertilizer for plants because it is not balanced. It generally provided some phosphates and some nitrates in the form of ammonia from fish waste.
If you are seeing algae, it is because your nutrients are out of proportion. Get a Nitrate and Phosphate test kit and make sure those levels are in a 10:1 proportion to each other. I shoot for 5-10ppm Nitrates (NO3) and 0.5-1.0ppm Phosphates (PO4). Also make sure dose a good trace element supplement such as Seachem Flourish.

I have no idea what drives people to dole out such bad advice, but I'm glad you decided to check with us before following it.

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 02:34 PM
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I know what drives them to give that kind of advice! They read a 30 year old book, or read some rant site on the internet or some pimply faced kid at the LFS told them that. And since it fits with their philosophy on life they preach it.

As Sam said your "friend" is totally wrong on the water changes. There are exceptions to this rule but they are few and far between. For a low to no light tank fish poop works. But putting in the UGF will remove the fish poop.

This falls right along the lines of "advice" I have seen here where someone without much knowledge comes in and throws a bomb saying that a UV will kill all your fish and plants.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. I am pretty set in my fish-keeping ways and I wasn't going to follow any of the advice he gave, but I wanted to ask you in case any of it was true (I really didn't think so).

I think the reason I'm growing algae is that my light is really bright and my plants haven't completely set in yet (I've only had the plants in for 2 weeks or less) and the plants aren't utilizing all the light yet. I think this b/c there seems to be less algae building up on the glass now in the last couple of days and the plant growth has really jumped.

I know I may be doing more water changes than is NECESSARY, but it won't hurt my plants or fish by doing the more frequent water changes, right? I used to keep African Cichlids (still do, but my plant tank is now my main tank), and the they abosolutely loved all my big water changes, so I am still in the lots of water changes mentality. I'm also a bit of a perfectionist with my tanks and I have to have my tanks crystal clear, relatively algae free and no gunk, dirt, or plant leaves floating around. Part of this is my big 55 gallon tank is in my Mom's living room and she wants it really clean, and I'm also trying to show her that I can do plants in that tank (years ago I did a small planted tank and it was a semi-disaster).

One more question (ok, 2 more): When I only remove about 2-3 gallons of water, I don't always dechlorinate it. It doesn't seem to be stressful to the fish or harmful to the plants, but I'm wondering if maybe it is, since I read never to put untreated tap water in a planted tank. Is this ok to do (not put dechlorinator) when I only remove 2 or 3 gallons? and is there truth to the fact that any untreated tap water will be very harmful to your plants?
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 06:52 PM
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AFAIK you don't need to treat tapwater for plants, it's the fish that might get sick from Chlorine.
I never treat my water, just add it slowly over a few hours, observing fishies while doing that... When you change only a few gallons in your 55 gal tank, whatever your tapwater contains will be so diluted that there shouldn't be any problems. For the 50% changes it might be better to dechlorinate.


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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 07:13 PM Thread Starter
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I do dechlorinate with larger water changes, but you are sure that the chlorine won't hurt the plants?
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 07:17 PM
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I think that what your friend is doing works on very low light tanks. Very low light = no ferts = less need to change water due to fert build up. He probably just barely feeds the fish, less in = less out.

Also, it is very important to know what is in your tap water, if it is loaded with phosphates and nitrates, then water changes could be a bad thing, or at least something you'd want to limit. many places in Europe and certain farm area here have so much stuff in the water, they practically dose tap water to add the nitrates and phosphates they need.

As far as the UGF, that would insure that whatever is in the gravel is in the water and whatever is in the water is in the gravel. Now most of us don't want to have everything in the gravel in the water since we have added fertilizers under there that might create green water if circulated through the tank. But, if you don't add fertilizers to the gravel and don't change water it could work to circulate this to the roots. Otherwise you'd have nitrates building up, phosphates too, unless you added a lot more plants and filtration. Adding circulation through the gravel in effect increases the size of the gravel bed.

Then, the danger involved in changing or not changing water depends on whether your tank has stable parameters, for if you had a low KH to begin with and never changed water, the KH would drop lower and lead to an unstable pH, which can kill fish.

Looking at this from his point of view, as he watches all the work you are doing, directly due to the high light levels, he would tend to think you are wrong. In about 6 months, your tank will be lovely and lush, but you will still be doing all this work, cutting plants instead of scraping algae. At that point, he may still think you wrong, just based on the work involved.

On the danger of water changes, he may be correct if one day you do a large water change only to find out later that the water company has just treated the lines with some noxious chemical that your dechlorinator does not touch, because of some line repairs that you had no knowledge of and even if you did you never would have been able to test for that chemical.

He, on the other hand, risks killing his fish with the infrequent water change, if the tap water hs become so different from his tank water --, perhaps from evaporation and topping off -- leading to a concentration of minerals and risinig GH. Then a sudden lowering of the GH from water change can do damage to fish.

In the long run, it is better to keep the tank near to tap levels, for when things go wrong large water chnges should be your friend. And we do that by doing regular water changes.


Light is the driver -- the light you run will dictate what is the better practice. More lights means more ferts means more water changes to keep from overdoing any ferts.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 07:18 PM
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Dechlorinating is so easy, why skip it?
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 08:19 PM
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I thought I had read somewhere that dechlorinating the water also binds up some of the nutrients in the water that might be useful for plants. This may be a moot issue by separatly dosing nutrients though.
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 08:25 PM
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it depends on the dechlorinator david, look for one that specifically says it does not affect traces

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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 08:45 PM
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"binds heavy metals" is the phrase, or something like that.

I use the simplest dechlorinator I can find, but keep Prime on hand in case of emergencies.
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 09:10 PM
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Just on a side note: it is perfectly safe to do water changes on the note of 20-25% weekly without dechlorinating. Myself and others have been sucessfully doing this for many years.

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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-14-2003, 09:11 PM
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Prime is the main one that everyone uses...i hear praises about it ALL DEEE TYME

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