frequency and size of water changes in planted tanks - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 08:15 PM Thread Starter
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frequency and size of water changes in planted tanks

I'm an aquarium veteran but new to planted tanks. My question is regarding the frequency of water changes in planted tanks.

For the last few years, I've been doing saltwater tanks. For years the general belief was that large, frequent water changes of 25% were necessary. Recently, with reef tanks growing in popularity, there have been tanks that have much less need for large water changes (reef tanks usually have a much lower bioload, and the deep sands many use lead to very low levels of nitrates, so it's very easy to get away with changing 5% a week). However, many reef hobbyists still perform large water changes and swear up and down that those who don't will have lots of problems, contrary to actual results. I think it's just force of habit.

Because of this, I'm wondering about water changes in planted tanks. In my normal freshwater tanks, the main concern was to dilute nutrients such as nitrates, primarily for algae control. However, I'm wondering why a planted tank would need water changes as frequently or as large as a non-planted tank. I would think that most of the nutrients would be sucked up by the plants and therefor not in the water column. What exactly is it that needs to be removed in planted tanks? If there isn't much that needs to be removed, are large water changes just a stubborn old mindset that refuses to die? One of the LFS around here has a couple of planted tanks, and they say they rarely change water compared to the non-planted tanks. Their tanks look VERY good.

Any help on clarifying this would be great. As I said, I'm new to planted tanks so I don't want my reefing prejudices to get me in trouble.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 08:59 PM
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Hello Earwicker,

The frequency and amount of water changes in a planted tank depend alot on the approach you take. There are a couple of ways to set up a planted tank.

You can set up a El natural tank (Low light ..no co2 and no fertilizer) and not do many water changes at all I believe.

You can also set up a high tech tank (which is what I have) with lots of light added fertilizer and co2. Since I use the Estimated Index (or EI for short) for my fertilizer routine I do a water change of 50 percent or more per week.

There are a lot of good information on this forum. I suggest you read read read.

I am sure others with more experience than I will chime in and offer more info for you.


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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 08:59 PM
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I 'change' the water in my tank maybe once every 3 months. If it gets low, I add water straight from the tap (city water). I add stress coat to help take out chlorine, but if not, it will out-gas anyway. I use RO water for my 10 gal planted cherry shrimp tank though, I'm not gonna chance the city water metals with them.

Reguarding nutrient uptake, that's the reason I removed almost all of the media from my HOB filter. I only run a plastic holder piece, and a thin piece of micro fiber (to catch debris). No carbon, no biomedia. I simply use it and a powerhead for water movement. With a tank the size of mine, I considered a canister filter, but then realized it was mostly biomedia that would remove all the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates that I could be feeding to my plants...

Why spend money to feed bacteria and plants? I should also note that I dose other ferts to make up for the lack of PWC. There's a great book, that I'm almost done reading, called 'Ecology of the Planted Aquarium' by Diana Walstad. It's an excellent read.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 09:28 PM Thread Starter
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Reguarding nutrient uptake, that's the reason I removed almost all of the media from my HOB filter. I only run a plastic holder piece, and a thin piece of micro fiber (to catch debris). No carbon, no biomedia. I simply use it and a powerhead for water movement. With a tank the size of mine, I considered a canister filter, but then realized it was mostly biomedia that would remove all the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates that I could be feeding to my plants...
What's the general consensus on carbon in planted tanks? Many in the reefing community considered carbon to be a bad thing, but I used it and never had any problems with it--I actually had better results, IMO because it removes the results of "chemical warfare" between corals.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 09:56 PM
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Generally Carbon is considered "bad" due to the fact it can filter out needed nutrients and bacteria you need to keep a planted tank healthy. I do use it occasionally, but not on any of my planted tanks (Read here, used on my quarantine tanks). If I need to filter the water of debris I will use filter floss to remove the particulate matter.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 09:59 PM
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Generally Carbon is considered "bad" due to the fact it can filter out needed nutrients and bacteria you need to keep a planted tank healthy.
Bacteria? How does carbon filter out bacteria?

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 11:31 PM Thread Starter
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Generally Carbon is considered "bad" due to the fact it can filter out needed nutrients and bacteria you need to keep a planted tank healthy. I do use it occasionally, but not on any of my planted tanks (Read here, used on my quarantine tanks). If I need to filter the water of debris I will use filter floss to remove the particulate matter.
The filtering out the nutrients was always the reason I was given in reefing to not use carbon, but based on my experience (and a bit of research) it really only removed iodine to any significant level. Other trace elements were removed, but they were easily replaced by water changes using good quality salt.

Carbon doesn't remove nitrates or phosphates, so I'm wondering what nutrients it removes that make it "bad"?
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 11:37 PM
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There are plenty of people who have very successful planted tanks and still use carbon, including Takashi Amano. I think it's just a matter of personal opinion.
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-26-2006, 11:37 PM
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Nitrate and Phosphate and Potassium are all macro nutrients and the carbon will not remove these. As for the micro nutrients.... iron, boron, manganese...ect ... there is a chance carbon will remove some of these. At least thats the general thought in not using carbon.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-27-2006, 01:23 AM
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There are still a lot of myths involved with planted tanks. It is possible that the dislike of activated carbon filtration is one of the myths. One of the fun parts of the hobby is being like a weather vane - shifting with the wind. One day something is bad, next day it is good, and vice versa!

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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-27-2006, 03:25 AM Thread Starter
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There are still a lot of myths involved with planted tanks. It is possible that the dislike of activated carbon filtration is one of the myths. One of the fun parts of the hobby is being like a weather vane - shifting with the wind. One day something is bad, next day it is good, and vice versa!
Oh, darn !

I was hoping that this hobby would be a little different than reefing. At least no one's come to blows yet; I've seen screaming matches over whether you should use substrate in a reef tank or have a bare bottom.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-27-2006, 04:00 AM
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DID YOU SAY REEFING!!!!!

those are fighting words! why I oughta

lol
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-27-2006, 02:18 PM
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Again, the idea that carbon filtration is "bad" may or may not be a myth, the question is if anyone feels like risking it. My personal observations are that my tanks seem healthier when I do not use carbon on my planted tanks. ::Shrugs:: I have been told by people I repsect it takes out some of the bacteria involved in the Nitrogen cycle and we all know we need those. Why take the chance they may be right unless you need carbon for some reason?
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-27-2006, 04:57 PM
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I smell an experiment. 2 identical tanks other than one having carbon and one not. If I had the means I would like to do experiments like that, great way to learn! I'm sure someone has done this before.

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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-27-2006, 05:57 PM
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I pulled the carbon out of my canister shortly after going planted since at the time it seemed like almost all planted tanks didnt use carbon. Not sure which way is better, but atleast thats one less thing to worry about buying and changing, and simplifying anything is GOOD by me! Also gives more room for mechanical filtration by leaving the big old carbon bag out.
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