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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know this is an incredibly basic question - but what is the best way to do a water change in a planted tank? Every time I do one - no matter how patient or slow I am - I always end up mucking up the soil, displacing some of my small foreground plants with shallow roots - I am really starting to hate the H. siptherpoides for this reason (tank has only been set up for a couple of weeks so there is limited rooting so far), exposing some of the ADA power sand so I have annoying white pieces all over my black surface, etc. I am really thinking that the powder type of ADA aquasoil was not the best for my first tank :mad:

My tank is on a stand, and I have no way of elevating the new water high enough so that I can get a slow flow via siphon. I thought about getting a small pump - but I worry that pumps with a lower flow rate won't be able to move the water up a height to get into the tank (top of tank about 4' off ground) - and something stronger will result in the same problem.

I also thought about moving the input tube from the filter into the bucket of new water - but then I am going to have a jet and fast dropping water from the lily pipe causing the same problem.

End of rant
 

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I have answered both the vacuum and the refill part, just in case other people read. I know your concern is more on the refill part of the water change.

If the plants are not well rooted yet, I would stay away from them when you are vacuuming. Just change the water without getting the equipment (or any strong water movement) near the new plants.

If there is stuff you want to remove from the plants here are a few ideas:

1) Keep the siphon up high, but wave your hand near the plants to dislodge the debris.
2) Gently touch the plants, give them a little wiggle to dislodge the stuff.
3) Run the siphon slower. If you are siphoning into a bucket, then lift the bucket onto a chair. Shorter distance to fall means less energetic water flow in the tank.
4) Use a smaller diameter tube, such as air line tubing. This means a slower flow, and a smaller hole, might not suck in the leaves.
5) Keep your hand wrapped around the outlet tube, and when you see a problem pinch off or fold the tube to shut off the water flow.
6) Do the siphoning with a plain tube and keep your finger almost covering the inlet end, in the tank. Be ready to cover the inlet to shut it off if needed. You can use your other fingers to gently nudge the plants to dislodge debris.
7) Use a very weak pump like a table top fountain pump the same way a gardener uses a blower. Aim it horizontally across the plants, never into the substrate, and see if that will dislodge the debris.
8) Add a layer of fine gravel over the substrate. This is difficult with a ground cover, you might end up with a coarse sand. If you like this idea look into the Pebble Tek products. They are a coarse sand sized quartz particle that is added to swimming pools to make the pools different colors. The simplest of the product lines is aquarium safe. (some have sea shells added- avoid these).

For refill, get a pump.
Read the label. The higher a pump has to push the water the weaker the flow at that height. So you might get, lets say, a pump labeled 100 gallons per hour, but at 3' of head that pump might only put out half that much. Gotta read the label.
Then buy a simple ball valve (drip irrigation supply) and install that in the line between the pump and the tank. You have already selected a pump that is pretty close, now you can turn it down some more.

When I am filling a large tank (45 gallons, 4' long, 16" or taller) I run the water at about 1 gallon per minute, and this is slow enough not to cause problems. In smaller tanks, go even slower.

Next, put a plate or plastic bag inside the tank, over the ground cover plants. Dribble the water in over the plastic bag, and it will seep over the edges and not disturb the substrate.
 

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For a really low tech method and you might not need to buy anything what about using a large watering can? Put a sheet of bubble wrap, paper or any other kind of non toxic sheet that won't fall apart in water over part of the tank's surface and pour on the bubble wrap.

Somebody just came up with a nifty way to diffuse water flowing into a small tank. Bent a large spoon so it fit over the lip of the tank and poured the water on that.
 

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I use a aqueon water changer (or python. same thing) and run it on slow and into the side of the tank or the top of a rock. I don't bother vacuuming, tank is so dense I couldn't get to the substrate if I wanted to (except for a few little areas and right under the sponge pre-filter)

I also use this:
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=192787
on my nano - works great to spread out the incoming flow - the shrimp don't even stop eating when I'm pouring the new water in.
 

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I use a very primitive method. I stick a syphon hose in the tank and drain out into a 5gl water plastic bottle. Yes, I suck on one end of the hose. :eek5: I find less chance for a slosh spill with the bottle. That water goes out to the flowers or veggies.

I use a 1 gal milk jugs to fill. I put my cupped hand in the top of the tank an pour the water over my hand. I pour in front of the lilly pipe return.

Could not be more simple. I've found it took me more time to mess around with all the "toys" that were meant to make my life more simple than they were worth.

:icon_wink

I find the more simple maintenance tasks are the more often they get done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the great advice everyone.

I had never thought of a ball valve to help slow pump flow. And that doesn't cause damage to the pump?

My tank is too far away from a faucet for a Python/Aqueon water changer to be helpful. The bent spoon idea is great for tiny tanks. I actually bent a metal spoon at a 90 degree angle to allow me to fill in areas of the surface of my substrate with black sand. I level the sand with the spoon edge, slowly lower in into the water - and then I can place the sand exactly where it needs to be (i.e. where I have disrupted the bottom by poor planting or water changes) without getting it everywhere.
 

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I use a 1 gal milk jugs to fill. I put my cupped hand in the top of the tank an pour the water over my hand. ..
I do the same thing on small tanks, but I actually hold the plastic top to the 1G milk/water jug over the surface of the water and pour right onto it. It's disc shaped so it just sprays it around without disturbing anything.
 

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Thanks for the great advice everyone.

I had never thought of a ball valve to help slow pump flow. And that doesn't cause damage to the pump?

My tank is too far away from a faucet for a Python/Aqueon water changer to be helpful. The bent spoon idea is great for tiny tanks. I actually bent a metal spoon at a 90 degree angle to allow me to fill in areas of the surface of my substrate with black sand. I level the sand with the spoon edge, slowly lower in into the water - and then I can place the sand exactly where it needs to be (i.e. where I have disrupted the bottom by poor planting or water changes) without getting it everywhere.
How far away is it? You could buy a cheap garden hose to reach the tank, your back will thank you when you get a python:)
 

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I do the same thing on small tanks, but I actually hold the plastic top to the 1G milk/water jug over the surface of the water and pour right onto it. It's disc shaped so it just sprays it around without disturbing anything.
I use HOBs on small tanks so my refill target is the filter media box area. I only use foam in my HOBs so that works good.
 

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It will not harm a pump if you still allow more than 50% of its normal flow to go through. That is why I suggested you get a pump that is pretty close to what you want, just a little more flow to make sure it is not too slow. Then throttle it down a bit if needed.

I have used most of the methods suggested above.

Hand interrupting the flow is fine, if I can hold and control the bucket of water with the other.
Using other things like a rock or driftwood is helpful, and most of my tanks have that.
All sorts of materials can be laid over the tank to slow the water flow. I like the bubble wrap idea! I usually use a plastic bag.
Most often I simply aim the hose horizontally and make sure it does not blast down into the substrate. I am usually filling the tanks either from a garbage can with a fountain pump or direct fill from a garden hose connected to a shower.
 
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