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Old 01-23-2004, 01:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Automatic Water Changing

I think one of the biggest obsticals to both the health of aquaria and the happiness of the aquarist is the drudgery involved in doing the proper amount of water exchange within our closed systems. This important task is usually accomplished by siphoning out a certain amount of water from the aquarium in question and then replacing it with fresh, treated water of the same or very similar temperature and chemistry. For most folks the equipment used to perform this vital task is either a siphon hose and bucket (if they can't acess a drain and spigot) or if they are lucky enough to have a nearby sink, they can then use a Python or a similar type devise that's home-made.

Again, for the vast majority of us, this is as easy as it gets, which is why it usually doesn't happen anywhere near as often as it should.

Now, I should stop and point out right here that many plant-only tanks *reportedly* have been sucessfully maintained with a frequency of water changes occuring as little as but once or twice a year. I won't go there myself except to add that if one puts even the first fish into such a system, water changes then become an almost manditory matter -- which can be easily demonstrated to anyone's satisfaction through the use of a few basic tests for water quality.

Short of building a new house or modifying an existing residence such that one might plumb any or all aquaria right into the household water and sewage system much like your toilet, exactly what are our options for making water changes an easier, faster, less bothersome task?

Because the easier they are to do -- the more apt they are to actually occur.

One option I have considered is the use of a constant overflow with a small amount of water being exchanged at all times. My theory here is that if one desires say, a 50% water exchange every two weeks, then that figure expressed in gallons divided by the number of days available, in this case 14, should yield a gallons per day figure to be exchanged. This amount can be further expressed as so much being exchanged per hour down to a certain amount of water entering and existing the system each minute which would be an easy and convienient time frame to measure flow rates and work with.

The devil, however, is in the details -- which I'll describe next post so that we can discuss the equipment needed.
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Old 01-23-2004, 06:28 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Ah excellent! A discussion on how to make water changes less painful!

I was a long time member of the bucket brigade. My wife hated this because I would drip water from the kitchen to the living room every time. In order to avoid losing my aquarium, I did the following:

I bore through the wall where my aquarium is and set up a large sump in the adjacent utility room. I then put a 25 gal aquarium to function as the water change recepticle. I then bore a hole through the utility room wall to the outside so that I could run a line from the hose to the RO/DI unit and fill the water change aquarium.

Now when I want to change water, I turn on the hose that runs through the RO/DI and fills the water change aquarium. When it is full and I've reconstituted the water, I turn on a small pump in the sump that empties about 25 gallons in a sink the the utility room. I then siphon the 25 gallons of freshwater into the sump and I'm done. Takes about 15 minutes.

Simple, right? I'm looking forward to seeing Bob's water changer idea.
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Old 01-23-2004, 01:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yeah, I remember the bucket brigade! I have been using a python for many years now and I cant believe I didnt come up with the idea myself. That would have been a nice chunk of change! I know that there are products out there for doing water changes constantly that hook up to an R/O unit.
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Old 01-27-2004, 05:56 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Art, you demonstrate once again why you are The Boss. Your water change system manages not only to get the job done, but does so in a way which would pass the muster of anyone's significant other, non-fish type, better half.

The Python is also a great invention. One fabulous feature with it is the ability to screw into a sink faucet that has both hot and cold water. That way one can dial in the proper temp for the return water -- especially important in the winter months. The one thing I don't like is the waste inherent in draining the tanks by suction -- the suction being provided by your fresh tap water pulling the old tank water down the drain. This comment is only relevant if your sink happens to be higher that you tank's water level. If one can arrange to have the Python lower than the tank, one only has to start the syphon with a burst of tap water and then gravity will do the rest.

Still, if one lived in say, an upstair apartment - I can't see maintaining more than one tank without the use of these ingenious devises.

My proposed method, which I welcome everyone's criticism and help with BTW, since at this point it's all in theory, this idea would provide for a constant exchange of a reletively small amount of water at all times. My movitation here is to totally automate water exchange and hopefully provide for a more natural, healthier environment overall. By not waiting until toxins build up to do a water change we might hopefully avoid their detrimental effects over this period as well as avoid possible shock from the introduction of a massive amount of water with new characteristics in one fell swoop when we finally do the water change. Ever wait too long to do a water change and watch all your Crypts melt? Ever do a big water chang and then have your Crypts melt?

This is what I'm trying to avoid.

Plus, by exchanging the *proper* amount of water constantly, we might be able to cut way back on the amount of filtration needed, perhaps to the point where, between the plants doing their job and the nitrate devouring bacteria doing theirs - I'm thinking in some tanks man-made filtration might not even be needed. This remains to be seen, of course.

The mechanics of such a system would rely heavily on self-leveling syphons. Check out Wright Huntley's simple design for a constant overflow displayed on The American Killifish Association's site:

His description of it's simple, inexpensive implimentation using easy to find materials is far more concise and elegant than my repeating it here.

Individual tanks on the same level, all in a row, could be easily joined together through the use of plain "U" shaped siphons one can either purchase, or make themselves from clear PVC, vinyl hose - or even white PVC: 2 elbows and three straight sections. Adding a nipple or drip irrigation emiter to the middle section or appex of the "U" siphon would allow one to hook the siphon(s) to a length of regular airling tubing which could in turn be hooked up to a power head somewhere in the system, hopefully on a lower level. This should insure that the siphon(s) won't loose their prime as they gather the inevitible air bubbles or if there is a power outage. Similarly, a piece of plain yarn run through the siphon into the water of both ajacent tanks may serve the same purpose.

Connecting one row of tanks to a lower level of tanks is as simple as using the Overflow described. Theoretically, however many rows of tanks one wished could be so connected together. All that remains is providing for drainage out of the house on the final overflow.

I gota run now but I'll describe the rest of my theoretical overflow system next post.

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Old 02-02-2004, 07:40 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Sounds like a really great idea! I hate my bucket..... The only thing I see that deters me is that it would be really easy for diesease to spead to all of your tanks, and if you dose the water column with fertilizer it would be diluted fairly quickly I would think. What do you think?
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Old 02-02-2004, 09:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default water changes

Watching with eagerness for the rest of this post!

Also, for those of you with a green thumb or a love of gardening (who are not able to run a continuous changer), here's what I do-

Python hose long enough to go from my tanks out the front or back door (hose like this can also be found reasonably priced at home improvement centers). One "good" syphon the old fashined way and Walla! Instant fertilizer for roses, trees, gardens and with the help of a watering can, indoor plants!! This is really quite wonderful here in AZ where we get rain....almost never....Well, that's just a small exageration

Good work and good ideas all you DIY's... Shannon
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Old 02-21-2004, 04:31 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default I use a..

cheap python type hose that hooks up to my sink. I drain straight out the window. Our septic system will not handle the amount of water from the changes so the python doesn't work for me. My well water is way too cold to just hook it up outside either. I'm sitting here looking at the wall though wondering if dh would notice if I drilled a hole in it...there is a small utility closet on the other side. I'd have to get him to run the water though and I can already hear him telling me the problems with trying to do something like that in that little closet. Besides I'd have to find a new place for the vacuum cleaner. So I guess the plants outside will continue to enjoy this water.
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