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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The following is a message I wrote to Diana Walstad (from this web site). I would like to share with the members of this web site what I wrote her (I would like to take a moment to further state that I have over 200 trumpet snails/malaysian; 5 olive nerite snails (all are about 4 years old); about 50 ramshorn snails; I do have 4 dwarf chain loaches which help depopulate the tank)...okay, here is what I wrote Diana:

The following is from a fish hobbyist web site that I belong to (Rate My Fish Tank under yasherkoach (username)...an ongoing debate between other members and myself. I think you would be interested in this:

I do not use test strips, I use liquid test kits (for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphorus, oxygen, iron, high & low ph, even calcium plus a temperature gauge...when things go haywire with ammonia or nitrite, I will test for those other chemicals...still my question is left unanswered:

suppose I never told anyone I haven't water changed in six months, that the ammonia, nitrite are reading at 0 and nitrate at 30 and temperature is steady at 76-80, there are live plants, the water is clear, I have a current in the tank and a heater...and also suppose, I had a filter at 700 gph (for a 55 gallon tank) and overhead lighting and a water pump, and I siphoned the tank once a month (or skimmed the gravel for debris) and that the tank was not in direct sunlight...suppose all the proper procedures in the fish hobby were followed.............would you say I am doing something wrong? would you say I am cruelly treating the fish? could you say the tank is healthy?

honestly answer those questions?

the simple answer is: well the tank is doing fine because you are water changing, ammonia and nitrite is 0 and nitrate is 30 and temperature is steady at 76-80, and that's all because of filtration, lighting overhead and water changing..............or is it?

in other words, fish keepers test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, ph and temperature....why? to make sure the tank is healthy...right?

I do all those tests...but because I do not water change, I have no overhead lighting instead direct sunlight and no filtration, all of a sudden I am doing something wrong...right?

another sign: no fish dying, no ich or other diseases in the tank, outside of the redtail shark, no other troublesome incompatibility, no cloudy water, no algae bloom, fish are eating robustly, no fish at the surface gasping for air, no extremes in temperature - stop me if I'm losing you?....no brown water, no tannins, no fish scraping off objects, no swim bladder issues, no fins nipped, no overcrowding, no yellowing of plant leaves, no algae outbreaks even though I grow cladophora (and prune it), no fish jumping out of the tank, no diseases, no parasites, no bacterium...should I go on? (let me know, because I will)

but still I am doing something wrong?

The rest is written post that debate; just for you Diana:

I have only natural sunlight (south window); no filtration; no overhead lighting; no water pumps; I am well understocked with a mix of community and semi-aggressive fish; only live plant: anubias; naturally growing cladophora (regularly pruned); no water change in six months (I do top off about 2 gallons a week); no siphoning of the gravel in over three years (started this tank in May 2008); I feed frozen bloodworms, chicken liver, chicken, peas, algae wafers, flake, dried bloodworms and the latest liquid test: ammonia 0; nitrite 0; nitrate 30; temperature 76-80 on Sunday (4/15/2012) - I test every Sunday; only natural wood, rock and live plants are in the tank plus a heater (which is taken out in the summer) and air stones that do two things: provide a little oxygen to the tank via water surface agitation and provides water movement in the column for some of my fish require "streams".

If you like I could send you pictures, let me know.

My name is Edward, I live in Tulsa, OK (originally from Philly and NJ). I am 53 years old. I started this hobby in May 2008 and over time slowly eliminated all human gadgets except for the heater and airstones. I consider myself an advanced hobbyist. I learned this all through trial and error...I have found that when there were times in the past, at the beginning of the no water changing, when ammonia would shoot up to 1.o ppm, I'd fast the fish or tank for a few days and the ammonia would go back down to 0. I figure a tank can depend on natural processes. Each organism balancing each other out. Only time I disturb the tank is when I prune the cladphora and/or when feeding.

I can go on and on...I never read your book but I do have a copy via scribd.

If you do get this message, please respond, I am interested in knowing what you think of my very special tank.

Good day, Edward

As a post comment to that message to Diana, I would like to say to all newbies:

this type of aquarium should never be tried until one has enough experience in this hobby and the tank itself is at least 2 years established

I will provide pictures of the tank in a short while

Please comment all you like, negative and positive statements are happily welcome

Thanks and good day
 

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I am completely confused by your post.
Me too!

I also don't think no water changes ever is a good idea. The nitrates/nitrites/ammonia might be 0, but that doesn't mean all the uneaten food and poop has disappeared. There are only a handful of ways that organics can be removed from a tank: water changes, and plant's sequestering it in their tissue. Animals eating debris won't remove wastes since they also have to defecate as well at some point which puts the wastes right back in the water. Bacteria can sequester some temporarily, but they have very fast life cycles (days) so when they die they decay, putting the wastes right back in the water. Also, some organics take much longer to break down than other organics and so linger and accumulate in the water column. These organics are untestable since no company sells test kits for them. Simply because they are unseen does not make them harmless.

Another aspect to consider is mineral accumulation. Unless you are adding RO/DI water to your tank every time the water evaporates down, you are adding minerals like calcium, magnesium, and salt (along with others). Since only water evaporates out of the tank, all the minerals stay in the tank water. Over time the water chemistry will be completely different from what it started out as, think African Rift lake, the Dead Sea, the Great Salt Lake, etc... conditions instead of fresh water.

this type of aquarium should never be tried until one has enough experience in this hobby and the tank itself is at least 2 years established
I think most people here have left their tanks at some point or another for several months without water changes, but it is definitely not something that can go on indefinitely and still keep the animals healthy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Zapins and Michael

"the tank is doing fine because you are water changing, ammonia and nitrite is 0 and nitrate is 30 and temperature is steady at 76-80, and that's all because of filtration, lighting overhead and water changing..............or is it?" ~~ from the thread

I didn't mean to confuse anyone...it's a rather simple scenario:

suppose I told you that the tank has ammonia at 0, nitrite at 0, nitrate at 30; temperature at 76-80, ph at 8.2, oxygen at 8.2 and I have overhead lighting, filtration (700 gph in a 55 gallon tank) and have performed water changes twice a week (or 8 gallons on Thursday and 8 gallons on Sunday)...you'd say, cool, nice tank, awesome, what a way to go...superb, your tank is doing just fine...keep up the good work

well, as fish hobbyists we are expected to fulfill that above-stated scenario...I did it for over 3 years...and I was told, what a beautiful, healthy fish tank, have a great day

now, deduct out of that scenario: water changing, overhead lighting, filtration...and I get responses like confused (no offense)

don't you see the paradox in the reasoning?
 

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Hmm, the confused comment, at least on my part was more for the formatting of your post. The main idea in the original post came across as unclear. Lots of different ideas/topics in there.

If you put quotations in [ quote ] Text you want to quote [ / quote ] it would help make things easier to read.

I think what you are saying in your most recent post is that if you showed pictures of the same tank you have now but told two stories: one where you did water changes like people suggest and the other that you did not the only difference would be people's reactions. In other words, final outcome matters and you are getting a good outcome so your method works for you. Is that the paradox you mean?

What is your view on the points I mentioned in my first post? Where does the waste go? Water conditions changing over time. Health of the tank inhabitants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
well first off, when I do feed, I usually put most of the food on the side of the live plants, so that any uneaten food, the plants' roots will take up plus the snails feed on any debris - the ammonia that is put out by the snails is miniscule for the ammonia and nitrite liquid tests repeatedly show 0 ppm

as for the fish feces, well the same thing, the plants feed off the feces

you are correct on getting the point of the paradox, that is, all fish keepers do water tests for ammonia, nitrite nitrate, etc...we all rely on these tests to figure if our tanks are healthy or not

all the tests I perform are well within normalcy: ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 30

therefore, not performing water changes is not an issue in the tank I have...that is, the tank is within normalcy

I figure a lot of people, if not all, fish-keepers have been taught - even myself, I started the hobby doing two water changes a week for over three years - that water changing is an absolute must...but, like the tank I have, I proved otherwise...and this is all I am saying, it CAN BE DONE regardless of "expert" advice

I will format the replies and/or threads in simpler terms next time...I do appreciate you taking the time to understand what I am accomplishing in the tank I own

thanks and good day
 

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Putting the fish food on one side of the tank so that the plants take up the nutrients probably helps the plants get more of the nutrients they use. However, plants cannot absorb nutrients out of the food directly. The nutrients are bound to other organic molecules and must be digested by bacteria and fungi first in order to become available to plants. During this process of decay soluble nutrients like NO3, and ammonia, most of the minerals (K, PO4, Ca, etc...) dissolve into the water column. Since the plants are near by where the bulk of the decay happens they will absorb some of the nutrients. By no means is this 100% of what is release by decay. The excess nutrients persist in floating around the tank until the plants need them at a later stage.

Another point to consider here is that plants don't need all nutrients equally. They need more of some things than others. The most important nutrient they need is carbon (mainly from CO2 that dissolves into the water), then they need NPK, and then micronutrients. If plants lack one of the major nutrients they can't use any of the other nutrients below that level of priority. Since you have a natural style tank carbon is the lacking nutrient most of the time. This means that plants will only grow as fast as they can absorb CO2. Your tank parameters make sense with this. There is no ammonia, or nitrite (since those are the forms of nitrogen plants prefer to use), however there is 30 ppm of nitrate. This is direct evidence that the plants are not absorbing 100% of the nutrients that come in via food. 30 ppm of nitrate is not in itself harmful, but that isn't the only thing going on in the tank water.

Since we know the plants are not absorbing 100% of the incoming nutrients we know that other nutrients lower down on the priority scale are also not being used 100%. We can look at the high pH and GH to confirm this. Ca, Mg, and buffering compounds are not being used and have accumulated. These minerals also may not seem like they are harmful, however, nearly every one of your fish is native to soft water acidic pH streams and rivers. This means that their body is ideally suited to live in those conditions. Simply seeing them alive and swimming around does not mean they are under no stress. Their bodies are working very hard to keep them alive, much harder than if they lived in the conditions they were suited for. This sort of chronic stress can weaken their immune system and decrease lifespan. Just because the fish seem like they are doing alright and haven't gotten sick yet does not mean there are no consequences and they are perfectly robust. The only way to prove to you that these phenomenon are actually happening and quantify the damage being done is by observing the lifespans of the same species of fish in two side by side tanks, one tank that never gets a water change and the other does.

When you say that "we [hobbyists] rely on these tests [NO3, NO2, NH4] to figure out if our tanks are healthy or not" it sounds as if you consider these values are the only important values in determining if things are going well in the tank. These values are important but they are certainly not an exhaustive list of parameters that need to be watched and maintained. There are an incalculable number of things that could be in the tank water that will harm fish, for example, High minerals, high or low pH, nitrates, ammonia, slow to digest organics, bleach, soap, organic poisons, smog, harmful bacteria, radioactive waste, etc... Only a handful of these are testable and the results should be taken into consideration when making decisions about the tank.

Taking all of these considerations together doing frequent water changes gives you many guaranteed benefits. Mainly: it resets conditions so that nutrients do not accumulate (see your nitrates, GH, pH, most likely many other untestable ones), reduces potential water column bacteria and parasite larvae and the fish you keep will be under less stress since they are in the conditions they originated from. What are the risks for doing frequent water changes? I see very few if any. What are the risks that no water changes pose? Higher risk to infection due to inappropriate water conditions causing chronic stress, potentially high levels of bacteria and parasite larvae in the water column, risks of accumulating toxins and excess nutrients in the water, etc... There are no clear guaranteed benefits that come from not changing the water, except arguably that it is less work to forgo them.
 

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Does not natural process in aquariums tend to lower pH and water become more acidic ? My tanks do if water changes are irregular.
Unclear to me how this is not happening in OP'S tank if water has not been changed in 6 month's.
Seems there would be lack of calcium over time perhaps magnesium as well, and both plant's and snails would suffer in the absence or lower amount available.
 

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Hi Napper727

My experience with your method almost always ends with the ph dropping thru the floor at some point and time. As the water ages and you get the mineral buildup that Zapins talks about, the water loses it's buffering ability. How long this takes will depend on many different factors. There has been several products over the years by different aquatic manufactures that claim to remove the need for water changes, these products always go bye bye.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I decided to perform all the liquid tests today, April 17, 2012, Tuesday for the following:

Temperature: 76-80

Aquarium Pharmaceuticals ("API") Liquid Test Results:

Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 30 ppm
PH (high): 7.6 ppm
PH (low): 7.6 ppm
KH: 4 ppm

Red Sea Test Lab Liquid Test Results:

Oxygen: 9 ppm
Phosphate: 0 ppm
C02: 7 ppm

Seachem Laboratories Liquid Test Results:

Silicate: .04
Copper: 0

All those results took about one (1) hour but it was well worth it. It clearly shows the tank is healthy.

I would like to share with the members a message I received form Diana Walstad (she too is a member of this forum - actually the reason I joined this forum was because I wanted
to correspond with her; only to find that this forum is awfully good).

Dear Edward,

It sounds like you are using the techniques described in my book.

Good luck with your tank.

Sincerely,
Diana Walstad


Diana is a senior member of this website. I sent her the entire message that I included in my original thread which started this debate herein on April 15, 2012 (please scroll above). I told her in my reply "Thank you very much, I am honored."

Considering Diana is a well noted success in this type of tank (that is, the one I have) - and though I never read her book: Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist; though I do plan to purchase it - I will rest my case on her message sent to me.

Nevertheless, Zapins is a thoroughly well-learned fish hobbyist - and though this member believes I could be doing better with the tank if I water change - I must once again say, in consideration of Diana's comments and the test results listed-above, I truly believe the tank I have is healthy. And on that note, I will end this reply.

I do welcome all comments; gratefully appreciate this issue raises an inquisitive debate
 
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