Aquarium Water Change - Planted Tank Mates

Aquarium Water Change


Aquarium water changes are essential for maintaining a healthy aquarium. They help to remove waste and toxins from the water, which can build up over time and cause problems for your livestock. Remember that your aquarium is a contained ecosystem.  It doesn’t have the natural flow of water to remove waste and replenish on its own.  The process of changing water helps to improve the quality by adding fresh, clean water to the tank. This can also help to prevent diseases and even stimulate plant growth. The water quality plays a vital role in the health and well-being of your aquarium.  Consider water changes an integral role for any aquarist.

How often do you change your water?

The frequency of aquarium water changes will vary depending on the size of your tank, the type of fish you have, and the amount of waste they produce. There’s a great amount of resources online that will tell you what to do, but you can’t just apply any formula to your setup.  It’s best to test your water parameters to understand how much water to change and how frequent.  If your shrimp tank takes 2 weeks to just slightly elevate nitrate levels, maybe a 10% water change is enough.  If your nano tank has nitrates escalating in the span of a week, perhaps make it a 25-30% change is needed and possibly reduce your feeding.  Create a log and find that sweet spot with the amount you’re feeding and when nitrate levels start to get heavy.  Remember that dosing fertilizer increases nitrates too, so routinely test your water parameters and keep an eye on that.

Testing Water Parameters – Freshwater Test Kits – available on Amazon

Tips for changing water

Before siphoning water, do your cleaning first.  Scrape the algae, trim the plants and if necessary, vacuum your gravel.  This process may uplift debris everywhere.  Once everything is loosened and floating around, siphoning the water in various spots to help remove the waste.

Cleaning Algae – scrapers available on Amazon
Trim Plants – Planted Tank Scissors available on Amazon
Gravel Vacuum – available on Amazon

When adding water, it’s recommended to try and match the current temperature.  Collect the water in a bucket, and let it acclimate to the room so the temperature is not dramatically different.  Sudden change to water temperatures can shock and stress your livestock.  Acclimating your new water temperature is also an opportunity to treat the water.  When you remove water from your tank, you’re also removing beneficial nutrients, so now’s the time to replenish.  If using tap water, you can treat it for chlorine in the bucket.  For those using RO water, you can dose and re-mineralize the water before adding it to your tank.  

Aquarium Water Primer – available on Amazon

Last but not least, don’t just dump the water into your aquarium.  Fast and strong water flow will stir up your substrate and loosen debris again.  Whether you’re siphoning clean water into your tank or pouring it from a jug, use something to break incoming flow.  If you’re using a siphon, you can point the hose towards the glass so water can trickle down the side.  If pouring directly, use a wide cup or bowl and place it beneath the water surface.  Measuring cups or the large plastic scoops from dietary supplements are also good options.  They have an extended handle which makes it easy to hold right below the waterline.  It’s also an added bonus when you give single use plastics a second life. 

Adding Water

All Things Considered

There’s no set formula when it comes to aquarium water changes.  You’ll hear people online say “10% once a week” or “40% every month.”  The truth is, it depends on your tank.  Consider factors such as the size of your aquarium, what livestock and bio-load it is producing, how much you’re feeding, the lighting and algae developing, and fertilizers you may be using.  Also, don’t forget your aquarium filter which needs to become part of that routine maintenance.  Your observations, water tests and journal log will help configure the best rhythm for maintaining your tank.  The suggestions online are simply recommendations, but you need to be the judge and understand that it will be a bit of a trial and error process; and that’s OK.

Cleaning Aquarium Glass

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