Water changes are the single-most important ongoing maintenance task for successfully keeping fish.
If you want your aquarium to be healthy and you want your water to be crystal clear, the best thing you can do is change the water on a regular basis.
But, if you are new to keeping fish, maybe you ask yourself:
How do I do an aquarium water change?
Continue reading for details on my water changing background, frequency process, and more.
I am going to make a confession. When I first started keeping fish, blogs like this weren’t available. YouTube barely existed. So, I couldn’t just go online and find what I needed easily. I learned what I could with the help of librarians and now archaic research methodology. Academic reports were printed and physically purchased by libraries to lend to library patrons on premises. Maybe you’re familiar. My point is, that I was a pretty terrible fish keeper and knowing where to find valuable and relevant information, when at the time I lived in rural Minnesota, was very difficult. Do not do what I did: the first time I heard about water changes, that information came with no instructions. So, innocently I removed all of the water in my aquariums and sanitized with soap & bleach!
I loathed my failure that led to killing fish, so I deferred maintenance. My logic was: If cleaning my aquarium killed my fish, they were better off “not getting water changes” – this is wrong and led to my tanks becoming unfathomably stinky and green. So, I ended up giving up on keeping fish for years. Obviously, my fish rarely survived and I had outbreaks of algae and disease.
When you Set Up Your First Aquarium for the first time, you begin culturing a population of live beneficial micro-bacteria (I explain the aquarium ecosystem in more detail in the post titled “Cycle Your New Aquarium“). This bacteria converts harmful toxins into a less harmful compound “Nitrates”.
Nitrates, in small amounts will not rapidly kill off fish. However, over time, they build up and are harmful in high volume. Water changes replace Nitrates, leaving beneficial bacteria in your tank to continue eating and converting Ammonia and Nitrites into Nitrates.
This is why we do Partial Water Changes.
Now, I successfully keep a fish room and ponds!
I stock all of the fish for sale on this website out of my home and opperate this website as a side business to my career.
So, for you beginners out there who may have made the same errors that I did, I am going to teach you the secret to success:
How often do aquarium water changes need to be done?
The frequency of cleaning and changing the water in your fish tank depends on how big the tank is, how many fish you keep and how many live aquatic plants you have in your aquarium – live plants consume aquarium fish toxins as fertilizer.
The general guideline is that most aquariums should have a water change done at least once a week. Although, there are caveats and alternatives. But, beginners should start with this as a guide. Then, you can Test Your Water to determine if you need to do more or less.
How to correctly do water changes for your aquarium and fish:
The secret to effective water changes is that you do not remove all of the water or sanitize the tank.
It is really that simple.
Use a siphon and tubing (or pump and hose) to carefully pump sift through substrate (sand/gravel/soil – if present) and remove detritus. Continue to siphon until 15% to 30% of the water has been removed – this is a starting point; a water test kit will help you identify if you should be removing more or less.
After you have removed this water, you should replace it by filling your aquarium with fresh water.
You may need to treat your water before adding it to an aquarium (more on that soon).
- Have you had similar experience?
- Do you do something differently?
- What tips and tricks would you provide?
Share in the comments section below!
For additional reading, check out: “Build a Natural Environment for your Fish“.