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Old 12-26-2007, 10:22 PM   #1
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What's Your water change procedure?

I'm new to this and am curious about how everyone does water changes as this seemt to be the most time consuming part of owning a tank. Do most people use buckets? This may be stupid but how do you get the water from the bucket to the tank. Do you need a separate power head? It sounds like everyone recommends RO/DI water. Do LFS's actually sell this water? I've read about people purchasing their own units. How do these work? Is it just a filter that attached to the faucet or is more complicated? Also, how messy is the water change? Does water get spilled? I don't want to ruin my carpet.

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Old 12-27-2007, 12:04 AM   #2
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Here's my whole routine...

I normally have 10+ gallons of saltwater made up ahead of time, stored in a big rubbermaid tub in my garage. When the tub "inventory" drops below 10 gallons, I put more in. I mix the saltwater up in 3.5 gallons batches in a 5 gallon bucket. 3.5 gallons of DI water go in the bucket and 2 cups of Reef Crystals. Stir vigorously for about 15 seconds and dump it in the rubbermaid tub. In that tub (22g tub) is a 100W heater, and a Maxijet 900 powerhead. I keep the water at my tank temp (78 deg) and the powerhead keeps things moving and provides a nice surface ripple for oxygenation. That all runs 24/7.

My tank (46g) is in the corner of my living room, with laminate underneath it. Quick sidetrack here...

If you're putting a tank in a carpeted room, I highly recommend pulling up the carpet in the area under the tank and putting in a laminate or Pergo-type floor. That may, or may not be doable depending on where your tank will be located. But I'm sure glad I did it. It makes getting the stand on a firm LEVEL surface much much easier and I don't have to worry about the thing shifting over time as the carpet/foam compresses. It also is less of a hassle when I get messy and slop a little water down the back from my hang-on-back filter.

OK... back to the water change.

I put a big beach towel down in front of the tank, over my carpet. I go downstairs and drop another Maxijet 900 powerhead with a tube hooked up to the outlet into the saltwater storage tub. I pump 4-4.5 gallons out of the tub into a 5g bucket. I bring it upstairs. I double check the salinity, and add a calcium solution to bring the Ca level up to where I like it. I then take my orange 5g "dirty water" bucket upstairs along with my siphon hose. I siphon 4g of water out of my tank, "vacuuming" the rocks as I go.

I then put the "fresh" saltwater bucket in front of the tank, put the tube that's hooked up to the Maxijet900 (which is now in my fresh bucket) into my tank, plug the Maxijet in, and pump the new saltwater into the tank. I work the tube around my rocks, "dusting" them off.

Once I get the water changed out, I open up my hang-on back cannister filter (Magnum HOT 250) and swap out the old "blue sponge" for a new one, and give the cannister a good shake off in the old saltwater. I also take the filter from the Penguin 100 hang on back unit and clean it off in the old saltwater.

Maybe once every 4-6 weeks, I'll vacuum out a section of my sand bed, but only the top 1/2" or so. It's usually a visual thing, and not a scheduled thing.

All that's left to do is wipe off the front of the tank where I might've dribbled some water, and haul everything back downstairs and dump the old saltwater out in the laundry sink. I could probably make life a little easier by just siphoning my old salt water out the window right next to my tank, but I kind of like the plants that are below that window!

Does water get spilled? For me, I've never really spilled any in the front, but will occasionally slop some down the back. But that's just because of my hang-on-tank equipment. And also because I'm not as careful! As long as you're careful, methodical, and not in a hurry, there's really no reason to expect you'd ruin your carpet. One of the times I was in a hurry, I almost plugged in the pump to pump the new saltwater back into the tank before I had the tube in the tank... and it was lying on the floor. THAT would've been messy. But as long as you check, and double check things before you do it, you should be OK.

Regarding RO/DI water, most good fish stores will sell it. The only question you have is how well do they maintain their system? It's really just how much you trust your fish store.

RO/DI units come in all different varieties, but in a nutshell they're a combination of two types of filtration. The "RO" portion is Reverse Osmosis and uses osmosis of water through a semi-permeable membrane that lets water go though but doesn't let anything that isn't water through. Roughly. RO membranes, depending on a lot of things, gets out 95-99% of the impurities. The "pure" water goes out one tube, and the "waste" water goes out another tube. There is roughly 3 to 5 times the amount of waste water made per unit of pure water made. This water is made slowly - in terms of gallons/DAY... not gallons/minute or hour. That's how RO/DI units are rated - 100 gal/day, 75 gal/day, etc. You'll need something to collect the pure water, and a place to route the waste water to be drained away. This can be as simple as a bucket and your sink.

The other portion of a RO/DI system is the "DI" portion. This part of the system contains deionizing (DI) resin with attracts whatever impurties are left in the water and binds them to the resin. Water coming out of this part should be absolutely pure water. If it isn't, then it probably means that either your DI resin needs to be replaced.

Hope this helps. I know when I was starting out, I was playing out the whole scenario in my head and it seemed like a lot of work. Like most things, once you get a system down, it can go pretty fast.

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Old 12-27-2007, 12:04 AM   #3
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[edit] deleted my double post. That was weird. Not sure how that happened.
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Old 12-27-2007, 09:42 AM   #4
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Actually, the longest part of my PWCs is filling up the 32G bucket (on wheels) with RO/DI water. The actual PWC is pretty quick. I use airline tubing to siphon the old water out of my tank and a ph to pump the new water in. I constantly have pre mixed water in my 32G with a ph and heater.
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Old 12-27-2007, 10:24 AM   #5
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I keep water in five gallon gas/water cans and siphon out water into a 6 gallon can. My setup is much smaller than most on here(about 45 gallons total) so it is a little easier for me. I get pre missed SW from a VERY trusted LFS and handle everything that way. Kinda cheating I know but it helps me save a little more time to fiddle with my tank!
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Old 12-27-2007, 01:32 PM   #6
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Doing a PWC isn't as bad as it may seem. I don't have the issues of moving water around as some of the others do. My tank is in the basement across from our family room on a concrete floor. When I built the family room and fish room I ran water lines to eliminate me having to carry buckets around. I agree with putting the tank on a "non-carpet" surface. You are talking about a 72g tank plus the rock and all the rest that goes along with it that is a lot of weight and I would want it on a nice flat surface!


I have a drain in the floor of my basement about 5 feet from my tank, I take one of my hoses and start a siphon and let the water drain into my floor drain. I usually have my SW premixed and temped 2 or 3 days before I ever use it. I have 2 containers, a 32g trashcan and a 25g tote. Right now I've been using the 25g tote for various reasons. My tote is in my fish room which is directly behind my tank. I have an access hole in the wall that I can get to my sump from inside the fish room. I have my RO/DI unit near the floor drain and a water line run in the drop celing over to the fish room that fills my tote. After the tote is full of fresh water I dump in my salt mix and let it mix for a few days. I don't have a heater in the tote during the winter because we heat with a wood stove and it only takes a day or two to get the temp to 78 or so. When I'm ready to do my PWC I shut off one side of my overflow that fills my fuge and I empty that tank (almost) a little over 15g. I let if fill back up and empty it again. Then I just pump the new SW from the tote over to the sump and I'm back in business. Takes about 30 minutes.

I don't think will ever put myself in a situation where I will have to carry buckets of water around. I know that everyone isn't going to be able to say that but I can only imagine how much of a pain that could be.
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Old 12-27-2007, 01:59 PM   #7
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It depends on how big your tank is, how often you do a PWC, and how much you change.

I change about 20-25 gallons every two weeks. I have a 30 gallon that I fill overnight with RODI water. There's a heater and PH in that container. I put my salt mix and mix using the PH. I adjust the SG till it's at 35 ppt and let it sit overnight or longer. I use a Python to drain the water to the kitchen sink and the PH to fill the tank back up.
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Old 12-29-2007, 07:40 AM   #8
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I just siphon out into a bucket and pour Fresh made SW back into the tank. Pretty easy huh. But well needed


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Old 12-29-2007, 10:19 AM   #9
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I do about a 30% water change every three weeks on my reef tank. I siphon out the water using a python (I also stir up the sand to remove detritus as I'm doing so).

For replacement water I have a 20gal container of replacement saltwater which I have made in advance (using RO/DI water and a salt mix). The saltwater is mixed with a large powerhead/pump (~935gph) and heater (if required) to match water temperature; salinity is also matched with the tank's. I also have a similar sized container containing RO/DI water (I usually have 20gal of salt water and 18gal of RO/DI ready at any give time).

After the water is siphoned out I add the new salt water in a more laborious manner (make a few trips between where I have the water and where my tank is using 5gal salt container buckets), then a half-gallon measuring cup to move water from the container to the tank.

LFS' in my area sell RO/DI water at about 40-45 cents per gallon but I have my own unit. I have it connected to the sink faucet and disconnect the adapter when I'm not making water.

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change, water change

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