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Trying to sustain water quality in perpetuity

Discussion about fish health and water chemistry.

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Christopher Level 1 Member
Level 1 Member

Posts: 5
Morning everyone,
Happy Memorial Day.
I am going to throw something at the experienced aquarists here and it might seem a little crazy. I had a 60 cube with a small stock. Firefish, clowns, shrimp with a small refugium. Water changes would suffice for the maintenance of the tank with a 25 or 30 percent water change. Fish were healthy and growing, the couple of corals did ok, I wouldn't say they flourished. Typical troubles with hair algae and maintaining levels of magnesium and calcium.
Fast forward several years and a move to Minnesota...
I bought a 210 that was brand new and it broke in the move. I still have the stand and the canopy and I want to replace the 210 with a 180 (shallower for better light penetration for a reef). I don't think water changes will be sufficient to maintain water quality. I wouldn't be removing enough of the bad stuff and if I do a 1/3rd water change I need 60 gallons plus of fresh saltwater. It doesn't seem efficient.
The one thing I do have is some extra space. I dont want to call it a fish room, but a corner of it can be dedicated, which is on the same interior wall as the 180 would be.
Sorry for the wordiness, I was setting the stage for the following...
For the life support systems I was thinking of using several 40 gallon breeders piped together for the various chambers of the "sump system'.

One would be home to the sock filters and any special need for filtration that might come up (space for carbon, gfo, etc).
Another for live rock.
One with a deep sand bed to maintain a low oxegen zone partitioned with acrylic like a zig zag pattern to keep the water in that zone longer. this is for off gassing nitrogen.
One with tumbling chaeto and grow lights.
One with small mangrove in the back half and miracle mud in the front seperated so I can replace the mud without contaminating the system.
And the last with all of the dosing and test equipment, heaters, and reactors.

They might be piped into a normal flow and low flow series to keep the filtration working while allowing the water to flow through the areas that require longer contact a bit slower.

That is 240 gallons of sump. Total of 420 gallons of water.
My goal is to eliminate the need for any water changes other than to supplement the tank with trace elements from a red sea salt mix. 40 gallons every month.
Am I off my rocker? Although this is a concept to see if I can maintain a superior water quality without water changes I want absolutely no harm to come to the fish, inverts and coral. I would appreciate anyones input and both positive and negative comments. There is a lot of information out there and I see pieces of what i mentioned above in play but maybe its not there because I am a certifiable nutball for even thinking to try this.
As for questions on cost... I can get 40 gallon breeders cheap. The recommended sump for that size aquarium can run between 600 and 1200 bucks. With some elbow grease and a couple of DIY stands I think cost will be the same.

Chris

willie Level 9 Member
Level 9 Member

Posts: 1862
Location: Minneapolis
Chris;

I'm a discus keeper, so a certifiable nut ball on the matter of water changes. When I'm home, it's 100% daily and weekly wipedowns. So half of the tankage in my fishroom is dedicated to conditioning water.

I've also never kept salt water reef. My understanding is that they are an exercise in restraint. Anything you put in is going to have to come out, otherwise lower lifeforms will take over and overwhelm the tank. In contrast, keeping discus is like feeding hogs. Slop in the food, hose it out, and repeat. :shock: The only thing that matters is the quality of every individual fish. Great food, great water, cull ruthlessly - it's a beauty contest. Only the most beautiful get to stay.

After multiple run-ins with other hobbyists, I realize that the misalignment is a matter of focus. I see three approaches to keeping fish:

1. Nice community tank. Fish are doing okay, but clearly every living thing in the tank has to compromise.
2. Specimen tank. Everything is secondary to the show fish.
3. Breeding tank. Everything is geared to successful breeding.

We all start with #1. I've done #3. Now, I focus on #2. Your objective appears to be #1. The problem comes when aquarists expect to do all three. (We call them newbies.) They typically fail on all fronts.

Again, I am completely ignorant of reef keeping. However, I think 0 water change is a pipe dream. You should allocate some space in any fish room to facilitate water changes.

And a quarantine tank.

Willie

Christopher Level 1 Member
Level 1 Member

Posts: 5
willie wrote:
Chris;

I'm a discus keeper, so a certifiable nut ball on the matter of water changes. When I'm home, it's 100% daily and weekly wipedowns. So half of the tankage in my fishroom is dedicated to conditioning water.

I've also never kept salt water reef. My understanding is that they are an exercise in restraint. Anything you put in is going to have to come out, otherwise lower lifeforms will take over and overwhelm the tank. In contrast, keeping discus is like feeding hogs. Slop in the food, hose it out, and repeat. :shock: The only thing that matters is the quality of every individual fish. Great food, great water, cull ruthlessly - it's a beauty contest. Only the most beautiful get to stay.

After multiple run-ins with other hobbyists, I realize that the misalignment is a matter of focus. I see three approaches to keeping fish:

1. Nice community tank. Fish are doing okay, but clearly every living thing in the tank has to compromise.
2. Specimen tank. Everything is secondary to the show fish.
3. Breeding tank. Everything is geared to successful breeding.

We all start with #1. I've done #3. Now, I focus on #2. Your objective appears to be #1. The problem comes when aquarists expect to do all three. (We call them newbies.) They typically fail on all fronts.

Again, I am completely ignorant of reef keeping. However, I think 0 water change is a pipe dream. You should allocate some space in any fish room to facilitate water changes.

And a quarantine tank.

Willie



Hi Willie,
Thanks for the feedback. I have heard from others that keeping discus is a lot about pristine water quality. Do you treat the water, use RODI?
I kept freshwater angelfish and rams about 30 years ago and had a lot of success with them (did not breed) with regular water changes. Bred bristlenose plecos more recently.
I am looking to try to dial in the science behind the process of removing ammonia and other dissolved solids and using natural filtration. Hence the cyclic system I mentioned.
I agree that a quarantine tank is an absolute must and although I didn't list it, I would never keep fish without one.
Appreciate the feedback.
Chris

willie Level 9 Member
Level 9 Member

Posts: 1862
Location: Minneapolis
I use tap water that gets aerated and warmed for 24 hours for my water changes. Certainly you don't need to adhere to my water schedule for most fish, but I can't see how you can avoid it. You put stuff in the tank and you've got it get it out.

Good luck to you, Willie


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