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Hello jj...jjohnwm said:One of my pet peeves...and, yes, I do have a lot of them; what's it to ya? ...is the constantly recurring theme of "no-water-change aquariums"...or, as I think of them, aquariums that haven't failed yet.
We read over and over about the wonderful, magical properties of anaerobic bacteria that chew up nitrates like candy. The currently more popular word to use is "anoxic" which for our purposes means the same thing, but it just sounds so cool and scientifical-like. Anaerobic is old hat; ya gotta go anoxic or you're just not in the loop.
The fellow with the most popular videos likes to re-purpose words in that fashion. Another favourite is "biocenosis" as in Biocenosis Clarification Basket, or BCB. You know when you get an acronym that your idea is going places. I'm sure we all understand the definition of "clarification". Try looking up "biocenosis" and you may be surprised to discover that it simply refers to an interconnected biological system of a number of different species. In other words...it's just a general term that he has linked up with a couple of other general terms to come up with a supposedly-impressive-sounding new technology.
Back when the undergravel filter was new and ground-breaking, the tech was sold to us in much the same way. It was a filter that "never needed cleaning"...but in actuality it was a filter that would function as intended long enough for the makers to sell a boatload of them before people figured out that there was nothing magical or even new about the idea. The best thing about undergravel filters was the fact that they introduced the average aquarist to the notion that bacteria could be good; most had never heard of the idea of biological filtration, so the UG filter craze thrust this concept into the general awareness of the aquarium world. And look what happened! Today the "nitrogen cycle" is something that everyone in the hobby has heard of. Some of them even have an idea of how it works.
But it's not really a "cycle", is it? I mean, the food goes in, the poop comes out, the bacteria chow down on it and convert it through the stages...and then those pesky nitrates keep on accumulating and accumulating at the end, with nothing "cyclical" about. So folks like the used car salesman noted above decide it's time to expand our horizons and introduce a way to continue the cycle a bit further, and completely release that nitrogen from our lives and tanks. So they sell us on BCB's and kitty litter and Matrix and all the other goodies that are designed to foster this new and wonderful type of bacteria. It's all still pretty mysterious; when asked for specifics like "what flow rate should be present in the anoxic filter bed", the answer is something nebulous like "slow". Wow...that's helpful. Too fast, and we will end up growing those old-style aerobic bacteria in there...you know, the ones that we pursued for decades and still need today. Too slow, and we might get the terrifying "anaerobic" conditions that will result in pockets of noxious gas, loss of vision, financial instability and whatever else they do when they aren't doing what we want them to do.
Now, a technology-minded person might be attracted to this idea simply because it is something new and different, and getting it to work is in itself a satisfying goal. Nothing wrong with that, although I always have nagging ethical doubts about experiments which can kill living critters if they go wrong. Some...a few...of the techies get the plan to work; these wunderkind are held up as examples of the validity of the concept. Nothing much is said about the many others who give up partway through, hopefully before too many fish lose their lives. And nothing at all is said about the other reasons for changing water, i.e. trace elements and the host of other possible changes that it undergoes when fish live, breathe, eat and poop in it for days, weeks, months...
The biggest problem is the beginners who scan a few paragraphs and lock on to the phrase "no water changes". They don't care about how it is supposed to work; they just don't want to carry buckets. Their wood floors are too shiny; they can't connect the hose to their faucets; they don't have the time; they need to de-mineralize, then re-mineralize, then reverse-osmose, then alter the pH, the hardness, the TDS and whatever else they can think of, and it is just too much dang work. They want the no-effort aquarium, and they want it now.
Let's get the techies to work on the real solution; the Selective Element Transporter device. Fill the tank with clean water, throw in a few fish, set the controls on the machine for the exact chemical composition you want to keep it at, and press the button. The machine will instantly monitor the make-up of the water and then remove whatever isn't wanted (nitrates, phosphates, excess CO2, etc.) by teleportation. Maybe the unwanted waste material can be made to re-appear in a collection bucket of some kind, so that it can be re-used as garden fertilizer or landfill or perhaps in Vegan cooking.
But until that happens...until we have complete mastery over and control of all the natural processes that are at play in aquarium water (or, in other words, never...)...perhaps we should just accept that the best, simplest, most foolproof method for maintaining healthy fish and healthy water is to do water changes. If you don't want to do that, maybe you should re-consider the aquarium hobby.
The "no water change" tank has been available for many years. I've had some running for years without the dreaded water change. They're not going to fail, trust me. As long as you understand the water chemistry and what the fish require for good health, even you can have one in your house.