Daily Water Changes-yes Or No?

Large Daily Water Changes?


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Lauren4events

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Ok, so I have been getting so many wonderful people responding to my questions and trying to help me. Thank you all! I am incredibly appreciative, but I keep getting contradictory opinions. So I need some more people to weigh in, please:

I’m gonna make this as quick as possible, because I know you will ask these questions. So here’s my tank info:

60 gallon

Heavily stocked or overstocked (depending on who I ask here) with livebearers. In the process of finding ways to rehome them. No luck yet. But I’m trying. So let’s not get into that problem at the moment. I’m aware of it. Just haven’t found a solution yet.

My ex left me with these fish. I have been scrambling to figure things out ever since, because I knew nothing about having an aquarium. Still pretty clueless. So having a tank cycled prior to adding fish, wasn’t an option for me. I’m just trying to make the best of a bad situation. And one I would’ve never chosen willingly.

Anyway, my cycle has been stalled for over several weeks. Readings are the same every single day.

Ammonia: usually 1 (give or take)
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10
(All 0 in my tap water)
pH in both my tank and tap: 8.2

I use seachem prime to detoxify ammonia.

I will be getting some more filtration this week, to hopefully solve my cycle problem. This was the advice given to me by some very helpful people here. Currently, I have 2 fluval hob filters, totaling 420-450gph.

I just added a sponge filter a few days ago (temporarily) but it hasn’t made any difference and the box didn’t list the gph. So I have no clue how much it added. If any? I don’t see how it even works. I feel like I just added an ugly, bulky air stone. I already have an air stone. I usually have 2, but the sponge replaced one.

My 2 main issues with cycling are how many fish I have... and the fact that I can’t skip feedings.

I feed a small amount twice a day. I have tried fasting them and skipping days, but because there are so many fish, they start biting at each other every single time I try to skip feeding them. I have tried 4 times. They have literally bitten scales completely off. I can’t stand that. So not feeding isn’t an option. I always cave. They stop biting after I feed them. I won’t skip feedings for that reason. Even if you tell me otherwise.

Now here’s what I need more opinions on:

I have been changing 50-60% of the water every single day for a month. The reason for this, is because of the presence of ammonia in my tank. And the same readings that I listed above for the entire time. I’m literally losing my mind!!! I’m afraid that if I skip a day of water change, my ammonia will rise above 1, and I really don’t want that to happen. It’s a lot of work and I hate it! But I have to keep the fish as safe as I can.

Half of the people I have spoken to, say large daily water changes is the way to go until my ammonia is 0.

The other half of the people say that my cycle will never progress if I don’t leave the tank alone and stop doing so many water changes.

So what do I do?

If water changes are the way to go, should I stop gravel vacuuming every time? Or should I do this thoroughly to eliminate anything contributing to the ammonia levels? Or somewhere in between? I get split answers on this too.

I’m clueless here, so I don’t know who I should be listening to.

Can I get some more opinions, please? Any additional comments are welcomed as well.

I just don’t know how to decide when I get the opposite advice, from all very intelligent people with a lot of experience in fish keeping on both sides. Help me decide please!
 

Reeferxbetta

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If it were my tank, I would be doing the daily water changes, even a reading of 1 would be enough to make me panic, especially considering I have about the same ph as you. I would probably limit the gravel vacuuming though, maybe try 1-2 times a week as opposed to doing it with every water change. I think the issue may just be what you've already stated, there isn't enough filtration capacity, you have nitrates and 0 nitrites, so I think the issue will resolve once you are able to add more filtration and allow the bacteria to really begin colonizing. The daily water changes are a pain, I know, but I'd keep it up until you are able to get more filtration capacity, and eventually have 0 ammonia.
 

DarkOne

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Pick one person to take advice from and ignore everyone else.

You're doing way too much and while one plan of attack might work, it might not work if you combine everything you hear/read.
 

cla001

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I think I have something similar in my small 10g guppy tank (with ~10 guppies in it) - it shows me 0.25ppm (or maybe even 0.5, something in between) ammonia, 0 nitrites and 5ppm nitrates. My only intuitive takeaway was that I don't have enough nitrifying bacteria to "cover" the bioload created by these guppies, so I've been doing the following lately:
1) I put some Seachem Matrix stones in the mesh bag into my HOB filter to create more space for beneficial bacteria
2) I add Seachem Stability every day for the last week to boost the process a little
3) I keep doing 15-20% daily water changes with Seachem Prime
I still see it as a temporary measure until I can move guppies to the bigger tank, but at least so far it seems that it has been working fine.

But the most important thing that I realized about anything cycle-related is that it takes time - often more time than one would expect. This makes it particularly difficult to track progress (I was about to stop adding Stability and declaring it a waste of time and money recently... but apparently I just needed to wait a little more)
 
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Lauren4events

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Pick one person to take advice from and ignore everyone else.

You're doing way too much and while one plan of attack might work, it might not work if you combine everything you hear/read.
Yea well sorry, but that’s my problem. I don’t know who to listen to. So that’s why I’m asking for more opinions. To help me decide which advice I want to follow.
 

Hill Dweller

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Some of the dechlorinator products will bind up ammonia for about a day, so using a bit extra in your new water could give you an extra day between changes. I've done this when I'm cycling and it's worked ok, fish have been fine. You sort of need to balance giving things time and leaving it alone vs. getting the ammonia out. I use Continuum Aquatics "fraction" dechlorinator and it specifically says on the label it can be used to bind up the ammonia while waiting for the cycle to catch up.

Having ammonia AND nitrate certainly means you have not got enough bacteria in your filter. They need surface area, so adding the sponge filter will help once it's been colonised. I know they are a bit ugly but all the big Aquarium youtubers love them and say good things about them.

You might also want to look at what's inside your filter. Is it sponges? Are there ceramic balls or anything else? i found this stuff called Bactrox and it's little pebbles that are supposed to offer the bacteria a really high surface area compared to some other ceramic media. So you can get a lot of bacteria in a quite little filter compartment.

I also have gone over the top with adding bottled bacteria when I want a cycle to get going. At one stage I was chucking in 3 different brands every day haha.

It looks like you've made lots of progress in the last several weeks, you've nearly got a cycle up to speed and learned loads so give yourself some credit for doing your best for the fish in a really difficult situation! :)

Definitely keep on the rehoming path. That will solve a lot of your problems to get the stocking down and prevent more breeding.

Look forward to hearing how you get on :)
 

Sosban_Fach

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Sounds like new tank syndrome, with overstock......thats quite a pickle. I would say don't pick one person and go with that advice. Go with the advice that is most commonly given or backed up or has the best credentials. My credentials for example are 10 years keeping oscars in my 150 gal tank. I don't know liver bearers well and/or if they have any nitrate tolerance.

I agree/back up cla001. I can vouch for the product seachem stability and the matrix (although any filter media would do tbh). Seachem stability, removes ammonia and nitrites by adding the beneficial bacteria you need for your cycle.

Daily water changes I would normally vote against as this can cause stress to your fish; however in this case I would say yes. Try to keep them as minamul as possible to reduce stress to the fish. Start on 10-20% changes. Do an ammonia, nitrite and nitrate test every two days, keep a record of the readings. Use liquid tests the strip tests are useless. The seachem stability should keep the ammonia and nitrites down, but if you see nitrites or ammonia increase your water change by 5% until you see no more nitrites or ammonia.

When you start getting nitrate readings it means your cycle is nearly complete, but continue your process for a week or two afterwards to ensure the cycle is stable. Start increasing the size of your water changes, but do them less often; in order to keep the nitrates down

The idea that large water changes would slow your cycling process is a myth for the most part. If you were practically emptying your tank then yes it would slow your cycle. The majority of the beneficial bacteria you need for the cycle live on hard surfaces. Such as your substrate in inside your filter and on the glass.
 

Sosban_Fach

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Hill Dweller. In my opinion relys on chems to much. The more natural the better.

Also a presence of nitrates signifies that you do have a good bacterial colony. A presence of ammonia and nitrites means you don't have a good bacterial colony.

Cycle goes like this

Fish creates ammonia - Bacteria develops and converts the ammonia into nitrites - When the nitrites get high a different bacteria developes which then converts the nitrites into nitrates.

Ammonia, and Nitrites are highly toxic, Nitrates are also toxic, just not as much as the previous two.
 

Kasshan

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I know ill get flak for this, but anyhow:
I never change my water, I just top it off, I used duckweed, and lots of fast growing light loving plants and Malaysian trumpet snails on a sandy top substrate above mud teeming with tubifex worms. In my method the species stocking of the tank is rather specific is restrictive and I also know my method does not work well with uncontrolled livebearers, because they are far too voracious if allowed to overpopulate and will strip a tank. that is why I use duckweed in my Jack Dempsey tank since the mollies wont eat that and are generally well fed enough so they wont strip the tank of all the green algae and mosses, also the Jack Dempsey pair keep the livebearer population static at 13females and 1 male sailfin, unless I want to save a baby or two.

even so with my method you could probably get away with a 10% waterchange once a week if you wanted to, with no ill effects I imagine. also I'm a diy cheapskate, everything can be had from HomeDepot for under $40 I think. and there many people here on Fishlore who might donate their plant trimmings for just the cost of shipping. you could redesign your entire tank's landscape for about under $60; under 100$ if you splurge a little.
 

Rythmyc

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Here's my opinion, and advise both ways.

Personally, I would continue the daily water changes until you get more filtration. To answer your question on how sponge filters work, they draw in water with the air that flows through it. The sponge will catch anything big enough, and cycle the water back out. They have a lot of surface area for bacteria to grow in. I'm personally not a fan of the eye sore.

You could assume the sponge filter will add enough, and try to finish your cycle. When doing this, if you want to follow the advise if waiting, is double or triple dose Prime. It neutralizes up to 1 ppm per dose. So I would take a reading the next day and dose as needed. I wouldn't more than triple dose personally, and certainly wouldn't go more than 2 days unless your parameters allow.
 

Kasshan

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I would rather rinse a sponge daily placed on the intake of my filter (I repurposed the topfin blue sponges since it has the perfect sized hole to fit a AC intake with a rubber band) rather than waste water. water changes are for people with overstocked tanks, poor plant growth, and lack of detritivores. I'm not a fan of that extra work and waste of precious water, it is obviously stressful for the owner and the fish and carpet if you live on the second floor of an apt, you don't want the mistake of a big spill. if my fish were in this scenario they'd all be dead at this point and knowing me would've cause some water damage cuz I'm a clutz sometimes and it has happened before to me. OP must have some tough resilient fish and I commend her for her dedication as well, since ive seen her valiantly do the best she can ethically for a few months now struggling with recurring problems.

I'm lazy, I want my tanks to look beautiful with minimal effort and be able to keep exotic expensive fish and have them breed and be happy. I have other things I can better spend my time on, like actually relaxing with my son on my tummy and staring at the fish tank on my rare days off. I only spend about an hour or two a week collecting the overgrown duckweed, picking the monster snails for the trash, and rinsing the small sponges on the intake of the filters. plus I have 5 tanks in a 1bd apt, if I had to do waterchanges like being suggested, it would be a nightmare and my wife would throw everything out, since I have a dog and baby too. my wife doesn't know the early woes of my fishkeeping experience, she only knows the recent golden age.

when she says "look at how beautiful 'my' tanks and 'my' fish" my eyes narrow slightly since she does no maintenance what so ever, I make it look too easy for her.
 

Rythmyc

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For some people it's about the well being of the fish. You're not only removing them their natural habitat, you're removing them from personal comfort. Fish are in water that is constantly changed by nature.
 

leftswerve

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I'm sure you received some good advice, I did not read through it, sorry if I duplicate. While this doesn't solve your problem, it might get you there.
Either use the new sponge filter, or get a new one. Split your air line and put the extra sponge filter in a bucket of old tank water with air running. Each time you do a change on the main tank, use the old water to change out the bucket.
My theory: You are making a cycled filter for sure. You can test this by seeing if the ammonia in the main tank is being processed by the bucket sponge.
 

Kasshan

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For some people it's about the well being of the fish. You're not only removing them their natural habitat, you're removing them from personal comfort. Fish are in water that is constantly changed by nature.
The well being of my fish is paramount.

Ultimately, the lady asked for some honest advice and I gave it, my personal hard data.

I have learned from my mistakes and will refine my methodology accordingly and i have started from scratch a few times when necessary in years past.
 

Rythmyc

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The lady asked for some honest advice and I gave it, personal hard data.
Clear water is not a sign of healthy water.

You KNOW that recycled water isn't the healthiest option. Why would you assume it is for fish? Because you throw some plants in the water that keep measurable elements at low readings?
 

Kasshan

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My water isn't clear, it is tea stained, dark water in some cases.

filtration in the home is possible. if it was economic I would do it. but I cant miniaturize New Jersey's water reclamation system for my own home because no one has invented it yet that passes FDA, you need a heckuva lot of surface bacteria to process that. When Star Trek technology becomes ubiquitous I will rejoice too! until then I have to rely on my city's water management. fish have different biology than we do, they have different micrbiomes, the water is clean, I test it often, I'll even drink that water if I boil it down. and my fish spawn prolifically, I cull heavily and sacrifice undesirable fry to the Jack Dempseys, and only keep a small handful of the strongest fry. ive answered your question directly and I apologize profusely for not addressing it earlier. now then have you seen my galleries. yes or no?
 

NavigatorBlack

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I know ill get flak for this, but anyhow:
I never change my water, I just top it off, I used duckweed, and lots of fast growing light loving plants and Malaysian trumpet snails on a sandy top substrate above mud teeming with tubifex worms. In my method the species stocking of the tank is rather specific is restrictive and I also know my method does not work well with uncontrolled livebearers,
This is the kind of thoughtless advice you should avoid, because it is a person with a pet idea who is not trying to give you advice tailored to your problems. Choose your advisors based on whether they seem to have read what you are asking, and avoid this stuff. This person has a very specific set up that has nothing to do with what you're up against.

It's on par with - help, I have 20 livebearers in a 10 gallon being answered with 'well I have 20 in a 75 and I don't have a problem'. It's nonsense. This person set up a tank with an eccentric plan he/she had worked out and wants to tell the world about. You inherited an overstocked disaster. Apples and oranges.

I see you in a bind. You will always have ammonia because of the overstocking. All the filters and chemicals in the world won't solve that, as you now know. Trust what you have learned, and not just what you've been told. You say you are clueless, but you lay out your question in a way that shows you have many clear clues you have identified.
You have to get to the root cause, because as you can see, the symptom is not going to go away unless the system crashes and you lose your fish. I know you don't want to discuss stocking. You don't need to be told what you've figured out, but don't know an easy way out of. You understand what is wrong already. 50 bandaids aren't going to heal it. Reduction of bioload will - you are going to have to find a way. How we solve it dependent on where we are - I can take fish to a local aquarium society club when I am overstocked. Some people have stores that will take them as feeders. Some cull. All mean losing something though.

There are no easy solutions. You need to get that tank down to the point where a weekly water change will do the trick, and where you don't need all the products, extra filters etc. You are fighting a rearguard action against an overwhelming force. I'm sorry to say that, but the bad guys of heavy stocking will win here. We can delay them, but they win.
 

bitseriously

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This whole thread (going back to OP's original questions) strikes me as being similar to the "I have algae" discussions. There are plenty of ways to treat the symptoms, but you'll always be seeing those symptoms recur unless you treat the underlying problem, or in this case problems. You're overstocked. You know that and you're trying to lower your bioload. Ok. So your current quagmire is "what can I do in the meantime"? I think you have to acknowledge that give or take a few varying opinions (he wrote lightly ), you're already doing everything you can. I think you're looking for a silver bullet that will fix your problems (ie immediately lead to happy stress free fish), but there isn't one. You need to keep doing what you're doing until things balance out, one way or another. None of us knows how long that will take, though many are happy to help you through the process. But sometimes, the hardest thing to do is sit back and say "I've done everything I can, now I need to walk away for a little while".
I would also argue that consistency, even if not perfect, is better than constant change. What I mean is even if your current routine isn't perfect, you need to stick with it for longer before grasping for the next silver bullet. Give things time to improve. Not every symptom (or even death) needs an immediate response -- 'wait and see' might be the best next step.

I also want to comment on the feeding schedule woes. What you're describing sounds like territoriality, which is a space issue, which is a stocking density issue (yes, it does all come back to overstocking). In between feedings, each fish lays claim to a space that is theirs (or tries to). In nature the amount of space a fish (or a school) needs is related to the density of food that's available in the environment. If there's lots of food, animals can coexist at high densities and in close proximity to one another. At low food densities (in between feedings), they either spread out (not an option in a tank) or fight for their own space and the resources it has. When you add food, everyone forgets their woes for a brief moment, and it all looks happy, until that food is gone. The only band-aid I can suggest is to cram your tank full of ornaments and fake plants to create natural boundaries so fish can maybe have an easier time coexisting in a small space. Make sure you have things at all levels, top to bottom.

And through it all, you should recognize that many of us are watching your progress (and your woes) thinking "I don't think I'd go to those lengths", by which I mean your efforts are noticed and commended.
 

David894

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That was pretty messed up of him to just leave you with a ton of fish to care for.

I definitely agree with just going with advice from one well known person. I haven’t been on this forum for that long but, I get conflicting advice and opinions left and right on everything. I’m kinda learning aquariums are like politics, nobody can agree on anything.

Just go with what you think is best after research and if it doesn’t work, well at least you learned something.
 
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