“No water change” aquarium experiment

  • #1
This is my “no water change” aquarium experiment. The basics: 30g aquarium, clay substrate with a plenum, heavily planted ( I’m more of a plant guy and that was my motivation to try this. But I do understand that the fish are integral), 10g sump with a bcb basket and some mechanical filtration, 5 gallon ATO, tank is drilled with an overflow and return pump, I have a lot of electronics on the aquarium that aren’t really needed but I thought it was cool to mess with. I have CO2 but I’m not sure how helpful it Is but anything to help the plants grow.
I had some issues with snail hitchhikers. I got some assassins and they are at equilibrium now. They were eating all my plants. Almost killed all my floaty plants but they have bounced back. Have algae issues but I believe that was caused but way to much light getting into the aquarium. I’ve cut light by 60% and will keep an eye on it.
Never had an issue with nitrates or ammonia after the cycling phase. I started cycling around September ‘21 and it’s March ‘22 now. Have never changed the water. Just top off with dechlorinated tap water. Have good water here in Chicago. Bought my fish and shrimp locally and they are all quarantined in this water.
Currently I have 8 pink minnows, 7 pristellas, pond snails and assassins, cherry shrimp (3 at the moment bc they are expensive where I bought them) I’m hoping they can reproduce with the fish I have in there. They hide mostly but it’s funny when the big female comes out and “does laps” running into everybody. She’s big enough where nothing can hurt her really. And I have a ghost pleco in there.
All in all I was happy to do this and share it with my son. It was quite a bit of work and expense. If I didn’t have a family that was supportive and gifted me a lot of the components I would have never gotten it done.

  • #2
You'll be fine. ;D Plants is really all that's needed to make an aquarium a no-water-change one.
  • #3
A cheaper way is the Walstad Method but yours is great too :)
  • #4
What about the trace elements that fish use up in water if its not replaced by a water change or dosing. Nitrates are just a part of water changes.
  • #5
Also welcome to fishlore
  • #6
What about the trace elements that fish use up in water if its not replaced by a water change or dosing. Nitrates are just a part of water changes.
Would probs be pretty easily supplied by fish food and tap water tbh.

I often do something similar as op to be honest, and the fish grew very well and breed and so on, so seems like it is a non-issue.
  • #7
If OP has hard water then TDS will build up over time without water changes. One of my tanks went up to 1000+ TDS after a year of only top-offs. Cherry shrimp also becomes significantly less active at 500+ TDS from what I've noticed.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Just a quick response to some of the comments and thanks for your input:
It would have been and interesting experiment to try it without the bcb basket and see if the plants could do all the water cleaning but for my experiment I wanted my nitrates and ammonia at a constant 0.
There was plenty of things I could have done to make this project cheaper. I’m aware. But the gear head in me wanted a few toys involved. I like being able to control everything from my phone and all that.
As far as trace elements I add about 5 gallons of tap water a week in the ato. I have no covers on anything so there is plenty of evaporation. I do add about 2 ml of iron every few days and that has been working for me. I’ve tested and it’s within spec. I also add a quality all in one fertilizer about once a week. Only bc I noticed the plants struggling and once I started doing that they all got healthy again.
I haven’t thought about the TDS issue for the shrimp. I will check that and make sure it’s in spec. My female is found her laps today which she does about once or twice a week. It’s very entertaining. I will be very concerned if she stops. Thank you for reminding me of this.
I’m not lazy but the point of this is whole thing is that I didn’t think ppl should have to make significant time and money sacrifices just to have an aquarium. Why change the water you don’t have to? Why not have a natural aquarium that takes care of its self. I still do have to a bit of maintenance. Cleaning the mechanical filters about once every couple weeks. I do major cut backs of the plants once a month. Clean the glass and the pumps when they get to many snail shells attached to them. Check water perimeters every few weeks at this point since things are stable. I’m happy with it so far. Would I do this again. Probably not unless there was some experiment I wanted to do. It’s a lot work doing something like this but I enjoyed it. Also I live on the 3rd floor unit with suicide stairs and no elevator so everything got up here on my back. Thanks again for reading and all the comments. Helps a lot.

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