How to Change Aquarium Water

Do you know exactly how to change aquarium water? Do you know the things to watch out for during this process?

Do not worry, we will cover this together. Just read through the steps and tips below and you will safely be changing aquarium water shortly.

Now that you know everything about Aquarium Water Changes, now it is time to understand how to change aquarium water successfully.

There are several different methods available for changing aquarium water. Everyone will have their favorite method or they will have little choice in how they do it. It really doesn’t matter just as long as you are changing aquarium water on a regular basis. Your fish will greatly appreciate it and when you want to show off your aquarium to family and friends, the water will be crystal clear!

When changing aquarium water, remember our goal is to get fish waste and pollutants out of the aquarium water. A lot of the waste is usually trapped in the substrate (gravel) or under fish tank decorations. You must get this waste out of the aquarium along with the dirty water. This requires you to move aquarium decorations and the substrate around during the water change. While removing the dirty water be sure to suck out the solid waste products. This will ensure a healthy aquarium!

Below I will discuss several different ways to change aquarium water and the steps involved.

Hose and Bucket Method

The old fashion way to change aquarium water is to simply use a hose and bucket. Many purchase a cheap clear vinyl hose from the local hardware store along with a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Very simple right?

This is the cheapest but not necessarily the easiest way to change aquarium water. This will be a good choice for those with small aquariums such as 15-gallons or less. Completing partial water changes this way is simply draining the water out of the tank and into the empty bucket.

Here are the steps:

  • Get a towel and spread it out on the floor before you begin changing aquarium water.
  • Unplug all electrical equipment that comes into contact with the aquarium water. You do not want to get electrocuted! Also the aquarium heater will need to be unplugged so it will run hot outside of the water during the fish tank water change.
  • Start your syphon by placing one end of the hose in the aquarium water and sucking in the other end. Set this end of the hose in the bucket and begin cleaning your aquarium.
  • Now you should have water flowing out of your aquarium and into your 5-gallon bucket. You should now start moving aquarium decorations and gravel around to suck up the solids that are trapped in the aquarium.
  • Once you have removed 20-30% of the aquarium’s water you will remove the end of the hose from the aquarium. Carefully lift your now full 5-gallon bucket of dirty aquarium water and go empty it. Be careful lifting this because water is heavy! Now it is time to replace that dirty water with fresh water.
  • Before you add the new water to the aquarium, ensure that match the temperature and water parameters of the existing fish tank water. Slowly add the new water so you do not shock the fish. I usually do this by using a 1-gallon water pitcher. I would pour 1-gallon of water slowly and then repeat until the tank is filled again.
  • Dechlorinate the water with a water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramine. You can add this additive with each gallon of new water or add it in intervals during the water change. Follow the instructions on the manufacture’s label.
  • When all of the water is replaced, and you finished working in the aquarium water you may now plug all of your electrical equipment back up.

Gravel Vacuum Method

This method is very similar with the hose and bucket method but you use a vacuum attachment in this process. There are basically two types of gravel vacuums to help change aquarium water. Manual and mechanical gravel vacuums.

This method is an excellent and somewhat easier way to clean the aquarium gravel. During this process you remove the solid waste trapped in the substrate along with the dirty water in the aquarium. Depending upon which type of aquarium gravel vacuum you own, there are two main ways to change water using this method.

The steps to use the gravel vacuum method is the same as the hose and bucket method. The only difference would be how you start the siphon. Starting the suction will depend upon which model you purchased. If you have the hand held “manual” gravel vacuum, you should be able to start the suction by holding the clear plastic tube vertical in the aquarium and gently begin shaking the tube up and down in the water. The suction should start automatically.

Automatic Siphoning Systems

python so spill cleaning systemThe easiest way to change aquarium water and vacuum aquarium gravel is to use an automatic siphoning system such as the Python No Spill and Fill system. If you have a large tank or multiple fish tanks in your home, you will greatly appreciate how easy this system can make your life! The automatic siphoning water changing system hooks up to a sink faucet and uses the suction created from the water flow out of the faucet to start your siphon. The tank water is then pulled through a vinyl tube and into your sink drain. It is as simple as that. The cleaning process is exactly the same as mentioned above but there are NO BUCKETS to empty.

Things to Remember When Performing
Aquarium Water Changes

No matter how you change your aquarium water, you must remember several key items so you do not kill or injury your tropical fish.

Matching Aquarium Water Temperature

When refilling your aquarium with fresh water, please remember to match the aquarium water that is already in the aquarium tank. Even small but sudden temperature changes can shock and kill your tropical fish. If your aquarium water is 78°F you want the new water to be as close to 78°F as possible. The last thing you want to do is change aquarium water in the winter and put new water in the tank at 60°F. You can easily monitor this by purchasing a digital thermometer and matching the water’s temperature before adding it to the aquarium.

Degassing the New Aquarium Water

When you add the new water back into your aquarium, you must degass the water. So, what does this mean?

What that is cold or cooler in temperature will hold more dissolved gasses. The gasses are released when exposed to oxygen.

This is usually more common during winter months when our water is heated by hot-water heaters. When the water is put into our aquariums the gas can be seen in the form of tiny bubbles in the newly added water. These tiny bubbles once absorbed by the tropical fish release and can actually hurt or kill your tropical fish.

I see this a lot when I change aquarium water in my fishroom during the winter months. To help degass your new water, you need to circulate the water as much as possible when adding it to the tank. I typically will put my python hose about 2 inches above the surface of the aquarium water directly in the flow of my filter. The surface agitation dissolves most of the tiny bubbles. Using a powerhead to help circulate the water during a water change will help also.

Chlorine Removal

One of the biggest mistakes new aquarium owners make is not removing chlorine and chloramine from the new water added after an aquarium water change. Many think they are doing a great thing for their fish and end up killing their tropical fish on accident. Chlorine and chloramine are added to most water systems to clean the water and kill bacteria. These two deadly chemicals will actually burn the tissue and gills of your fish resulting in permanent damage or death to your tropical fish. I add chlorine and chloramine remover as the new water is being added to my aquarium tank. I suggest you follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s label.

Dosing Additives/Medications

If you are dosing any additives such as pH or alkalinity buffers you should add these back into the water now. Only add the amount that you took out. Do no redose the entire tank. Read the manufacturer’s label and only add the same amount that you removed during the water change. If you do not add this back to the aquarium tank, you may have a pH or Water Hardenss spike. This can also damage or kill your tropical fish.

Test Aquarium Water Parameters

After your aquarium water has settled (30 minutes – 1 hour) test your water parameters. Ensure that you do not have a ph or water hardness spike. You should not have any trouble with ammonia, but check ammonia, nitrates and nitrites at this time also. It is better to be safe than sorry.

If you still have a high ammonia or nitrate level, you may change another 15-20% of the aquarium water later that day or the next day. If levels are dangerously high, immediately change aquarium water and retest.

Related posts:

3 Responses to “How to Change Aquarium Water”

Read below or add a comment...