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Old 05-30-2011, 10:24 PM   #1
Mr Puffy
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Post Water Change Debate

Hello everyone,

I was having a face-to-face debate about the frequency of water changes to SW tanks with someone who is allegedly in the business of installing and servicing SW aquariums for 20+ years. According to the "professional", mandatory water changes MUST be done every 2-3 weeks. I strongly disagreed and the debate began to get a tad heated, he being in the business and doing this type of work for a living verses me doing it since 1992 for the passion of it. A voice in my head said "well, that's how this business man puts food on the table so it makes sense in his world" but it left me asking "could he be sorta right?"

Although I failed to provide the details of my tank during this discussion, here they are:

110 Gallons, Saltwater

Fish: (1) Porcupine Puffer approx 5", obtained 12/2006

Wet/Dry Filtration/bio-balls, independent pump
UV Sterilizer, independent pump
Chiller (with heater power AC port), independent pump

Dedicated 8 hour UPS

Current Water Stats
Water Temp: 80
Spec Grav: 1.021
PH: 8.45
Nitrite No2: < 0.25
Nitrate No3: 15
Ammonia NH3/NH4: 0.25


Décor
20lbs of rock (not live)
15lbs of decorative coral (not live)
15lbs of crushed coral

Current Diet: Alternates between frozen prawn from local fish store & scallop (kept frozen) from local fish monger

Food Soaks/Vitamins: VitaChem Marine, Selcon, GVH, Liquid Vitamin D from local health food store

Recent Observation: Crisp vision, very eager to eat, vivid lines, white belly, active during the day (canopy lights on), slow moving at night (canopy lights off)

Last Water Change: 12/10/2010

Last incident requiring attention 5/28/2010 (last year): Fish exhibited poor vision, difficulty locating food and randomly bumping into coral and side of tank

Resolution to problem: Diet change, expanded with variety of food soaks. Fish showed noticeable improvement in 5 days, apparent full recovery in 14 days.

I wanted to get some feedback from others regarding the water change topic, and anything else on this post if you wish, good or bad.
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:57 AM   #2
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I am happy to contribute from the standpoint of both hobbyist and being in the business for 20+ yrs. The best way I know to sum it up is that every tank is an individual and dictates its own needs. More frequent water changes won't hurt a tank the way not enough will, so many people choose not to take chances or test it to its limit to see what a given tank can/will tolerate... but each tank is different. You can set up 2 tanks identical to each other at same time and once you put water into them, they will differ in some way or other and require some things differently than each other.

There are a great many factors that determine the need for water changes in a saltwater tank. Population, of course, but also foods (some are messier than others, some break down faster), how much and how often the food goes in, and even how fast the fish eat it. The animals all utilize minerals in the water, some use more of one than another, and all at different rates. A 100 gallon tank with a single 5 inch puffer is going to differ from a 100 gallon tank set up as a reef with corals and fish alike. A 100 gallon tank with a single puffer will differ based on species of puffer, and again, foods, and personal habits of that given fish... some are messier than others, some eat faster than others, better than others.

There are too many factors to list them all here, but those are some of the biggest that pertain to frequency of water changes. Quality of salt mix and quality of source water also make a big difference, as does type of filtration, types of filter medias, amount of live rock, amount of sand, or even sand vs crushed coral substrate can make a difference too. Skimmer, UV, and other "extra" equipment also make a difference.

So, the best way to say it is that each tank should be treated as an individual based on how it is set up and what is in it. The more frequent the water changes (without overdoing it) the healthier the animals will be.

Pertaining to your situation, due to lack of live rock in the tank and known messy eating habits of the fish, along with the messy types of food going in there, I would be doing at least one water change/wk on that tank... 25 - 30% for optimal health and avoidance of problems.

I hope this helps.
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Old 06-02-2011, 02:03 AM   #3
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I forgot to mention, it also matters where the tank is kept. If it is a tank being serviced in an office building where employees may be feeding it more than they should, where it isn't being watched daily, where dust and debris in the air may get into the tank, etc. and where office workers tend to insist on a fully stocked or overstocked tank, the standard is twice/month. Anything less than that and the tank is "unsightly" and representable for a business facility. I have had a number of accounts that required weekly water changes and checks simply because of the type of office they were in... such as the newspaper printing office where the heavy alcohol fumes were through the building and wreaking havoc on water chemistry in the tank. The alcohol fumes left a residue that got into the water and contributed to cyano bacteria growth. Without a weekly water change the tank was constantly covered in cyano... and this was a 175 gallon tank with only 2 clownfish and 1 damsel and 200 lbs of quality live rock, sump, skimmer, etc. Environment around the tank can make a huge difference. A home tank is more easily watched, tweaked, controlled... which means a different set of maintenance routines.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:44 AM   #4
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That was very insightful. The fish does devour it all its food within 5 seconds of feeding, and nothing even hits the bottom. I also do not over feed, once a day and enough to barely fill a Chapstick cap. I am about to relocate this tank for 30 days due to floor refinishing in my home so it’s bound to experience some changes. I am going to set up temporary 55 gallon at my neighbor’s and get it tweaked then move the fish over for a week prior to the work this way I can monitor it’s behavior. I’m going to use 75% of the existing water. I’m not sure if 30 days is too long or not enough time to wait until returning the aquarium and the fish back into the house after the hardwood floors are finished.

Thanks for the feedback re: Water Changes, I think I will swing back into a w/c routine for the good of the fish.
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Old 06-03-2011, 12:22 AM   #5
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How long you wait to bring the fish back home depends on the fish, really. Some porcupine puffers are very shy, some are very skittish, and some will even freak out at the slightest bit of change. That is one of the wonderful qualities about them, they have very distinctive personalities and no 2 are identical.

Think back to when you first got this fish... how did it react when you first brought it home? How long did it take before it would readily accept food, come out to see you when you came near the tank, and not race to hide as soon as you touched the water for water changes? That will serve as a good example of how stressed out move/change makes this particular puffer, and should help as a guideline for how long it needs to settle in before it can safely be moved again. I have worked with porcupine puffers that took anywhere from 3 days to 3 wks before they would accept food and had actually settled into their new environment. You will have that added bonus of knowing your fish quite well if you have had it since 2006. Let the fish tell you what it needs.

Be sure to protect your new floor from salt creep... salt wreaks havoc on wood and will eat right through it if not caught quickly.

While its good that your fish eats well and quickly, its not just uneaten food that leaves waste in the tank. Foods will leave residue, oils, etc. in the water as soon as they come into contact with it, so if its going into the water, its still leaving its own waste behind. You might want to consider expanding your fish's diet beyond prawn and scallops... there are a lot of options that will offer a better well balanced diet. Snails, different species of shrimps (fresh frozen is fine), clams, silversides, and the one thing I have never had a porcupine puffer turn down.... fresh frozen squid cut into bite size pieces. While the vitamin supplements can help a lot, having the proper foods in the diet and keeping a well rounded diet is the best recipe for good health. Supplements can only do so much... provide so much....

Best of luck to you!
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Old 11-14-2012, 10:18 AM   #6
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Hello Puffer Posters,

Bettababy, thank you for the suggestions they have proven to be helpful. I know this is an old topic but figured I'd publish an update. I successfully moved my puffer back into its tank after 7 months of temporary living in a 55 gallon 2 miles from my house. With daily visits and maintenance, the puffer shows signs of remaining healthy although not very excited about the living arrangement. The fish is resilient. Moving Day; I took almost all of the 55 gallons of water and transferred it to the 110 gallon tank filled the remaining with newly treated water brought up to comfortable temperature range of 81 degrees. Within 3-5 minutes of introducing the puffer to the new 110 gallon tank he did some investigating of the new surroundings and then started to do the hunger swim, demanding food by pacing back and forth at the top of the tank snapping at the glass under the hatch cover where feeding normally occurs. Here’s the environment:

Tank: 110 gallon
Filtration: Wet/Dry bio balls
Sterilization: UV 25 watt
Rock: 35-40lbs of artificial instant reef resting on 1.0- 1.5 inches of crushed coral
Climate: Chiller/Heater system
Canopy Lighting: LED white/blue combo 4 hours during early evening hours, blue LED 1 hour prior to shut down (timer controlled)
Occupants: 1 porcupine puffer approx 6 inches in length, obtained in late 2006

Levels
PH: 8.4
Ammonia NH3/NH+4: 0 ppm
Nitrate NO-3: 10
Nitrate NO-2: 0 ppm
Spec Gravity: 1021 – 1022
Water Temp: 81-82 degrees (chiller controlled)

Food
Frozen Prawn (purchased frozen from LPS)
Frozen Clam (purchased unfrozen/fresh from grocery)
Frozen Scallop (purchased unfrozen/fresh from grocery)
Frozen Squid (purchased unfrozen/fresh from grocery)

Feeding Frequency:
Every other day

Water Quality Observations:
I conduct bi-weekly water testing and closely monitor the behavior of my puffer since that’s usually the first sign of trouble. From early Feb 2011 to early Nov 2012 the tank and fish have shown no signs of stress or abnormal behavior/indications. During this entire time of testing and monitoring for this time period I have performed no water changes. Some of you may cringe at that and believe it’s abuse but the levels have shown to be close to spot-on perfect throughout the entire time and the puffer continues to be playful, alert, full of energy and color and ferocious and demanding during feeding time. Realizing that some problems with the water may be undetectable with my basic testing kit I decided to do a 20% water change and vacuum the bottom the other day. I did a water test before and after, results remained the same, perfect. I suppose the tank has leveled out and is establish with the only a single fish occupying it. I have discussed this scenario in person with a local pet store manager and he was very persistent that ALL salt water tanks must have water changes every two weeks, minimally. That may be the case for some aquariums but not for all, but I think the thrust of his thinking was more service/maintenance driven since that’s the business he’s in. I am not suggesting that all readers of this post reduce their water changes by any stretch of the imagination, but it worked in my case which may be unique. I have had salt water tanks since 1992 and all have required much more maintenance due to the crowding, multiple eating habits from different fish and lack of experience. It’s nice to finally get to a point of having a lot less maintenance and still keep a beautiful aquarium that came with some trial and error and the helpful information gained from forums like this one.
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Old 11-14-2012, 04:05 PM   #7
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Easy way to cure water quality issues when it comes to Nitrates. Carbon Dosing. Ie (Vodka Dosing) issue solved, and easy to dose using equipment dosers if you don't want to do it yourself. I can post a link if you'd like to know more.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:18 PM   #8
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IMHO it is more effective to balance out the tank in a stable manner to insure things are not changing.

ammonia/nitrates/phosphates/co2 are easily controlled be balancing out with plant life like macro algae.

Dosing calcium/alk(carbonate)/magnesium is fairly easy with inexpensive chemicals.

Most the other "stuff" is controlled on the high side through algae filtration or replaced with the food being added.

So IMHO it is entirely possible to go for very long times with no water changes.

But then all I kept was various fish and soft corals for 8-9 years with no water changes.


my .02
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maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish.

mixed marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

see: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/a...-build-295530/
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beaslbob View Post
IMHO it is more effective to balance out the tank in a stable manner to insure things are not changing.

ammonia/nitrates/phosphates/co2 are easily controlled be balancing out with plant life like macro algae.

Dosing calcium/alk(carbonate)/magnesium is fairly easy with inexpensive chemicals.

Most the other "stuff" is controlled on the high side through algae filtration or replaced with the food being added.

So IMHO it is entirely possible to go for very long times with no water changes.

But then all I kept was various fish and soft corals for 8-9 years with no water changes.


my .02
With this said, being as Bob will not speak of how to stabilize the system, you should be using a Sump almost as big as your DT. So a sump 2/3rds the size of your DT filled with Macro Algae and such will controll your entire system.
Carbon Dosing, you don't even need a Sump, all you need is Vodka and a childs medicine syringe.
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:31 PM   #10
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