An aquarium water change, removing part of the water and replacing it with freshwater, should be done on a regular basis. Never remove and replace the entire contents of the tank.
When the entire aquarium is drained, the beneficial bacteria that have been carefully cultivated are often killed or washed away as well.
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These are prized for their ability to reduce harmful toxins that are created in the tank by its various inhabitants, visible as well as invisible.
This production and decay process continues always, as well as respiration and defecation from the fish. The production of ammonia and nitrite result, finally, in the creation of nitrate as the last step in the nitrogen cycle.
Unlike either ammonia and nitrite, which are fleeting, the nitrate levels will build up over time. If left unchecked, they can concentrate to levels that are not healthy for the fish to live.
The most important role of the partial water change is to dilute the nitrate concentration by drawing out water high in nitrate and replacing it with fresh water with little or no nitrate content.
The water level of an aquarium should be kept slightly over the bottom of the top rim of the aquarium. The top of the water will be hidden by the rim. This provides a living picture that is properly framed.
When the level drops to the point of being seen, the lost, evaporated water needs to be replaced. This is not the same as a partial water change.
In fact, since there are other chemicals and compounds dissolved in the water, these are left behind and can further concentrate. If the only maintenance that is done is to replace water as it evaporates - compounds will concentrate.
The physical chemistry of the water changes over time because of the left-overs. Pulling them out and replacing with fresh water without the dissolved content helps keep all the water characteristics even and balanced over time.
The final reason to perform an aquarium water change is to eliminate, as much as possible, the dirt and debris that gets trapped in the gravel. This can add pollution to the aquarium if left undisturbed.
The very best way to remove water from an aquarium is to use a gravel cleaner. See the video on the page for tips on how to use one correctly and efficiently.
A gravel cleaner will draw up wastes and particles that fell into the substrate before the filter was able to remove them. You will be surprised at how much collects in the gravel between regular siphoning periods.
I tend to only remove about 10% of the capacity of the aquarium a week. Since I only do gravel cleaning when I am maintaining the filters in my tanks, I will perform this task once every two weeks.
This means that I perform a 20% aquarium water change, where I use the gravel cleaner to siphon off the dirtiest water in the aquarium and maintain the aquarium gravel as clean as possible, every two weeks.
If I am unable to pull the wastes from the entire bottom surface area of the tank while the water is being drained, I will go back and start there the next time I am ready to do the next maintenance routine on the aquarium.
I want to be careful to avoid shocking the fish with either a difference in the temperature or too great a variation in characteristics between old and new water.
I prefer never to go over a 20% aquarium water change. If there is illness, or the aquarium is under heavy waste distress, I will take the first 20% and then wait a day before doing the same ritual all over again.
It is often much better to spread the huge water replenishment task over a series of days rather then shocking the fish with sudden and dramatic massive replacement
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Beginning Aquarium Tips