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How to do water changes without really trying

I have battled Black Brush Algae in my aggressive-fish tank for years. This is the tank that my fire eel "Sparky" lives in. He is longer then my arm.by quite a bit. The tank is decorated with many pieces of bogwood, some Java fern, and some Anubias. The plants are attached to the wood and the substrate is just a thin layer of sand. Sparky would uproot or otherwise damage any other plant setup. 

Now, I don't maintain a sterile environment between my tanks, so all my tanks have BBA. But in my other tanks it is not a problem due to competition for nutrients from other plants (both internal and external), lower fish loads, and the constant efforts of SAEs and shrimp. But oh, the misery I have experienced with BBA in Sparky's tank has been hard to bear. I periodically take out all the wood and have tried various combinations of bleaching it, dipping it potassium permanganate (this is way better then bleaching for the plants), boiling it, scrubbing it, and braising it with a blowtorch. Some of this is hard on the plants (Ha, ha), but it always comes back. I have tried chemical absorption materials, high tech pads, biological nitrate reducers, and, most recently, an enormous and expensive nitrate reactor (which I finally returned).

Tom's solution is to lower the fish load. Since most of the fish load is just one fish this course of action would be messy at best. I tried increasing the size of the tank. Sparky just got bigger. The only thing that I attempted that seemed to have any effect was daily 50% water changes. But that was a hard practice to maintain. 

As water changes are the only solution that holds any real hope, I started thinking about how to make doing them much easier and faster. I already had a pretty good system that allowed me to change 80% of the water in Sparky's 92-gallon corner tank in just under 20 minutes. But it involved getting out the 25' hose, snapping it on the "U" shaped " PVC pipe w/strainer that then hangs on the edge of the tank and then throwing the hose out my second story window and turning off the pumps.~10 minutes to drain. Then I pull in the hose and snap it on to my modified bathtub faucet.5-7 minutes to fill. Turn on the pumps, coil the hose and hang it in the bathroom and I am done. Not bad if I am doing it once a week. Actually, I can change 50+% of the water in my 2-60 gallon tanks, my 92 gallon tank, and my 28 gallon office tank(s) in just about an hour.

How to improve on this system. The first thing I thought of is a simple way to speed up draining Sparky's tank. The location of this tank in the corner of my living room is very fortuitous. It is literally 3"from the window. So I made a PVC "U" from 1" diameter pipe and attached a 6' shop vac hose. This setup hangs in my hall closet without coiling or anything. When dropped in the tank and out the window it drains ~50 gallons in 2 minutes and 22 seconds. It is an amazing sight. 

Now to automate the filling of the tank. Again the location of the tank is very fortuitous. I realized that it is just on the other side of the wall from my refrigerator, and behind my refrigerator is a tiny spigot intended to supply water to the icemaker. I put on a "T" fitting, running a tube through the wall and into the tank stand, attaching the tube to an standard household water filter with a carbon block (no cloramines here in Napa yet) and then ran a tube to the Kent float valve installed in my sump. I also installed a 500-watt heater and a circulation pump in the sump.

Everything works as planned. 50% (i.e. 50-gallon) water changes now take less then three minutes, and I do one every night before going to bed. Needless to say, my algae problem has gone out the window! In fact, I like this system so much I plan to install it in my discus and primary planted tank. As the water will need to be warm for my discus I plan to use two saddle valves close to my water heater on the hot and cold pipes and combine the output to achieve the 80-degrees needed. 

Water changes are so much easier when all one needs to do is the draining part.

If anyone is interested in attempting this arrangement I have pictures I would be happy to email.


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