Why are Water Changes Essential to the Health of the Home Aquarium?

Many people have asked me why I do such a massive water change so frequently for my fish friends. There are definitely misconceptions regarding water changes on the internet and I wish to help debunk some of those misconceptions here with a series of articles. Please note that by no means I claim to be an expert in fishkeeping but I have been doing this for over 5 years and I have lost minimal amount of fish, if done correctly. And many of my African cichlids  have grown from fry to adult size in a very short amount of time which I believe is because of my consistency of water changes.

For those who are new to this channel, I do approximately 70% water change to all of my tanks at home twice weekly.  I have 5 tanks at home, 1 75 gallon, 1 40 gallons, 2 20 gallons, and 1 10 gallon. My 75 gallon tank is my display tank whereas the rest of them are breeders and grow out tanks for my young fish friends.

The benefits of water changes are:

1. Reduce the amount of nitrate and waste products in the aquarium water.

From what we know about the nitrogen cycle, we know that fish waste is converted to ammonia, then it is converted to nitrite, and to nitrate as the end product. Nitrate in itself is a neurotoxin that will slowly kill our aquarium fish when left at a high level (the consensus is about 40ppm). Therefore,  it is the duty of the fish owner to change out the water frequently in order to reduce the amount of nitrate in the aquarium. One tip to reduce the amount of nitrate in the water is to place aquarium plants into the water. For African cichlid owners, we all now that A.C. WILL EAT UP ALL YOUR PLANTS. One tip to counter that is to place those aquarium or household plants into the filter basket instead of directly into the water column. I use the golden apothos plant that I bought from Home Depot to achieve this. More on this topic in the future.

2. Reduce overall stress

Fish do sense stress when the amount of waste product is high in the water. Imagine that you are eating and doing your business in the same room where there is no doors or windows. Like humans, fish do sense stress, either from predators (aka aggressive fish), poor water quality, or negligence from the fish owner.

3.  Promote fin healing and prevent diseases

Nothing beats clean water when it comes to promoting fin healing. The water column in itself has a lot of bacteria, either good or bad. By constantly putting in clean water, you are reducing the incidence of bacterial infection when your fish is hurt from other fish. It also reduces fin rot, hole in the head disease, ich, and other parasitic infections. There is a myth (not verified) from the fishkeeping hobbyists that by doing water changes daily, you can possibly increase the growth rate of fry by 4 times, as long as you doing it correctly. I truly live by that and I have definitely seen improvement with fish growth on a daily basis.

4. Increase clarity of the water

Frequent tank maintenance and clean water definitely increase the clarity and the quality of the water. There will be no detritus trap at the bottom of the tank. There will be no left over food and dusky material floating in the water column. But most importantly, there will be no anaerobic pockets in the aquarium to kill your fish! And you will not need chemical filtration such as buying a lot of carbon bags, chemipure products, and purigen products to keep your water clean. Just do water changes every other day and you save a lot of money!

5. Restore minerals and essential elements in the water

Fish are just like humans and they need a constant flow of nutrients and minerals in order to thrive. By constantly changing water, you are providing fresh and plentiful micronutrients to the fish and decrease the total dissolved solid within the water column. Your fish will be healthier, more colorful, and more interactive!

So these are the benefits of water changes and why I encourage frequent massive water changes for my own aquarium. Please be aware that these are my personal experiences and it may or may not work for you. The amount of water changes required is very dependent on your own aquarium and how much you maintenance your aquarium.  In the next article, I will describe how to know you need to do water change and some of the misconception with water changes! Stay tuned!

Jeffrey Lei MSIV

University of Utah School of Medicine

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