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In an early post, I covered water change basics; frequency to complete, percentage of water to change, and conditioning your water prior to adding it to your aquarium.  In this post, we will cover an aquarium water change system with different options to perform your water change’s; from a few tanks in your living room to the larger scale fish room.

Hopefully, this will encourage you to accomplish those water changes on schedule and not dreading the daunting task.   These suggestions will hopefully assist you into setting up your own process that works reducing the time it takes to do water changes and being completed more frequently. 

The concepts I talk about are not the one and only system to accomplish them; each option can be revised to satisfy your needs.  I have transitioned from 3 tanks in my living room taking 2 hours to finish water changes without deep cleaning any of them, to 11 tanks in my fish room that I can finish in under 1 hour with deep cleaning (scrubbing glass, vacuuming gravel, etc).  That’s 8 more tanks while reducing the time by an hour, how might you ask?  Let’s dive into how I shortened the time it takes while adding more tanks.

Fishroom Water Change System

This is the aquarium water change system I use in my fishroom, it is a life saver.  There is no drilling of aquariums; it is not automatic, almost feels automatic not having to haul buckets back and forth.  Although we will go through how my system functions, it can be modified to fit your room as desired.  There may be constraints that limit how your system can operate, my system was based off of not having a floor drain in the fish room or the basement.  All I had was the washing machine drain in the adjacent room.

Aquarium water change aging water container
55 Gallon Tote to age water

The only part of my system that I need to run a hose is refilling my water aging tank, and by tank I mean a black 55 gallon storage tote from home depot.  I want to get a food grade water storage container but have not found a size that will fit through the door and work for my setup.

Draining Water

For a quick easy method to collect my water, I used 1 inch PVC with 3 risers, one at each end of my rack and another in the middle.  The risers are about 4” in height to allow the siphon hose to go in far enough so it won’t pull out as I move it around.  To ensure the water drained to my catchment, I had a 1 inch drop per 8 feet, which is the length of the rack.

Aquarium water change drain riser
Drain Riser

This water drains into a 33 gallon plastic garbage can with a 1-inch hole cut for PVC to fit into it to drain.  For a pump I use Aquatop 977 gallons per hour (GPH) Submersible pump, I had to use this pump to get enough flow for the head pressure I had to get the water up to the ceiling to pump out of the room. 

Aquarium water change catchment container
Drain Water Catchment

Coming off of the pump, I used ¾ inch braided flexible tubing connecting it into 1/2 inch PVC that runs across the ceiling to just above my washing machine drain.  The rest of the way to the drain I just cut a section of regular garden hose to run into the drain.  This hose fits in next to the washing machine drain tube.

This system for draining my tanks has been a lifesaver, with 3 gravel vacuum’s and hoses along with my home made PVC siphon when I don’t want to vacuum substrate.  In approximately 15 minutes, I can drain the 25% of water out of all tanks.  The only needed maintenance is every month I pull my pump and clean the filter on it, which takes 5 minutes.

With this system, I can drain and vacuum substrate on 10 aquariums in approximately 15 minutes.

Water Refill

After every water change I do I cycle my tap water for at least 3-4 days with aeration of the water using air stones to help eliminate all chlorine in my water.  I store water in a 55-gallon rectangle tote with a lid.  I cut holes in the top to run my airline hose and pump hose will lid is secure. To ensure that all the chlorine, chloramine, and ammonia have been removed I use Prime.

I use an Aquatop 607 GPH Submersible Pump, one to get enough flow for the head pressure and ensuring flow is not to violent that will cause to much water movement that will move substrate and plants around.  I wish I would have purchased another 977 because I do not have enough flow to fill a top and bottom tank quickly at the same time.  To determine the size of pump you need the Aquatop boxes have a nice chart that show GPH at a certain height (head pressure) above the pump.

Aquatop GPH Chart

I ran pex tubing from the pump up the wall to the ceiling then around the room. The red arrows point to the PEX fill lines.   One suggestion is to use 90° fittings on corners; I did not, and it just doesn’t look as clean with rounded corners. The PEX line on the right is just a return back to the storage tank, I put this in in the event I had to much pressure I could open a valve and reduce my flow to the tank lines.

Aquarium water change pex fill lines
PEX Tubing Fill Line

Above the center of each rack I added a brass tee that allowed me to run hose down with 3/8 inch ice machine tubing to an shutoff ball valve. 

With the Aquatop 607 GPH I am using and only filling tanks on the bottom rack, I can run 3 fill lines at one time without reduced flow. I start filling tanks right after the first tank has been drained.

This is the slowest process in my system, but allows me time to scrub glass, clean artificial plants, make minor changes or clean sponge filters while water is still filling.

Summary of System

Aquarium water change system that keeps water changes enjoyable, even allowing time to enjoy your fish as you do it.  NO Bucket lugging.  No need to run hoses around the floor to drain, just a standard length of tubing that will reach from siphon to drain inlet.  Water flows seamlessly to the water catchment and pumped to the drain. 

Refill is even easier all you have to remember is moving the nozzle when a tank is full, don’t get sidetracked cleaning another aquarium.  No buckets to move around.  Can have aged water that is clear of chemicals ready for your water changes. 

This is by no means the best way to do water changes; however, it has reduced my time doing water changes dramatically.  With 3 aquariums in my living room, it took me 2 hours to do the water changes alone, then add more time to scrub the aquariums.  Now, I am doing water changes, substrate vacuuming, scrubbing aquariums, and cleaning filters for 11 aquariums of varying sizes from 20 to 55 gallons in an hour.  It’s an unbelievable feeling to enjoy water change days.

I understand not everyone has a fish room or the ability to have a system like this for reducing water change times. Below I cover a few methods to hopefully make your water changes more enjoyable and slightly faster.


Aquarium water change bucket

I am relatively sure this is how everyone started doing water changes; I say this because most people started off with merely one tank advancing to two, who knows how many after that.  The bucket is the simplest method if you only have a few tanks in your living room where you cannot develop an elaborate system to make it more efficient.

Bucket Process

This is the basic process that everybody starts out with, perhaps this is the reason people get out of the hobby.  It doesn’t have to come to this, technology has advanced other ways have been developed that will not ruin the enjoyment of the aquarium hobby.

Aquarium water change substrate vacuum
Substrate Vacuum

With a substrate vacuum, you create your siphon pulling water out of your tank into a bucket.  Once the bucket is full, you stop the siphoning picking up the bucket approximately 40 lbs. and haul it over to the sink, tub or toilet to empty the water.  Then it’s back to the tank to start the process all over again.  Doesn’t sound bad does it, if you have a 20-gallon tank it’s not, imagine owning a 100-gallon tank and performing a 25 percent water change your looking at 5 buckets.  That’s merely the emptying of the tank now its 5 more buckets to fill the tank back up.  If the tank is reasonably high off the ground, will you be capable of lifting the bucket and empty it in, or will you have to move the water again? 

Then, too clean the aquarium of algae from the glass, plants or other surfaces will add even more time.  After vacuuming substrate if you still need to take out more water you can pull artificial plants and scrub the algae off while water is siphoning, being certain not to forget it’s still emptying.  Maybe I’m the only one getting distracted when doing water changes. I sure hope so!

Python No Spill Clean and Fill
Python No Spill Clean and Fill

Python No Spill Clean and Fill

I will throw a disclaimer in here I have never used the python; However, I know how it works.  I moved to a fish room prior to purchasing this system.

This aquarium water change tool is an incredible addition for a hobbyist; it eliminates the need for carrying buckets to empty or fill your aquarium.  It generates a suction when water passes the hose running to the aquarium.  Once you have drained the needed amount of water from your aquarium, you can adjust the nozzle at the sink and run water to fill your aquarium.

The only drawback with the python is if you need/ want to age your tap water to eliminate chlorine or some other water impurities this can not take place prior to water entering your aquarium. 

If you have a system that you use please share so others can see different ideas. If you have further questions on mine please email me and I will be happy to answer any questions or assist in any way.


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