The most important thing you can do when keeping an aquarium is remember to do water changes. Every single day I have people come into my store, ask me to test their water, and see a problem that could be solved with more consistent water changes. The generally accepted standard is to remove and replace 50% of the water in your aquarium once a month (and more frequent, smaller changes are highly preferred). Yet most of the time people go 3-4 months without doing a change and barely bat an eye.
I do understand that life is busy. In a world where a popular phrase is “don’t fix what isn’t broken” it is easy to look at our fish happily swimming around their tank and tell ourselves, “I’ll take care of it next week” and happily forget that we said the same thing the last 3 weeks in a row. The problem is our fish cannot communicate with us and since most individuals don’t test their water chemistry on a weekly basis we really don’t know if the fish is as happy as it could be. Most people only really notice when their fish is swimming sideways or has an obvious disease like ick. The problem is this is often the point when things have gotten too bad for the average aquarium owner to fix. So, instead of waiting for things to go too far, lets instead focus on reminding ourselves to change water just once a month. It only takes me an average of 10 minutes per change which equates to just 2 hours a year. In the grand scheme of things that is hardly any time at all. We just have to remember to do it and over the years I’ve learned a few ways to remember this important, but very forgettable task.
- Set a monthly reminder on your phone
- Perform a water change every month when rent/the mortgage is due
- Those with other pets often pick up food once or twice a month, time your water changes to correspond with this
- Out do yourself and change just 15% of your water every single weekend
- Move your aquarium to a more visible location and remember this article every time you see it
Truly it doesn’t matter how you remember to do your monthly water changes, it is just important that you do it. Removing water is the primary way you prevent the build up of nitrates in your water which leads to old tank syndrome and the death of fish. It also helps keep pH consistent as the nitrate cycle naturally causes pH to fall over time. It even helps reduce ammonia if you accidentally added too many fish and your bacteria cannot keep up with it. There are simply too many things that water changes fix that you don’t want to forget to perform them. It literally can save the life of your fish.