How You Change Fish Tank Water Without Killing Fish

In Tropical Fish by PaulK

You should be performing water changes regularly to maintain a healthy tank. When you notice your water getting gunky or you have an ammonia spike for some reason (you should find out the cause). Your filter may not be doing its job which is another issue.

You need to exercise caution and take some steps to ensure that the water change goes smoothly without too much upheaval and you’re not killing your fish.

Let’s face it. Changing the water in your aquarium is an upheaval to the tank. Your stirring things up like waste matter. Your changing water parameters, temperature, and possibly pH levels too.

This is why you shouldn’t change more than 25% of your water at a time.

Here are the top 5 Aquarium water change disasters:

#1 Not using a water conditioner for the new water.
Many municipalities put chlorine and chloramine and other chemicals in the water system to help with bacteria. Fish can’t handle chlorine and if you don’t treat the water, they could die depending on how sensitive the fish is.

Don’t forget to condition the water before or immediately after a water change. If you’re adding water from a python directly then you need to add enough conditioner for the whole tank.

#2 The shock of water parameter changes.
This could be a drastic change in water temperature or pH levels or some other chemicals that could be in the water. It’s not very practical to test your tap water all the time so you find out the hard way. You’re at the mercy of the water treatment plant because sometimes they will put chemicals in the water for other reasons like floods and such. You won’t know about it until it kills your fish.

So make sure that the water temperature and pH is not too different than what is in your fish tank already. Let the water get up to at least room temperature and do a pH test first before adding the water.

#3 Doing too much in the water change.
You’re trying to vacuum the gravel, clean the glass, or maybe add some fish stock to the tank at the same time you’re doing the water change.

What this does is causes a loss of beneficial bacteria. The fish are producing waste thus creating more ammonia that is not being absorbed. It may be too much for your filter to deal with. This could cause ammonia and nitrite spikes in your fish tank and ultimately death.

#4 Behavior change
After a water change, fish will start to behave erratically. Some fish that weren’t too aggressive or not aggressive at all will start to behave aggressively and go after other fish. In some cases, they will attack and kill another male or the smaller, weaker fish. If you notice this type of behavior, then you’ll want to quarantine the guilty fish for a while. Then you can reintroduce the aggressor back into the tank after a week or so.
#5 The Flood
It happens when you go to fill the tank back up with a python or hose and you get distracted. All of a sudden the aquarium is overflowing and you have fish and water all over the place. Focus on the task at hand so you won’t have this disaster!

Tips for a successful water change:

#1 Focus 100% on changing the water. Don’t get distracted and forget things.

#2 Make a checklist and tick off each important item as you go.

#3 Test your city water periodically. You can get a test kit here on Amazon.

#4 Watch for any change in fish behavior and quarantine any overly aggressive fish.

#5 Always monitor your water parameters before and after the water change to see if there is an ammonia or nitrite spike or any change in pH levels. Let the new water sit overnight to bring it up to room temperature. Also, treat the water with conditioner before adding it. This will give the water some time to evaporate the chlorine too.

#6 Unplug the aquarium heater if you use one. You need to unplug your aquarium heater 30 minutes before your water change. If you leave it on and it’s not fully submerged, it could overheat and break.

#7 Make sure and plug in the heater and filter after the water change. You may forget and cause all kinds of problems.

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