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Thread: Hate water changes? EI can get you there with a small modification

  1. #1

    Hate water changes? EI can get you there with a small modification

    Some assumptions often are discussed about dosing methods, EI is no different.

    One of the main criticisms are water changes. Many hate doing them. Newbies are particularly easy to manipulate with such advice suggesting no or very little water changes.
    The old fish breeder? Not so much, they know better.

    Still, this does not address the facts about what is the best management approach.
    You can modify EI in a very simple way, without a "test kit".

    How? Start with normal EI dosing and then slowly and progressively reduce the dosing rate till you note a negative plant growth response.
    Then simply bump back up to the last prior dosing level. This is the ideal dosing rate for your tank. This takes a few weeks of reduction to do it correctly and of course watching your plants and growth, but you will do this anyway.

    Unlike lean methods, this approach does not stress the plant's full potential of growth, it targets what is called the "critical point".
    Graphically:



    EI is somewhere about 1/4 the way past the Critical point for most aquariums, maybe a very high light tank might have a critical point of normal EI dosing.
    But virtually all other tanks will have a lower critical point.

    While you can keep doing EI and large water changes, there's no harm, some aquarist feel weird about it. Large water changes and more the better help planted tanks, few will argue that. Still, they get squirrely about dosing more ferts than they need.
    While this does no harm, there's also no need to lard on more ferts than are needed.

    If the goal is reduced water change % and/or frequency, then targeting this critical point is a key point.
    It's not that hard to do either.

    I should point out that lowering your light intensity will also reduce the work and water change frequency, thus slowing everything down in the planted aquarium also. This makes everything much easier to manage and keep on top of, including reducing.
    I change the water monthly on this tank:

    the water change frequency and amount.



    Plant biomass is much lower than many other tanks, so I dose about 1/3 EI. This is a VERY easy tank to care for.
    Once a month water change. No trimming really, I'll cut a sod piece and sell it once every 2 to 3 months but that's about all.
    So the aquariums can look very nice and easy to care for using this reduced water change method.

    If you start with ultra lean dosing, then you never see what nice full growth looks like.
    If you want to see this, you need to have good CO2 and light.
    If you need to test CO2 and or light, you need a method to make sure there is no dependencies on nutrients, EI is the best and frankly the only method that suggest that approach.
    Leaner methods end up stunting or slowing growth and you never know what the good growth independent of nutrients even looks like, this is bad for a hobbyist interested in growing plants well.


    So you can use EI initially with water changes, then reduce the dosing down to the Critical point, then reduce the water changes, say 50% every 2 weeks, observe.........
    Then 50% every 4 week and observe.

    One water change a month is good safety net for most aquarist.
    You can certainly go longer, but good management that's proactive starts to get dicy beyond this.
    Many wing it and things are fine, others end up with issues.

    Still, dosing is a small factor in all of this and the success, most of the issues folks have are CO2 related or they have too much light for their management goal.
    If you want less work and less water changes, then low light is the best place to start, that will provide the most wiggle room for CO2 and for dosing ferts.

    Lastly, if you do like to avoid water changes, then sediment based rich ferts will work well in your favor, eg: soil or ADA aqua soil works very well and provides a back up if you run too lean. In the initial stages, these products will be rich in NH4, but after 6-12 months, this source will be exhausted. So make sure to increase the KNO3 dosing a bit as time progresses if you want to keep the same rates of growth and plant health. I use them and suggest other hobbyists use them also as a good back up never hurts.
    New tanks= plan on doing 2-3x a week water changes(50-90) for the 1st 1-2 months.
    Then trim the dosing/water changes down and observe.

    Got a problem? Go back to water changes and richer dosing.
    Then reduce back again.

    EI is not rigid, it's what you make of it and then use your own brain to modify for your management goals.
    It's just a starting place or a method to rule other factors out.

  2. #2
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    Nice to hear this from you Tom, I already did something like this in a low light setup of mine. I reduced EI slowly but still do water changes every week. My main concern is that if I stop doing water changes, one nutrient may build up because it is not used, for example nitrate, but it could be copper from your tracemix as well. I never liked this idea so I stick to water changes (hose from the tank to the drain to empty it, and fill it by connecting it to a faucet and it fills up again). Are the people not doing regular water changes, not scared for a build up?

  3. #3
    I am running since 2months a small tank that has never seen any water change.
    I putted a lot of different stems in the tank just to check out how this or that plant will do,
    The thing I noticed first was that the Rotala Kramer still remained green, while Ludwigias, Cuphea and so on keeped their red colour
    From 20 plants - just only Hydrothrix gardneri seems to dislike if it never gets fresh water, it still grows poorly.
    All the other plants are growing fine since weeks. (also the "exotic ones" like Bucephalandra, Rotala Occultiflora, Lindernia Indian, Eriocaulon australis, Ludwigia Curly Red and so on)

    Tank uses Ada Africana, gets rich fert dosing and full lighning.
    The tank also gets a ("working") EM product that breaks down a little bit Nitrate, Phosphate, organic dirt and so on.
    Meassured after 7weeks: PH 5 -5.5 / Kh0 -0.3 / Nitrate: 20mg/L / Phosphate 0.5mg/L / FE n.a.

    So my question is:
    If it works 2month without water change, why not 4month or even longer?

    How long will a planted tank work without any change?
    Did anyone know this?
    Last edited by Petex; 12-07-2012 at 03:37 PM.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Yo-han View Post
    Nice to hear this from you Tom, I already did something like this in a low light setup of mine. I reduced EI slowly but still do water changes every week. My main concern is that if I stop doing water changes, one nutrient may build up because it is not used, for example nitrate, but it could be copper from your tracemix as well. I never liked this idea so I stick to water changes (hose from the tank to the drain to empty it, and fill it by connecting it to a faucet and it fills up again). Are the people not doing regular water changes, not scared for a build up?
    I've told folks this same method/approach 1001 times, but it always seems to fall on deaf ears.
    Sticky time and then link it if anyone gets any bright ideas about how "bad and wasteful" EI is or tries to fool newbies that water changes are bad and you should not bother doing them.
    Where the heck did common sense go?

    Lost a long time ago on the internet.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Petex View Post
    I am running since 2months a small tank that has never seen any water change.
    I putted a lot of different stems in the tank just to check out how this or that plant will do,
    The thing I noticed first was that the Rotala Kramer still remained green, while Ludwigias, Cuphea and so on keeped their red colour
    From 20 plants - just only Hydrothrix gardneri seems to dislike if it never gets fresh water, it still grows poorly.
    All the other plants are growing fine since weeks. (also the "exotic ones" like Bucephalandra, Rotala Occultiflora, Lindernia Indian, Eriocaulon australis, Ludwigia Curly Red and so on)

    Tank uses Ada Africana, gets rich fert dosing and full lighning.
    The tank also gets a ("working") EM product that breaks down a little bit Nitrate, Phosphate, organic dirt and so on.
    Meassured after 7weeks: PH 5 -5.5 / Kh0 -0.3 / Nitrate: 20mg/L / Phosphate 0.5mg/L / FE n.a.

    So my question is:
    If it works 2month without water change, why not 4month or even longer?

    How long will a planted tank work without any change?
    Did anyone know this?
    I typically suggest 1x a month for the lower range water changes as a measure of good care since many do not test or stop testing after awhile.
    But many folks go longer, 2-4 -6 months without them.

    Some use the test kits or TDS to determine when to do a water change.
    But they are in the minority as a rule.

    Most folks do not and will not use test kits are rule. A few will and try and nag the rest of the hobbyists into doing something they KNOW they will simply not do. social issues like this cannot be changed by telling someone what they want to hear.
    That's frankly dishonest. Water changes based on test kit results is the method folks used long before and PMDD suggested this along with some common sense water changes as well.
    PMDD was the first dosing method on the web.

    Non CO2 methods get no water changes for 6-12 months, some for years, just top off for evaporation. I've done it, it works.
    Most newbies often end in disaster. An experience plant tank person will have much higher chance and likelihood of doing no/few water change methods than ANY NEWBIE.

    Both of you are not that newbie
    Nor am I.

    But we should always be aware that newbies are reading this and what their goals are. Sure, many want to avoid labor/work like water changes, but that's not good advice for them.
    The other issues are: what will help increase the likelihood of success with reduced water change methods?
    Dosing is a relatively small part I would argue, light is the largest. Co2 is a huge factor also.
    Some opt for Excel dosing for long term no water change approaches since it's only about 20% of what CO2 enrichment might add. Thus with a good soil , you really need VERY little dosing and water changes.

    This is a holistic view, not chained to dosing liquid ferts only. Rather, looking at all the elements that drive growth like Carbon and Light.

    We also need to ask what fish goals do we have?

    Maybe with shrimp: non cO2, emergent growth, few water changes, soil etc.
    Maybe if you want to breed fish: water changes 1-2x a week, 50%.
    Maybe if you have a open scape design; lower light, good CO2 and soil, once a month water change.

    As you can see, each goal has a different water change and management routine.

    We cannot suggest that any one single method will be all things to all goals aquarist might have. EI does not pretend to be that, nor can any method.

    Non CO2 methods will not provide the same results as CO2 enriched tanks and vice versa.
    You do get many favorable benefits from doing many water changes and not having to test to know you are within a specific ppm range.
    You can modify dosing(any method really, after all, they all add the same things, just at different rates) and reduce the water changes/frequency/amount %.
    You can adjust the light intensity and reduce the CO2 demand and provide a lot more wiggle room, and less algae issues.
    You can modify the CO2 by switching to Excel etc and less light.
    You can strongly limit PO4 making it the most limiting nutrient factor and thus reduce CO2 demand indirectly.
    You can use sediment based ferts for up to 1-2 years and not dose much to the water.

    These methods all work.

    They all have trade offs and benefits.
    The questions that should be posed really are what is best for the person's goal?
    Without knowing that answer......... you really cannot advise anyone.

  6. #6
    Tom, I've cut down my EI to 1/3 to slow down water changes. 125 gallon tank, water changes weekly took a lot of time. I am using a TDS meter to time water changes, and it pretty much is once in 3-4 weeks. My tap water is 70ppm, I do a water change when it gets to 200.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by nvladik View Post
    Tom, I've cut down my EI to 1/3 to slow down water changes. 125 gallon tank, water changes weekly took a lot of time. I am using a TDS meter to time water changes, and it pretty much is once in 3-4 weeks. My tap water is 70ppm, I do a water change when it gets to 200.
    TDS is not a bad way to tell if there's build up (does not say of what, might be due to the rocks, limestone etc if you have those or seiryu stone etc). But if the build up is mostly due solely to ferts, then you can modify and reduce it using that.
    One way is to not dose a week or a few days etc or so.
    Then see what the TDS does.

    If the rise is due mostly to fert additions, then it's a good method and VERY easy to measure/test Cond/TDS.
    This never had to be rigid or complicated, folks seem to want to make it complex for some reason.

    Choosing a plant or fish species is much more difficult.
    At least for me.

  8. Ha! We can't blame the internet for this, Tom! I remember reading an ad in a magazine in the early 70's (I know because I was still in high school! ) for a product that, if you poured it into your tank on a regular basis, kept you from ever having to do water changes. I didn't believe it then either!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by krandall View Post
    Ha! We can't blame the internet for this, Tom! I remember reading an ad in a magazine in the early 70's (I know because I was still in high school! ) for a product that, if you poured it into your tank on a regular basis, kept you from ever having to do water changes. I didn't believe it then either!
    Living Aquarium Vital, Marc Weiss product. I'm still pissed about that, Hehe
    That was in the 1990's.
    Then those Ecoequalizer magnetic do hickies.
    Reef folks are plagued but they go off on vendor snake oil sales men.

    It's like folks who have a huge lawn and hate mowing the grass.
    Probably not your cup of tea then.

    Here's a good link to huckers and snake oil water baloney, not a bad time to bring this link up again.

    http://www.chem1.com/CQ/wonkywater.html

  10. Oh, I remember that one too. But that isn't the one I'm thinking about... This was. Something different.

    I seem to remember that Marc had a whole line of snake oil products.... Like one for each type of fish.

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