Introduction: Project:Aquarius, the Easy Aquarium Water Change Device

Picture of Project:Aquarius, the Easy Aquarium Water Change Device

 New From Sam Pask Design - Project:Aquarius, the easy to use Aquarium Water Change Device, Project Aquarius is an ad-hoc solution to the many problems encountered when water changing a fish tank, solving problems like carrying heavy water buckets, starting and controlling siphons, replacing tank water and filling large containers from the sink. Project:aquarius is designed from a series of easy to get hold of components available both on the high street and or online.

Step 1: Containing Water

Picture of Containing Water

Project:Aquarius is designed to be fully customisable to suit the users fish tank, the main component behind any project is the water containers, The best i have found are plastic jerry cans, which come in a variety of sizes varying from 5 litres up to 50 litres, ideally you want a container that can hold the amount of water that you need to water change in one go to save you making multiple trips. 

A recommended water change for a tropical or cold water tank is 20% every two weeks so ideally a barrel that holds 20% of the tank contents would be perfect. so for a 60 litre aquarium needs approximately a 12 litre water change and a 100 litre bucket needs a 20 litre. Marine fish tanks require 10% water changes every week so the container size can be worked out the same way but with 10% buckets instead of 20%

The tank i created this project for is a 50 litre tropical tank so i purchased two 10 litre plastic jerry cans, one for tank water and one for clean water. from my local aquarium.

Step 2: Moving Water

Picture of Moving Water

A jerry can full of water can be very heavy, particularly in large volumes and over long distance, to counteract this heavy lifting issue, i have included a trolley in my design so you can move the water simply and efficiently through your home or workplace to your aquarium while exerting very little effort.

The product i have found ideal for this purpose is the boot trolley, designed to carry shopping to and from the boot of your car very easily is ideal for the purpose of moving heavy water containers, available in a number of sizes so it can incorporate any size containers comfortably and can be folded flat for easy storage when not in use. i purchased mine at a hardware store although there is lots available online

Step 3: Draining Water

Picture of Draining Water

The next component required is a gravel siphon, already used widely as a way of removing aquarium water and cleaning the gravel at the same time. although for inexperienced fish keepers can be difficult to use. Widely available from any decent fish shop. the gravel siphon simply consists of a siphon hose with a plastic tube on the end to mix through the gravel, to save money it is also very easy to make a grave siphon with the top of a coke bottle and some hosing. gravel siphons come in a number of sizes and lengths, so you are able to pick the ideal one to suit your aquariums needs.

The gravel siphon also works extremely well as a funnel and makes filling up containers on the floor at taps very easy and stops the need for precarious balancing and overfilling buckets.

Step 4: Moving Water Uphill

Picture of Moving Water Uphill

Probably the most difficult part of a water change is the refilling process you have drained your tank with a siphon, but now must lift a heavy bucket, spilling water everywhere and pouring water into the tank too fast destroying you aquarium decor, to counteract this issue i have used a PVC Hand Pump available from any good hardware store or easy to find online the PVC hand pump allows the user to simply pump the water up a hose and into there aquarium exerting very little and effort and in a controlled way, the PVC hand pump can also be used in reverse to start a siphon for inexperienced fishkeepers who struggle.

Step 5: Travelling Water

Picture of Travelling Water

 To get the water from the container to the pump, you will need some sort of hose i chose the unkinkable pond hosing to fit the outlet dimensions of my PVC pump, this works extremely well as its fairly solid and won't kink causing any pressure build up.

this can be attached to the PVC pump and also with a simple reducer connector can be attached to the siphon hosing allowing the pipe to be easily attached detached and reattached with very little fuss or effort.

Step 6: Connectors

Picture of Connectors

with the containers taking up almost all the space in my boot cart i had very little space for the pump and siphon. so i purchased some velcro tree ties which attached to the side of the cart which allowed me to easily strap the pump and siphon on and off and keeps the project as a neat complete unit. the tree ties are very cheap to buy, but any sort of velcro would work just as well. 

Step 7: Using Project:Aquarius to Fill

Picture of Using Project:Aquarius to Fill

The first thing you need to do when using project aquarius is not usually the first thing you need to do when water changing a fish tank, but firstly you need to fill your clean water container at the tap, wheel the project close to the tap and remove the gravel siphon place the hose end into the container and take the gravel hoover and place it under the tap like a funnel then turn the tap on filling letting the water run down the gravel hoover down the tube and into the container, filling the container easily with no mess or heavy lifting, when the container is full to the required level turn off the tap gather up the siphon, add the required amount of dechlorinater to the water (see bottle instructions) replace the lid on the container and wheel your project:aquarius over to your fish tank.

Step 8: Using Project:Aquarius to Siphon

Picture of Using Project:Aquarius to Siphon

Siphoning is something that alot of fish keepers initially struggle with either struggling to get the siphon started or over siphoning and ending up with a mouth full of dirty fish water, the project is designed to be extremely easy to use. if you are comfortable with siphoning then you can use the siphon as normal but if you are someone that struggles when starting siphons then, you can attach  the PVC hand pump to the siphon hose and draw the handle up pulling the water down the tube and begin the siphon this way, when the siphon has started you can easily move the hose through the gravel waiting for the level in the tank water container matches the level in the freshwater container, when it does remove the siphon from the water to stop the siphon.

Step 9: Using Project:Aquarius to Top Up

Picture of Using Project:Aquarius to Top Up

One of the main features of the Project:Aquarius is the ease of topping the tank back up, simply by attaching the hose to both ends of the PVC hand pump and placing one end in the container and the other end in tank and by slowly pumping refilling the tank is extremely easy and stress free. When is full again simply stop pumping remove the hose from the tank and connect everything back up to the trolley. Completing the water change

Step 10: Waste Water and Water Storage.

Picture of Waste Water and Water Storage.

Aquarium water generally contains lots of nutrients that are perfect fertiliser for plants both household and garden so the waste tank water from the aquarium is perfect to water plants and if you don't want to use it all at once can sit in the sealed container for up to a month without going stagnent.

Project:aquarius is also great for marine fish keepers as it is great for taking to fish shops to be filled with RO water or the containers sit neatly under a sink with an RO unit, the sealed containers also mean that you can mix up salt and keep it for up to a month with it still being fine to use in your marine tank.


VanillaXtiffy (author)2010-06-02

That's a pretty cool ible, but freshwater tanks should have a lot more water than that changed. Between 50%-90% once a week is the bare minimum for a well stocked tank.

mhakus (author)VanillaXtiffy2010-06-06

I no longer suscribe to this policy. With plants, and snails, there is no need to ever change the water.

Mugsy Knuckles (author)mhakus2016-12-21

Eventually your mineral content will go up, since those don't evaporate like the water does.

However, if you have a deep gravel bed and plants, you shouldn't have to remove water very often at all. Like once a year or so.
I'm sure that delicate fish liek discus wouldn't like it, but stick with fish that have been bred in aquariums for 20 generations and you'll be fine.

underwhelmed (author)mhakus2010-10-02

This is patently false.

if by well stocked you mean an under 15 gallon tank with 15-20 fish yes(which is animal abuse basically), otherwise you are unnecessarily exposing your fish to crazy changes in natural tank cycles, as well as possibly removing beneficial bacteria. frequent water changes and changes that large are only required in severe cases of ammonia/nitrite poisionings,

csg_design (author)VanillaXtiffy2010-06-04

"50%-90% once a week is the bare minimum for a well stocked tank" Unless your tank is overstocked, that is overdoing it and IMO a waste of water. Freshwater tanks require 25% water changes on a weekly basis when properly stocked. The only time to do a 50% water change is when/if you get a disease or sickness in your tank.

underwhelmed (author)csg_design2010-10-02

What is "required" to keep fish alive and what is beneficial to keep them thriving, healthy and spawning are two different issues.

Water changes cost only your labor and de-chlorinater, To not do them for the health of your aquarium inhabitants is pure laziness.

VanillaXtiffy (author)csg_design2010-06-04

This is incorrect but I'm not going to keep spamming this poor person's instructable. You guys keep abusing your pets and I'll keep giving mine the best life possible.

ghouck (author)VanillaXtiffy2010-06-02

I've always changed about a third every 2-4 weeks and have no problems at all, it's nice and clear, and my fish live longer than anyone I know. There is absolutely no reason to change that much water, or that often if you're aquarium is properly established. "When in doubt, wait it out" has always been my motto, and I've found that once it's established, an aquarium needs little work.

underwhelmed (author)ghouck2010-06-02

20% to 30% per week is the absolute minimum, unless you are keeping sensitive or spawning Discus, then it could be as much as 50% per day.

Most ornamental fish live in streams with a fresh supply of water constantly surrounding them.

There is no such thing as a properly balanced aquarium, that is an idea that was disproved long ago. An aquarium is an artificial environment for fish, the more often and larger a water change the better they will do.

Even an aquarium with the best modern filtration and full inoculated with the proper nitrifying bacteria can not remove nitrites and other harmful organic dissolved solids from the water. These build up and the only way to remove them is by doing water changes.

Your "when in doubt, wait it out" methodology will, in time, be the death of some poor fish.

ghouck (author)underwhelmed2010-06-02

30+ years of owning and maintaining some of the healthiest aquariums I've encountered says otherwise, as does Vierke's book.

VanillaXtiffy (author)ghouck2010-06-03

And I guess Douglas Adams was an expert on all of the races that live in space, since he wrote all those books about them. My grandfather has owned fish for over 50 years, but I still know more about taking proper care of fish than he does. Underwhelmed is right, you must be keeping guppies. The fact that you own fish and you don't know about stunting? Crazy stuff, my friend.

dibba (author)VanillaXtiffy2010-06-27

If your grandfather has been SUCCESSFULLY keeping fish for over 50 years then I seriously doubt that you know more about it than he does. Water in retail tanks should be changed more often because stores keep their tanks woefully overstocked. Seriously, can you imagine changing 90 % of the water in a 600+ litre tank every week? Wasteful and subjecting the poor fish to more stress than is necessary. Thanks for all your hard work.This instructable looks fantastic and I can't wait to give it a try.

DaboJones (author)ghouck2010-06-03

Anything over 25% is unnecessarily stressful on the fish but, as I'm sure you guys all know, IT DEPENDS.  If you're running some kind of crazy stocking level, with messy fish then, yes, a big weekly water change is better than just letting them swim around in their own filth. 
It's much better to keep stocking levels low enough that moderate water changes are better. 
No offense but both parties here are swinging around the words "Water change" without any context for your argument.
If Ammonia & nitrite are 0, and nitrate is below 10, why stress the fish?  Have plants to moderate the whole dang thing.
Seriously guys, don't throw around jabs; point to your evidence and keep the discourse polite.  We're all friends here.

underwhelmed (author)ghouck2010-06-03

See my reply above, and I would add that you have either been very lucky, or you keep guppys.

VanillaXtiffy (author)ghouck2010-06-02

......that's ridiculous. The more water changed the better. It's sickening how much misinformation about fish is on the internet. Just because you can't see them stunting doesn't mean they aren't. To me, your organs slowing growing while your body stops growing seems like a painful way to die, but to each his own I guess.

ghouck (author)VanillaXtiffy2010-06-02

Tell that to Vierke, he begs to differ. And "the more water changed the better", that doesn't even pass the laugh test. Your "organs keep growing, body stops" junk is what is ridicules.

Give it a read and perhaps your aquarium can be as healthy as mine.

VanillaXtiffy (author)ghouck2010-06-02

Wow, you must be right. I guess all of my coworkers at the aquarium have no idea what they're doing!

ghouck (author)VanillaXtiffy2010-06-02

If they're going to disagree with a guy who's written several books on aquarium, some of them having been published for 25 years, then yea.

Do you even know what you're growing in an aquarium? You do realize what you throw out every time you do a water change, right? apply that to "The more water changed the better" and see what doesn't add up.

VanillaXtiffy (author)ghouck2010-06-03

If you're talking about the bacteria, they don't live in the water column. They colonize on the rough surfaces. The filter media, the sand, the ornaments (if any.) What I am 'throwing away' when I do water changes is a perfectly balanced fertilizer that makes my garden grow 10x better than any of my neighbors. I've seen the difference between fish that live with lots of water changes and fish that are left to suffer in a little box with their own waste. It's not fun.

underwhelmed (author)ghouck2010-06-03

You do realize that like any other bacteria, the nitrifying bacteria in your tank will flourish if you remove some and give them a chance to repopulate, or bloom, right?  I'm not saying take the fish out, boil everything and nuke your tank, I am simply talking about doing water changes and gravel vacuuming.

Your author reference is a hack. Those books are old and his ideas are as wrong as eugenics applied to humans.

His books seemed relevant 25 years ago, but there have been massive improvements in aquaculture, chemistry and our understanding of the requirements of our fish and invertebrates since then.

Pleo (author)VanillaXtiffy2010-06-09

Depending upon the size of the tank, you should not change out more than one quarter of the tanks water, the fish will become stressed. It is possible for a tank to be too clean. If this happens, any beneficial bacteria are eliminated, which allows growth of dangerous ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, along with several parasites and can increase risk of fish disease.--Although-water quality can be effected by location. Since I'm in Portland, I tend to change water less. If you have a small tank..2.5 gal. or less, it is good to follow the practice of changing 90%-once a week. Although in that case, a little at a time is always better. If you have a fish expire in your tank, the cause and time of death should be investigated. If the fish is floating, he's been dead for 12 hours, and the entire tank should be cleaned. Any time below 12 hours of death(an hour or less) if a water test shows no impact, do a water change of 90% minimum and observe the other fish. Of course, there are times when it is difficult to determine the time of death, in this case, it is advisable to test the water. Even if you see the fish expire, and remove it: the tank must be tested for nitrates?nitrites?ph?ammonia to determine if the disease was communicable. If you observed the fish die, and the testing proves inconclusive, then change a quarter of the tanks water.

cowboynwh (author)2012-03-30

Is this a picture of your house or a pet store?

koebwil (author)cowboynwh2012-04-10

Just speculation here, but I don't think those price tags are common on home aquariums :)

cowboynwh (author)koebwil2012-04-11

Thanks if it was a snake I'd be be dead ;) lol

HoldOnTight (author)2011-08-31

Hmmm, it seems as though I was misled by the title. I was expecting an ible on how to create a pump, since it mentioned "device" in the title. What I see here is more than one piece: roller cart, tanks, pump,...hence "equipment" to change tank water.

Oh, well, back to researching...

Ramireex (author)2010-08-10

I got a small hand pump at Camping World for around 12 dollars then a big hand pump from Lowes for about 30 dollars. Both work well and I was thinking about returning the Lowes product, but it can also be used to suck up any houshold castastrophes. A lot better than bailing, that's for sure. I am looking for someone who can tell me how to change the gravel without having to empty the tank. I have a lot of fish and some babies that would not tolerate being moved to two different tanks.

CimarronWarrior (author)Ramireex2011-06-05

if you don't wanna drain your tanks completely to change your gravel just do about a 50% change and before you top it off use an old plastic cup and scoop your gravel out. then you just carefully place the rinsed gravel back into the tank a cup full at a time, refill and redo your landscaping

pyroarchist (author)Ramireex2011-03-20

Wal Mart sells a gravel vac that hooks up to your sink if your tanks by your sink, its a lil pricey but it seems to be what your asking for.

gbrad (author)Ramireex2010-10-11

you could try siphoning out the gravel while you replace the water. use a hand pump (like the one used here) to get more suction. have someone else replace the water at the same time so you don't suffocate the fish (end up removing all the water and kill the fish).

piesforyou (author)2011-04-14

Do you not make sure that the new water is the same temperature as the tank water? I have always read this is necessary to avoid shocking the fish.

tomblik (author)2010-06-07

Water changes, while important, should not be a religious experience. Test your water. That is the only true indication of when a water change is necessary. In my lifetime of experience keeping fish, I have never had positive results with hard and fast rules for water changes. As to the comment regarding fish from river and stream habitats, the lesson there is more about water movement than water changes. If you do not have enough water movement your fish will be stressed. The idea of basing water changes on the water quality tests still applies. If you over feed your fish you will have higher levels of pollutants and require more frequent changes. If you use live plants, you will mitigate some of the effects of overfeeding and fish poop but will not eliminate the need for water changes based on water chemistry tests.

underwhelmed (author)tomblik2010-10-02

Water changes are practically free, it makes no sense to not do regular partial water changes. People who argue that it isn't necessary are at best foolish and at worst lazy.

If you are reticent to perform the required maintenance required to maintain healthy fish in a stress free environment, perhaps you should take up another hobby.

tomblik (author)underwhelmed2010-10-02

While your zeal for keeping your pets in a healthy and stress free environment is admirable, simply changing water because you feel duty bound is the wrong reason. No one is suggesting that you not do it because you don't feel like it, or at the very least it is not what I suggested. My suggestion was simply to test your water before you change your water. There may be no need to change your water if the tests indicate that your water is within the ideal range for your fish. Remember that even in changing the water, you introduce stress to your fish. Just because a water change is "practically free" is also not a good reason for changing your water. If you want to keep healthy fish, test your water. Change water when the tests indicate the need. If you do much more than that, you will be unnecessarily introducing stress to your fish and not enjoying the company of your little fish friends.

underwhelmed (author)tomblik2010-10-04

Test only indicate very specific water parameters, they can not show you the true chemical composition of your water, just indicators of the functioning of the Nitrogen cycle, hardness and P.H.

Changing water in an aquarium, using the proper equipment and methods is not stressful in the least for fish. Letting them slowly suffocate in their own waste and accumulating salts,minerals, and metals is.

I have been keeping and spawning my "little fish friends" as you put it for approximately 35 years at this point and have never had any issue with doing frequent water changes, in fact my fish are healthier more robust and more colorful because of it. I do not have any recurring or regular outbreaks of disease I see so many people who are "fish keepers" having.

I regularly ship fish and invertebrates throughout the United States using the United States Postal Service. Not overnight, not UPS or Fed Ex, but good old regular Priority Mail, 2-3 sometimes as many as 5 day shipping. I have yet to loose a fish in transit or have a recipient say they lost a single fish.

I doubt any of you could say the same.

mikepixie (author)tomblik2010-06-28

I agree with tomblik here. Testing water before doing excessive changes is the most sensible thing to do. Water movement creates a much healthier environment and makes oxygenation and filtration more effective. Don't overstock and keep live plants if you setup allows for it, keeping certain cichlids with plants is asking for trouble. Something else that works well is integrating your aquarium with an aquaponics system (if you are inclined to grow things) this means you will be topping up more but it keeps your fish healthy and makes for very good vegetables.

mason0190 (author)2010-07-29

this is genious! 5* ible! I won a fish at the recent county fair (a buck for 4 balls, 2 for 10, 5 for a bucketful). His name is Jaws, and he got my aquarium started again, and I will definitely try this.

Pleo (author)2010-06-09

This is a very convenient idea to implement for fish. poopwater does not agree with my circuitry. :)

csg_design (author)2010-06-01

Love the idea, I'm going to implement it with 1 minor change.
I'm going to use an electric bottled water pump and 5 gallon water bottles

spas88 (author)csg_design2010-06-01

 Yea, i had initial ideas to use electrical pumps, although went off the idea because of the need for power sources, but its still something i'm thinking about for v2.0. Let me know how it goes :o)

csg_design (author)spas882010-06-02

The pump I'm looking at is a battery powered bottled water pump that works off of 2 D cells batteries ( With a bit of "tinkering", a 5/8" tube will fit on the spout.

[AV3NG3R] (author)2010-06-02

I am quite certain this is the music from Finding Nemo.

Which is quite ironic, or well chosen...

scoochmaroo (author)2010-06-01

Great work! 
though the video pains me for how much underwear i have to see. . .

spas88 (author)scoochmaroo2010-06-01

 Thanks very much :o)

ourmoneypit (author)2010-05-31

Excellent!  Have set this 'ible aside for when I get my tank back up and running.  Simple, straightforward, well explained.  The pump is a great idea.  I've had too many mouthfuls of tankwater, thanks :-o

spas88 (author)ourmoneypit2010-06-01

 Cheers yeah it's made my life so much easier, i'm glad it will help you too :o)

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