Water changes (with saltwater/natural seawater/NSW) are the most vital component of saltwater aquarium care and maintenance. The only thing that equals its importance would be the food that you give your marine fish. Even if you were to have the absolute best water quality or varied diet, if one is lacking it can completely eradicate the health of your marine fish and corals.
Currently where there is such a vast market of different filters and supplements, many hobbyists now seem to think that they can now remove water changes from their regular marine aquarium maintenance schedule. However, this could not be further from the truth. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever make up or have the same effect of lack of water changes (sea water/seawater/NSW).
It is crucial that you understand the differences between the roles of a water change and your filtration. The filtration is your marine aquarium does two main things. The first being to physically collect particles and debris from the water column for you to then remove during your aquarium maintenance. The second is to cultivate bacteria that will then go on to consume ammonia and nitrite. This is done by the surface of biomedias and the filtration flow creating an ideal submerged environment for the nitrifying bacteria. Whereas water changes will maintain the quality of your aquariums water over the long term, as nutrients will actually be exchanged out and physically diluted down.
Small and regular water changes (with saltwater/natural seawater/NSW) are the best method for a long term stable marine aquarium. However, the issue some hobbyists tend to have is that they end up missing a water change here and there they may not see a instant and direct issue with their aquarium. This is because the lack of water changes will not have too much of an impact in the short term as their effects are very subtle. Some people then start to think if it isn’t broken, why fix it? To which then leads to them neglecting the aquarium. However, in the long term it is a totally different story, and this will lead to a severe shock to your system which will harm both your marine fish and corals.
When hobbyists are deficient with their water changes (with saltwater/natural seawater/NSW) or do not do any at all, in the short term the tank will most likely continue to do as well as it was. With the corals still thriving and the fish still active and eating well, and this can even go on for months without a hitch. However, what we see and hear about time and time again is that the tank then develops ‘old tank syndrome’. This inevitably occurs when your water quality gets do bad that all of a sudden, your fish do not seem to be looking as good as they once did, and corals lose colour, start receding or their growth is stunted. Unfortunately, this ultimately usually ends in a tank wipeout before they know it and they end up blaming a new fish or coral they have added that “must” have had a parasite or disease. A potential sign of ‘old tank syndrome’ occurring is when a new coral or fish is added, and it dies off pretty quickly. This is because as the tank has been neglected from water changes, the waters chemistry will slowly but surely change for the worse over the following weeks and months without a water change (with saltwater/natural seawater/NSW). Whether that be pH dropping, nitrate spiking or hardness being well away from its benchmark, all these factors can be fatal to livestock. The reason that your current fish are doing OK for the time being, is that they have very slowly been acclimated to the changing water over the weeks and months and therefore have not suddenly been hit by a shock. Although eventually it will get to a point where they will not be able to handle the water quality and will end up dying.
To be continued….
Next week we will go over the other benefits of doing water changes (with saltwater/natural seawater/NSW), and the potential detrimental effects that not doing any could cause your aquarium.