What’s Your Excuse for Skipping Water Changes?

saltwater aquarium water changeExcuses, excuses! When it comes to putting off those tedious maintenance chores, such as routine partial water changes, we hobbyists have a million of ‘em! But for every attempt we make to justify our indolence, there’s a more compelling counterargument for sticking with the regimen.

Let’s look at some of the more common excuses we like to make and examine why they don’t really hold (salt) water:

I don’t have the time

There’s no question that our schedules can get overloaded with career, family, school, and other obligations rather quickly. But not every water change has to be a major time sink. If you break up the project so all the tasks you might perform in addition to the actual water change (scraping algae, rinsing mechanical filter media, cleaning your protein skimmer, etc.) are spaced out over the course of several days, the process of simply siphoning out dirty water and replacing it with clean stuff is quite manageable.

Also, don’t expect time to magically open up in your schedule so you can do the water change. Put it right on your calendar in bold hand. Otherwise, other responsibilities and commitments will just keep pushing it to the back burner.

If your problem is that you have more aquariums than time to manage them, it might behoove you to cut back by a tank or two. Now that I’m down to just one aquarium, any time I have available for tank maintenance can be lavished on it rather than divided up among different systems.

I don’t have the energy

This one dovetails with the first point. Again, you don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) squeeze the whole process into a single arduous session. For one thing, you should always mix up your replacement salt water at least one day ahead of time and then heat and aerate it overnight before using it. Doing so not only ensures your replacement water is of the right temperature and specific gravity, but also helps limit the number of water-filled buckets you have to carry on water-change day.

Also—and this can’t be overstated—if you keep postponing water changes now because they tax your energy level, imagine how worn out you’re going to be when your tank conditions start to go south and more drastic measures (i.e., repeated major water changes) are needed to rectify them.

Sea salt is expensive

True enough, but being too stingy with the sea salt can lead to even more expenses down the road if you start to lose livestock. There are also ways to keep this necessary expense at least somewhat in check. For instance, it’s generally more cost-effective to buy in bulk—e.g., by the bucket rather than smaller bags.

Plus, my wife and I keep a close eye for sale prices and/or free shipping on salt buckets and buy them whenever our finances allow. We’ve found this approach to be far more cost-effective than waiting until I’m almost out of salt and then having no choice but to buy regardless of the price at the time.

Changing the water too frequently will disturb the livestock and/or biofilter

I’ve always been dubious about this claim. While it’s true that constantly tinkering inside the tank will stress your fish and being too aggressive in your cleaning efforts can potentially disrupt the biological filter, I don’t believe discreetly siphoning out 10 to 20 percent of the water in your tank and replacing it with clean water of the same temperature, specific gravity, and pH will harm your livestock or biofilter in any way, even if you do so quite frequently.


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. …I gave at the office…?

    the check is in the mail…?

  2. there is no excuse for not doing water changes!!! I think it’s one of the most important thing for the ecosystem which is the fish tank, There are still things we have yet to learn about these animals and their needs.

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