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Old 09-07-2011, 04:04 PM   #1 
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Location: Boston, MA
Water changes

I have a 3 gallon tank with a sponge filter and a couple of live plants.
I've been doing a fish-in cycling for about a month, and I think my tank is finally cycled since it doesn't show any ammonia or nitrites, but small amount of nitrates.

Just to set up a proper water change schedule, I am monitoring how fast the nitrates build up. It's been 9 days since the last partial water change, but the readings are still ammonia=0, nitrites=0, nitrates<5ppm.

So, my question is... do I still need to change water regularly, like once a week (~50% I presume), or can I just wait until the nitrates reading becomes higher than 5ppm?
At this pace, it seems like the nitrates level will not exceed 5ppm in 2 weeks, maybe due to the live plants in the tank consuming it as fertilizer.

To put it another way, in a cycled tank, is the water change just to dilute down the nitrates level, or is there any other reason?

Thanks a lot in advance.
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Old 09-07-2011, 04:13 PM   #2 
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You also want to add more oxygen to the tank through water changes. After a while, even with agitation, the water gets.. stale? I guess.. that might not be the best word.

IMO a cycled, planted 3 gallon tank can get one 25-50% water change a week (depending on how heavily it's planted) and be good. You could even stretch it to every other week but you have to ask yourself.. do you want to risk it? We know that fresh water makes for happy fish and one change a week on a little tank is totally do able.
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Old 09-07-2011, 04:18 PM   #3 
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In a 3gal filtered tank-water changes of twice weekly 50%, however, depending on the number and species of live plants and growth may be able to make 1-50% weekly with light vacuum to maintain water quality.

Although high nitrates can be harmful I wouldn't base water changes on them especially with live plants.....

Even with live plants, filter and the established nitrogen cycle-due to limited surface area for the nitrifying bacteria to colonize- the cycle is not always stable and then you have DOC's (dissolved organic compounds) that we don't test for that are also harmful to the Betta with the only way to remove/dilute being a water change.....
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Old 09-08-2011, 10:30 AM   #4 
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Thanks a lot, folks.

These are the answers I was looking for.
I understand that it's not only the nitrates but also hydrocarbons and others.

Yes, doing a weekly water change is perfectly doable, and I was actually doing more frequent changes until the cycle was established.
I just wanted to see how fast the nitrates build up in the cycled tank.
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