The reason why water changes are so important is that they are directly connected to the Nitrogen cycle of the aquarium. The cycle removes toxins from the aquarium that the shrimp creates – ammonia and later nitrite. The cycle usually does not do anything to remove nitrate. That is why it is our job to do that via water changes.
This time I will give you a step-by-step guide on how to do the water change in the shrimp aquarium. You will know what you will need for that, how it must be done and some practical tips. That your TDS as well as your nitrates level are the main factors when you should do the water change.
Let’s get to the business.
What You Need to Have
Here are the products that you will need for the water changes. Frankly saying, I am pretty much sure that I could not do anything without any one of these products. Each of them has a specific role.
1. TDS meter
There is no need for explanation here. You simply cannot do anything without TDS meter (link to check the price on Amazon). I have HM digital model. This is a highly efficient, accurate and easy to use TDS meter. I have never had a problem with one. It shows me what the total dissolved solids are. For example, my RO unit provides me with 3-4 TDS water. It is just about as pure as you can get. There will be nothing in it, meaning that it is not going to be beneficial for shrimp (but we will talk about it later).
If you plan to use RO/DI (Reverse Osmosis/De-Ionization), fully desalinated water or some other form of pure water, it is almost always essential to use some form of re-mineralizer. Pure water does not have any trace elements and minerals in it. Remineralizers put in the minerals into the water that shrimp need to survive and thrive.
They contain all the important minerals and trace elements your shrimp need for their well-being, an intensive coloration, successful breeding, and healthy growth. They also further plant growth and the microbial regeneration of biological filter substrates. So if you want to have a successful tank, you need them.
Depending on the type of shrimp you will need:
- Shrimp minerals GH/KH+ (link to check the price on Amazon)
Raises total hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) at a ratio of GH/KH: 1.0/0.5. Especially good for Neocaridina shrimp.
- Bee Shrimp minerals GH+ (link to check the price on Amazon)
This is the ideal re-mineralizer for Caridina shrimp (CRS / CBS / Taiwan Bee etc.) or other shrimp that require an acidic pH (less than 7.0 pH). Shrimp mineral is used when utilizing reverse osmosis water or distilled water in aquariums.
Of course, there are other types of re-mineralizers like Aqua Blue Wizard, Shirakura Liquid Minerals, Shrimp King Shrimp Minerals, Shrimplab Minerals, GlasGarten products. It is up to you to decide. More or less they are all good products. So, pick one whichever you can get and whichever is the best price you can get it.
Tip: powdered re-mineralizers are more practical. You will always know the exact dose. If you use a liquid substance it may not get mixed well, it is always going to be a little different.
3. Conditioner. Searchem Prime and Syringe
I am not sure that there are people in shrimp/fish community who have never heard about Searchem Prime conditioner (check out the latest price on Amazon). It is the hands down the best conditioner on the market. It will remove toxic gases, bind to any ammonia, nitrites or nitrates present for up to 48 hours. Prime does not alter pH. One 500ml bottle will treat a massive 5000 gallons of water. And what is more important it is 100% shrimp safe. This is my safety net if something goes wrong.
4. Aquarium water bucket
It may sound strange but the most important piece of equipment to have is a water bucket, which you will use to prepare water in advance. Be careful you will not use it anywhere else.
Tip: You cannot use a bucket made out of zinc, aluminum or copper. Water will come into reaction with these elements causing an imbalance. It must be a special bucket for aquarium or made out of plastic at least.
5. Optional: a wave maker and an airstone
You may need them to increase the aging process. They are not mandatory but they help anyway. Especially when you need to prepare a lot of water.
Everybody does it just a little bit different but I will tell how it works for me. First of all, you need to have a separate tub for the water. Depending on the size of your aquarium it can be 40, 60, and etc. liters.
Note: if you breed different types of shrimp (like Neo and Caridina), you will have to have a separate tub for each species when it comes to re-mineralization.
1. “Aging” RO water prior to use (24 hours).
Fill the tub and let your RO water age for at least 24 hours.
RO water is foolproof. It means that it has basically zero TDS. You will never have bacteria in the water. You will never have things that can wipe out your shrimp colony. So if you want to really get into this hobby, if you really want to have success, use RO water.
Tip: you can speed up the process by using air stone or wave maker. Agitation helps to evaporate chlorine from the water. If you have large amounts of water, it is also advisable to keep it circulating to get the stuff out from the bottom of the tub.
Of course, it can be done even faster. Boiling or microwaving does this instantly but … have you ever tried to boil at least 70 gallons? Well, that is why aging is just easier and cost nothing but the time it took to let it stand.
Note: as for the tap water, a lot of people use it as well and the main problem is it can have chemicals like chlorine and chloramine.
Some people do not know but you can remove chlorine by letting it stand 24-48 hours. Chlorine will usually evaporate out of water within 24 hours. Nonetheless, this process also depends on your volume of water. There is a big difference between 10 and 100 gallons of cold water. In the first case, you can get water free of chlorine within 24 hours, while in the second, it can take 48 hours and, some of the chlorine may still stay in the water.
Keep in mind that “aging” does not remove chloramines. Therefore, if your city water has it you will have to use special products to neutralize it. Because it is the only way to get rid of chloramines in the water.
Chloramine is a combination of Chlorine and Ammonia and is used as a disinfectant. Actually, chloramines will eventually break down too. Standard treatment for ponds is 2 weeks under bright sunlight. This is not acceptable to us.
2. Water treatment with Seachem Prime
My preference is Seachem Prime. It is up to 5x more concentrated than competing products. That is why you will need a syringe. Searchem also provides information with dose instruction if you need it.
Dose: If you use RO water, there is no need to go a full dose. I usually put in about 1/2 or 1/3 of the recommended dose.
|Official recommended dose||My RO water dose|
or 2 drops per gallon
or 1 drop per gallon
Of course, you can ask, why do I use conditioner in RO water? Yes, I know that some people think that it is redundant and a waste of money. Well, anyway, this my choice – safety comes first. It is like a secondary precaution. In case, my RO unit let something through. I do not want anything to affect my shrimp.
Tip # 1: The reason for adding Prime first is that sometimes it can increase the TDS by just a little bit. So, if you add shrimp minerals first and have a perfect parameter of TDS and then it increases because of Prime, you will have to add more RO water to balance it. Unpractical.
Tip # 2: Seachem Prime is meant to work immediately but I always leave it for 5-10 minutes just to be safe. Do not worry about egg smell. It is OK. The dechlorinating compound in Prime is sodium thiosulfate. This is the reason for the bad smell.
3. Adding Minerals to Your Water
Next step after using Prime is to add minerals to your water. You will need two different shrimp salts for Neocaridinas and Caridina. It is because each one has a specific mixture of salts that provides what each species of shrimp needs.
Bee Shrimp minerals GH+ (for Caridina shrimp)
Recommendation by the manufacturer – use an evenly full measuring spoon (about 3 g) to 20 liters of water.
Shrimp minerals GH/KH+ (for Neocaridina shrimp)
Recommendation by the manufacturer – use an evenly full measuring spoon (about 2 g) to 10 liters of water.
Keep adding scoops until you get desired TDS. For example, I would like to keep my TDS in my:
- Neo tanks at about 220
- Caridina tanks anywhere from 135 to 150.
Tip # 1: as I mentioned before and I will repeat it once again. For example, if your TDS is 210 (after adding Prime and minerals), it does not mean that it will stay the same on the next day. Actually, it can be 220-225. Keep in mind about it when you add minerals to the tub. So you will not have to add more RO water.
Tip # 2: make sure you remember how much you use every time so that your water is always consistent. So next time you will know exactly how much you need to get a certain hardness of the water.
Tip # 3: another reason why I prefer to have a little lower parameters than 150 (for Caridina) or 220 (for Neo) because the water in the aquarium has a higher TDS. So when I actually change the water it should be around 150 or 220.
4. Some More “Aging” of Water Prior to Use
The next step after adding Prime and Salts is to wait a little bit more. Why is it needed?
From my experience, I noticed that almost all the time the TDS always increases by about 10 to 15 over the course of 24 hours. That is why I like to let my water sit for 24 hours after I add my salts and Prime.
Another advantage of aged water is that water chemistry is allowed to stabilize. After standing for a period of time, it ensures that there will be no pH fluctuations and all the salts are going to be dissolved before I add the water to the tank.
Make sure that the temperature in your tub is the same as in your tank. Because if you alter the temperature in an abrupt period of time it can cause molt in the tank. As a result, females can drop their eggs. That is because if the temperature does not match and it triggers a molt in the females.
If they molt when they are carrying the eggs, they will drop all their eggs.
5. Drain the tank
Use your siphon to drain the tank.
You can use a custom siphon (it is easy to find on the internet how you can do it yourself) or you can go with any brand name one. I think it is best to just use the simple stuff but if the position or location of your tank is dictating some special equipment, by all means, do what makes this process easier for you.
Tip # 1: cover up the input. You can use a shrimp net to cover the siphon so you do not suck in any shrimplets.
Tip # 2: use the white bucket. If some of your baby shrimp were sucked in anyway, against a white background you can see them a whole lot better. So you can get them out and put back into your tank.
Tip # 3: get yourself some clamps, which will hold the siphon in place.
Tip # 4: mark your tank at 10-15-20% with a pen. Now, you will never have to guess when to stop.
6. Adding Water
Add water slowly. Do not pure it at once, there is no need to stress your shrimp. Refill the tank at a rate of a few liters a minute.
How often should I do water changes?
To tell the truth, even professional and dedicated shrimp breeders like Robert Lupton (Flip Aquatics), Marks (Marks Shrimp Tanks), Nathan (Soo Shrimp Breeders), Jacques (McMerwe Farms Shrimp & Aquascaping) and many others have different opinions about it and it works for them! Why?
Because there is a lot of variables to take into consideration when you are trying to figure out how much and how often to do water changes in your aquarium.
Nonetheless, I really like how Jacques from “McMerwe Farms Shrimp” and Robert Lupton “Flip Aquatics” approach to this matter, let me summarize it. If your nitrates level is more than 20 you should do the water change. By doing monthly water changes you can at least smooth some of those nitrates so that they do not cause harm to your shrimp. If you measure a TDS as well as your nitrates and find that it falls within the acceptable parameters then it is okay not to do water changes for that week or month. Not doing water changes over extended periods can lead to stressed shrimp and just random shrimp deaths. So, please, check your TDS and nitrate levels if you are not doing water changes.
There are a lot of people out there who do 10 or 20 % a week. I guarantee you those people are not the shrimp breeders or if they are the breeders, they really have their water parameters exactly that they need to be. As a result, they can do those heavy water changes. As for the average hobbyist 20 % a month is a perfect amount. Even more, you can do 10% one week and 10% two weeks later. This split will spread out your chances of making a mistake. Because the bigger water change you do the more things come into effect.
Note: Avoid any TDS shock. If your TDS is too high (for example, you have 200 and you need 150). It would be better to lower it gradually. Try to reduce like 10-25 TDS a day and your shrimp will be fine.
Keep in mind that big water changes can cause molting problems “The White Ring of Death”.
Will water change remove beneficial bacteria?
A lot of people think that it will stall your cycle or crash your cycle if you do it too often or too much. This is not correct because the beneficial bacteria do not exist in the water column itself. They exist on surfaces in your tank and that is what your filter is for and the filter media in your filter. The filter media is going to be providing that surface area for the beneficial bacteria to grow on.
So when you change the water you are not taking out any of the beneficial bacteria because they are all stuck onto the surface.
Can I just treat water with chemicals and not age it?
Chemical treatments have two primary advantages. They render water safe for use almost immediately, which is a huge improvement on the one to two days to wait for aged water. The other advantage is that chemicals can neutralize heavy metals and other dissolved constituents that the aging process cannot touch. This is particularly important in areas where water sources have a high mineral content.
Personally, I prefer a combination of the methods. By aging water, the dissolved gases have time to be driven off, and the water temperature can also be stabilized to the desired range. The use of a chemical treatment ensures that any heavy elements are removed.
Can I add RO water in the aquarium without minerals to lower KH, (GH, TDS or pH)?
Frankly saying, it is possible. There are shrimp breeders who practice it regularly.
However, you need to know exactly what you are doing. Adding RO water without minerals can shock your shrimp and cause their death.
Anyway, if you are willing to take the risk, in order to reduce the negative effect, it will be better to do it really slowly and gradually (no more than 5-10% per one time). Actually, it would be a good idea to take at least some aquarium water and mix with RO water and then slowly add to the aquarium.
I would like to stress it again, this can be very dangerous for your shrimp! I would NOT recommend it for beginners.
What type of RO unit should I use?
Generally, they are all about the same. If you search for RO/DI water filters you will get lots of pages about it. Bottom line is they all do the same thing.