Why do we dislike water exchanges so much?

Ever noticed that there are certain aspects of the hobby that we as aquarists simply don't like to hear? Things that come up. Stuff we are supposed to do.

Practices that are "mandatory." 

And it's part of the game...It's stuff that's been pounded into our heads collectively for decades. And for each and every "golden rule" or "recommended best practice", there are exceptions, "in additions to...", modifications, and incredible numbers of reasons why the "rule" should be banished altogether from our culture...

I receive a lot of questions about various topics from all sorts of hobbyists. Recently, I have fielded a number of queries about husbandry in blackwater, botanical-style aquariums; specifically, practices which I thought should be required for us to follow in order to achieve success. 

Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I despise "rules" in this hobby in the strict sense. However, I do love best practices. I love nature's rules, which govern everything we do. In fact, I'd venture to guess that we perhaps spend more time trying to circumvent natures 's "rules."

And you know the one that I"m talking about specifically:

Water exchanges.

Like, this is probably the number one universal "let's try to get around this" item in the aquarium hobby. For whatever reason, we as a culture seem to be remarkably adverse to performing water exchanges. I mean, to some extent, I get it. They are somewhat tedious for some people, require a bit of planning, some manual labor, and extra towels! 

That being said, I think we tend to not really focus on the positives of water exchanges. I don't need to rehash that stuff here, but it really makes sense, right? However, when you look at the sheer amount of products that are marketed to "eliminate or reduce" water exchanges, and the insane amount of hobbyist-generated discussion around ways to accomplish the same, you realize that there is SOMETHING there. 

Why do we dislike them so much?

So, is it the sheer drudgery of water exchanges? The manual labor? The potential mess? Some sort of desire to just focus on other, more interesting aspects of aquarium care and husbandry? Over the years, in both my writings and practices, I've thought of ways how to represent water exchanges as one of the joys of aquarium keeping- You know, stuff like, "You're re-setting the chemical parameters of your tan when you do a water exchange!" or, "Water exchanges simulate natural rain and influx/outflow of water in wild habitats!" Or even, "Water exchanges allow you to regularly interact on an intimate basis with your aquarium!"

Like, I can put a positive spin on this- but the bottom line is that aquarists almost universally seem to hate them and accept them as a necessary evil...and spend lots of time, money, and effort on ways to make them easier or eliminate them altogether...

Now, this is rather curious: Hobbyists who play in speciality fields- like breeding, or "high tech planted tanks", most reefers, and our botanical-style aquarium crowd- seem to embrace water exchanges as just part of the game. Like, you will typically not see tremendous efforts to circumvent them being made- at least not publicly! 

We probably have reconciled- particularly as botanical-style aquarium enthusiasts, that water exchanges have huge value to what we do...and they are simply part of the game. 

Further, I can't help but think that the idea of water exchanges can simply be viewed with a different mind set. Really looking to nature and attempting to view them as more-or-less a simulation of how natural systems work.

I think it's really that simple! 


If you embrace the botanical-style aquarium idea and like it for the simulation of nature, then it goes without saying that the water exchanges we execute further represent this, it becomes a lot easier to stomach the idea of siphon hoses, lugging around buckets of water, and the occasional (?) spill?

More to come on this. 

In the mean time...

Stay diligent. Stay focused. Stay curious. Stay methodical...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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