The Fish Cave - Water Changes

Bucketless Water Changes

For some of you water changing is literally a pain in the back.

I suppose I commenced changing water just like everyone else. Syphoning out water with a piece of pipe into a standard bucket. Then I heard of a wonderful device called a gravel syphon. Now I could take water and 'gunk out at the same time. Life was wonderful.

My fishy obsession grew and I got sick of picking up buckets and carrying them to the garden, then refilling and carrying them back to the tanks. At the time I only had five fish tanks, a 6x2x2ft, 5x2x2ft, two standard 4fts and a standard 2 ft tank. It took lots of time, there had to be a better way!

I reasoned that I must be able to do this a better way. So what did I come up with?

The answer needed two components. Removal of the ‘old water’ and replacement of the ‘waterchange’ water.

Part one: Water Removal

For the gravel syphon component I attached a regular garden hose fitting. This allows me to click on and attach my garden hose and syphon directly outside. No more carrying buckets of water.


gravel_syphonModified hose Nozzle
Shopping List:
  • Garden nozzle (You can use just about any garden hose connector that you have available)
  • Aquarium safe silicone
  • An old gravel syphon, preferably clear tubing, cut to whatever length you need the gravel syphon to be
Traditional Gravel Syphon

If you cannot do the above then have a go at modifying a standard gravel syphon. Just attach a hose connector and away you go. Keep in mind though that the 'Blue' plastic connectors have a habit of breaking and also the hose supplied is very thin and is prone to kinking, as you can see.



The garden nozzle: Remove the end, using a hacksaw. Roughen up the sides, this allows the silicone to grip the plastic a little better. I use a very rough file, a Stanley knife and a wire brush or whatever I can get my hands on that will ensure there is a nice rough surface that will allow the silicone to grip properly.

Get your old gravel syphon and roughen up the inside portion, where the silicone will be holding the hose connector. About 5 cm is all that you need to roughen up.

Grab your silicone gun and put the whole lot together, try to minimise the amount of air bubbles. Don’t be shy, use some cheap plastic gloves with your fingers dipped in white vinegar, to ensure the silicone is placed where you need it to be.

Leave for about 72 hours and then you should be ready for action. I double the time due to the increased curing time required for the silicon.


Part Two: Filling fish tanks the easy way

To move the water back to the tank I figured that I had lots of pumps that pump water in the tanks, why not use it to pump the water back into the tank? All I needed was a hose, some connectors and a pipe. Easy….

Shopping List:
  • One powerhead. (Mine is a cheap 3800 lph unit)
  • Flexible pipe, mine is clear, but it does not need to be.  Cut to the length that you require to move the water plus just a little extra (trust me you will wish you had more pipe). Try you local Hardware store. Make sure it fits onto your powerhead or that you can get an adapter, see the irrigation section for very cheap components that usually solve the problem.
  • Bits and Pieces: Whilst in the irrigation section grab some garden irrigation clamps, they come in 13mm, 19mm or 25mm sizes.
    Up to seven (7) clamps.
    Two elbows, for the pipe you are using.
    Remember to pick your components to suit the pipe size and whatever size you use to attach the powerhead.
    PS. Metal clamps are a no no. They will rust and break. Go for the plastic clamps, these are cheap and mine are still going strong.
  • Barrel or water storage container. I use 220 litre barrels. For smaller water requirements you could easily use a small clean plastic garbage bin of 60 – 75 litres or even one of the plastic tubs that you find in the two dollars stores.
Powerhead To setup this system attach the powerhead to the pipe. Remember the clamp.
Top of Barrel Cut the pipe at the height of the barrel or container that you are using.
Attach an elbow here, remember the clamps.
The elbow stops the pipe from collapsing in itself (kinking) and reducing the water flow.
Hook for a Tank

At the other end of the pipe I make a hook, that hooks over the side of the fish tank.
At this end of the pipe cut off a section of pipe that is about 40 cm long and another piece that is about 10 cm long.
Connect together all of the pipe using elbows.
Soon you will have made something that will literally hook onto the side of whatever tank you are filling. Don’t forget the clamps.
A hook allows you to do something other than stand beside the tank waiting for it to fill.

Bath Alarm


Now to top off the system and make it almost foolproof. I added a bath water level alarm. This wonderful device tells me when the water touches it, LOUDLY.. It stops me from over filling my water barrels and it also tells me when I have water at the top of a tank.

Please be a little patient with me

This is my first attempt at writing a website. I am trying to build this by myself, that way when a problem occurs I will be able to solve it, well that is the plan and so all of the bad bits are mine. The site will be an ongoing project so please check back soon to see how the site progresses. For the moment please email me with your suggestions or questions [MatthewTech ] @ [] Soon I will post up a contacts and notifications page, well, as soon as I learn how to control php scripts .

cya Matthew Begaud

Disclaimer: These articles are intended to inform and educate. Always use safety equipment and please be extremely careful. By building any of these DIY projects you agree not to hold the author or the owner of this Website responsible for any injury or bodily harm you may cause to yourself or others.

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