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NO/limited water change tank setup - help me do my research

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Hi guys

in the upcoming few month/half a year/a year, there will come a situation, where I will move, and I will also travel more, leaving my place for weeks/months at a time.

I obviously realize this will not be doable with six fish tanks, especially not with the nano fish I keep or the live only food fish I have. However, in CZ especially, it is super popular to have a no water change tanks, walstad method tanks, father fish tank methods, super jungle only put water in tanks that are running for 15 years with populations of wild live bearers,.... I know it should be possible, but I understand research and prep are needed.

I have to make a choice - either start converting the largest tank I have - a 360liters one, into something that could work with no water changes for a longer periods of time or at some point, get rid of all of my tanks and my fish, which is like a last resort option.

I understand the way my tank is set up now - only sand substrate and a small layer at that, not a great light, not that many plants,... will not work like that. I know it needs to be set up in a different way, and it needs time to mature before it can reach the no water change stage. That is why I need to do some serious reading, prep and a battle plan.


Therefore, any articles/help/directions are appreciated

Tank pic now of the largest tank


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I do prefer floating plants and stemplants to reduce /eliminate my need for water changes here

Your 360 liters (+/- 95 gallons) tank looks pretty awesome. 

For my tanks, my concern would be more on feeding whatever species im keeping vs water changes. If they eat pellets or flake I use automatic feeders, then usenternal box filters, live plants, and lights on timers to maintain my systems.

I have personally run 75 liter ( 20 gallon ), 150 liter (40 gallon), and 1022 liter (270 gallon) tanks for multiple weeks while traveling without any issues. Many plants, lightly stocked fish,  a light timer, and an autofeeder of pellets or flake food should keep the system stable for many weeks or possibly months without my direct support. 

I look forward to hearing about the process in this thread. 

https://scholar.google.com is a handy search tool on many subjects:

Walstad metbod? :




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I think there is a difference between a no-water-change tank, and a tank that is able to run for weeks at a time without water changes. The second is very much more achievable than the first, in my opinion. 

As the tank is set up and stocked now, how fast to nitrates climb after water changes? Do you do weekly or biweekly changes (guessing at your sched) because you need to (ie nitrates too high), or because you're proactive? 

You can extend time between water changes by having automation, and ensuring low bioload and light feeding. In fact it might prove harder to keep your plants healthy than your fish, unless you have some sort of autodosing for fertilizer. 

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I dont do much water tests. I know I should, and I have some tests and would once a six month do one, so I will do a test before next water change to check. 

I do a weekly 25%, as that is the norm I know I "should" do with every other week substrate vacuum. In the beginning like two years ago, I had issues with muck and corydoras infections. Also the wood is natural and ofcourse, is decomposing, so occasionally, though not so much lately since i replaced the wood, there would be particles in the water/plants/substrate. 

I think the biggest problem will be feeding, I have to "overfeed" some fish, as they dont let anything fall down to the corydoras/kuhli loaches. If I remove those and leave just the good eaters, b-rams, pearl gouramis, rummynose tetras, maybe add the pseudomugil from the other tank, those will be ok with an automatic feeder and dry food. I now feed mostly frozen/live and some dry, but I could always feed frozen/live when I come back, I can do a deeper cleaning, and in the meantime have a dry feeding regime

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Okay, reduce water changes is something you have to feel out.

Don't overstock the tank with life and larger tanks provide more time that the waste builds up to a critical level.

Floating plants will convert waste for you and create shadow creating more chill fish.

Couple inches of substrate will also convert waste and will recommend Malaysian Snails to stir it up reduce dead zones.

All that should reduce your need to change water.

Sponge filters and autofeeders will better for travelling. Sponge filters don't need to worry if the power goes out. Autofeeders if you're gone more than 3-4 days.


All that being said, depending on long you'll travel, this may be a good time to take a break from fish keeping.

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Just my $0.02...

Most aquariums can go for far longer than you'd think without being maintained. No, it's not ideal, but I've seen tanks with horrible water parameters (nitrates in the hundreds) thriving. In planted tanks, I'm usually far more concerned about making sure plants don't starve and that water hardness doesn't bottom out leading to a PH crash as the plants absorb everything from the water. 

A simple auto feeder will keep your fish alive. You can mix floating and sinking foods to make sure everybody gets some, and have it fire as often as you like. I'd either use lots of root tabs in your substrate, or potentially switch to an enriched substrate to make sure your plants stay fed. You may be able to get away with just manually dosing fertilizer whenever you're around, or potentially invest in an auto doser. 

I don't think fish will be your issues - making sure your plants don't crash will be far more difficult. 

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