Upgrade Your Water Change Game

Forrest Stowe

Adapt your water change approach

updated 6/18/2023

If you have any formidable turtle aquarium larger than 20 gallons and also do not have a luxurious overflow system to help lessen the extent of manual maintenance, the name of the game becomes efficiency.  If you are spending over 20 minutes siphoning out tank water into buckets, it's time to explore more efficient methods.  In this article, I will cover two methods that are much easier than siphoning out into buckets and lugging them around.  

Python Water Changer

One method for making your water changes easier is to pick up a commercially made system that is intended to do just this.  These systems are simply a siphon with a very long tube that can be run and attached to a sink. Here is a video demonstrating how the Python water changing system works:  

This option may work extremely well in some situations, or not be viable at all in other situations.  If you have a very large tank, you probably want to be able to get the job done faster than by siphoning alone. On the other hand, the siphon design allows you to spot clean waste from the bottom of the tank.  This is especially of importance if you use a substrate.  This method also simplifies filling the tank back up.  You just have to remember to add your water conditioner.  

     A major potential barrier to using this method is whether or not your sink is compatible with the hardware.  Certain adapters are available, but some sinks just will not work with this system. What then? 

Water pump system 

Perhaps the most customizable way to upgrade your water change system is to get some vinyl tubing and a water pump that can be placed in your aquarium.  With this method, the general idea is you connect the water pump to the tubing and run the tubing to a drain such as a shower, bathtub, etc.  Then you need only plug in the pump, and unplug when the desired amount of water is removed.  

      The major upside to this method is that you can get a very fast pump that will make draining the water take no time at all.  Where this method can lack is that replacing the water isn't always so easy.  If you have a nearby bathtub to fill, then you are set as you can switch which end of the tube you have the pump on and replace the water.  Without a tub, you have to get creative.  Perhaps you can do something similar to the water changing system and connect an end of the tubing directly to a sink.  This could still be superior to the water changer method as pumping water out will be faster.  You could also fill buckets with water closer to your source and pump from buckets, but you may find that more tedious than the old fashion way.  Even if you have to resort to buckets to replace the water, the first half of the water change is much faster.  

       If you choose this method, there are some additional things to consider.  As I mentioned earlier, siphoning can be nice for spot cleaning.  If your tank needs spot cleaning, you may still want to do so with a siphon.  However, you can still save time by starting to pump out water as you spot clean with your handheld siphon.  I would recommend getting a pump that is fast but is adjustable so you can slow it down appropriately if you need more time for spot cleaning. If your tank needs only minor spot cleaning, consider a turkey baster to suck up single areas of waste. 

        You should also consider the flow rate of the pump as well as the length and diameter of the tubing you will want.  The best way to get a long length of vinyl tubing is to find a local hardware store that will cut you exactly the length you need. Other stores such as Menards usually offer vinyl tubing in 25' and 50' lengths. Vinyl tubing with an inner diameter of greater than 1/2" becomes hard to handle.  You will need to be able to spool the tubing up easily by hand, so I recommend 1/2" inner diameter tubing.  Whatever tubing size you go with, make sure your pump has an adapter that will fit with it. One last tip is to have something around like a plastic bin that you can coil the tubing up and set into along with the pump to store for next time.  


Water changer system pros and cons: 

Pros: Simple, allows spot cleaning, easy to replace water 

Cons: Doesn't work with all sinks, not the fastest for removing water

Water pump system pros and cons: 

Pros: Drains water fast, replaces water fast (if you have the setup), customizable 

Cons: Doesn't spot clean, replacing water more complicated 



Keep in mind that if you have a lot of tubing, your flow rate will be way below your pump's rating. 

Here's two links as examples to get you started with further research.

A good pump option for 20+ to 75gallon aquariums (here

Amazon (25, 50, 75, and 100-foot lengths) 


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