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  • How to Perform a Water Change on a Pico Jar

    gena

    pico-jar-reef.jpg

    Introduction to Pico Jar Maintenance: Water Changes

    Pico jar reefs seem to be gaining popularity with reef hobbyists. Maybe it’s a fascination with small things, or perhaps it’s the idea of “less work” that is appealing to some. For me personally, it’s a combination of the two. I love miniature versions of things, and I love the challenge of creating a miniature reef system, which just so happens to translate into less time spent maintaining the system and more time spent looking at and enjoying the system.

     

     

    For a basic pico setup with only a light source, heater, and circulation pump, the weekly water change is of utmost importance. It is the way you will remove the organics from the water and replenish lost minerals and trace elements. It is recommended to do a 100% water change removal and replacement. It is easy and safe to do, as well as cost effective, on such a small system.

    Standard Water Change Rules Apply

    reverse-osmosis.jpg salt-mix.jpg

     

    Whether you are working with a 250 gallon system or a 2 gallon system, the standard water change rules apply. You will want to use RO/DI water (or distilled water) to help avoid nuisance algae. You will need to match your clean water salinity and water temperature to the pico system you are maintaining. You can use any salt mix that you like, but it is best to stick with one brand of salt as not all are created equally and switching salt frequently can be stressful to your tank inhabitants.

    Tools Needed

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    Items I have found useful during a water change include: Towels, tubing or hose lines, algae scraper, tongs, scissors, turkey baster, 2 buckets.

     

    Since you need to work fairly quickly when doing a 100% water change on a pico reef system, it’s best to have everything ready before you get started.

    Let’s Get Started

    You want to have your corals exposed to air for the least amount of time as possible. While most coral can survive extended periods of time exposed to air, I still like to work as quickly as I can, while also being careful and thorough, with the task at hand. I start with scraping the glass for algae. This gets the algae suspended in the water column before water removal. Now that your glass is clean (let’s hope it wasn’t THAT dirty), you can observe any problem areas. You can use your tongs to pull out any hair algae/nuisance algae. This is also the time to look for any coral warfare that you may need to intervene in. Coral scissors/clippers may be needed for trimming or removing coral over-growth. In such a tiny space, coral growth will be even more obvious. Typically coral cutting makes the corals slime up. You want to do any cutting prior to water removal so that you can remove the slime with the water change.

     

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    Now is the time to put that turkey baster to work! Blast the rocks and in between the coral to get any detritus suspended in the water column. You’d be amazed at the amount of detritus produced by the coral alone. 

     

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    It’s almost time to drain your pico, but first, don’t forget to shut down your heater and circulation pump. You do not want to damage these items during the 100% water change.

     

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    I find it best to have two buckets. One for waste water, and one for clean saltwater. Use your clear tubing and siphon the water out of the pico tank and into the waste bucket. I find it useful to do another basting of the rocks just prior to siphoning. You want to get as much detritus suspended and out as possible. Pay attention to the sand as a lot of detritus will settle in that area.

     

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    Once all of the water is removed, all that's left is to replace the old water with the new saltwater that is temperature and salinity matched. Don’t forget to turn your air circulation and heater back on at the end. You can use your towels to clean up any spills.

     

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    Final Thoughts

    While no system comes without work, I have found that maintaining a pico reef is easy, fast, and enjoyable. My main goal is to work as quickly as I can so that my coral is not exposed to air for an extended period of time. I find that planning ahead is very helpful to accomplish this goal. Have all of your supplies ready before you begin. It may sound scary to remove all of the water from your aquarium, but it is completely safe and successfully done by many hobbyists, including myself. You may find that it is so easy, and that you enjoy it so much, that you end up doing more than one water change per week. Quite frankly, it’s been known to happen.

     

    Happy pico reef maintenance, to all!

     

    @gena

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    Great article!  You're right about more than one water change a week, I figure I'll end up doing two per week because I have so much fun!  It really is easy!

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    This is absolutely wonderful, Gena!  I am going to add this to the list of resources in the Creative Container Contest announcement post.

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    Thanks you guys.  I hope it helps those thinking about trying one of these to go ahead and go for it :D.

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    Excellent write-up!  Very helpful for those of us just starting out in the pico world.  

     

    At the risk of being presumptuous, I offer one additional thought for consideration:  By definition, it is challenging to get your hands in the pico to do a detailed scrubbing without draining a portion of the water in advance to avoid overflow.  The aquascape or size/shape of the pico alone can also present challenges to getting all the nooks and crannies cleaned.  Due to these difficulties, some pico reefers 'scape with the idea in mind that they will remove a chunk of rock when doing water changes to aid in cleaning.  If this is something you want to try, start draining the pico as described getting as much detritus suspended as possible.  When you have a decent amount of water in the waste bucket, place your chunk of 'scape in that bucket as you dig into cleaning the pico.  Finish draining, baste off the rock and put it back in the pico to be filled with fresh temperature/salinity matched new water.  

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    17 hours ago, dmw913 said:

    Excellent write-up!  Very helpful for those of us just starting out in the pico world.  

     

    At the risk of being presumptuous, I offer one additional thought for consideration:  By definition, it is challenging to get your hands in the pico to do a detailed scrubbing without draining a portion of the water in advance to avoid overflow.  The aquascape or size/shape of the pico alone can also present challenges to getting all the nooks and crannies cleaned.  Due to these difficulties, some pico reefers 'scape with the idea in mind that they will remove a chunk of rock when doing water changes to aid in cleaning.  If this is something you want to try, start draining the pico as described getting as much detritus suspended as possible.  When you have a decent amount of water in the waste bucket, place your chunk of 'scape in that bucket as you dig into cleaning the pico.  Finish draining, baste off the rock and put it back in the pico to be filled with fresh temperature/salinity matched new water.  

    Yep, I've heard of people doing exactly that.  I actually made my rockscape so I could easily lift the whole thing out, but I haven't actually attempted that yet.  Maybe it would be a once a year thing to really clean it and maybe even replace all the sand.  Just a thought :).  Thanks for the feedback too :).

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    A great write up! I'm very inspired by everyone's Pico jars! This work you've done may just kick me into my own jar, as I typically have to make at least 5 gallons for my nano tank, but want to lower my change volume. This would be a great way to use the extra saltwater! 

     

    Cheers! And happy reefing!

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    15 hours ago, JcSH2o said:

    A great write up! I'm very inspired by everyone's Pico jars! This work you've done may just kick me into my own jar, as I typically have to make at least 5 gallons for my nano tank, but want to lower my change volume. This would be a great way to use the extra saltwater! 

     

    Cheers! And happy reefing!

    That's great! Yep, I always have leftover water too that I save in a 5 gallon jug.  I just started doing twice weekly water changes and I use that extra water for that second water change.  Works out great!

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    DMW 913

     

    I wish your simple statement could be framed in a such a way that shows how profound that approach is. You have simply arranged all conditions to allow you final command over your system. its the opposite set of actions that caused every invaded tank on the internet. you have anticipated an event quite amazingly

     

    Its profound, and it seems like im overstating it, but im not. 200 pages of algae correction threads says the masses are missing the boat somehow.

     

    To anyone with any size tank who would like to ensure you don't get invaded, I second his notion of prepare for that and make a different choice. after hand gardening and guiding your rocks into pure coralline and coral, where you wont have algae issues, then stack your aquascape all wall like and 1990s we are all for it.

     

    Nobody who reefs in the way DMW does in his statement can have an invaded tank, because he removed inaccessibility as the prime excuse/

     

    knowing you can take action on an invader without losing your precious bacteria allows for all manner of direct kill.

     

     

    arranging your tank in such a way that the bottom-most area of your live rock is accessible, you just arranged no invasion for the life of your reef conditions, bc you can simply clean it out. it's profound to me that others wont adopt the clear method and will continue willing invasions due to inaccessibility.

     

    The goal is to have a balanced reef that prevents algae for us, with minor support. I think you have to earn that, not start with it, as the secret to an limitless lifespan pico reef. some get lucky and never need the hand scrub, I never did. I earned my cruise control.

     

    water changes are good, not bad for a pico reef. They're an intercept point, they dislodge waste stores and increase oxygenation.

     

    water changes allow you to feed nicely, better than normal, just before the wc so you export waste and your corals love this method

     

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