This week I published a tour of my friend Rachel O’Leary’s fish room. It’s the first episode of Tank Tested I shot in 4K and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. Getting the opportunity to visit Rachel is always fun, and having the excuse to spend the whole day with her aquariums was a privilege! But you can see everything I filmed in the video above—let’s talk about something I didn’t cover in detail…
How in the world does Rachel maintain so many aquariums?!
Well, let’s start with the water changes. Every day, Rachel changes the water in around 15 of her aquariums. That means every tank gets a water change or two each week. Unlike many fishrooms, Rachels doesn’t have an automated water-change system, so she has to syphon water from each and every tank by hand. She’s resisted the urge to install an automatic system because the manual water changes force her to spend time inspecting every tank. That way, if any fish are behaving strangely or algae starts to develop, she can tackle those problems before they get out of control.
As for the specifics of her water changes, she removes 25-50% of each tank’s volume. The syphon she uses for water changes has a relatively small-gage tube which goes directly into her drain. Even though the small-gage tube is slower than a full-sized hose, it helps to insure that no unsuspecting fish get removed along with the dirty water. Even though I only have a half-dozen aquariums, I use a similar method. I use a python syphon that connects directly to my faucet. Why use buckets when you don’t absolutely have to?
But there is a time when a bucket is appropriate, and even Rachel uses them. When Rachel needs to do a real cleaning of her tanks she uses a more powerful syphon (meaning a thicker tube). That way she can get out all the detritus that’s settled in her tanks. Since rotting leaves and other waste can clog up her drain, she does her deep cleans into a bucket. I do the same, and I carry that bucket to the toilet where the odds of a clog are lower than in my sink.
When it’s time to refill the tank, Rachel is lucky, she can use well water. That means there is no need for dechlorination. All Rachel has to do is bring her dedicated water line to each tank and fill it back up (No buckets here either).
One of the other tricks Rachel uses to keep maintenance down is her choice of filtration. Rather than using dozens of canisters which require time-intensive cleanings, Rachel uses sponge filters in almost all of her tanks. This type of filtration is great for shrimp and fry because there are no moving parts and no risk of your livestock getting sucked into your machinery. I use these sponge filters in my smaller tanks (I’m a sucker for Amazon), but Rachel relies on filters from Swiss Tropicals.
A big perk of sponge filtration is their maintenance time. All Rachel has to do is wring out the sponge in a bucket of tank water and return it to the aquarium. The frequency of these “cleanings” varies from tank to tank but typically it’s 30 seconds of effort every three weeks to three months. The other perk of sponge filters is that they won’t run dry during a water change—there is no worry about turning off the pump or re-priming your filter after a 50% drain.
Another under-discussed part of Rachel’s fishroom (and one we didn’t touch on in the fishtour video above) is her lack of heaters. It might not seem like a big help in maintenance, but not having heaters in every tank reduced the things she needs to worry about turning off during maintenance.
So how do her fish not freeze? Well, Rachel heats the fishroom itself. All the tanks are brought up to an elevated “room temperature” which means only fish who really need warmer water need a heater—it’s just one less thing that could break and one less thing to shut off during a water change.
You can learn more about Rachel’s fishroom by visiting her YouTube channel. Or, if you’d like to purchase something from her collection, you can find her at her website https://msjinkzd.com/