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Drip water change systems?

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Does anyone have any experience with drip water change systems, wanting to hookup 21 tanks to this type of system. Have watched a tonne of vids on YouTube and still not sure which way I should do it. If anyone is in Sydney that could help out and get things moving I’m willing to pay for your time and expertise. Would rather someone who knows about this fishy stuff than asking a plumber about it.



Edited by siklid
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I'm in QLD not in Sydney but have been using drip water change for the last 30 years in 3 of my fish rooms (many many tanks, big & small). I've played with several versions and tweaked until I was satisfied but there are variations and you may have different priorities.

I use low pressure drip of mains water 24 hours every day through a standard 10 inch cartridge filter 5 micron ceramic then another 10 inch cartridge of carbon to remove chlorine & chloramine. The new incoming water displaces old aquarium water via an overflow  drain in sump.

* Changing to low pressure allowed me to remove all rigid expensive bulky pipes/joins and eliminated the damage & mess a leak at high pressure creates especially if your at work or on a week holiday. Some of the floods were ankle deep. 

* I use 4mm black micro irrigation tube which can snake around the room easily hidden with irrigation drippers to distribute adjustable water volumes accurately. Black tube preventing algae. Drip irrigation fittings have a wide choice and ridiculously cheap. The 5 micron prefilter reduces the clogging on carbon filter and drippers. 

* Constant 24/7 drip removed the complexity of a periodic drain then fill cycle. My experience is the constant drip being much better for fish, easier to heat in winter and minimises the risk of a bad mains water day (nitrite spikes, upstream pipe works, chloramine boosts in turbid catchment /heavy rainfall )

* Simplicity is best. The only trick is to have your main feeder pipe run low along the ground and the branches that feed your tank(s) go up.  So you can adjust each dripper independently and accurately. If you run the feeder line up in your roof space then down to the tanks, you have siphon and gravity imbalance issues. 

I use a dedicated water tap cracked slightly open to reduce the water pressure. My highest placed dripper is an extra one kept open as a pressure relief valve. Once set, I removed the water tap handle so no unplanned adjustments can occur. 

Another advantage of slow constant low pressure drip is the drainage line can be quite small if your fish room doesn't have floor drains. Even a 20mm PVC waste drain pipe can accomodate drips. 

Do have the drippers above the water line so you can visually check they are running. 

The carbon will fail very gradually (not suddenly) so you have many months to realise. The first few years I had a small tank of canary test fish. Their small tank would get totally water changed each day. Never had an issue so I changed to chlorine checking on the first day of each month. A 10 inch cartridge of carbon was dechlorinating 150 tanks - 25,000 L (in that room) at approx 20% weekly for 3 years comfortably. By that, I mean I calculate what percentage of a psrticular rack I want to water change each week and set the dripper to deliver that volume. Grow out tanks get 50% changes weekly. Holding tanks only get 5%. Nowadays, I don't chlorine check as I'm very familiar with my water & system. I just replace the carbon every even birthday (every 2years) which is far to early but easy to remember. On my bigger fish rooms with much higher water volumes, I make my own much bigger carbon filter as this let's me source a known grade of carbon. These get changed every 5 years (again just for the convenience).

Send me a private message with your phone number If you want more help as a phone chat is much easier. No offense taken if you decide a different drip method is better for your style of fish keeping. 



Edited by fishdance
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Hi Winston, I appreciate you going out of your way to explain in such detail. I feel it’s helped immensely and the information on running the drip along the ground instead of up high I wouldn’t have even though about.

I’ll send you a PM with my details, thanks again.

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Hi Adam, yes planning a fish room can be exciting but it does help to know what you want. Hit me up if you want some suggestions as I know what aisle size, rack alignment, tank clearances, floor drain placement, electrical circuits, etc works best for me. (repeat - works best for me). However half the fun is working out these details for yourself I suspect.

While the drip water change should be kept as simple as possible, incorporating specific options to cater for individual fish keeping requirements is still possible. A single 4 liter per hour drip will displace almost 100 Litres every 24 hours or 700 Litres per week. That's an extremely slow drip rate visually for context.

Some of the things I have incorporated include having a storage tank for RO water, surge/wave dump tanks for oxygenation, a side circuit to external IBC pods to rotational grow green water (flush feed fish for natural colours), etc.

Below I have a 150 L sump used as fish harvest tank on a 9000L of growout system. To harvest, I pull the tanks central stand pipe and the fish end up in the sump. Because I wanted to keep the sump as small as possible (far undersized), I used an auto start & stop siphon drain. A siphon is able to power drain all excess water much faster than a gravity overflow drain from a sudden power outage and the sump will continue to run when power is returned. The lost water being topped up from the drip.




Auto drain sump.JPG

Edited by fishdance
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many thanks for the info Winston

this is a very good information for those wanting a fish room or to just make 

having a larger number of tanks more manageable


hope all is going well for you mate 

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  • 5 months later...

Hi Winston

I have been reading your post over and over again. It has some great info. I am looking at inline filters to take the approach you mentioned, straight from the tap to refill my tanks. I was just wondering if you could provide a link to the inline filters you use, or if you think something like this would be suitable?


Also wondering, how did you heat the water? Did you use an inline heater? I am considering using the right mix of hot and cold water to deliver the right temperature. I'd appreciate your insights into that. 


Edit - also wondering how you handled buffers from the tap? Did you dose tanks/systems every so often depending on the volume of water exchange? 


Many thanks!

Edited by adamgatt
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Hi Adam, those filters are fine but any carbon holding container will do because the water pressure is low. You could use a DIY PVC pipe with screw cap ends if you want to self pack the carbon instead of having to buy more expensive replacement cartridges which don't hold much carbon. A compromise may be to use a self refillable cartridge container instead. This let's you choose the grade /quality if your picky.   https://www.clarencewaterfilters.com.au/product/empty-cartridge-refillable-10-inch-x-2-5-inch/ as an example, there is plenty of choice.

Don't get hung up on having to use catalytic carbon to remove chloramine, at slow flow rate any carbon will strip chloramine but the higher grade activated carbon (more voids, more initial sizzle) will go longer periods between refills. I have acreage so it's easy for me to recharge spent carbon or make my own with a fire pit /fireplace.

I wouldn't recommend 0.5 micron prefilter as it will clog much faster resulting in more maintenance, even chlorinated water has lots of gunk that settles out in low flow. I found 5 micron was suitable and a ceramic core more durable than cotton weave or paper pleats but don't be afraid to experiment. 

QLD doesn't get as cold as NSW. A slow drip of cold water doesn't shift tank temperatures noticeably as my daytime temperatures are warm and all my rooms are insulated. On tanks which get 50% water change daily, I clip in a 100m coil of the 4mm micro irrigation tube for winter and drop the coil into a heated tank so the drip water is warmed. Sort of a heat exchanger situation. Slow drip is relative but about one drip a second shifts a surprising volume of water over a week. You can use higher rate drippers or more quantity of drippers as you need. I forgot to mention do use Pressure Compensating drippers as these release the same set volume regardless of pressure fluctuations. 

I don't buffer my tanks. Coral chunks  are used to maintain hardness in some systems. Send me a PM if you want some ideas on auto dosing. I generally try to reduce workload and complexity where possible. The more tanks you have, the higher the chance of something going wrong.

Might also be an idea to contact Daniel as I helped him set up off forum. He was going to mix hot & cold water and having recently set up, he may have a different perspective. 

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I played around with liquid fertiliser dosing systems (for farmers) many years ago but depending on your requirements and expectations, I think you will find the incoming tap water will vary from week to week so that complicates issues even if your dosing system is accurate. 

The most reliable low tech method would be to set up a water holding tank to pre mix the water then use that as a reservoir to supply your drippers. If you have height, put the reservoir up high and gravity drip. You should maintain an airstone to constantly mix. A few large scale marine keepers use two reservoir IBC tanks one above the other. The bottom is the mixing tank with easy access to pour in salt mixes. When dissolved, it's pumped up to the top holding  tank for use (gravity feed). 

If you don't have height, use a large powerhead or continous pump running 24/7 to push feed the drippers, returning the excess water back to the reservoir which will keep your reservoir mixed.

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Many thanks again Winston for sharing your knowledge. I was originally planning to have large storage tanks/drums outside and then pump in from them (that's what I do in my current setup). After doing more research though and reading your posts I am now likely going to go straight from the tap with the inline filtration as you have described.

I just got most of my supplies delivered today to build the stands and run the drainage/overflows. I'll share some progress and the end result back here as I progress with it. Thanks again.

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No worries, Chris @Link2Hell. I have been filming my progress and Jason has been putting it on YouTube every so often. I've finally finished the building works and have started with the fun bit, the fish stuff. 😎 I've really enjoyed the planning and designing of it too. Can't wait until it is done so that I can get some additional species. 

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