Back Breaking Buckets!

Back Breaking Buckets!

I’m sure every aquarium hobbyist has carried their share of water filled buckets while doing your water changes. There is simply no way to get around it. If your tank is over 55 gallons, or you have multiple tanks, you will feel the pain of back breaking buckets!

There are many ways to solve this problem; however, you will never truly be rid of the bucket curse. Some days, while carrying buckets I reminisce about old kung fu movies. No really. The Shaolin Monk training is a reoccurring theme in these movies. For those who have never seen an old kung fu movie, let me tell you a bit about this reoccurring theme.

Basically the monks would carry wooden buckets full of water, one in each hand. Does this sound familiar? To make things worse, the kung Fu master would have attached turned down blades to the monk’s biceps. If the monk were to lower their arms, they would be cut! During this cruel form of strength training the monks would run and climb all manner of stairs, beams and obstacle courses. They would balance on posts and walk on coals. The weak would fail and would be left completely exhausted, underarms bleeding . Any monk who failed this exercise would be punished or expelled from the school. The strong usually went on to fight the antagonist.


monk bucket

What I learned from the monk exercises:

  1. I will never graduate from kung fu school.
  2. Spilling water in the wrong part of the temple (i.e. sofa or kitchen floor) will have consequence with the temple master.
  3. I am through carrying buckets!

With that being said I have developed a new way of moving water from the tank to the drain, and from the tap to the tank.

How to save your back when performing water changes

To drain water out of the aquarium I employ a 50 foot garden hose. I bought a black one to go with the surrounding decor :) I leave the hose out permanently and have it tucked away along the edge of the walls. While this may not be an option for you, there are plenty of inexpensive hose reels available on the market so that you can quickly coil it up and put it away.

One end of the hose is hanging in the basement drain, while the other end has been modified to fit 5/8″ clear vinyl tubing. To start the siphon I simply place the vinyl tube over a power head outlet, and viola my back feels better already!

You don’t have to keep the hose attached after the siphon has started. In fact I have even attached a gravel vacuum once the siphon has started, which has resulted in great success. This has worked for me even through 50 feet of garden hose! Going uphill could pose a problem. In this case just leave the vinyl tube attached to the power head for that extra push. Just make sure the pump doesn’t run dry.

With the water out of the tank, it’s now time to refill tank. I personally use the same hose to refill the tank during water changes. If you plan on doing this I recommend that you purge the hose by running water through it into the drain for 20-30 seconds. This way you’re only putting clean water into your tank and not blowing the dirty remnants trapped in the hose from the draining process.

Unfortunately I don’t have any taps in the basement where my fish room is so I had to modify the plumbing from the washing machine. The cheapest way of doing this is to buy three “Y” splitters, the kind that will attach to a garden hose and allow you to adjust the flow. Use one on the hot water line, and another one on the cold line. The last “Y” splitter is used to join the hot and cold lines together and will give you some kind of temperature control.


Y Spltter

I have been searching for an in-line thermometer so that I can get the water at just the right temperature as to not shock the fish.

Using this system does require you to add your dechlorinator or buffers/salts directly to the tank. You need to make sure that you add enough dechlorinator to dose the entire volume of your aquarium. Then add your premixed buffer/salts slowly as you adjust the water chemistry.

While it’s true that you’ll miss out on the weekley bucket brigade exercise program, you can continue your training by “Scraping the glass grasshopper”


3 Responses to “Back Breaking Buckets!”

  1. Brian ESS on 04 May 2008 at 9:13 am #

    Yes, this works!
    I know because this is exactly what I do.
    So nice to know that I’ve been doing something right by CanadaFishTank!

    Even with the benefit of 3 teenagers (who broke their backs for me), just the thought of all that bucket carrying was exhausting…

    Now, when we siphon off the tank water from both our 55 gallon tanks, we water our small patch of grass out front. The grass never looked greener.

  2. Steph on 19 Aug 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    It’s a great idea for removing water, but I don’t think I can make it work for refilling my salt tanks.. I use RO/DI water, which I transfer, by bucket (AHHHHHHH!) to a trash can where I mix the salt. It sits and aerates until it’s time to use it. And then I transfer it around to my tanks. Maybe I can put the trash can by the RO unit.. it can fill on it’s own, and I can run a hose via a bulkhead installed at the bottom of the can.. but would have to get the water up over the tank… any thoughts?


  3. Marcel on 21 Aug 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    I think that you would have enough pressure to go back over the rim of your tanks. Just make sure the bulkhead is within a couple of inches from the bottom of the trash can. If possible try and put the bulk head on a straight surface there will be less chance of leakage this way. A good rubber washer on the bulkhead, inside of the trash can should stop any other possibility of leaks.

    Then if that doesn’t work you can always get a powerhead or other sump pump in the can to push the water :) Since it won’t need to be running 24/7 you could get a cheaper bilge or sump pump.

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