Aquarium Maintenance Tip: Have Make-up Water Ready

Aquarium maintenance is all about finding efficiencies.  One simple trick I discovered is to have makeup water in a container, dechlorinated, and ready to use to top off the aquarium.

add make-up water to freshwater aquarium

Beyond feeding the fish and cleaning glass, topping off your aquarium is the main maintenance task between water changes. It’s not nearly as critical for freshwater aquariums as it is for marine tanks, but maintaining water level is a good practice.  It assures your pump/filters operate correctly and it keeps the aquarium aesthetically pleasing by minimizing the hard water creep (at the water line). Our 5 gallon Spec V nano operates without a top, so evaporation is a bit more than the stock setup (with the acrylic cover) – we need to top every few days to keep the water level consistent.

When it was time for a top off, I used to prepare the make-up water one bowl at a time – Get out a quart Tupperware, fill with water, add a few drops of dechlorinator, pour in tank to top-off, put bowl and dechlorinator away.  That is too many steps and often, the hassle kept me from adding water to our aquarium when it needed it.

An Easier Way: Have Make-up Water at the Ready:

Here is an easy way to deal with make-up water for a small aquarium.  Get an old gallon container with a lid – I used this one that drinking water came in.

1 gallon water container for aquarium make-up top off

  • After your regular water change and maintenance, take the time to fill the container with water.
  • Add dechlorinator (just a few drops of Seachem Prime is all that is needed – Dosing Calculator Here) to make it aquarium safe.
  • Put the container of make-up water somewhere convenient where you or others in the home can quickly get it.  We keep ours in the pantry, just 20 feet from the tank.
  • For a nano aquarium, a gallon of make-up water is plenty to last between water changes.
  • If you are on vacation and someone is helping look after your aquarium, just keep the make-up water container right next to the aquarium so it’s easy for your caretakers.

add aquarium makeup water to fluval spec v nano tank

Marine aquariums may have more stringent requirements (such as using RODI water for top-offs).  However, the need for make-up water is even more critical for Saltwater tanks.  Only freshwater evaporates from the saltwater in the tank, causing ever increasing salinity.  Marine aquarist should stay on top replacing the evaporated water often to lessen fluctuations in salinity over time.

3 thoughts on “Aquarium Maintenance Tip: Have Make-up Water Ready

  1. Hi. I like to replace evaporated water with DI or distilled water (about $1 / gal at CVS). I figure this way the water hardness will stay constant this way. Am I over thinking this??? Thanks.

    1. Perhaps. It is true that adding tap water will raise your hardness until your next water change can reset. I have just installed an RODI unit (in preparation for an EVO 13.5) and have actually started using RODI water for my makeup. If you have RODI water available, it’s worth a shot.

      A word of caution: I have heard that distilled water may be processed through copper coils and may have elevated copper – this is not good for shrimp and other inverts. Other people say this is not the case anymore. At any rate, do some research on your source of distilled water.

  2. Thanks for the warning, Nate. I”ll see what I can find out concerning the copper issue. I have no shrimp or inverts so I guess I am good.

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