How to Do Easy Water Changes Part 1: The Salt Mixing Station

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

Let's face it. Everyone hates Water Change day. Let the water fill your five gallon bucket (fall asleep and wake up to a flooded basement), add the salt, check salinity, add fresh water, check salinity, add salt, check salinity ad infinitum. Here's one hack that will give you your weekends back.

Salt water mixing station using two Brute trash cans, RO/DI unit and float valves
Home made salt water mixing station

Always have a fresh batch of RO/DI water and salt water on hand. Never again spend your weekend chasing the perfect water parameters.

The setup is actually quite simple. All you need are the trash cans, the PVC pipe, and a couple of float valves.

Let’s talk water changes. For years, I would let my RO/DI unit drip into a Home Depot 5 gallon bucket. Sometimes I would fall asleep and wake up to a flooded basement. If I was lucky, I would remember to shut the water off and spend all Sunday adding salt, testing the salinity, adding freshwater, testing the salinity, adding more salt, then a heater. By the time the water was ready, it was Wednesday and my tank was suffering. There had to be a way to change this routine.

Enter the water changing station. Two Brute Trash Cans, a couple of strong steal shelving units, and a few bucks worth of PVC pipe and we’re in business.

The setup is actually quite simple. All you need are the trash cans, the PVC pipe, and a couple of float valves. Here are the steps:

1) Build the shelving units. Make sure the shelves are strong enough to hold the water. Figure each gallon of water is about 10lbs. I’m using 32 gallon trash cans, so I bought shelves that can hold up to 400lbs.

2) Buy a hole saw (I bought this kit) so you can drill the holes for the spigots. Then you want to get a couple of unseals. A regular bulkhead won't work because the trash can is curved. I picked mine up from BRS.

3) Get some PVC. You’ll want a long piece to insert into the trashcan. On the inside, you’ll attach a 45 degree elbow to make sure you are sucking water from the bottom. On the outside you’ll get a simple gate valve and a 90 degree elbow to empty water into the bucket when you are ready for a fresh batch of water. When inserting the PVC into the uniseal, make sure to lubricate it a bit (dish soap works fine).

4) Plumb your RO/DI unit into the trash cans. Just take a simple drill bit and drill holes near the top of the trash cans to insert the float valves. I picked up the float valves from BRS. With a simple ¼ inch tee, you can split your RO/DI water into the trash cans. In one can, you’ll mix salt and the other will hold fresh water. After they are filled, you will always have enough water on hand and never have to spend your weekends worrying about getting your 5 gallons just right!

Questions? Leave them in the comments!

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