Unlike natural bodies of water, aquariums are closed systems. This means whatever enters the fish tank stays in there indefinitely. Waste, uneaten food and debris will begin to build up in your aquarium if you don’t take care of it. Over time, all this can affect the balance and quality of the water and, in turn, the health of the fish.
So let’s have a look at a few of the essential tasks you need to carry out to keep your fish tank in tip-top shape.
Keep in mind that the frequency with which you clean your aquarium will depend on the size of the tank, the number of fish, the type of fish and your physical set-up.
- Daily Checks
There are a few aquarium features that you need to check on a daily basis
First, it’s important to inspect your filter to see if it’s working properly. As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t see bubbles coming from the pipe, your filter is likely not working as it should.
Next, check the temperature of the water. Most fish will require a temperature range of 23-26°C. However, the optimal temperature will differ depending on the species of the fish. Make sure to do some research or check with a pet shop if you’re unsure.
You should also regularly count your fish and see if they look healthy. Observe their eating patterns as well. If there is an excess of uneaten food in the tank, you will need to remove it. It’s also a sign that you should reduce the amount of food that you feed your fish.
Lastly, check the water level. If you notice a drop, make sure to top it off. There are even auto top off systems available for those who don’t want to be constantly checking water levels.
- Cleaning the Tank
When cleaning the tank, your methods as well as the products that you use are particularly important.
Light cleaning should be done every two weeks or so. General cleaning includes removing debris, trimming live plants, scraping off algae and wiping down the outer surface of the tank. When cleaning the glass, make sure you use an algae scrubber and aquarium safe cleaners. After cleaning, make sure to leave the tank for a few minutes. Then, use a siphon to extract the debris.
Ideally, a partial water change should be done after your weekly/bi-weekly cleaning. It’s best to use treated or aged water, as tap water tends to have chlorine and other additives that are bad for fish Additionally, make sure the temperature of the replacement water is within the proper range.
- Testing the Water
You should test the water monthly for ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, pH levels and carbonate hardness. It’s a good idea to keep a record of these tests so you can track the changes in the state of the water.
Here are few key water testing points to remember:
- Healthy aquarium water should have the lowest possible nitrite level. Nitrites hinder the oxygen that enters the fish’s bloodstream, causing them to suffocate.
- Nitrites generally lead to ammonia spikes. So, if nitrites are present, make sure to test for ammonia as well.
- Nitrates should be below 10ppm in freshwater and 5ppm in saltwater.
- The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.
- If carbonate hardness dips beyond 45dH, your aquarium will crash, causing most (or all) of your fish to die.
There are also visual checks that you can do. If the tank water is cloudy, has changed colour or if the fish in it are acting strangely, something isn’t right. Test and replace the water as soon as you can. There are plenty of good aquarium shops online that can supply you with everything you need to clean the tank and test the water.
- Filter Maintenance
Ideally, your aquarium filter should be checked and serviced monthly. If your fish tank is more populated, filter maintenance should be undertaken more frequently.
A dirty filter will not be able to filter harmful toxins and debris. Leave it long enough and these contaminants will poison the water and damage the health of your fish.
You should replace your filter if you notice water not moving through the filter, rattling sounds, a dirty interior or cracks.
When rinsing the filter, make sure to use fresh water. Avoid using soap or bleach as this will kill the beneficial bacteria on the fitler. If you can, use water from the tank to clean your filters.
- Beware of Detergents
When cleaning your aquarium, you need to ensure that you are using products that won’t affect the quality of the water.
For example, detergents have adverse effects on the health of your fish. Detergents destroy mucus layers that protect fish from bacteria, kill fish eggs and affect aquatic organisms’ ability to breed.
The phosphates in detergents can also lead to more algae growth. Decomposing algae takes up the oxygen in the aquarium, thus, affecting the health of the fish.
Now that you know what to do, go on and take care of your beloved fish. Since mother nature is not there to take care of them, you need to take its place. We know that these little maintenance jobs might feel like a hassle. However, it will go a long way in keeping your aquarium looking good and your fish feeling healthy.