Angelfish and Discus in a planted tank.

Aquarium Maintenance

We have set up a beautiful aquarium, now we want to keep it that way -- beautiful. Maintaining your aquarium is relatively simple. The main tasks are scraping algae from the glass, using a gravel vacuum to syphon waste from the bottom, cleaning out the filters and keeping up on water changes. These are all simple tasks and can require little labor and time if done correctly.

Algae Control

Algae growth on the glass is natural and, although it can be ugly to look it, is entirely healthy for the fish. Scraping it from the glass requires an abrasive pad either on a stick or on a submerged magnet such as a MagFloat device. If you have an acrylic aquarium, just make sure the scraper is ok to use and won’t scratch the surface.

Filter pads will need to be rinsed out every week or two (depending on how heavily stocked your aquarium is). Because much of the beneficial bacteria lives in the filter pads, you will want to rinse them in aquarium and never in your chlorinated tap water. For this reason, it is easiest to rinse them while doing water changes. Just dip them in the buckets of aquarium water during the water change, squeeze the pad a few times to remove any dirt, and replace it back in the filter. The more often the filter pads are cleaned, the less often they will need to be replaced. Over time, however, they will deteriorate and will need to be switched out with new ones. Try to only replace half of them at a time, so you are not removing too much of the beneficial bacteria colony at once. For more information on beneficial bacteria see The Nitrogen Cycle.
Black Angelfish with Swordtails in a planted tank.

Partial Water Changes

Throughout the life of your aquarium you will want to test your water periodically to make sure the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are within safe range. If the ammonia or nitrites are a little high, you may be overfeeding, you may need some additional biological filtration media (places for these bacteria to live), or your aquarium may be overstocked. Whatever the reason, do a quick water change, test the water afterward, and see if it goes up or down over the next several days.

Doing a water change is simple, but can require the most manual labor of all the maintenance processes. you will use a gravel vacuum to syphon the waste from within the gravel, and suck the waste and the aquarium water into buckets. These buckets of old water can be dumped down the drain or the toilet. Then you will want to fill the buckets up with tap water as close to the aquarium temperature as possible, add the dechlorinator and aquarium salt you used when first setting up the aquarium, mix the buckets and pour them into the aquarium.

It is possible to carry out this whole water changing process without lifting buckets. You can invest in an aquarium pump and a garden hose, submerge the pump in the aquarium and pump the water right out of the tank and down the drain. For pumping water back into the aquarium, you can connect the hose to the faucet and use it to fill up buckets near the aquarium. Once the buckets are filled, add the dechlorinator and aquarium salt, mix, then put the pump in the buckets and pump it back into the aquarium.

It is also possible to get a hose that is specially designed for doing partial water changes. Such hoses can be found at local pet stores or online and attach directly to your bathroom sink faucet. The Python No Spill Clean and Fill is an excellent quality brand of such a hose. The special connecting piece on the hose allows for both removing water from the tank and replacing the water after.