Aquariums can be great fun, and an enjoyable hobby that can last a lifetime. But keeping an aquarium can also become an expensive headache if you don’t perform proper maintenance on your fish tank, and on a regular basis.
Some people shy away from purchasing an aquarium because they’ve heard they’re a lot of work to maintain, and they’re afraid they won’t have the time for the upkeep of a fresh or saltwater fish tank.
But if you’re organized, and set up a regular maintenance routine, you can keep your aquarium healthy and thriving in just a half-hour or so every other week. After all, most people spend more time than that washing their cars, and usually get a lot less enjoyment out of the task.
Aquarium maintenance – where to start
The first goal in aquarium maintenance is tank stability. A stable fish tank provides the environment for healthy fish and aquatic plant life. And if you’ve got everything set up and running properly, you’ll experience far fewer crises that need urgent attention.
You’ll spend more time enjoying your aquarium, and less time scrambling to re-balance major water parameters that can lead to serious tank problems – and even prove fatal to your fish. If your goal is tank stability, than the first place to start is with regular and frequent water changes.
Make it a goal to change your tank water at least every two weeks, and stick to that schedule. If you’re going to be out of town or otherwise can’t perform your scheduled water change, see if you can get a friend or family member to do it for you. You can probably go a few days beyond your schedule – but any longer can lead to serious water problems.
Some items you’ll want to have on hand for your aquarium cleaning regime are a well-made bucket, a set of grabbers to reach items on the bottom of your tank, a set of different-sized nets for skimming debris from the surface of the water, and aqua gloves if you’d rather keep your hands and arms dry during the entire cleaning process.
As far as the water change itself, it isn’t necessary to change out the entire tank, or even half of the water in your aquarium. It’s normally okay to change out 15-20% of your tank volume to keep a healthy tank stability.
Before performing your water change, it’s always a good idea to check the water levels of both your aquarium, and the replacement water you’ll be using.
Before performing your water change, it’s always a good idea to check the water levels of both your aquarium, and the replacement water you’ll be using. As you’re probably aware, most city tap water contains levels of chlorine, chloramine, or both. And these are chemicals you don’t want in your fish tank. Other harmful elements that can be present in tap water include lead, iron, phosphates, and other heavy metals.
If you’re uncertain about the chemistry of the tap water in your area, contact your local water company and they’ll provide you with that information. Also, if you live in an older neighborhood with older steel or lead plumbing, this can introduce contaminants to tap water as well.
Once you know the chemistry of your replacement water, then you’ll know what you need to do to make it safe for your fish tank. The removal of chlorine from tap water is fairly simple – just keep the water in aerated bucket, and the chlorine will air out naturally, usually within a day or so.
Chloramine, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, is harder to deal with. You can use a water conditioner to remove the chlorine, but the ammonia will have to be broken down by the bacteria already present in your aquarium.