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Cleaning Your Aquarium: Maintenance Routines
by Ruby Bayan

Cleaning the aquarium with a cleaning stick One of the joys you will experience in fish keeping is making sure that the underwater kingdom you have conjured remains in its ideal, pristine condition for the longest time possible. Feeding and looking after the health and wellness of the plants and fish is just one aspect of tank maintenance; housekeeping is another.

Keeping your aquarium clean doesn’t have to be unpleasant or tedious. Some minor tasks can be done regularly to avoid, or delay, a major cleanup or an overhaul. Usually a tank overhaul is necessary only when severe pollution has occurred, and a new setup is the only way to remedy the situation. If you can take care of your aquarium community diligently enough, there will be no need for a major cleanup for many years.

Let’s look at the essential tasks in keeping your aquarium setup clean and well maintained.

Maintenance Routines

Your aquarium contains living organisms that feed, respire, grow, age, and expire. From bacteria and other microorganisms, to algae and broad-leafed plants, to an assortment of exotic tropical fishes; the ecosystem in your aquarium comprises a slice of natural life. As caretaker of this ecosystem, you must be there to ensure that the natural balance is maintained.

On a regular basis, therefore, these are the things you need to take care of:

  1. Half an hour after every mealtime, remove all uneaten food. They will rot, clog the filters, and make your water toxic for the fish.

  2. Daily, check all the equipment supporting your aquarium. Be sure all working efficiently because when filters, lights, aerators, or temperature regulators fail, there is a major risk of pollution and distress.

  3. Observe the fishes – isolate and medicate those that look weak and sickly before the whole tank becomes contaminated.

    Catching fish with an aquarium net

  4. Check your aquarium glass cover – clean as necessary so that tank illumination is not hampered.

  5. Check for the growth of algae. You can scrape it off the walls with an algae scraper, a scrub pad, or a magnetic cleaner.

  6. Trim overgrown plants and remove dead leaves and branches.

  7. On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, perform partial water changes to minimize ammonia and nitrate build-up. Replace no more than 20% of the total water volume, and be sure that the replacement water is of the same temperature and composition as that of the tank. In between water changes, add fresh water to make up for quantity lost through evaporation.

    Siphon water out of the aquarium

  8. Siphon off wastes and debris that have accumulated on the substrate, the plants, décor, and at the corners of the tank. Stir the top of the substrate a bit to unearth the dirt and debris. You can use a siphon hose or a glass tube sediment remover. This task can be performed while siphoning off water for the regular water change.

  9. Clean or replace all filter elements (carbon, filter wool, sponge, etc.) every two-to-three months. You may also need to have your power filters and pumps checked and serviced for worn out parts.

  10. Replace fluorescent and UV lighting once or twice a year because these bulbs degrade with use.
If despite diligent maintenance, you find yourself having to deal with accidents, pollution, or a change of mind, here's a short tutorial on how to do a general overhaul of your aquarium.


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