Even once your freshwater aquarium is up and running your work isn’t finished. Diligent maintenance is required to maintain any tank. Typical tasks involve such things as feeding your fish and making sure all the equipment is still functioning as it should. And cleaning, lots of cleaning which I just know is everyone’s favorite activity! Luckily most of the work is small tasks that don’t require much time. But whether it’s big or small, try to set a regular schedule to perform these activities when you first start. Once they’re a part of your routine it’ll barely feel like work at all.
Assuming your tank is more than just a box full of water you’ll likely be stopping by once or twice a day to feed it’s inhabitants. At the same time as you’re doing this you should also perform a few basic checks on both what’s living in the tank as well as all the equipment that’s keeping it running. Check that all your fish are present and appear to be in good health with no major sores or lesions or anything like that. Healthy fish are always eager to accept their next meal and should come charging in as soon as the food hits the water. Also ensure that all your pumps, powerheads, filter, and heater are still operating normally. If there doesn’t appear to be any water movement at the outlet they may be stopped up. Finally take a look at the water itself. Is it cloudy or is there excess foam on the surface? Does it smell funny? If so your filter probably needs a cleaning and a water change should also be performed.
Roughly once every week a ~20% water change should be performed. As a closed system all the waste your aquarium’s inhabitants generate stays in the tank. And while a good filter can take care of a lot of this the water quality will still tend to degrade over time. Of particular interest during water changes is all the gunk that can accumulate in the substrate and behind or under decorations. Try to suck up as much of this as possible. You can also scrape off any algae that’s accumulated on the glass at this time as well and suck it out. When getting the new water ready to go into the tank make sure its temperature matches that of the aquarium’s water as closely as possible. Also remember to add a dechlorinator. Finally, you may need to check the pH depending on the quality of your local water supply and adjust it if necessary.
Around once a month or so the chemical media in your filter will be depleted and in need of a change. Media designed to physically screen out junk will also be getting clogged and in need of a good rinse and possible a change if it’s beginning to fall apart. Biological media, however, should not be changed. It’s simply there to provide surface area for bacterial growth and generally never needs to be replaced, although it may need a rinse to remove any junk that’s accumulated on it. Just make sure to use water from the tank as the chlorine in tap water can kill the bacteria. Make sure you do rinse the new media out, however, just as you did when initially setting up the filter. It’s also a good idea to check that the internal workings of the filter are still operating as they should as well. A light scrubbing with an old toothbrush never hurts.
Eventually the outside of you tank will likely need some cleaning as well. Over time the minerals in the water will begin to form into a crusty junk around the rim of the aquarium as well as on the outside of a lot of the equipment. If you’ve ever had hard water buildup on a faucet it’s essentially the same thing. For the most part it can be just wiped away, though to completely remove it you’ll need to use something acidic like vinegar. Avoid using any sort of soaps or other household cleaners as getting even a small amount in the tank can be disastrous. Along with the mineral deposits the underside of your cover may have some algae growth. Just take the cover to the sink and rinse it away.
While it all may sound like a bit much to keep up with it’s really not bad once you’ve got the hang of it. And many of these activities are a great way to get the rest of the family involved with your new found hobby as well. Follow these procedures and you should have a happy and healthy freshwater aquarium for years to come.
This article is part of a series:
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