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How to Maintain an Aquarium

Much of the fun in keeping fish is to be found in their regular upkeep, the essential tasks that ensure that they are kept as healthy as possible. By carrying out these tasks according to a regular timetable (such as that provided here), the aquarist can be certain that all important aspects of maintenance are covered.

Water changes

In all of the biotopes we have looked at, the water is constantly being replenished or recycled – otherwise the environment would soon stagnate and become toxic to all aquatic life. As aquarium water is ‘static’, it is up to you to change a certain percentage, thus reducing any nitrate build-up and replenishing minerals used up by plants and fish.

How much is ‘topped up’ depends on the aquarium and its occupants, but a good starting point is 25% weekly for fresh water, and 15 to 25% every two weeks for salt water. We have already seen that by measuring the amount of water introduced into the aquarium when it is first set up, we can assess the net volume; and now, using our chosen percentage, we can accurately replace the correct amount.

aquarium maintenance How to Maintain an Aquarium

Used water is removed with the aid of a bucket and siphon tube (sometimes connected to a gravel cleaner). By putting one end of the tube into the tank and the other into the bucket, water can be drawn off via the siphon effect. To start the siphon simply give a quick suck on the ‘bucket’ end of the tube, but if you are worried about getting a mouthful of water, aquatic stores sell siphon-starting bulbs.

Replacement water may have to be prepared in advance to match the chemistry of the aquarium. Hardness, pH and temperature are important factors, as is specific gravity where marine aquaria are concerned.

Pour or siphon the new water into the aquarium, slowly and carefully so as not to disturb fish, plants, and other decor.

Cleaning filters

Power (internal and external) and sponge filters will require attention on a regular basis if they are not to clog up with detritus. Any purely mechanical media can be rinsed under the tap or replaced. Chemical media such as carbon are best replaced before they become exhausted. Biologically active media, however, must be treated differently. If they are washed under the tap, chlorine and chloramine will destroy the bacteria and leave the aquarium totally unprotected. It is therefore extremely important to rinse biological media in aquarium water only. If cleaning is carried out at the same time as water changes, the old water can be used for this purpose and then discarded. Never rinse any media actually in the aquarium!

Never replace more than 50% of biological media at a time (30% is better), or the filler will have to be matured from scratch; and, if possible, clean only this percentage of media at any one time. It is wise to reduce loading (i.e. feeding) for 24 hours before and after filter maintenance.

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