Learn how to clean and care for your home aquarium without putting your fish in danger. Follow step-by-step guidelines here.
In comparison with other pets, fish need very little of your time and attention. Some maintenance is important, however, when dealing with aquariums and saltwater or freshwater fish.
Your biggest chore in caring for fish will be changing their water. No matter how effective and advanced your filter system is, it cannot extract all waste materials that accumulate.
When the water becomes cloudy or yellow, you're way past due for a water change. Dirty, soiled, water leads to stress, illness, and growth problems in all saltwater and freshwater fish, so it's important never to put this duty off for too long.
A LITTLE AT A TIME
Experts will tell you that the best approach to take when changing water is to do a little at a time. Rather than draining the whole tank, cleaning, and putting the fish back into their home, you'll change some of the water at shorter intervals. This method allows "good bacteria" to remain in the tank, which helps to naturally break down fish waste. You can practise this technique by:
1. Unplug the electrical equipment attached to the tank.
2. Using a specialty aquarium scraper (free of detergents, soaps, or other harmful chemical cleansers), begin cleaning the inside of the glass, scraping the algae and other debris downward. Always use slow, deliberate motions, so as not to cause unneeded stress to the fish still in the tank.
3. If you have live plants in the tank, take this time to remove them. You can also move plants, rocks, corral, and decorations around during this time, as well, to give the fish some new surroundings.
4. Stir up the gravel a little to allow waste matter to float freely inside the tank. Be extra cautious during this step, to be certain you don't injure or accidentally bury a fish.
5. Move the gravel to the back corners of the tank, leaving the front and middle of the tank with only a shallow layer of gravel. As you do this, debris will begin to settle toward the front of the tank.
6. Remove one-quarter to one-third of the water in the tank. You can do this with an aquarium approved siphon or by manually scooping it out with a pitcher or large cup.
7. You'll need to get rid of as much debris from the water and gravel as possible. You can do this with a specialized aquarium vacuum or your siphon.
8. You can now refill the aquarium. Be sure to use water that is aged chemically or naturally, and is within 3-degrees of the aquarium's temperature.
9. If you have saltwater fish, add the appropriate amount of aquarium salt now. (Most recommend adding 1 tablespoon for every 5-gallons of water removed from the tank.)
10. Replug all accessories and lighting fixtures.
CLEANING THE LIGHTING UNIT
The biggest mistake fish owners make is to leave an aquarium light on 24-hours a day. In truth, unless your tank is filled with live plants, the light never needs to be on. While it's just fine to turn the light on while feeding fish or for observation, aquarium lighting left on for long periods of time will cause an overgrowth of algae.
To clean aquarium light fixtures:
1. Unplug the light.
2. Remove light fixture and casing from the tank.
3. Use an algae scraper or aquarium mitt to remove as much debris and algae as possible.
5. Replace fixture.
6. Plug electrical light back in.
Aquarium lights can be cleaned while changing water or on their own. Wipe down lights at least once every 3-weeks.
Cleaning the cover of the tank can be done whenever necessary.
The best time to replace or clean filters is while changing water. That way, debris that has been stirred up and moved into the filter, can be cleansed with the water. Many aquarium filters do not need to be cleansed more than once a month. Never clean filters using household cleansers or hot water.
1. Unplug the filter.
2. Rinse out the sponge contained in the filter box with cool water.
3. If using filter floss, remove half of dirty floss, replacing with new. Always leave half of the original floss, even when dirty, inside the box. This will keep enough good bacteria growing in the tank to keep fish in optimum conditions.
When plastic plants are visibly covered in algae, rinse them in cool water, and replace. This should be done once a month, if necessary.
TIPS AND TRICKS
ADDING a few algae eating fish to you tank, like the "otocinclus," "stone lappers," or "Siamese algae eaters," can help keep algae in check.
RAPID algae growth is a signal that something is wrong. The most common causes of algae overgrowth are overfeeding and leaving tank lights on for more than 10-hours per day.
IF FORGETTING to turn tank lights off is a problem, invest in an inexpensive light timer that will automatically turn lights off and on at appropriate intervals.
INVESTING in an aquarium or gravel vacuum makes separating debris from a gravel easier.
NEVER use household chemical cleaners to cleanse aquarium glass or any other tank accessories. If added cleaning solution is required, use aquarium approved supplies or a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water.
ALWAYS KEEP an eye on tank temperature. Tropical fish do well in temperatures between 75-78-degrees F. Any sudden change in internal aquarium temperature could indicate a problem.
NEVER USE aquarium buckets for anything other than changing water. Buckets contaminated with cleansers, dust and debris can easily cause illness in fish.