Making your aquarium last: tips for long term aquarium maintenance
For most aspiring fish keeping enthusiasts and beginner aquarists, just getting the aquarium to function well enough to keep your fish alive and happy in the first place is enough of a challenge, but this article will focus on how to keep it that way by applying a long term aquarium maintenance routine.
No matter how much care and effort you put into setting up your aquarium perfectly for the introduction of your first batch of fish, over time you will notice that the environment changes. Gradually, you may come to realize that the bright and colourful tank that you once enjoyed has lost its original lustre.
Applying a regular long term aquarium maintenance routine will help to ensure that your tank looks like new even years after you began keeping fish in it. Key to this is assigning some monthly and annual tasks that will keep your tank fresh and lively.
. Check your fish for signs of distress, usually if they are breathing heavier than normal or are scratching themselves on objects. Check for any spots, marks, red blemishes or fungus. Also check that all the fish are present. Sick or dead fish may be hiding. Take the appropriate action.
. For the keener aquarist, do a 10% partial water change with aged water. Check your water parameters such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, ph and hardness.
. Vacuum any accumulated fish waste on the gravel surface.
Monthly tasks for a healthy aquarium
While aquarists should be well aware of the importance of daily tasks such as maintaining the proper temperature and feeding the fish, the constantly changing conditions of an active fish tank make some monthly tasks necessary to keep the aquarium in like-new condition. Scheduling these tasks and adhering to them over time will help keep your aquarium in excellent shape.
• Partial water changes. One of the most critical elements of long term aquarium maintenance is frequent water changing. Generally, a 25% water change monthly will help maintain the proper water quality for a tank, but 10% weekly can sometimes be even more effective.
Water changes should be accompanied by a test of the water quality in order to make sure that you have not upset the necessary balance of nutrients that your fish need to survive.
• Gravel churning. If you use a gravel substrate to line the bottom of your aquarium, you should use an aquarium vacuum to clean up the rot and waste that can easily collect underneath the gravel at least once a month. You need to really dig up and disturb the gravel so that the vacuum can suck up accumulated waste.
If you are using an under-gravel filter, it is necessary to clean the gravel when you do your water changes in order to prevent waste from collecting in between the gravel and preventing effective water flow.
• Cleaning algae and dirt from the glass. Every healthy aquarium will feature algae inside of it. This is an inescapable sign of a healthy underwater environment, making regular monthly cleanings necessary.
Controlling algae as part of a long term aquarium maintenance routine is important because algae grows incredibly rapidly and can overwhelm your tank if left unchecked. One of the best ways to control algae growth is to use a specialized algae scraper once a month along the interior of the tank and on any decorations that have been consumed by algae growth. Or better still reduce the wattage of your lighting.
• Plant pruning. Any aquarium that features live plants will eventually end up with dead leaves and plant matter decaying inside the tank. This waste can quickly build up and stress the environment for your fish, so your plants should be pruned at least once a month and dead plants removed as soon as they are discovered.
• Equipment checks. Always schedule a monthly equipment check so that you can be sure that every part of your tank is functioning properly. Over time, you may notice that your tank heater does not provide as much heat as it used to, or that your air pump valves need replacement.
Catching faulty equipment before its too late can be the only way to skirt disaster, which is why effective long term aquarium maintenance is necessary. If you can catch and replace defective equipment before it affects the livelihood of your fish, you stand a good chance of keeping your aquarium in excellant condition for years to come.
• Filter cleaning. Although you spent time and energy cycling your tank so that beneficial bacteria could grow on your sponge filter, you should regularly clean off the filter so that water flow does not get obstructed. If you have this kind of filter, it is easy to clean without losing all of the helpful bacteria.
Removing your sponge filter and rinsing it in the same water you use in your tank is the best way to remove unwanted particles without harming the bacteria on the sponge. This is vastly preferable to replacing the sponge or wiping it perfectly clean, since that would require you to cycle your tank again afterwards from scratch.
The best thing to do is to schedule your filter cleaning several days apart from your tank cleaning so that there are enough beneficial bacteria present to keep your fish happy in the process. If you have a large tank with several filters, stagger your filter cleaning so that there is enough time for bacteria to grow back on the freshly cleaned filter before you clean the next one.
Annual maintenance tasks for long term aquarium maintenance
Keeping your aquarium freshly cleaned on a monthly basis can help reduce the chance of having to replace major elements of your aquarium on an annual basis, but it is important, nonetheless, to give your entire aquarium a quality once-over in order to be certain that the environment is ideal.
The following list of tasks should be exercised at least once a year, although many experienced aquarists suggest that a bi-annual check once every six months is even better for effective long term aquarium maintenance, depending on the complexity of your tank and its bio-load.
• Change your light bulbs. While it may seem like your aquarium lighting setup is working perfectly fine, you may want to change your lights at least once a year. Even if the lamps appear to be working just as well as the first day you bought them, they may not be providing the same ultraviolet frequencies as before, hindering your aquarium’s reproduction of natural daylight.
• Check your pumps and filter mechanisms. While you should be cleaning the actual filter media of your tank once a month, the mechanical elements responsible for water flow also need some regular attention. A specialised tubing brush can help you wipe away any debris that may have gotten into the motor or impeller of your setup.
Some pumps may require annual lubrication in order to work properly. If you discover that any of these parts are cracked, damaged, or otherwise working improperly, they should be replaced as soon as possible. Effective long term aquarium maintenance requires that these parts are kept in pristine working order.
• Examine your fish. Your aquarium is nothing without your fish, so it is important to give them a close visual inspection at least once a year, though preferably even more frequently. Look especially for signs of sickness in your fish. You may want to set up a hospital tank for your ill fish so that they do not infect the rest of the community.
This could also be a convenient time to exchange some fish. Unwanted residents of your tank can be sold off and replaced with different, more interesting fish that can give you a new appreciation for your aquarium.
• Close search for rot and decay. If you have been properly taking care of your monthly long term aquarium maintenance tasks, you should not have any major problems with dead plant matter or decayed fish food in your tank. However, it is important to regularly give your tank an especially close look in order to be sure.
Dead fish, of course, should be immediately removed as soon as they are discovered. The same, however, goes for any decaying or rotting material in your tank. Any of these can seriously affect the water quality if left in the tank, and lead to sick or dying fish, as well as greater long term aquarium maintenance complications later on.