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Aquarium Maintenance - Tips For Creating A Maintenance Schedule For Your Tank

Regular aquarium maintenance is the key to a clean and healthy freshwater aquarium. Learn quick tips for setting up a regular aquarium maintenance routine.


checklist xs 4159239The key to keeping your freshwater aquarium clean and healthy is to establish an aquarium maintenance routine. For the most part, freshwater tanks do not require much effort to maintain, provided they've been set up correctly. There are, however, a few things you should be doing on a daily and weekly basis to ensure that your equipment continues to function properly and that the water quality in your tank remains high. By creating a maintenance schedule or checklist you can make the task of maintaining your tank much easier – not only will you know exactly what tasks you need to perform, but you will also know exactly when to do them. If you are able to produce and follow such a checklist, you may find that the task of maintaining your aquarium becomes much more manageable when all the tasks are laid out for you.

Daily Aquarium Maintenance Tasks

girl xs 6338701Most of the aquarium maintenance tasks you should perform on a daily basis involve observation. Check all the fish in your tank for signs of stress and illness – check to be sure they are eating properly and exhibiting normal behaviors. Such a simple task is easy to overlook but keeping a close eye on your fish can make a big difference when it comes to spotting, diagnosing and treating fish diseases. The more quickly you are able to identify the symptoms of a disease and take action to quarantine the sick fish, the less likely it is that the disease will spread to other fish in your tank. If you catch the disease early, your sick fish is also much more likely to recover.

Check the water in the tank to be sure it is clean and clear. There are several factors which can produce discoloration or foul odors in tank water and some of them, such as toxins or chemicals, can be extremely harmful for fish. The sooner you notice a problem, the more likely it is that you will be able to remedy the situation before your fish are harmed. It is also wise to monitor the temperature in your tank using an in-tank thermometer. Checking the thermometer is an easy way to make sure that your submersible aquarium heater is still functioning properly and that other factors, such as your tank lighting, are not overheating the tank. In addition to checking your tank heater, you should also check your filter to be sure the intake tubes are not clogged with waste or plant debris and that the filter is actually running.


The most important maintenance task you need to perform on a daily basis is, of course, feeding your fish. It is wise to research the particular species you have in your tank in order to formulate a healthy diet for each type of fish. Different species have different eating habits and, depending on whether they are carnivores or herbivores, they may also have different nutritional requirements. Many experienced aquarium hobbyists recommend feeding fish small amounts of food twice a day – only as much as they can consume in 3 to 5 minutes. This method helps to ensure that your fish receive adequate nutrition without being overfed.

Weekly Aquarium Maintenance Tasks

de-chlorinator seachem When it comes to weekly aquarium maintenance tasks, there are really only two things you need to do: water changes and water tests. In order to keep the water in your tank clean, it is wise to perform 10% to 20% water changes at least once a week. Over time, water will evaporate from your tank, leaving behind toxins and chemicals which can affect the pH and water hardness in your tank. If you simply add new water to the tank, these substances will continue to accumulate and could eventually poison your fish. By actually changing some of the water in your tank – removing dirty water and replacing it with fresh water – you can avoid this situation. To change the water in your tank, use a gravel vacuum to remove dirty water from the bottom of the tank. Dig the mouth of the vacuum into the gravel and move it around slowly, siphoning up accumulated waste along with the dirty water. When it comes time to replace the water, be sure to use a quality de-chlorinating solution to make the tap water safe for fish before you add it to your tank.

ph test xs 15020007The second weekly maintenance task you should be performing is a routine water test. Testing the water in your home aquarium is made easy through the availability of aquarium water test kits which can be found online and in most pet stores. These kits are easy to use – some simply involve dipping a test strip into a cup of aquarium water and others involve collecting test tube samples of water and adding a few drops of testing solution. After collecting the samples, you just need to compare the color of the water to the color chart included with the kit to determine the level of the substance for which you are testing. Performing weekly water tests is an easy way to keep an eye on the water parameters in your tank. Sudden changes in parameters such as pH, water hardness and chemical content can be extremely harmful to fish. If you perform weekly water tests you may be able to catch a problem before it gets out of hand and kills the fish in your tank.

Monthly Aquarium Maintenance Tasks

Though weekly 10% to 20% water changes are usually enough to keep water quality in the tank high, some aquarium hobbyists recommend performing larger water changes around 25% once a month. This is especially important in tanks housing fish that are particularly sensitive to changes in water chemistry. Discus fish, for example, require extremely high water quality in order to thrive, making frequent large water changes a necessity. Regardless the size and timing of your water changes, always be sure that the water you use to refill the tank is as close as possible to the existing tank temperature. While many species of fish are tolerant to changes in temperature, a sudden temperature change can cause stress in fish which may increase their susceptibility to disease.

One of the simplest but most important maintenance tasks you need to perform on a monthly basis is changing your filter media. If your filter utilizes a standard filter cartridge that combines the mechanical filtration of a sponge and the chemical filtration of activated carbon media, the sponge is likely to become clogged with solid waste after a few weeks. In order to ensure that your filter continues to run well and that it is able to properly clean the water in your tank, you need to change the filter cartridge approximately every three to four weeks. Some filters do not take filter cartridges, however, but should still be cleaned. Sponge filters, for example, utilize sponges and do not provide any chemical filtration. Maintenance of a sponge filter may require nothing more than rinsing the sponge when it becomes clogged. When rinsing any sponge-type media remember to use de-chlorinated tap water, or water from the aquarium, to prevent killing any beneficial bacteria. To determine how, and how often, to clean the particular type of filter you are using in your tank, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Establishing a regular maintenance schedule is important to maintaining a healthy environment for your fish and other tank inhabitants. However, a schedule is of no use unless you actually implement it on a regular basis. So, once you've developed an aquarium maintenance schedule, be a responsible aquarist and take action!

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