Maintaining Freshwater Fish Tanks, Aquariums & Bowls

Regular, thorough maintenance of fish tank aquariums and bowls will ensure the health of your fish and the beauty of your aquariums. Fish-keeping is to be enjoyed and need not become irksome if you follow these steps to maintaining beautiful aquariums and bowls. A good idea is to create a checklist on your calendar of the important duties that need to be completed.

Daily Maintenance

– Observe your fish

It is important to become familiar with appearance and behaviours of your fish so you can detect any abnormalities that could indicate a problem. Feeding time provides a convenient opportunity to observe your fish. If there is a cause for concern you should move the fish into a hospital tank. Also make the appropriate tests to ensure proper water quality.

– Remove food

Half an hour after feeding, remove any uneaten food as this will rot and clog the filters.

– Check equipment

Check that all the equipment is functioning properly because when filters, heaters, lights or aerators fail, there is a major risk of pollution and distress.

Weekly Maintenance

– Clean inside glass and decor

Scrape algae off the glass and ornaments using algae pads purchased at a pet store (so they do not have soap or chemical residue). For more stubborn algae, use a scraper but ensure it is made of plastic blades for acrylic tank aquariums and bowls. This will keep your tank looking clean and make for easy viewing of your fish.

– Perform water change

You should move 10-15% of the water for aquariums (50% for fish bowls). It is important to remove water and not add more to replace what has evaporated, as the latter increases toxicity concentration. Regular, partial water changes are essential to avoid the build up of toxic nitrogenous compounds produced by fish and by the bacteria that break down waste in fish tank aquariums and bowls. The most common method is simply to place a bucket lower than the aquarium and use tubing to siphon water from the tank into the bucket.

– Vacuum gravel

While performing the water change, use a siphon with a gravel tube on the end to vacuum trapped debris and uneaten food from the substrate. As the gravel is lifted partway up the tube, dirt particles are sucked up and out of the tank and then the gravel is dropped back. This is particularly important if you have an under-gravel filter. Also siphon off wastes that have accumulated on the plants, decor and at the corners of the fish tank, trim overgrown plants and remove dead leaves.

– Replace water

To fill up the tank again use a bucket that is kept specifically for your aquariums and bowls so that it is not used for detergents or household chemicals. You will need to add dechlorinator to the water for freshwater fish tanks and bowls. Remember to ensure that the replacement water is the same temperature and composition as that of the tank water to avoid shocking your fish.

Monthly Maintenance

– Perform larger water changes

Change 25% of the water in fish tank aquariums (75% in fish bowls), following the same procedure for weekly water changes.

– Test water quality

Different aspects of water quality can be tested with the appropriate aquarium test kit. When tank aquariums and bowls are initially set up the water needs to be tested every few days and then once per week for the next eight weeks. After this, water can be tested monthly or if fish display abnormal behaviour.

Ammonia is produced by waste products as a result of fish respiration, digestion and decaying foods. It is the most toxic product formed in water and begins to stress freshwater fish at levels of 0.5ppm.

Nitrate is the toxic product created in the process of breaking down ammonia. Levels above 1.0ppm are to be avoided in freshwater aquariums and bowls. Nitrite is generally harmless to most freshwater species below 300ppm.

Chlorine is a chemical additive used to destroy bacteria in tap water and is lethal to fish at 0.2-0.3ppm.

Other aspects of water quality, especially pH, will depend on the particular fish species you are keeping. Most tropical freshwater fish prefer more alkaline conditions. Alkalinity is a numeric measure of the resistance of water to a change in pH as acid is added. Hardness is a measure of dissolved calcium and magnesium salts in water with most freshwater fish preferring soft to medium hard.

If there needs to be corrections made to existing water chemistry, do this gradually as stability of conditions for your fish is as important as water quality.

– Clean the filter

Disposable filter cartridges need to be replaced since particles collect in them which are broken down to produce ammonia and also clog the filter slowing down the flow of water. Reusable and / or biological filter media should be rinsed in water taken from the aquarium to remove the debris and quickly replaced so the bacteria growing on them will not be completely lost. If the power filter has been off more than two hours, the mechanical and chemical filter must be discarded and the biological media thoroughly rinsed.

– Clean exterior

The outside glass or acrylic of aquariums and bowls should be cleaned monthly as well as the light and hood or top of tank aquariums. The outside becomes dusty and the inside areas accumulate calcium deposits and algae. All this restricts the amount of light reaching the interior of aquariums or bowls. Use cleaners designated as aquarium safe or a simple solution is to use vinegar. Regular household glass cleaners can not be used as they contain ammonia which is toxic to fish.

Yearly Maintenance

– Replace lighting

Fluorescent tubes and starters should be replaced yearly to provide maximum visual quality and plant growth.

– Check air pumps

Diaphragms and flapper valves need to be replaced if there is reduced output and / or they are operating noisily.

– Replace air stones

Air stones need to be replaced at least every twelve months as they become clogged and damage the air pump as well as losing bacteria. New air stones should be soaked for several hours in water before being installed. If there is reduced bubbling they may need to be replaced before this time. A lot depends on the amount of waste in your freshwater aquarium.

By following these procedures for regular maintenance, your fish tanks, aquariums and bowls will be successful and you will derive a lifetime of pleasure from them.

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