Aquarium Care and Maintenance - Daily, weekly and monthly tasks
Setting up an aquarium can take a lot of planning, positioning the tank, getting the tank cycled ready for the fish and finally adding your fish selection. When the tank is first set up it will have that clean, new look that really catches the eye as people walk past and spot it but how do you keep your aquarium looking that way and how can you guarantee that you are supplying your fish and plants if added, the best water quality that they need for growth and long term health. Just like the planning stage, the maintenance stage requires careful thought, some tasks need doing on a daily basis while others probably only need doing once a month.
These tasks are very important to keeping a successful aquarium so skimping on these will eventually lea to the downfall of the tank and problems will start to occur, these problems will then escalate to a total tank shut down. To ensure that the aquarium care and maintenance is carried out on the required dates it is best to start a tank log, this can be notes in a notebook or even add a spreadsheet to your computer so that you can tick off when tasks are carried out without having to store everything inside your head.
The required tasks that I will mention below are split into three groups, daily, weekly and monthly tasks. Obviously the groups will merge but daily tasks will soon become routine to you and you will undertake them without giving them a second thought.
Daily Maintenance Tasks
One of the most important tasks and oner quite easily never considered is doing a head count of your fish every morning and checking their general behaviour. This may seem odd to novice keepers but a fish that has passed away and is hidden behind some décor can quickly decompose and foul your aquarium water. Checking the behaviour of the fish will ensure that you can spot any tell tale signs of disease or virus in the early stages allowing you to take prompt action whether it be adding medications or removing a fish to place it into a quarantine tank.
Check the fish for any unusual marks that could be caused by fighting, knocking themselves against the décor also check for any signs of white spot etc.
If the tank is a recent set up it is best to check the pH of the water on a daily basis for the first month, new tanks are prone to pH swings until the water matures, this can have adverse effects on the fish.
Check that any food added to the tank has been eaten, this too can decompose very quickly.
Every other day run an algae cleaner over the tank glass, this will prevent any build up of algal deposits and keep the tank looking fresh, magnetic algae cleaners are available from all aquatic stores and do not cost a lot of money but they are very effective at keeping the tank glass clean.
Heck for evaporation in the aquarium, if the water level has dropped top it up with treated water to keep the surface level at the same height.
Check the temperature of the water if you are running a tropical or salt water tank. Place a reliable aquarium thermometer where it can be clearly seen so that with a quick glance you will know that the heater is running at the correct temperature, if not adjust accordingly
Weekly Maintenance Tasks
Your main task to be performed on a weekly basis is a water change, this cannot be missed as it is the only way you have of controlling your nitrate levels unless the tank is planted, the plants will feed on the nitrates which in turn makes your life a bit easier as the water changes will be slightly smaller. For a standard aquarium you must do at least 10% water changes, this will also replenish vital minerals back into the water to help the fish grow.
If you are using an internal filter the sponges will need to be rinsed in old tank water to prevent them from getting clocked with detritus. Never rinse the sponges in mains water, if you do you will destroy the bacterial colonies that built up when you cycled the tank.
Test your water with a suitable test kit, this will need to be done on a daily basis while the tank is cycling but once cycled, once a week should be ample to keep an aye on any unexpected ammonia or nitrite spikes. Always test the water at the same time of day and on the same day of the week, this will get you into a routine plus the pH of the water changes constantly over a 24 hour period, testing at the same time of day will give you comparable readings from previous weeks to give you a clear idea of how stable your pH actually is.
Over a week the dreaded algae will show itself on the tank glass and décor, it may be necessary to invest in a scraper that is designed for aquariums, these usually have a sponge attachment for scrubbing the tank glass, never use an abrasive pad that is not aquarium safe, this is sure to scratch the glass and leave unsightly marks.
Monthly Maintenance Tasks
Once a month clean the substrate in the tank. If you are using gravel, invest in a suitable gravel vacuum to remove any detritus and release gas pockets that build up over time. These gases are harmful to the fish and even if the gravel looks clean you cannot see what is underneath so keep on top of this all of the time.
Check the pipework of any external filters that you may be using, look for signs of water leaking at connections and check the flow of water being released from the filter. Most external filters will only need stripping down once very 3 months for cleaning but if something large has been sucked into the intake pipe the filter will block up overnight. Check that the pipes are clear from blockages etc.
Using a damp cloth, wipe down the external sides of the aquarium glass and wipe over the lights. Dust will accumulate so if you wipe it away there is no chance of it entering the water inside the aquarium.
Reading through the list of tasks may seem a bit daunting but once you get into a routine they become second nature and the aquarium will be easy to maintain and look its best.