With the recent hot weather encouraging everyone out into the garden and the threat of frost disappearing during May, David Coton is in no doubt that this is going to be a busy month.
This guide will help you to maintain your freshwater tropical or cold water fish tank with complete ease and set up a regular routine which is simple to stick to.
Once your aquarium has become established you will have to carry out maintenance to keep it looking beautiful and to keep the livestock healthy (and happy too).
I've split the maintenance schedules into different time frames which are: daily, weekly, every two weeks, monthly and yearly. The reason there are different timescales on certain types of maintenance is because some need to be done each day whereas others will only need to be carried out once per year.
Checking your fish tank daily requires only very basic checks but it's vitally important you do them, as this can prevent issues which could cause much more work and problems such as fish losses at a later date.
First things first will be to check your fish on a daily basis, the easiest way is to just have a look at them when feeding. Check that they're all still there and they're acting in a normal way and not behaving strangely. If you do spot any dead fish then remove them instantly as they can pollute the aquarium if left in the water.
Have a look at your equipment to ensure it's working correctly, see if the aquarium filter is flowing at its usual speed as a blocked filter could lead to fish fatalities. Check the heater is heating the water to the correct temperature. To do this just use a permanent thermometer and glance at it daily.
Weekly checks are a little more in depth than daily but will still not take up much time.
Testing the water on a weekly basis gives enough time for small changes but you'll catch them early preventing any more serious problems like a pH level which is off the scale. We advise that you record your results so that you can see the changes that take place.
If you want to perform weekly water changes then you can do this by removing 10% of the water, preferably with a gravel vacuum if you have gravel which removes the debris from underneath it. When you replace the water use a dechlorinator to protect your fish and filters, as chlorine in the water can damage fish and kill any beneficial bacteria in your filter too. You can also perform a 20% water change every 2 weeks if you'd prefer.
Try to remove any algae build up from your glass with an algae pad or scaper, however small it is. If you don't then it can become much tougher and this means you need to perform a more rigorous clean which can stress fish out. Polish the outside of the tank without using chemicals to prevent limescale build up and the tank will also look great.
Maintenance performed every two weeks is more important as this includes cleaning filters, larger water changes and equipment maintenance.
Internal aquarium filters get blocked quicker than an external filter so they'll need cleaning every two weeks, using water from your aquarium clean the foams and filter media from the filter, you're not trying to have them looking spotless but rather remove waste that could block the filter. The reason for cleaning using water from the tank is that this will be matured and not have chlorine in, you should never clean filters under the tap, unless you're starting from scratch.
The above is a good reason to perform 20% water changes every two weeks as opposed to weekly 10% changes, but of course the preference is yours at the end of the day.
You should also take the opportunity to clean the filter and its impeller to remove any uneaten foods, waste etc. which could cause a blockage, a filter which isn't working could lead to extreme nitrite levels which mean fish losses.
If you have an external aquarium filter you will be able to clean this out monthly rather than every 2 weeks. This is also a great time to clean the impeller and the same rules apply, do not clean under the tap and use water taken from your tank to protect and preserve beneficial bacteria.
Check hoses on your external filter for blockages and have a look to see that the flow is as it should be.
Have a look at the best before date on your fish foods, if it's passed this could mean nutrients will have diminished, which means your fish will be getting food and no benefits from the food like improved energy, growth, colours or anything else. Throw old food away and buy something with a good length of date on it.
There isn't much you'll need to do each year if you're covering the previous maintenance instructions. The one thing which I'd advise is that you change your bulbs if using flourescent lamps, especially for planted tanks as you will not be able to notice but the intensity of the light will not be optimal for plant growth.
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