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12. Freshwater Aquarium Maintenance
Monthly Maintenance
Long-term success of your tank depends on regular maintenance. Regular maintenance, at least on a monthly basis, removes accumulated organic material, nitrate, sludge and fish waste, all of which can cause water chemistry problems, excess algae growth, fish stress, disease and fish death. Water changes and gravel cleaning are the first lines of defense against these problems.

Partial Water Changes
Water changes of 10-25%, at least monthly, of the tank volume are mandatory to maintain proper water chemistry. More frequent 10% water changes every two weeks are often even more effective, especially if the tank has had problems.

Step by Step
1) Unplug heaters, pumps, air pumps and any filters.
2) Remove ornaments that need cleaning leaving some as hiding places for the fish.
3) Clean plastic plants and ornaments with a
soft brush. Let them soak for a time to break down algae.

4) Clean the Gravel
Use a gravel cleaner to siphon 25% of the tank water. The gravel cleaner should be pushed down into the gravel, agitating and removing any debris. Clean the gravel in this manner throughout the aquarium and siphon any obvious debris on the gravel surface. Crimp the gravel cleaner hose to slow down the water flow and release the gravel that accumulates in the tube. Keep gravel out of the hose.

Water can be drained directly into a sink with a Marina Easy Clean Water Changer hose. Hagen standard gravel cleaners work well in deeper aquariums. Remember, only use buckets saved specifically for your aquarium. White buckets are great for small and medium aquariums. For large tanks, Rubbermaid Roughneck trash cans are great for moving new water to the tank or for storing reverse osmosis water.

Tip! Rubbermaid buckets are available in sizes from 10-44 gallons and a rolling dolly is available for moving buckets to the tank. Dirty water can be pumped quickly to the drain and new water can be pumped from the bucket to the tank with a 500gph or larger submersible pump. The
Sicce Utility Pump is a perfect pump for water changes.

5) Refill the aquarium with clean water the same temperature as the aquarium water.
6) Add a high quality water dechlorinator/conditioner to the aquarium as soon as the tank is filled.
AquaLife Complete is an excellent water dechlorinator/conditioners. In areas where chloramines are a problem, check with your dealer.
7) Add Immune Plus and Aqua Flourish by Tropical Science to prevent disease, to enhance fish color and increase vitality.
8) Add
Aquarium Cleaner to prevent filtration disruption, to remove sludge and keep filters clean.
9) Rinse decorations thoroughly
and redecorate the aquarium.

Note! Important factors to keep in mind:

If you are trying to maintain a specific pH and the tank was at the desired pH before the water change, adjust the new water to that pH prior to refilling the tank.
Amazon Rain, by Tropical Science added directly to the tank is great for holding freshwater tanks at neutral pH, 7.0. SeaChem makes excellent freshwater pH products for African cichlid freshwater tanks and Amazon region freshwater tanks.

Municipal water treatment plants in some areas of the country, in order to make water safe for human consumption, add chemicals to the water that can kill your fish. If chloramines are present in your tap or tank water, use Amquel by Kordan or Ace by Jungle. It is important to note that different areas of the country have different tap water conditions. Using
Reverse Osmosis Filters by Aquarium Life Spport Systems is the best way to ensure the highest quality tap water.

TOXINS DO NOT EVAPORATE! Topping off water due to evaporation does not constitute a water change and does not lower the toxins in the tank. If you add water but don’t remove water, you have not done a water change. Only removing water from the tank reduces accumulated toxins.

Power Filters, Powerheads, and Water Pumps
Periodically remove and clean impellers. Impellers become dirty and begin to turn slower. Hagen and Eheim make special brushes for cleaning impellers and impeller housings.

Keep intakes and intake strainers free of debris.

Light fixtures and filters have specific maintenance requirements which should be performed according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

Filter Media
Disposable filter cartridges (all filter pad-type filters) should be replaced monthly. The carbon in pad-type filters is only active for one month. If filters hold two or more pads or inserts, replace them one week apart. Reusable and or biological filter media (sponge-type) should be rinsed periodically with dechlorinated water or water taken from the aquarium then returned to the filter. Sponges should be replaced every 3-6 months.

Micron cartridges, like Hot Magnum, Magnum, or Rainbow, should be cleaned in a mild solution of unscented bleach at a 1:5 ratio of bleach to water. Soak for 1-2 hours and rinse thoroughly under pressure. Soak in a solution of double dechlorinated water before returning them to the filter. It is often convenient to buy two cartridges and rotate them so the filter is never out of commission.

Most chemical media, Ammo Carb,
Carbon and ammonia removers, should be replaced monthly. Some higher-end chemical media, like ChemiPure and Poly Filters, last up to 3 months.

Air Pumps and Air Stones
Air pumps are easy to maintain. The air filters should be changed whenever they appear dirty or after approximately 2-3 months of use. Diaphragms should be changed if air flow or pressure is reduced. Replacing air stones regularly increases the life of air pumps.

A dirty, encrusted air stone puts excess back pressure on a pump and quickly wears out diaphragms. Air stones running undergravel filters should be replaced monthly.

Aquarium Glass
The outsides of aquariums should be cleaned with Pro Glow. Many products are available for cleaning the insides of aquarium glass. Use aquarium-safe cleaning supplies only.
Magical Cleaning Rod and the Deluxe Cleaning Pad. Many household cleaning products contain bacterial growth inhibitors that can kill livestock in the aquarium. Again, use aquarium-safe cleaning supplies only!

See all
Cleaning Supplies to choose what is best for your aquarium

Wipe down glass canopies and tops

Artificial Plants and Other Decorations
Use brushes
to clean plants and decorations. Rinse them thoroughly. Stubborn cases and algae covered decorations can be cleaned by soaking them in a solution of bleach at a ratio of 1 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water. After the decorations are bleached to the desired color, pour out the bleach water and rinse the decorations. Soak in fresh water and use a quadruple dose of dechlorinator. The decorations should be soaked until all smell of bleach is gone or until the rinse water is free of chlorine.

A word about tap water . . .
Tap water is prepared for human consumption and is not safe for use in aquariums. Chlorine and fluoride are added to tap water for the protection of humans but will kill your fish and wipe out the beneficial bacteria in filters. Water conditioners are inexpensive and neutralize these toxic compounds. Good water conditioners bind metals and enhance the slime coat barrier of fish to help prevent disease. Reverse osmosis or ion exchange water significantly reduces excess algae growth. Reverse Osmosis units are among the best money can buy. These units produce soft, phosphate-, silicate-, and nitrate-free water. When using reverse osmosis water, remember to use Replenish to replace essential elements back into the water. Pretreated water can be purchased at better aquariums stores. For small water requirements this is sometimes convenient. Replenish by SeaChem should also be used for specific species.

Aquarium keeping is a fun, intellectually stimulating and rewarding hobby that brings the fascination of biology and nature into your home or office. Regular water changes and routine maintenance is the formula for success.

A New Tank

A cycling aquarium should not be gravel cleaned. Obvious overfeeding can be removed from the surface of the gravel but complete water changes will lengthen the cycling time.

If the aquarium is not equipped with an undergravel filter, gravel vacuuming (water change) and filter maintenance should not be performed at the same time. This could lead to a larger than acceptable loss of beneficial bacteria necessary to drive the cycle. Aquariums relying on single filters should be gravel cleaned one week and the filters maintained the third week. Always add
Aquarium Cleaner or Activate after water changes and filter maintenance. If two different filters are used, never clean them both in the same week.

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