Maintenance is largely a matter of continuing to apply the principles learned when setting up your aquarium, thus ensuring continued optimal living conditions for your fishes. What is needed, and how often, depends on the individual aquarium and its occupants, and must be determined by you, the aquarist; the routine suggested below is suit able for the average general community.

Daily: Check temperature, health of fishes, and that equipment is working.

Weekly: Make a 25 per cent water change, siphoning any accumulated debris from the substrate surface. Remove dead vegetation. Check nitrite, nitrate and PH Levels.

Monthly: Clean filter(s); “hoover” gravel if necessary. Check nitrate level. Remember to adjust the chemistry and temperature of “new” water to match tank conditions, and to eliminate any nasties such as chlorine.

Filter and substrate maintenance disrupts bacterial populations, so reduce feeding for a couple of days before and after monthly maintenance sessions. For routine maintenance you will need a bucket and a piece of tubing for siphoning off water from the aquarium. Optional extras are a gravel cleaner and siphon starter though many aquarists start their siphon simply by sucking the tube.

Siphon off the required amount of water, using the siphon to remove any “mulm” (accumulated debris) and other detritus. Take care not to siphon off fishes or plants! If the tank is sited near a window or outside door, it is quicker, with less risk of spillages, to siphon on to the garden using a long tube, instead of into a bucket. The substrate can be “hoovered” periodically with a gravel cleaner, taking care not to uproot plants.

Quarterly or Twice Quarterly
Be aware if you have a pebble base for your fishtank, no amount of hovering will remove the nitrate/nitrate approving matter that manages to drift down to the bottom of your tank through the spaces between the pebbles.

If you don’t have a proper gravel cleaner, every three months or so don’t just suck up the much from on top of the gravel, suck up the gravel itself and everything below it. Failure to do so will leave you with a fish tank where keeping nitrite/nitrate levels down is almost impossible as fish faces and decaying plant matter lodge in here and constantly add to the nutrients in the water.

You should not simply stir up the gravel in the tank to get access to this material as it will quickly results in big changes to the water quality as the nutrients are released into the water. If this sort of task is not for you, don’t use large pebbles, instead use fine sand.

When refilling, pour the new water into the palm of your hand to avoid disturbing the substrate and decor. Alternatively stand the bucket on the hood and siphon the new water into the tank. O bviously, action is required if any check reveals a problem.

Counter high nitrite with twice-daily 25 per cent water changes until the level returns to zero; identify and eliminate the cause(s) for example over feeding or inadequate or interrupted filtration. An increase in nitrates suggests a need’ for larger (maximum 30 per cent) or more frequent water changes, or adjustments to the tank population or feeding regime.

The importance of regular observation of the fishes cannot be over emphasized; abnormal behaviour loss of appetite, clamped fins, increased respiration, scratching or shimmying is usually the first warning of an environmental problem or outbreak of disease. Prompt action may make all the difference.