Maintaining Water Quality

Changing tank water, one fin at a time.

Starting fresh seems like the best, bubbly answer to everything – but not when it comes to changing your aquarium water, believe it or not. If you were to dump out all the ‘old’ water and add all-new, your side-by-swimmers would be in for big problems, even with water ager. (Read about nitrogen cycle to learn more.)

So, if you don’t want to call for a lifesaver just yet, follow this key rule of fin, when replacing tank water: Never change more than 30 percent of the H2O at one time. Instead, replace it in smaller amounts, more often. By doing so, you’ll make sure the quality of the water is maintained, without major shakeups in the chemical makeup, mates. Plus, you’ll constantly be removing nitrates, which will actually help your fish grow faster. This way, they can enjoy their deep-sea world of colourful corals and big-eyed companions, to the fullest. Why seahorse around?

How to change your aquarium water.
As different as our fishy friends are – from the stripees to the finny-fin-fins – so are petlovers. So, naturally, we’ll all be changing our aquariums a bit differently. But even if you’ve earned your stripes as a tank-changer, the best place to start is with a bucket and a gravel vacuum that has a self-starting siphon. This will allow you to get that gunk off the bottom of your aquarium, and then clean through the gravel, using the vacuum.

For a larger aquarium tank, it might be even easier to use a long hose, running out to the garden. Your plants will love all of the phosphate and nitrates from the fish tank water, so no need to tip it down the drain with your Clown Barb that’s just kicked the bucket.

Next, fill the bucket with clean water and chlorine treatment, making sure the H2O temperature is similar (or the same) to that in the fish tank. Now, simply add this to your aquarium.

Don’t let algae off the hook.

Whether it’s Goldie’s little Atlantis or your home swimming pool, any body of water can be subject to slime – sorry algae, we probably won’t be fishing for compliments for you, anytime soon. But before you turn green, here are some of the best ways you can remove the scum in one foul swoop:

Change the aquarium water more frequently.
Doing a few extra partial water changes will help remove that right-in-your-face residue, fishies.

Get algae-eating fish (or snails).
Though we probably wouldn’t find algae pleasing to the palate, Plecostomus, or ‘Plecos’ fish think it’s the Catch of the Day. Coming out at night, they clean up all the leftover food our slimey freeloaders would otherwise devour. Then, they go straight for the dessert – algae – using their ‘sucker’ mouths. Bristlenose, Sucking Cats and Otocinclus Catfish (‘Otos’) also have an appetite for scum, as do certain African Cichlids like the Mbuna. These guys graze on the algae that covers rocks, in the wild. And we’re talking all day, fishies – like little sea cows. Mollies are another fish who will order algae every time they get a night out.

Common water snails (just kidding, you’re magnificent little molluscs) will also get algae for takeout. Just remember, though, that these seemingly harmless slugs multiply like crazy (and you thought rabbits were bad). So, you’ll really only need to buy one to avoid a complete tankover. We petsperts recommend Apple Snails. They’re larger and don’t seem to reproduce as much – but again, stick to one, fishies. Worst case snailario: If your aquarium were to become a slugfest, there are products out there that can, ahem, remove the problem. Sorry, Shelly!

Add live aquarium plants.
Plants are higher on the evolutionary hierarchy – SNAP! – and are definitely up for a little competition with algae, for all the nutrients floating around. So, adding a few will help keep algae from growing.

Limit the aquarium light.
Algae needs light to live, so you’re better off placing your fish tank away from windows. And you won’t want to leave your aquarium light on too long – even if your Siamese Fighting Fish has been having those kung fu nightmares. Ideally, lights should be on for no more than eight hours a day. If the algae persists – especially since that’s the real boogyman here – reduce the light-time even further.

Buy an aquarium UV steriliser.
Aquarium ultraviolet sterilisers are a top-of-the-line way to rid your fish tank of algae. Simply hook one along the output of your aquarium filter. When the unsuspecting agal spores free-float in front of this powerful, UV light, they’ll burst. See ya, slime-os!

Remove algae by hand.
You can always try to remove the algae by fin – or hand, if you want to get technical. All together, now: Ewwwwwww!  You’ve gotten it out, now go get yourself an algae scraper to clean the aquarium glass. And some bleach solution for dip-cleaning the tank decor. Just be sure to rinse everything well, before placing it back in the fish tank, folks.

Aquarium chemicals.
When all else fails, you can try some store-bought algae killers for your aquarium. They come in liquid or fizz tabs – but again, should be a last resort. When you think about it, algae are growing in your fish tank because it has the best conditions, for it. So, you might try to solve the scum problem by reducing light or nitrate levels, or the buggers will just come back. Phosphate removers in powder or mat form may be worth trying. Added to your filter, these reduce phosphate in the water and encourage aquarium plant growth, which will keep its scummy competitor a distant second.

Another cloudy day in Tankville.

Cloudy water in a new home aquarium is usually due to a condition known as bacterial blossom. This often happens to pet-lovers who can’t wait to start their fish family, and add three dozen little flippers all at once. By doing this, you’re placing an extremely high bio-load on the fish tank. Translation: A large amount of waste will be produced, suddenly. Ewwwww. But not to bacteria, who feed upon those wastes and begin to grow in large numbers – which is what causes the cloudy water.

If this is the case for you and your little Atlantis, don’t add any more aquarium fish – even if they’re looking all wide-eyed and bubbly on the other side of the glass. Your new fish tank has reached capacity, pet-lovers. If you can, you may want to move some of the fish into another aquarium until you can reel in some of the cloudiness.

At this point, we strongly recommend becoming familiar with the nitrogen cycle. Because if it hasn’t happened already, your cloudy community will probably experience an ammonia spike, followed by elevated nitrites. Both of these things aren’t seahorsing around, and could result in the loss of some – or all – of your finny friends. Noooooo. But have no fear, fish-lovers – by getting in the nitrogen cycle loop, you’ll understand what’s going to happen and what you can do about it.

So, now that you know the fins and outs of aquarium life, make a big splash with it, pet-lovers. Enjoy.