Maintaining A Freshwater Aquarium (Tropical or Coldwater)
Once set up, an aquarium requires a minimum of care and attention to keep it looking attractive, and the fish and plants within it in the best of health. And yet without this basic maintenance the aquarium can quickly deteriorate into an unhealthy place for the fish to live and the aquarist will be beset with problems. The routine tasks involved are simple and are not time consuming, but they could be described as the secret to successful fish keeping. The routine maintenance of an aquarium involves tasks that need to be undertaken daily, every 2-3 weeks or only occasionally. The list summarises this information. Most of the tasks are self-explanatory, however for others a few comments may be helpful.
Feeding the fish is perhaps the most enjoyable, and the most important task that needs to be performed on a daily basis. Details of what to feed are given in the section on Feeding Tropical Fish/Goldfish. While feeding your fish you should soon get to know the normal behaviour patterns of each individual fish, and so will be able to immediately recognise fish that are behaving unusually. Such behaviour is often the first indication of an unhealthy fish, or of a problem with the aquarium set-up.
Turning the aquarium lights on or off can lead to the fish becoming stressed, particularly the more sensitive tropical species such as neon tetras and angelfish. The sudden change in light intensity can startle the fish, causing them to dash about and collide with objects in the aquarium. This is particularly a problem in the winter months, when the room is often in darkness if the aquarium lights are not switched on. It can be overcome by turning the room lights on for 10 minutes or so, before turning the aquarium lights on. In this way the light intensity increases in smaller steps, so preventing the fish from becoming startled.
The aquarium lights should be left on for 10-12 hours each day to encourage healthy plant growth. The plants in the aquarium grow at different rates and you may find it necessary to prune the faster growing species. Removing the top 2-3
inches of plants with stems is an excellent way of propagating these species, as well as encouraging the original plant to produce lateral shoots, giving it a more bushy appearance. This can be done at any time, but is considerably easier when the water level is reduced during a partial water change. This is also an ideal opportunity to remove any dead leaves from the plants. They not only look unsightly, but also decompose and adversely affect the water quality. Sufficient light is essential for good plant growth. As a rough guide you should allow 15-20 watts of light for 900 cm5 of aquarium length. A
reflective surface above the light will ensure that you aquarium receives the maximum benefit from the lighting, with little waste. So that this light reaches the plants it is important to keep the condensation tray as clean as possible. Any dirt or algae on the tray may absorb certain wavelengths of light and adversely affect plant growth. On a more occasional basis it is necessary to change the fluorescent tubes (say every 6-12 months) because their light output decreases rapidly with age. If plants are not being kept in the aquarium the light will only be needed for viewing and so can be less intense. It can also be left on for a shorter period each day. Remember aquatic plants will benefit from the addition of an aquarium fertiliser such as Tetra FloraPride at each water change.
Your filter will also need cleaning to remove any debris that it may have trapped. We have already mentioned how undergravel filters should be cleaned. The filter media in box or foam filters should be removed and rinsed in old aquarium water. Do not use tapwater as the chlorine present will kill many of the beneficial bacteria so reducing the effectiveness of the filter. Your aim when cleaning the media is to remove excess debris without removing the helpful bacteria, therefore a quick clean is adequate. When replacing the water it is important to ensure that it is the same temperature and quality as the water in the aquarium. Any large changes could stress the fish making them more susceptible to infection by disease. The replacement water should always be treated with Tetra AquaSafe in order to remove any potentially dangerous chlorine and metal ions. There are also a number of water treatments which can be added at each water change to reproduce the conditions found in the fish’s natural environment. Regular use of these products encourages fish to develop their full colouration, improves resistance to disease and induces spawning. Tetra Blackwater Extract is a unique blend of
peat extract, naturally occurring vitamins and plant hormones, which recreates the natural water conditions found in areas such as the Amazon. Used in conjunction with Tetra AquaSafe, it is very useful in acclimatising new fish to your local water conditions.Tetra Cichlid Vital contains the iodine and vitamins lacking in tapwater. Routine use of Cichlid Vital will greatly improve the overall condition of your fish, this being most noticeable in the many species of cichlids, where an improvement will be noticeable within 1 week. The beneficial effects are not limited to cichlids however and similar changes can be seen with any freshwater fish suffering from a vitamin or iodine deficiency. When replacing the aquarium water again use a siphon. Direct the water flow along the length of the aquarium rather than at the plants or gravel. In this way you avoid disturbing any debris in the gravel or uprooting any plants
Regular routine maintenance for most of the year also means that you can leave your aquarium completely unattended without any worries for up to a 3 week period whilst you go on holiday. An electrical time switch can be used to turn lights on and off, but even if the lights are left off for (say) two weeks, plants will soon recover when the normal lighting regime returns. The filter and/or air pump must be left running during your absence.
REMEMBER: Regular tank maintenance means a healthy aquarium.
Old Forge Tropicals,13 Estcourt Street, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 1LQ, Tel - 01380 725851