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Fish Tank Maintenance and Cleaning

Fish Tank Maintenance and Cleaning

In order to keep your tank clean and healthy for your fish, you will need to perform some basic daily and weekly maintenance tasks.
One of the trickiest parts about setting up a new fish tank is getting it to cycle properly. After your tank has cycled you can add your fish – then begins the work of maintenance. If you cycle your tank properly in the first place, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about maintainance but there are some basic tasks you will have to perform on a regular basis. This article will cover the important topic of maintenance and cleaning. Having a clean tank filled with healthy, colorful fish provides a fun and relaxing experience.

Determining a Schedule

Every fish tank is different so the maintenance schedule you follow for your tank may be different from the schedule someone else follows. There are a number of factors to consider when determining your maintenance schedule.

The schedule for cleaning your fish tank will depend primarily on:
  • Tank Placement - The reason the setup is important when it comes to maintenance and cleaning is that if you place the tank in a location hard to get to, chances are it will not be cleaned on a regular schedule. Therefore, make sure the placement of the tank is such to give you adequate room.
  • Tank Size - Interestingly, a larger tank actually requires less maintenance than a smaller tank. The reason is that the larger tank has more water volume, meaning the waste excreted by the fish along with chemicals and other particles are dispersed over a much larger area. Therefore, if you buy a 10-gallon tank opposed to a 50-gallon tank, you can expect to clean the smaller one more often.
  • Filtration System - A filtration system is crucial to keeping the tank clean and the environment healthy. Many people will use biological filtration, which allows the right amount of "good" bacteria to grow while maintaining the proper level of Nitrite coupled with a mechanical filter or chemical filter. The mechanical consists of a box that fits within the tank in which some type of media is used to filter out waste and other particles. The chemical filter uses chemical media such as carbon or chemical resins to absorb the waste.
  • Feeding Habits - One of the most common mistakes made by fish owners is that they feed the fish too much and too often. When there is excess food in the water, it causes pollution. Therefore, purchase the appropriate food for the fish you have and read the instructions to feed them only as much as they will eat in one setting and to know how often they should be fed.
  • Number of Fish - The general rule for fish is that for every gallon of water, you should have no more than one-inch of slim-bodied fish. When a tank is filled with too many fish, there is excessive waste, food particles, and chemicals floating around, making maintenance difficult as well as the tank unhealthy

Fish, just like any other pet, need to be cared for on a daily basis. Although fish do not have the same level of requirements for daily care, they do need to be looked after on a consistent basis.
  • Feeding - Feed the fish, again taking care to feed only as much as what will be eaten immediately
  • Water Temperature - Check the water temperature, keeping in mind temperatures will fluctuate throughout the day. Therefore, test the water each morning and then again in the evening. To maintain a healthy tank, you should keep a chart of your findings so you can identify any problems before they turn out of control.
  • Equipment Check - Make sure the filter, heater, and lights are working properly
  • Behavior Check - Take a few minutes to watch the fish to see if they are swimming normally. Additionally, look at their skin, looking for any sign of disease.
  • Water Check - Look at the water to ensure it is not cloudy, does not have a foul odor, and
    that nothing out of the norm is floating around

In addition to the daily responsibilities of owning fish, there are certain things that will need to be done on a weekly basis as well.
  • Plants - If you keep live plants in your fish tank, be sure any dead leaves are removed and excess plant growth trimmed
  • Algae - Using an algae magnet or scraper, clean off algae from the front glass as well as decorations
  • Water Change - Using a siphon hose, remove large debris from the surface and then with a bucket nearby, siphon about 15% of the tank's water into the bucket. When finished, replace the water with clean tap water that has been treated for chlorine or chloramines. While doing this, you might place a stiff plastic divider between the area you are cleaning and the fish so that you do not accidentally suck any up in the tubing. Additionally, with the siphon running, you can tap the tip down into the gravel to help remove any fallen debris.
  • Glass - Take a clean cloth and spray it with window cleaner, away from the tank so that none gets in the water and then, simply clean off the front and side glass areas.
Keep in mind that you may not have to perform all of these tasks every week. How much you will have to clean your tank depends on the factors that were listed above, so tailor your maintenance schedule to the needs of your specific tank.


Cleaning your fish tank may not be your idea of “fun” but it is something we all have to do. For your fish, your fish tank is home and your pets deserve to live in an environment that is clean and healthy. If you do your research and set up the aquarium right the first time, it will greatly minimize the amount of maintenance you have to do. With proper filtration, your tank water should remain clear and you shouldn’t have to replace your filter media more than once a month. As always, however, each tank is different so you will need to go through a period of trial and error to determine the needs of your particular tank. Use the tips in this article to create a baseline maintenance schedule which you can then customize to suit your needs.

Additional Resources [+]
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