Handy tips for cleaning an aquarium

With an aquarium, proper cleaning is a life-or-death issue for your small, finned friends, so take it seriously. This easy guide will help you keep you tank clean and clear.

Handy tips for cleaning an aquarium

1. For a new aquarium

  • Clean all your new gear — tank and accessories.
  • Soap and detergent are definite no-nos, as the residue will damage the fish.
  • For new equipment, just use plain old warm or cold water.

2. Check water weekly

  • Check your aquarium's water once a week for its pH, nitrate, nitrite and ammonia levels.
  • Read up on the chemical tolerances of your particular fish species, so you will know when it's time for a change of water.
  • A number of variables affect how often you will need to change the water: how many fish you have, how big they are, the species, the size of the tank, your lighting and the kind of filtration you're using.
  • You don't really change all the water at once. Just change 10 to 25 per cent of the water in your aquarium, and expect to do it about every two weeks.

3. To change the water

  • Round up enough buckets to handle 10 to 25 per cent of the water in your tank. (You can use the same bucket over and over, but you'll have to keep stopping the siphon while you empty it out.)
  • Use a siphon hose to draw the water out. A clear hose is best, so you can see what you're sucking up.
  • Don't refill the aquarium with water straight from the faucet. Nearly all tap water has chlorine added, which will hurt your fish.
  • To remove the chlorine, either use a chlorine neutralizer, or let the water sit in a basin for 24 hours before pouring it in, giving the chlorine time to dissipate naturally.
  • Make sure the new water is about the same temperature — within one or two degrees — as the water left in the aquarium.

4. To remove algae

  • Use algae scrub pads and clean the inside walls of your aquarium whenever the fuzzy little green stuff becomes visible.
  • If you don't like having your hands sloshing in water, try a magnetic cleaning system. One magnet, attached to a scrub pad, goes on the inside of the glass, and another magnet goes on the outside for dragging the scrub pad around.
  • Remember, algae thrive on light, so the more light your aquarium gets the more algae you're going to have to clean.

5. Clean the filter weekly

Or, even more often, depending on the feeding habits of your fish and how many fish you have.

6. To thoroughly clean an old tank

  • Remove any fish to another container and empty the tank.
  • Refill the tank with fresh water and add 10 ml (2 tsp) of household bleach for every 4 litres (4 quarts) of water.
  • Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • Empty the tank, rinse it well and then refill.
  • Now neutralise any bleach residue by using a chlorine neutralizer, following the instructions for neutralizing bleach.
  • Empty the water once again and rinse. Now fill your aquarium with water that you have dechlorinated.
  • Then your fishy friends can move back in and unpack their bags.

7. Vacuum gravel

That gravel at the bottom of your aquarium isn't just for looks. It's also a biological filter that traps gunk in the water. Give it a gentle vacuuming each time you change your aquarium's water. (If you're thinking of firing up your wet-and-dry vacuum, think again!)

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