When it comes to the health of your fish nothing is more important than good water quality. Maintaining clean fresh water free of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and other harmfull particulates will insure your fish live happy, healthy lives while helping them grow to there full potential. With my experience I have come to believe that if you follow 5 rather easy steps on a consistant basis good water quality is easy to maintain. So below I will explain these 5 steps in detail so that you know and understand the importance of them.
WATER CHANGES- Water changes are the single most important step in maintaining good water quality for your fish. Over time your aquarium water will build up nitrates, phosphates, and other harmfull pollutants due to fish wastes. So it is assential that you remove a percentage of the aged water every week or so to remove pollutants and then refill the aquarium with fresh clean water to delute the remaining pollutants therefore keeping them at a safe level for your fish. A couple things to keep in mind when completing water changes is that you need to treat the clean water with a water conditioner before adding it to your aquarium to neutralize the chlorine and heavy metals that are in your tap water. And secondly you need to use a thermometer to match the water temperature from your tap to your aquarium so they are the same. These two items are important because chlorine and heavy metals could harm or kill your fish even at low levels and if the water temperatures arent close you could shock your fish and comprimise there immune system leading to sickness which is NOT fun.
GRAVEL VACUUMING- If your aquarium has gravel or any other substrate you will have to clean it periodically. This is done by using a siphon tube that sucks the fish waste and uneaten food particles out of your substrate. A light cleaning is needed every week or so but once every month a deep cleaning will need to be done cause as time goes on the waste particles that were missed settle at the bottom, build up and eventually will turn septic and could potentially harm or kill your fish. Also keep in mind that alot of your beneficial bacteria live in your substrate so stiring it up to much or to often can through the balance off and cause a mini cycle or a bacteria bloom in your aquarium. Personally I only do bare bottom aquariums with no substrate. This simplifies cleaning cause the water current from the water return pushes all the fish waste into the filter therefore keeping any build up to virtually nothing.
GLASS CLEANING- Glass cleaning should be done as necessary using an algae scrubbing brush or the ever expensive algae magnet scrubbers. Its easy and only takes a few minutes. I usually complete this task before doing a water change so I can vaccuum out all the algae sediment that comes off the glass. I usually wait a month or so to clean the back wall of the aquarium because although algae is unsightly it can have its benefits in small amounts feeding on nitrates and phosphates that build in the aquarium. I will also clean the heater while I’m clean the back wall.
FILTER CLEANING- Filter cleaning is probably second important next to water changes. The filter is what keeps the water clean in between water changes. It is an electric unit powered by an impeller that either propels or impels water from the aquarium through either an external or internal filter housing where it is mechanically, chemically, and biologically filtered to maintain clear and clean water and also aid in water movement or surface agitation to keep the water oxygenated. The filter uses mechanical filtration by some form of filter pad or filter floss to filter out food and fish waste particles out of the water. Chemical filtration such as activated carbon to filter out odors, water tinting, and other impurities to keep it clean and clear. And biological filtration in the form of benificial bacteria to convert harmful wastes such as ammonia and nitrites into a less harmful form called nitrates. Nitrates are harmless to your fish in low levels but can become toxic in higher levels so water changes is what keeps this in check. The mechanical and chemical filter parts need to be changed out periodically to keep them working effectively but the biological stage doesnt need much cleaning but once or twice a year by rinsing in aquarium water.
ALGAE CONTROL- Nothing can become more aggrivating than constantly fighting with algae. Its an ongoing battle in my aquarium but with consistancy it can be controlled. There are products out there that will kill algae and are relatively safe to use but I personally dont like to add any chemicals to my aquariums other than water conditioner to make the water safe for fish during water changes. Algae need three key things to grow; light, oxygen and a food source. So by keeping two out of the three of these things to a minimum you can help keep algae to a minimum. The first thing to control is the lighting, only use it part of the day. I like to use semi dim lighting around 6500k-10000k spectrum and I only keep it on from mid afternoon till around 9pm or so. Also a good pointer is to keep your aquarium away from direct sunlight. The second thing to controll is the food source. Algae feed on nitrates, phosphates and other nutrients that build up in the aquarium due to fish waste and uneaten food so by keeping up with your water changes you will help to keep these levels down. As far as oxygen goes you should not hinder this at all, produce as much as you can cause the fish and beneficial bacteria need this to survive and thrive and the algae will be trying to get there share. All in all algae is unsightly to look at in the aquarium world but in lower amounts is actually harmless to your fish. In fact in small amounts it can actually benefit your aquarium by feeding on the nitrates and phosphates that build up. I usually will let it grow on the back wall of my aquarium for a month or so for this reason. Just make sure you do remove it at least once a month or so due to the fact that as the generations of dead algae build up in the aquarium it will eventually hinder your water quality.