What’s the best way to clean my tank?
Tank maintenance should be done on a regular basis. A significant shift in water conditions might occur if the aquarium is left too long before thorough cleaning. This produces extreme stress in the fish and has the potential to kill them.
- WITHOUT THE USE OF A FILTER
If you don’t have a filter, replace between 50 and 80% of the water once a week. Leave the fish in the tank while you scoop or syphon off the old water. Replace the water with new, chlorine-neutralized tap water. In chilly weather, let the fresh water stand for a few minutes to warm up to room temperature. Do not use hot tap water or water that has been cooked in a kettle. These have dissolved gases and metals in them that may hurt or kill the fish.
Clean any algae from the edges of the tank once a month (or more often if required), and once every two or three months, take the fish out into a separate container (with part of their tank water) and rinse the gravel with aquarium water to eliminate solid wastes.
Alternatively, use a gravel cleaning syphon at least every other water change.
- APPLYING A FILTER
Every two weeks, drain and replace around 20 – 25% of the water. Many tanks may be left for longer periods of time, but if feasible, allow no more than a month between water changes. Use a gravel-cleaning syphon to avoid having to empty the tank. While cleaning, leave the fish in the aquarium but switch off the filter and heater to prevent them from running dry. Allow fresh water to get to room temperature before putting it in the aquarium in cold weather. This may still be below the optimal temperature for tropical fish, but since only 25% of the temperature is being adjusted, it will not significantly reduce the temperature. Do not use hot tap water or water that has been cooked in a kettle. These have dissolved gases and metals in them that may hurt or kill the fish.
Clean algae from the tank’s sides and the filter media as needed. Every 2 to 4 weeks, rinse off the mechanical filtering medium. Typically, the chemical filtering medium should be discarded and changed every 1 to 2 months. Biological filter media should only be disturbed if they get clogged with debris, and only then should they be cleaned in aquarium water.
Should I have live plants?
Live plants are not required in your aquarium, although they are ideal in many circumstances. Plants that grow lush and robust in your aquarium are an essential help in preserving water quality. However, in many situations, the plants will be consumed by the fish without providing any actual benefit, or they may die off and decompose, diminishing water quality. If your plants are not growing, there is little use in changing them on a regular basis, apart from their aesthetic worth.
Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with plastic plants, and many of them seem extremely lifelike. In fact, since plastic plants give more surface area for filtering bacteria, having plastic plants may be even more useful than having dying real plants. Rotting plant materials contribute more waste into the tank, which is obviously undesirable.
There is little you can do to influence the behaviour of plant-eating animals in your aquarium. Giving omnivorous and scavenging fish many meals each day may prevent them from nibbling on plants, but genuine herbivores will graze on any available plants regardless of what else is supplied. Although it is not harmful to the fish or the aquarium, it may be costly to replace plants that are eaten on a regular basis when there is no need. It is preferable to give herbivores a spirulina-rich diet rather than depending on them to consume your plants.
However, if you have an aquarium light and fish that do not consume plants, adding live plants is an excellent idea. Live plants filter off the nitrogenous waste and so enhance water quality. In a densely planted aquarium, fish will be less stressed and less susceptible to illness.
How do I get live plants to grow?
While plants are attractive, many are far more difficult to cultivate than one would anticipate. Some are tougher than others and may survive with minimal care, while others need highly particular circumstances. As a minimum, sufficient aquarium lighting is required. Vallis is the only plant that can thrive in low light (i.e. without sufficient aquarium lighting) (thin: Vallisneria spiralis or giant: V. gigantea).
Stricta (Hygrophila stricta), Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis), Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticalla), and Cabomba (Cabomba aquatica) need good aquarium illumination but nothing more. Cabomba and Hydrilla may grow in the water (or be planted), however, the other types need a one to two-inch layer of gravel to form their root system. Regular water changes are required for optimal development. Although plants utilise the waste products created by fish, excessive nitrate concentrations may harm the plants, and high nitrates favour algae, which can develop on and suffocate the plants.
These resilient types will thrive with adequate aquarium fertilisation (these fertilisers do not include nitrates and phosphates like garden fertilisers!). If your fish munch on plants, the finer-leaved Cabomba and Hydrilla may be difficult to cultivate. Stricta and Wisteria are less likely to be eaten.
Most other plant kinds need additional fertilisation to thrive. Plant fertilisers come in a variety of forms, including laterite, delayed-release tablets, liquid fertilisers, and daily fertilisers. A mix of laterite, slow-release and daily fertilisers is the best strategy to utilise. If just one of these three is utilised, daily drops provide the most benefit.
Carbon dioxide fertilisation is also used successfully to promote quicker growth and better plant development, although adding CO2 helps nothing if the plants lack all of the other nutrients and trace minerals they need.
Extra illumination may be required for certain species, especially red plants, and increased light intensity will help all varieties. It is preferable to utilise compact fluorescent lighting or two sets of regular aquarium tubes instead of a single high-intensity tube, while a single high-intensity tube is preferable to a single standard tube. Illumination should last around twelve hours, less if there are few plants or extremely strong lights, and longer if there are more plants or less intense lighting. Any more than fourteen hours of light will just encourage algae development.
See our page on planted aquaria for more information on cultivating plants.
How can I tell if my fish are healthy?
It is important to know if a fish is healthy or not, first so that you can pick healthy fish, to begin with, and second so that you can discover issues in your aquarium before they get too serious. If your fish exhibits indications of stress or illness, it might be due to a disease or poor water quality. The fish may perish if not treated. Most illnesses are treatable if detected early. A quick water change may generally alleviate water quality issues.
- What to look for:
A healthy fish should be able to swim easily, stop, and maintain its location in the water. It should have a full body (the specific form varies depending on the species) and nice colour. Fish at a store frequently do not exhibit their full colour since they are continually disturbed by viewers and other fish captured in the tank. A healthy fish will have upright fins, be attentive, and be ready to eat.
A sick fish may pout in a corner, float to the top, or sink to the bottom of an aquarium. These behaviours, however, may be normal in certain species, therefore it is important to understand the typical behaviour of the fish you are interested in. Small white patches on the fins (especially the tail), ragged or bloodied fins, cotton wool-like growths, ulcers or other lesions, swelling of the fish’s abdomen, or emaciation are all signs of sickness. Fish who are dissatisfied in general may have their fins clamped against their sides. Fish gasping and dangling at the surface, as well as frantic rushing behaviour in generally tranquil species, may signal water quality issues.
If you suspect your fish are infected or that there is an issue with your water, see our illness guide.
What do I do if my fish die or get sick?
The first step is to attempt to identify the source of the issue. If a fish dies or seems ill, thoroughly check all fish for symptoms of sickness and consult our disease guide for assistance in identifying the issue. If a fish dies abruptly with no visible disease, investigate the water quality. If feasible, test it; if not, conduct a water change. If your neighbourhood supermarket provides water testing, save a sample before changing the water and get it analysed as soon as feasible.
If a huge number of fish die suddenly, they may have been poisoned. This may occur in severe instances of overfeeding or if another poison (detergent, fly spray, etc.) has entered the tank. Moving the fish into entirely clean water is sometimes the only cure. Although distressing, this is better than chronic toxic exposure. You may need to disassemble the tank and carefully clean everything with cold running water. You should never have this issue if you take care of your aquarium.
If a few fish die on a daily or weekly basis, suspect a sickness and thoroughly inspect the other fish for any indications or symptoms.
If your fish seem slightly discoloured but no particular signs of sickness can be found, test your water, make a water change, and administer a dose or half dose of antiseptic or wide spectrum medicine. It’s possible that the water quality was deteriorating, or that a disease was there but hadn’t really taken root. Prompt intervention frequently prevents subsequent issues. If water testing reveals that water quality has deteriorated, a second water change a few days later may be necessary to bring things back on track.
If you identify a sickness, cure it as soon as possible while also ensuring that your water quality is perfect. Most common ailments are treatable if detected early enough. If you are having trouble identifying a condition, ask the employees at the fish store if they can assist you. If you bring the fish in, they may be able to inspect it and figure out what’s wrong.
What happens if I go on holiday?
Fish, unlike other pets, may be left alone for short periods of time. If your fish are normally properly fed, they may survive for many days without food. However, since fish are continually hunting for food, you run the danger of bigger or more aggressive species in your tank eating or attempting to consume smaller species if frequent feeding is not provided. Furthermore, even animals that do not normally consume plants may nibble on vegetation if they are hungry. This is an excellent idea if you trust a friend or family to come into your home and feed your fish. If they are unfamiliar with fish, it is generally advisable to measure the food into parts for each feeding to ensure that they do not overfeed.
If no one is available to feed your fish, an automatic feeder is the next best alternative. These are especially useful if you work long or irregular hours and wish to feed your fish on a regular basis. With automatic feeders, you deposit the food for each feeding in its own compartment, and it is released into the tank at predetermined intervals. Most may be configured to feed at any time of day and once or twice per day. To be on the safe side, gently underfeed your fish while you are gone.
Slow-release meal blocks are accessible if you cannot afford an automatic feeder or are away only on rare occasions. These disintegrate slowly and release food particles into the water. The rate of dissolution is determined by the chemistry of the water. Put in just enough food to prevent your fish from being hungry, since extra food will contaminate the water.
In any event, adding some fine-leaved plants to the aquarium is an excellent idea. If the fish are hungry, they may munch on them as well.
Before you go, complete a water change and ensure that your filtration and heating systems are operational. Set your aquarium light to timer mode or turn it off if you don’t have any live plants.
If you are going to be away from your aquarium for more than two weeks, it is preferable to have someone check on it, make a water change, and refill food blocks as needed.
How do I control algae?
Light and nutrients are two variables that stimulate algae development. Controlling these elements may frequently reduce algae development without requiring any further activity. Avoid putting the aquarium in direct sunlight, use only the correct aquarium tubes to light it, and do not keep the lights on for longer than required. Live plants typically need no more than 12 – 14 hours of light each day (and often even less). If you don’t have any live plants, turn on the aquarium lights for a few hours each day.
Regular water changes and the development of living plants eliminate nutrients. Even if you have living plants, it is still necessary to do frequent water changes since the nutritional balance may swing in favour of the algae.
Algae-eating fish, as well as snails, are very beneficial in algae management.
If you have a persistent or rapidly growing algal strain that you are unable to manage using these approaches, you may apply an aquarium algicide. Look for one that has the active component symazine. Unless you overdose, symazine is safe for your fish and most plants. Even so, the plants will perish before the fish. Algae blocks may be used in unplanted aquariums and are more effective, although they can harm living plants. After cleaning the aquarium, use the algicide to prevent the formation of new algae. It is important to note that treating a strongly infected aquarium with algicide can kill the algae, but the dead algae will still decay away in the tank, generating pollution and providing nutrients for new algae to grow on.
How do I control snails?
Some snails are beneficial to aquariums because they assist to clean up uneaten food and many feeds on algae. However, if the circumstances in the aquarium are favourable, certain kinds of snails will reproduce in large numbers. This often occurs when there is an abundance of food in the tank, giving the snails an abundant supply.
Snails may be managed in many ways:
- Chemical techniques. These therapies are often ineffective and are not advised. Typically, the active element in anti-snail treatments is copper, which is removed via filtering. It might be damaging to your fish and plants if not removed. Furthermore, even if successful, having hundreds of dead snails in the aquarium is undesirable since they would decay and dirty the tank.
- Manual removal. Hand removal of large numbers of snails is simple. After turning off the aquarium lights, place a saucer, small dish, or net on the aquarium’s base and fill it with sinking pellets or a weekend food block. The snails will soon cover the food and can be scooped out. Although you will never catch all the snails this way, you can reduce their numbers quite significantly. In addition, make sure you do not overfeed your fish, and the snails should remain under control.
- Snail-eating fish. There are a number of fish that eat snails and can be used to reduce their numbers. By far the most effective are clown loaches. Gouramis will also eat snails, but are not nearly as hungry, particularly if they are getting enough of other food. Limit the quantity of food given to your snail-eating fish. Again, this strategy will not fully eliminate snails, but it will reduce their population. To decrease snail populations as quickly as possible, you may utilize approach 2 as well as snail-eaters.
- Tank dismantling. This is another disagreeable procedure, but it is the only definite way to entirely remove snails. Soak the gravel in highly saline water and let it out to dry to kill snails. Allow a slurry of salt and water to dry on the edges of the tank and decorations. Replace your filter media in the same way, or totally replace it. When you reassemble the tank, you must start from scratch.
Remember that there is no need to entirely eradicate snails. The best solution is to limit their numbers using either technique 2) or 3), in conjunction with increased tank maintenance.
Can I convert my coldwater aquarium to a tropical?
The size of the aquarium is the most important aspect in deciding this. A tropical tank must be 25 l (eg 16″) or bigger to keep a constant temperature. If your coldwater aquarium does not have a filter, you will need to install one before converting to tropical. If you already have a proper size tank and filtration, all you need is a heater and thermometer. You could also add a light, although this is optional.
If you convert to tropical, you can maintain your coldwater fish, but there are a few things to consider. When housed at higher temperatures, goldfish grow faster and may be rather filthy. Because of this, they do not get along with many tropical fish. Most other coldwater species are beneficial to tropical communities and pose no threat.
Can I convert my freshwater aquarium to a marine?
Converting a freshwater aquarium (either coldwater or tropical) to a marine aquarium is often a major task. Marine fish or reef keeping often necessitates a bigger tank than either coldwater or tropical and although it may be done in smaller aquaria, a least of 80 to150 l is suggested in most circumstances. Marine aquariums need more filtration than conventional freshwater aquariums, and the filtration should be mostly biological.
If you want to build up a freshwater tank that can be easily changed to a marine tank, you need to spend intelligently in a big aquarium, extensive (for freshwater) filtration, and a high-quality heater. Read our aquatic FAQs to find out more about what is needed for marine aquariums.