Thank you for taking the
time to read this material. We trust that it will serve to answer most
of your questions as they arise. Hopefully, it has not left you with
reservations that successfully maintaining an aquarium is an arduous
task. Nothing could be further from the truth. Primarily, it's a matter
of common sense. Fish, and other aquatic denizens, cannot survive in
Take a few moments each day (feeding provides an excellent
opportunity) to observe that everything in the aquarium is functioning
properly, evaluate the overall condition and appearance of the fish and
other inhabitants, remove any uneaten food material or other debris on
the substrate and/or ornamentation and remove any water spotting on the
glass or aquarium trim. If the fish appear to be behaving abnormally,
make the appropriate tests to insure proper water quality and look
closely to see if there are any visible signs of disease.
Twice a month devote the small amount of time required to perform
partial water changes and gravel vacuuming, service the filters as
required, scrape algae from the glass and check water quality. The
result will be a trouble free, long term successful aquatic experience.
Vacuuming and Partial Water Changes
- Regular, periodic partial water
changes are mandatory to maintain proper water chemistry. A 25%
water change every two weeks is recommended. Smaller volume, more
frequent water changes are even more beneficial.
- Fish respiration, fish digestion and
the decay of uneaten food generate three nitrogenous compounds;
ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. The first two, ammonia and nitrite,
are toxic to fish and extended exposure to them or introduction of
fish to these compounds from non-contaminated water will result in
disease and/or death. Nitrate is considered to be harmless to most
fresh water species. At low levels it is stressful to saltwater
fish; at high levels it can be toxic.
- In an established (cycled) WELL
MAINTAINED aquarium there are nitrifying bacteria present which will
convert ammonia and nitrite into a relatively non toxic compound
(nitrate). Nitrates can only be removed from the aquarium by
performing partial water changes.
- When performing partial water
changes, the gravel should be simultaneously vacuumed to remove
trapped debris and uneaten food to insure an adequate oxygen supply
to the nitrifying bacteria and to remove undesirable nutrients.
- PROPER PROCEDURE
- Unplug heaters, power filters,
powerheads and air pumps.
- Remove ornamentation other than
- "Walk" the gravel
cleaner across the entire bottom of the aquarium, agitating the
substrate in the gravel cleaning tube until the water being
extracted is free of debris. If water is being removed too
quickly to remove all the debris, pinch the gravel cleaner hose
to restrict the water flow.
- In freshwater aquariums add
dechlorinator and aquarium salt per manufacturers
instructions TO THE AQUARIUM.
- Refill the aquarium with water
of the SAME temperature as that of the aquarium water.
- In saltwater aquariums, the
replacement water must be dechlorinated, premixed and
prebuffered before being added to the aquarium. ALWAYS
dechlorinate the water prior to the addition of sea salt. Some
marine salts now include a dechlorinator in their ingredients.
However, this dechlorina- tor is not uniformly distributed
throughout and should not be relied upon as the sole source of
dechlorination. Premixed saltwater should be aerated or
otherwise agitated for 24 hours before being introduced into the
aquarium to insure that the specific gravity and pH are correct.
- Restart filters, powerheads and
- WAIT fifteen minutes BEFORE
plugging the heaters back in.
- There are specific circumstances
that will somewhat alter the above procedure. These include:
- If the pH is extremely low,
several small volume water changes (approximately 15%) must be
done twenty-four hours apart. A single, large volume water
change will put the fish into pH shock, probably resulting in
multiple fish death. This is particularly crucial if ammonia is
also present. Raising the pH will chemically alter the ammonia
increasing its toxicity.
- DO NOT do gravel vacuum/partial
water changes while the nitrification cycle is occurring unless
you are experiencing multiple fish death. Water changes will
lengthen the time frame for this required cycle to complete
- If your aquarium is not equipped
with an undergravel filter, gravel vacuuming and filter
maintenance should not be performed at the same time. The
consequent loss of a large percentage of nitrifying bacteria can
cause temporary ammonia and nitrite related stress to the fish.
These two functions should be performed at one week intervals.
- Continually "topping
off" aquariums to replace evaporated water increases
toxicity concentration as toxins do not evaporate. Such
water replacements do not constitute a water change.
Filters, Powerheads and Water Pumps
- Periodically remove the impeller.
Clean the impeller and the impeller seating area to remove debris
and slime coating which retard the electromagnetic field.
- Keep the intake strainer and/or
prefilter clear of debris.
- NEVER restrict the intake flow of
water. Any adjustments to flow rate must be made to the exhaust.
- Other specific maintenance per
Disposable filter cartridges should be
replaced monthly. Filters re-circulate the same water over and over.
Regardless of where particulates collect - whether it be the aquarium
bottom or in the filter - they will be broken down to produce ammonia.
Monthly replacement will remove the particulate from the aquarium and
keep the flow rate from slowing down due to clogging.
Reusable and/or biological filter
media should be washed in water taken from the aquarium. Chlorine in
tap water is lethal to nitrifying bacteria.
Micron cartridges should be cleaned by
soaking in a solution of unscented household bleach and water (one
part bleach to five parts water) for several hours. Rinse thoroughly
under pressure. As an added precaution, they can be soaked in a
solution of water and dechlorinator prior to being reused.
Chemical filter media; carbon, ammo
carb and ammonia chips should be replaced each month. These media
remove molecules of organic compounds from the water UNTIL the surface
area becomes saturated. Once saturated, these media are no longer
effective and may, in fact, begin releasing compounds back into the
Several manufacturers now offer
rechargeable chemical media as an alternative to carbon. These should
be used and
recharged in accordance with manufacturers instructions.
If, for any reason, the power filter has been shut off for two
hours or less, biological,
chemical and mechanical filter media should be thoroughly
rinsed before restarting the
filter. To preserve existing nitrifying bacteria, rinse the
biological filter media with water taken from the aquarium. If
the power filter has been off for more than two hours, the
mechanical and chemical filter media MUST be discarded and the
biological media thoroughly rinsed. Toxic, anaerobic bacteria
will be present.
Pumps and Air Stones
- Diaphragms and flapper valves have
to be replaced periodically as symptomized by reduced output and/or
- If your air pump is equipped with a
fibrous filter, replacing this filter regularly will greatly prolong
- The purchase of a supplementary
battery air pump is highly recommended to prevent the loss of
oxygenation during power outages.
- Air stones eventually become clogged
as evidenced by reduced bubbling and should be replaced to prevent
the loss of nitrifying bacteria and damage to the air pump. Soak new
air stones in water for several hours before installing them in the
- Clean the exterior glass with glass
cleaner and paper towels. Spray the glass cleaner onto the paper
towel rather than onto the glass itself to prevent over spray into
the aquarium. Glass cleaners contain chemicals that are toxic to
- Clean the interior glass with an
algae scrubber pad. Ideally, do this just prior to changing the
filter media or doing a partial water change so that dislodged algae
will be removed from the aquarium.
- Glass canopies should be cleaned
regularly to provide maximum penetration of light.
- Fluorescent tubes and starters
should be replaced every twelve months to provide maximum visual
quality and plant growth.
Plants, Rocks and Other Ornamentation
- Surface algae and dirt can be
removed by soaking in a solution of unscented household bleach and
water (5% bleach). Rinse thoroughly before returning to the
aquarium. Porous rock should be soaked in a solution of water and
dechlorinator prior to being put back into the aquarium. DO NOT
soak driftwood in bleach. The surface can be cleaned by scrubbing
with a soft bristle brush.
- Some medications consist of
permanent dye base solutions. Remove porous surface decorations
Makowski; Jermack Cultivated Plants)
- "TRIM BUNCH PLANTS BEFORE
PLANTING. Remove the weight, trim as many leaves from the
stem as is practical, then replace the weight in a spiral fashion,
but not too tightly. Some plants will survive without this simple
procedure, but more often the leaves under the weight rot over the
first week or two, and this causes the stem to deteriorate at the
base and the rest of the plant to surface. When planting rooted
plants, it is critical that they not be placed too deeply in the
gravel. The top of the root structure should be
visible. Once established, live plants should be pruned
- MAINTAIN ADEQUATE LIGHTING.
Recent research indicates that the intensity of the light is even
more critical than the duration. A single full spectrum bulb may be
adequate for a ten gallon (or other 12 inch aquarium) but taller
tanks need a higher degree of luminance. Some modern reflectors or
hoods have the capacity to hold two bulbs. If this is the choice you
make, we strongly suggest that two entirely different types of bulbs
be used: a full spectrum bulb in front so that your fish show to
their best advantage and a bulb more advantageous to plant growth in
- REMEMBER TO USE FERTILIZER.
Most liquid fertilizers, in addition to replacing needed trace
elements and nutrients, actually aid in changing mulm into
substances that are more easily absorbed by the plants roots. A
good quality liquid fertilizer may be adequate for a beginners
aquarium or even one of small dimensions. However, those wanting
optimum results would be wise to also purchase one of the many
products that apply fertilizer directly to the gravel.
- If phosphate is present
(Nashville tap water: 1 ppm), the available iron will chemically
combine with the phosphate forming a compound which is insoluble
by the plants. An iron deficiency condition known as iron
chlorosis may result. The plants turn yellow and the leaves and
stems both become very brittle. Fertilizers containing iron
supplements will correct this condition.
- FILTRATION. Avoid an
undergravel filter if at all possible. For reasons not yet
completely understood, undergravel filters appear to inhibit
aquarium plants from absorbing certain vital nutrients. As a result,
plants may become stunted and pale yellow in color, indicating that
photosynthesis is somehow disrupted. If you already have an
undergravel filter and dont want to remove it, consider leaning
heavily on potted plants.
Also to be avoided in heavily planted
aquariums are devices which would enrich the water with oxygen and/or
cause carbon dioxide to escape. These include power filters whose return
flow causes heavy surface turbulence
and airstones. Trickle filters are also not recommended as the filtered
water contains almost no carbon dioxide.
- DO NOT OVERFEED. Two or three times daily feed your fish
ONLY what they will actively consume in 4 - 5 minutes time. To
insure adequate nutrition, provide a varied diet. Uneaten food
should be removed from the aquarium. Contrary to many manufacturers
claims, overfeeding will result in cloudy water, excessive algae
growth and deteriorating water quality. While your aquarium is going
through nitrification, we suggest you feed your fish only once a day
to limit the amount of waste introduced into your new aquarium.
- "Tap water is supplied for one purpose - human
consumption. It is carefully screened, cleaned, treated with
prophylactic chemicals and pumped into our homes for our use. It
does not, however, carry a guarantee that it is suitable for
The Encyclopedia of Tropical Aquarium Fish; Dick Mills and Dr. Gwynne
Vevers; Tetra Press; page 24).
- It is imperative that the hobbyist have an understanding of the
properties of water, the importance of maintaining water quality and
the necessity of using test kits to monitor water quality.
- The following water qualities can, and should, be tested with the
appropriate aquarium test kit on a regular, continuing basis or
whenever something appears to be amiss:
pH of water is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH
ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as the neutral point. Above pH 7 water
is alkaline; below 7 it is acidic. Nashville tap water will
usually measure between 7.0 and 7.3. This is ACCEPTABLE for MOST
freshwater species you will encounter. African
cichlid and marine aquaria should be maintained at a level of 8.2 to
8.4 ALWAYS test tap water pH prior to making freshwater aquarium
water changes, and adjust as required.
Ammonia is the most toxic product formed in water. Sources of
ammonia in aquarium water are fish respiration and digestion and
decaying foods. Freshwater fish begin to be stressed at levels of
.50 ppm (parts per million). Marine aquaria levels should be less
than .05 ppm; reef tanks at 0 ppm.
Nitrite is the toxic intermediary product created in the process
of breaking down organic waste products. It occurs between ammonia
and nitrate in the breakdown sequence. Levels above 1.0 ppm are to
be avoided in fresh water aquaria. Saltwater levels should be
maintained at less than .05 ppm; with levels above .10 ppm being
critical. Nitrite levels in reef aquaria should be 0 ppm.
Nitrate is a mildly poisonous end product of the breakdown of
nitrogenous waste products in the aquarium. While thought to be
harmless to MOST fresh water species, fresh water aquarium levels
should not exceed 300 ppm. Less than 50 ppm is the desired level for
saltwater aquaria. Reef tanks should be maintained at less than 5
ppm. High nitrate levels in both fresh water and saltwater aquariums
will promote excessive algae growth.
Chlorine is a chemical additive used to destroy bacteria. It is
lethal to fish at .2 - .3 ppm.
Alkalinity is a numeric measure of the resistance of water to a
change in pH as acid is added. The higher the number, the better.
Hardness is a measure of dissolved calcium and magnesium salts
in water. Nashville tap water usually ranges from soft to medium
hard., This is ACCEPTABLE for MOST freshwater fish and plant
species. If the water is too hard for your specific application (such
as breeding certain species), simply mix it with deionized water
until the required hardness is obtained. Most hobbyists will not
have need to measure this particular water quality.
- Specific Gravity:
The specific gravity (or density) is the ratio of the amount of
total dissolved salts in water when com- pared to pure water. Pure
water has a specific gravity of 1.000. As more salts are added to
the water, the specific gravity increases. Marine aquariums should
have a STABLE specific gravity of 1.022 to 1.027 with a median value
of 1.024 being best.
Calcium carbonate is the building block of coral skeletons, clam
shells and calcareous algae. Corals, soft corals, clams, snails,
scallops, shrimps, crabs, starfish, sea urchins and some algae
extract calcium from the water continuously. Reef aquarium levels
should be at least 400 ppm.
Phosphate is a salt, commonly found in tap water, which serves
as an algae nutrient. Maximum phosphate levels are 2 - 3 ppm with
less than .05 ppm being ideal. Reef tanks should be maintained at
less than .05 ppm. Nashville tap water has a phosphate level of 1
and/or corrections to existing water chemistry MUST be made
Stability is as
important as water quality.