An aquarium is an ongoing responsibility and requires daily attention, though if you keep up with the regular maintenance it is quite easy and doesn’t take much time. There are additional maintenance procedures required with various conditions, but here are a few things that must be done in every aquarium regardless of other factors.
While fish do not necessarily need to be fed daily to be healthy due to their opportunistic eating habits and specialized metabolism, they do need to be checked daily and this is best done during feeding. Feed at a time that you have a few minutes to observe your fish and watch carefully for any abnormal behavior or signs of illness. What are you looking for? A healthy fish should be free of any marks, especially red or white marks that can suggest infection or parasites, should not struggle to swim in any way and should not have fins clamped down.
Watch the fish eat to ensure all are active, move easily in the water, and their fins are up. If you notice ragged edges on any fins there may be fish in the aquarium getting picked on, or the fish may be getting their fins caught on rough edges on decorations or artificial plants. If the aquarium is fairly new or new fish have recently been added, watch closely for redness or puffiness around the gills that may indicate ammonia in the water. If any abnormalities are observed, test your water parameters first and if they are within acceptable limits research other possible causes.
If desired, wipe down the outside of the aquarium with a damp cloth every day to remove fingerprints and dust. Never use any chemicals such as Windex near the aquarium as even the slightest trace of such products will kill the fish.
Depending on your stocking levels, you will need to do a partial water change every week or every other week. This is to keep nitrate levels down and keep essential dissolved minerals at a healthy level for the fish. These water changes generally need to be between 30-50% of the total water volume. In a newer tank that is still cycling or if new fish have just been added, water changes may also be needed to control ammonia and nitrites, though it will likely be more often than once a week for that purpose. For a healthier tank and a significantly reduced risk of ammonia spikes, you can use a time-released water maintenance product such as EcoBio-Block or similar. These blocks last up to two years apiece and keep the water in the aquarium perfectly balanced by breaking down the toxic ammonia and nitrites from fish waste and uneaten food, as well as re-supplying essential minerals in the water as they’re used up by the fish which dramatically reduces the need for water changes.
Algae grow regularly in aquariums and, if visible on underwater surfaces, should be manually scraped off with a scraper sponge that is approved specifically for aquariums. A sponge that is not specifically for an aquarium may scratch glass and acrylic and may have been manufactured with chemicals that are harmful to fish. Filter pads should be rinsed out in a dish of aquarium water to remove excess organic material and then placed back in the filter. Tap water should never be used as the filter pad contains a lot of beneficial bacteria that will die if exposed to chlorine or chloramines, which are removed in tank water with a de-chlorinating water treatment. Top off the water to replace any that has evaporated and the amount used to rinse out the filter pad.
Every month the aquarium needs a thorough gravel vacuum to remove organic material such as uneaten food and fish waste from the substrate, as well as remove potentially harmful pockets of gasses that can build up in the substrate over time if it is not stirred. If you use EBB in the aquarium then you need only stir the substrate manually once or twice a month to help excess organic material get into the filter where it can easily be removed from the system through rinsing filter pads, which can save a lot of time, effort and mess over a traditional gravel vacuum.