Freshwater aquariums are the most common type of aquarium for homeowners. Relatively easy to setup and maintain, they can house a huge variety of colourful fish and plants, providing endless hours of entertainment as they gracefully swim through the tank. Once you’ve chosen your fish and set everything up, you’ll need to properly maintain the aquarium to keep your fish happy and healthy.
Make sure you buy buckets, sponges and any other equipment especially for cleaning your tank. Don’t use them for anything else, such as garden jobs or car cleaning, as cross contamination of other cleaning chemicals will be deadly to your fish.
Keeping the filter clean is one of the most important jobs you can do in the tank. It is here that waste and dirt is removed from the water, so it needs to be free flowing and unblocked. Change it once a week, or more if it gets clogged frequently. The cleanliness of the filter is a good indicator of the state of your tank. If it’s becoming clogged every few days, then something is out of balance. You may have too many fish, you may be feeding them too much, or the nitrate levels may be too high.
Water changes are the biggest job you’ll need to do in the maintenance of your aquarium. You should have pH and nitrate testing kits from when you set up your tank, as well as a dechlorinator to allow you to use tap water. Ideally, change a ¼ of the water once a week, using a siphon. Rummage in the gravel at the bottom to stir up settled dirt and waste. Replace with dechlorinated tap water. Once a month, or more regularly if possible, complete a full water change.
Keeping an eye on chemical levels and the temperature gives you an insight into the health of your tank. As a general rule, nitrate levels should be low and pH levels medium, although refer to your specific tank guide for specific requirements. The temperature needs will change depending on whether you have coldwater or tropical fish, but most important is to not let it fluctuate too much. If you move your tank, be aware that excess sunlight and nearby radiators can all affect the temperature of your aquarium.
If any of your fish are unwell, put them into a separate tank until they are better. This not only allows you to monitor their health more, but prevents them from infecting other (if not all!) the fish in the tank.
*This is a rough guide to maintaining a healthy freshwater aquarium, and should be supplemented by specific information from the place you purchased your aquarium, as well as explicit aquarium instructions. Please refer to your local pet store for information on fish species, the number of fish your tank can hold and other requirements.