How to Maintain an Aquarium

Proper aquarium maintenance is necessary to ensure the health and well-being of the fish, critters, and plants in your aquarium.

Maintaining the Filtration

Your aquarium filter is one of the most consequential elements of your aquarium system. Filter maintenance promotes ideal conditions for the growth of your beneficial bacteria. You can maintain your filter by cleaning and replacing your filter media.

  • The filter intake can get clogged with debris and algae; unblock it regularly.
  • Biological filtration media, such as ceramic, can get clogged over time. This prevents water flow from entering the pores of the media. Generally speaking, half of your filtration media should be swapped every 3 to 4 months for best results.
  • If chemical filtration is used, like activated charcoal filters, they should be replaced every three to six months.
  • Mechanical filtration, like filter floss or sponges, can be replaced every 2-3 weeks.

Use water taken from the aquarium to clean the filter media. Do not clean filter media with tap water. The chlorine in the water will kill your beneficial bacteria. Just use the water taken from a water change.

Water Changes

To do a water change, you will need a gravel vacuum, bucket, and water conditioner.

  • Gravel vacuums separate the debris and waste from aquarium gravel. I use the Python Pro-Clean, with the help of the Squeeze Siphon Starter.
  • Water conditioners remove chlorine and other chemicals from tap water that can harm fish, critters, and plants.

    Municipalities add chlorine to the water to disinfect it and kill any harmful pathogens that may be present. As a result, traces of chlorine can be found in tap water. These trace amounts are not harmful to humans. The fish and critters that live in our tanks, however, are more sensitive to chlorine. Even in low levels, chlorine can harm fish, causing them stress and making them more susceptible to disease.

    There are many different brands of water conditioners available on the market. I use and recommend API Tap Water Conditioner and Seachem Prime.


  • First, use your gravel vacuum to clean the gravel at the bottom of the tank. This will remove any waste and debris that has accumulated.
  • Next, fill your bucket with fresh water and add the water conditioner. This will help break down chlorine or other chemicals from the water. (I do this the night before because I like to use aged water. To learn more about it, please see below).

Using Aged Water

Aged water is tap water that has been collected and stored for a period of time, typically over 24 hours. The purpose of aging tap water is to give more time for chlorine and other chemicals to dissipate.

Chlorine can negatively affect the cycling of your tank. The beneficial bacteria that help to break down ammonia and nitrites need a chlorine-free environment to thrive. If chlorine is present, it can kill them off, disrupting the cycling process of your aquarium.


Observation is key in fishkeeping. The best fishkeepers are those that are attentive to the needs of their fish and plants. Observe your fish, their behavior, their body, and their environment. By doing so, you can spot issues early on and find solutions before it is too late.

Testing the Waters

Maintaining good water quality is important for the health of your fish and plants. Testing the water regularly allows you to monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in the water and make adjustments as needed to keep the levels within a safe range. I use the API Freshwater Aquarium Water Master testing kit.

Plant Fertilizer

Plants fertilizer should be added to the aquarium at least once every week. Over time, plants will deplete the aquarium of all its nutrients. Plants begin to brown when they lack nutrients. I use Tropica Premium Fertilizer.

Trimming the Plants

Trimming plants is often necessary. It is best to stay on top of things and not let things get out of hand. Keep your aquarium clean and tidy with weekly or bi-weekly trims. I use the ADA Pro-Scissors collection for trimming.

Algae Control

If algae are not picked or scrubbed out of an aquarium regularly during maintenance, they will continue to grow and will eventually take over the entire aquarium. While not harmful to fish, algae can be extremely detrimental to the plants in your aquarium.

Closing Remarks

Fishkeeping has been shown to have a number of benefits for the mind, including reducing stress and anxiety and improving mood and concentration. When taking the time to care for your aquarium, do not let yourself feel overwhelmed. Things don’t always go according to plan, and that’s okay.

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