Ongoing Aquarium and Equipment Maintenance

Aquarium and Equipment Maintenance
Weekly Overview
Cleaning the Tank
Water Quality Monitoring
Troubleshooting Common Mechanical Problems

Weekly Overview

  • Feed fish as appropriate on a daily basis
  • Clean tank at least twice each week, siphoning excess food and fish waste
  • Exchange one-quarter of the water in the tank every week
  • Test water quality parameters and record on the Water Quality Data Sheet
  • Maintain appropriate temperature
  • Observe fish for behavioral changes that may indicate disease or other stresses

Cleaning the Tank

Cleaning the tank includes siphoning out waste and uneaten food  (at least once a week or more frequently if necessary) and exchanging approximately one-quarter of the water in the tank at least once a week or more frequently if necessary. To dechlorinate the water, add tablets or set the tank outside in the sun for a day. The sunlight will help break down the chlorine. Scrub the sides of tank as necessary to remove any algae growth. Proper cleaning of your tank is essential to maintain fish health and good water quality.

Water Quality Monitoring/ Troubleshooting Common Problems
Testing water quality parameters (pH, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, water hardness and temperature) on a weekly basis will help you to monitor changes in water quality and address problems as they arise, the Water Quality Data Sheet to help you keep track. Read through this Nitrogen Cycle Guide: Achieving a Balanced Aquarium for Salmon Success to better understand your tank's chemistry!

Important: slight fluctuations in water quality parameters are relatively normal. However, if they do occur it is important to determine what caused the fluctuation and to decide if it is serious enough to warrant remediation. Remember, common sense goes a long way. If all equipment is working properly, fish behavior is normal, and all water quality parameters are within acceptable levels except that your pH is a bit high at 7.7, remain calm. You could treat the tank with a chemical designed to decrease the pH to bring it within the appropriate range or continue to closely monitor the water quality, fish behavior and equipment to see if anything else is being affected.

It is important that your tank maintain a temperature between 50°F and 57°F. 52° is an optimal temperature. Colder water dissolves more oxygen than warmer water. Salmon require more oxygen than cool or warm water fish species and therefore require cooler water.

Troubleshooting Common Mechanical Problems

The manufacturers of equipment and aquarium store personnel can provide knowledgeable advice on fixing common problems. Be sure to keep all owners' manuals for easy access to contact information.

  • pH should be at 7-7.5. If the pH is above this range, it is considered alkaline. If the pH is below this range, it is considered acidic. Fish are used to living within a relatively small pH range. It is hard for them to tolerate big changes in pH. If the water becomes too acidic or too alkaline, it is stressful on the fish. Other water quality parameters can be affected when the pH changes. Chemical solutions are available at aquarium stores to increase or decrease the pH of aquariums. Be sure to follow directions closely. It is important to allow enough time for the solution to be moved through the entire aquarium system before applying another dose.
  • Ammonia: There should be no initial levels of ammonia. Ammonia will not begin to develop until the fish start feeding and begin producing waste. Water chemistry can be influenced by ammonia levels. If you have ammonia present in your aquarium, stop feeding your fish immediately! Clean the tank and continue to monitor until it is appropriate to begin feeding the fish again.
  • Nitrates/nitrites: There should be no traceable amounts of nitrates or nitrites. Nitrate is the final stage of the nitrogen cycle. Although it is less toxic than ammonia and nitrite, it can cause stress on fish. If nitrates are present, clean the aquarium and retest. If nitrates are still present it may be appropriate to treat the tank. Chemical solutions can be purchased at aquarium stores to decrease nitrate levels.
  • Hardness: Hard water is not a problem. Hard water tends to buffer small changes in pH and other water quality parameters. Soft water, however, does not have the ability to buffer such changes when the water chemistry changes.
  • Chlorine: There should be no traceable amounts of chlorine.
  • Chiller failure: Add ice to the tank as a temporary solution. Place ice cubes in a Ziploc® bag and float in tank.
  • Filter failure: Your fish will have a few days before ammonia levels become a problem. Changing approximately one-quarter of the water in the tank will help. Use a sponge filter to maintain beneficial bacteria.
  • Air bubbler failure: It is extremely important that oxygen levels do not fall too low. Use a portable, battery-powered bubbler as a temporary solution.