Daily Feed your fishes daily. Check the fishes whilst feeding them - count heads, look for signs of injury or illness. If necessary, move any fish showing signs of illness to a "hospital tank" for treatment, and remove any dead fish. Check the water temperature.
Weekly Change filter wadding of internal filter. Skim off any floating debris (as opposed to live floating plants.) Replant any which have been dug up by your plec or other catfish. Rake over the gravel, especially if you are using an under-gravel filter.

Change carbon filter medium. If necessary, top up tank using aged water or water which has been treated with "new water" treatment solution. Do NOT use water straight from the tap, and ensure that it is approximately the same temperature as the water already in the tank.
Trim overgrown plants, replace any which have been eaten away by the herbivores in your tank.

Every six weeks to two months Change SOME of the biological filter medium (which is usually in the form of blue sponge material.) You must not replace it all at the same time as you need some of the bacteria left to continue their work.
Periodically Consider rehousing (or even rehoming) any fish which have outgrown their present home.
Re-stock according to losses, rehoming etc., to maintain aquarium population balance.

Some aquarists advocate a partial water change - some even as often as weekly. In all the thirty-odd years in which I have been keeping fish, I have never done a water change as a matter of routine. If necessary, I will top up with fresh water to replace any which has evaporated (see above) but I do not deliberately remove water from the tank. The water continues to be crystal clear and odour-free and the fish continue to thrive. Maybe my attention to filter maintenance has something to do with it, but my tank systems run just fine on the water they have already in them.


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You will soon develop a regular feeding routine - the fish will rapidly come to associate certain actions on your part, and certain times of the day with food, and won't LET you ignore them. Don't fall into the trap of feeding them whenever they beg for food because they "look hungry" - they are far more likely to be looking greedy! Overfeeding the fish can be very dangerous for the health of the whole aquarium, as left over food will start to decay and contaminate the water and use up valuable oxygen at the same time. Only feed as much as the fish will consume in five minutes : it is far better to feed slowly and watch to make sure nobody is getting left out - if you drop food in different areas of the tank, everyone should get a turn.

In a community aquarium you will probably have a variety of fish which feed at different levels of the tank - surface feeders such as Hatchetfishes and tetras, bottom feeders such as the many Corydoras species and other catfishes, and middle-water feeders which includes the majority of commoner aquarium fish, although many fish will feed at whatever level they encounter food : one of my Hoplo catfishes, officially bottom feeders, knows when I open the tank lid and makes a bee-line for the surface and waits with his snout out of the water, ready to grab the choicest morsels first.

The easiest way to feed your fish is to use a good quality ready prepared food bought from the aquarists' supply shop : choose a commercial flake food specially prepared for tropical fish and use that as the basis for feeding the fish. If you have catfish or other bottom feeders, you can either soak some of the flakes so that they sink quickly to the bottom, or better still, buy proper catfish pellets or tablets which are specially created for the dietary needs of most bottom feeders (although my Silver Dollars tend to pounce on the descending catfish sinkers and devour them greedily!) Food tablets are also a useful general food, and can be crumbled to float for the surface feeders, dropped into the tank to sink for the bottom feeders, or even stuck onto the aquarium glass for the middle-level feeders to nibble at. Algae eaters will benefit from algae tablets to supplement the algae they eat off the glass, rocks and plants in your aquarium, and a little supplementary feeding for the herbivores will help distract them from eating your prize plants. All fish, even those supposed to be herbivorous, seem to relish occasional live food, whether for the taste or the fun of chasing and catching them it's impossible to say! I buy in bloodworms and daphnia for a once-a-week treat, and also feed freeze-dried bloodworms and brine shrimp, although the fish definitely seem to prefer the live versions.

I feed my fishes twice a day, first of all in the morning, shortly after the tank lights have been switched on, and again in the evening, five minutes before I switch the lights off - that way the surface and middle-water fishes get their five minutes and the catfish and other scavengers, which tend to be crepuscular (come out at dawn and twilight) or nocturnal, have the night to feast on their share of the food, and give the tank a thorough clean for the morning.


Filter maintenance
This is the one aquarium maintenance task you must NOT put off - the life of your fishes could quite literally depend on it. For canister filters, change the filter medium as often as the filter manufacturer recommends; wash out sponges but NOT in chlorinated tapwater - use either some water taken from the tank (discard it after you've used it to clean the filter) or treat a bowlful of lukewarm tapwater with chlorine remover (sometimes sold as "new tank treatment" solution) and use that. If you have to replace some of the sponges, never replace them all at once : you must keep some of the old filter medium, which will have been colonised by denitrifying bacteria. When next you change the filters, change the oldest of the sponges and keep rotating them so you never run out of bacteria.

Undergravel filters require very little maintenance beyond raking the gravel gently once a week to ensure that it doesn't get packed down too firmly for the water to be drawn through it easily, and ensuring that the air-lift is working properly. If this is in the form of a power lift there is very little maintenance to be done; an external air pump linked to an airstone in the filter lift tube needs to have its inlet filter changed occasionally and the airstone may need changing from time to time if the flow diminishes because it is getting blocked.


Water changes
As I have said previously, I have never, ever, had to do a partial water change as a matter of routine. The only time I've ever had to empty and then refill a tank is when I've had to reduce its weight in order to move it.

But, should the occasion arise, or if you decide that you want to do regular water changes, the method is simple. All you need is a bucket and a length of hosepipe, long enough to reach from the bottom of the tank, up and over the edge of the tank and back down to the floor.

Working on the premise that a picture is worth a thousand words, the simplest - and least messy - method of doing a partial water change is shown below :



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