Aquarium and Fish Maintenance Part 3: Is Your Aquarium Equipment Working Properly?

Posted By: Matt Allen


benthochromis fish

What does it really take to keep your aquarium clean and your fish happy?   Two weeks ago we discussed the importance of watching and observing the fish in your aquarium and last week we talked about clean aquarium water.  This week we will talk about the importance of ensuring your equipment is working properly.

One of the biggest factors in keeping your fish happy and healthy is ensuring that the environment that they are in is stable and consistent.  Making sure that your aquarium equipment is operating properly is critical to your success.  Investing a few minutes a month to check and keep your pumps, filters, heaters and other equipment is well worth the effort and will help eliminate future problems.

A good aquarium heater is key a component in successful fish keeping.  Why? Most aquarium fish come from waters of warm, tropical environments.  The majority of aquarium fish prefer water temperatures above 72°F and 80°F.  At Elive we always try to keep our aquarium temperatures at 78°F.  We find at that temperature the fish are active, eat aggressively and have great color.  Find out what temperature the fish you are keeping prefer.  Some like water on the cool side of the gradient and some like it on the high side.  Not all aquarium fish are tropical species.  Goldfish are a cold water fish and do better when kept at lower temperatures.  Goldfish prefer water temperatures between 65°F – 72°F.  A heater may not be needed when keeping goldfish.

Monitor your temperature daily.  You can purchase an inexpensive thermometer and place it on the front of your aquarium.  We check our temperatures every day when feeding the fish.  We have an adjustable aquarium heater that allows us to increase or decrease our water temperature.  If the water is running cooler than 78°F, we turn up the heater slightly. The opposite is true too. If it’s too warm we turn it down.  Typically we don’t need to adjust the heater if the water is within 2° +/- of the desired 78°F temperature.  Keeping your fish below or above a recommended temperature will be stressful to your fish which can lead to a variety of health issues.

Keeping your filter operating properly is also very important.  Your filter helps remove unwanted chemicals and waste from your water and helps to provide water movement, current and also increase the oxygen in the water.  Visually check the water movement in your aquarium when you feed your fish.  Our fish like a lot of water movement and so we make sure the filter is pushing a good amount of water to keep them happy.  As the filter cartridges become clogged, they are not as efficient in removing waste and pushing water.  As the current and water slows in the aquarium it tells you it is time to change the filter cartridges.  Also, change the cartridges once a month.  This keeps your aquarium’s filter running properly.

There are a couple of other areas of the filter that you should clean on a regular basis.  Most filters have a water intake strainer.  This strainer keeps large particulates from entering the filter.  If this intake gets clogged, it will decrease the amount of water going through the filter. It’s a good idea to clean the intake when changing your filter cartridge but also check it if the current seems off in your aquarium.  Also clean the impeller and impeller housing in the filter.  Most aquarium power filters are powered by an impeller driving water pump.  The magnetic impeller and housing just need to be cleaned off a few times a year to keep the water pump working properly.  A few minutes, a soft towel, and a cotton swab is all you need.

The last thing we are going to talk about is lighting.  Most fish need light and we need light to see them.  That’s why most of us keep fish right?  We want to see their color, the way the move and act.  Like most animals, the sun coming up in the morning and setting in the evening helps us know the start and end of our day.  This is called a photoperiod and just like water temperature and water current, it is important that light exposure is fairly consistent in your aquarium.  Most fish need between 8 and 12 hours of daylight every day.  It’s also important that fish have a dark period too.  Some fish are active during the day and some fish are more active in the low light hours.  To keep your light consistent in your aquarium, keep your lights on a timer.  You can set it to your schedule, and it keeps the lighting consistent for your fish. One of the biggest, and most common, mistakes is keeping the aquarium light on either all of time or on way too long.  Too much light will stress your fish out and will also lead to excess algae or green water.  This is another reason to put your lights on a timer!

Here is a quick recap of what we talked about in this three part series to successful fish keeping:

  1. Observe Your Fish – if they are not acting right then something is probably wrong.
  2. Test Your Water – if something is wrong in your aquarium testing your aquarium water is a good first step in identifying the problem.
  3. Feeding – Feed your fish 2-3 small meals each day.  Watch them eat.  A healthy fish is an active eater.
  4. 25% Water Changes – Try to change 25% of your aquarium water once a month.
  5. Check Your Equipment – Make sure you heater, filter and lights are working properly.

Feel free to contact us or your local fish store for more questions!