Fish Tank Maintenance
I Refuse to Post an Image of a Dirty Fish Tank – I couldn’t handle that on my site, instead;
Decorate Aquarium
A ‘Clean’ Aquarium

To start with, just checking on where we all are with our tanks:

  • You have a fish tank running now and need some advice on how to maintain your tank best?
  • If not, you are looking at getting one and have read my How To Cycle a Fish Tank post?

Whichever stage you find yourself in, you might have the same question for me: How do I keep my Fish Tank Clean?

So here we go; my quick guide to the most hassle-free fish tank maintenance I can whip up for you at 02h45 am in the morning – who needs sleep if there are dirty fish tanks out there in the world, not me!

Tropical Fish Tank Maintenance is Essential

You know what – I should include this whole concept in the “Before you get a Fish Tank” post.  I don’t think people always understand that if you get a fish tank, you will need to commit to it.

Sadly, it is not as easy as getting a tank, filling it with water, and some fish (maybe a frog blowing air bubbles at the bottom for decoration).


The fish you eventually keep didn’t ask for you to take them home, they are DEPENDANT on your care for them, and it is your responsibility to make sure they are happy at all times.

Right. Enough of preaching. Let’s get down to business and clean that tank of yours.

I am going to cover the major areas here:

Emergency Cleaning – This is when you struggle to see your fish in the tank, and the poor things can’t even find their food because the water is so dirty.

Preventative Maintenance – This is what you probably should have done to prevent us from having to talk about Emergency Cleaning, but I don’t judge. It happens to all of us.

In Case of Emergency:  Don’t Break The Glass (at least in this case that is true)

Is the glass or perspex just dirty?  – This usually is algae build-up. Move that tank out of any direct sunlight is my first suggestion. It is, however, not only direct sunlight that leads to algae overgrowth.

It doesn’t matter how it got there – we need to get rid of it.  I suggest a glass scraper with metal (almost like a blade) ending for GLASS tanks ONLY.  If you have a plastic (perspex) tank, get yourself a scraper with a plastic or rubber end – this will prevent nasty scratches.

Then, some elbow grease will be needed in the mix.  Get that glass or perspex nicely cleaned.

Cloudy Water – In Emergency

This is more often caused by nitrate build-up or what we call bacteria bloom.

Please have some of this stuff handy at all times, I have it on hand all the time, and it works like a charm:

Algone is like waving a magic wand around your tank, and Voila, most problems solved.  Algone will clear cloudy water, remove ammonia and even get rid of nasty nitrates.  No need to worry about your live plants; it is entirely safe for all aquatic life. And it is nice and cheap compared to other products I’ve tried with no luck.

Now more on Preventative Maintenance

Preventive Maintenance
We get it, don’t we?

This boils down to one major thing – TESTING your water regularly.

Water changes are significant, and you should do regular water changes weekly on small tanks, monthly on larger tanks.  Please remember always to use a good water conditioner BEFORE you add that freshwater to your tank.

Then Test!

You do by now have a proper freshwater testing kit. I hope, if not, grab one quickly!

I’m not going to go into too much detail about Seachem Prime. I will say that it is the only conditioner I use on every single tank I own or have to work on for customers, friends, and family.

People often say I am like a mad scientist running around from tank to tank doing water tests.  But I believe that the more you test your tanks, the better you get to actually “KNOW” them.

Tanks can be a lot like humans; they have their ups and downs.  They have their good days and bad days and a couple of mood swings thrown in every once in a while.

Luckily, today, it is a lot easier to find a product out there to treat every condition or ailment your tank or fish may have.

If you do use activated carbon in your filtration system, please change it monthly. I have arrived at so many customers with problems, and then they say they have never changed the carbon.

Those pieces of coal work very hard to keep your water crystal clear and deserve a retirement after about a month. I use the Crystal CAL Premium Carbon, but most others are also good; get a good quality carbon.

A tip for cleaning plants and ornaments: If you remove anything from your tank for cleaning, please use water FROM your tank to clean them in.  This will ensure that you don’t accidentally introduce any nasty stuff when you put them back. These could harm your bacteria colony.

On the Topic of Bacteria

Please don’t disturb your bacteria colony in your filter media too much.  They don’t like touching, not to speak of contact with chlorine (from tap water).

Remember, without a healthy bacteria colony, your tank will suffer from ammonia spikes, and this is just TERRIBLE for the health of your fish.

To start or repair a damaged bacteria colony is rather complicated.  You might even have to cycle your tank all over again—something you don’t want to go through at all with an established tank.