These are the most important things you can do to keep your aquarium clean:
- Regular water changes: 25% of the water should be changed each week during the first two months, and every two weeks thereafter, in order to remove harmful toxins.
- Biological filtration: Friendly bacteria should be allowed to grow on high surface-area material such as ceramic rings, and never removed, in order to neutralise harmful ammonia and nitrite.
- Number (and type) of fish: The total length of all fish added together should not exceed 20cm, and goldfish should be avoided – see our suggestions for more suitable (and interesting!) fish.
- Amount of food: No more than a couple of flakes per fish per day, or no more than they can completely eat within a couple of minutes, even if they look hungry (which fish always do).
- Algae and dirt removal: wipe the aquarium with an ‘acrylic friendly’ pad regularly, use algae prevention liquid, avoid excessive light, buy some invertebrates (e.g. shrimp or snails), and use a gravel cleaner.
- Activated carbon: Activated carbon pellets should be added to the large groove in the Norrom Aquarium’s filter sponge. These help remove chemical impurities dissolved in the water.
- Filter efficiency: The filter sponge should be removed every month and rinsed thoroughly in some old aquarium water, so that it does not block the filter from running at full flow.
Regular Water Changes
Water changes are the most essential part of an aquarium maintenance routine. Even in the most efficient and clean looking aquarium, whether or not fully cycled, harmful toxins naturally build up in the water, so it is essential to regularly change the water to both remove and dilute these toxins before they kill the fish.
Water changes should be more regular in new aquariums, especially before the tank has properly cycled for the first time.
In the first two months, 25% of aquarium water should be changed every week.
After the first two months, 25% of the aquarium water should be changed every two weeks.
Don’t forget to first condition your tap water to remove the impurities, and ensure any new water is the same temperature as the water in the rest of the tank before adding it.
The most important part of an aquarium’s filtration system is the biological filtration. In many aquariums, as well as in the Norrom Aquarium, this is made up chiefly by ceramic rings, and partly by the filter sponge. The ceramic rings and filter sponge provide a very large surface area on which friendly bacteria can live. This bacteria is required for the aquarium cycle, which converts harmful ammonia and nitrite in to the less harmful nitrate.
To maximise biological filtration, a generous stock of ceramic rings (or similar) should be kept in the aquarium at all times. When the ceramic rings become dirty it is better to clean them (using old water from the aquarium) rather than replace them, otherwise the good bacteria will have to grow all over again which can take many weeks. For the same reason, the filter sponge should only be replaced once every 3 months (but cleaned every month using old water from the aquarium).
Number (and type) of Fish
One of the main reasons an aquarium can become too dirty is because it is overstocked with fish. As a rough rule of thumb for the Norrom Aquarium, if you add the lengths of all of your fish together, the total should not exceed 20cm. Also we strongly recommend against housing goldfish, as they are messy, can become too large, and are difficult to keep – instead we recommend a wide range of other, more suitable (and interesting!) fish. Click here to learn more.
When the aquarium is new, any new fish should be introduced gradually at a maximum rate of two fish per month, until the aquarium is fully stocked, otherwise ammonia and nitrite levels may spike at dangerously high levels before the new biological filtration gets chance to become fully effective.
Amount of Food
A common mistake is to overfeed fish. Understandably, people do this because fish never become ‘full’ – they continue to appear hungry even after being fed large amounts of food. Our human instinct tells us to keep feeding them because they seem hungry.
This is one of the most common reasons for aquariums to become too dirty: Too much food leads to an unnecessary amount of waste, which increases dirt and also ammonia levels.
Fish should not be fed any more than a couple of flakes each per day, or no more than they can completely eat within a couple of minutes, even if they continue to look hungry (which fish always do).
Algae and Dirt Removal
Algae, a brown or green residue that grows on all surfaces, is one of the most prominent problems in even the most healthy aquariums, as is uneaten food and stray fish waste. There are a few ways to keep algae levels low, other than simply buying some algae prevention liquid, and reduce the build up of dirt.
Firstly, once every couple of weeks the inside of the aquarium should be wiped with an ‘acrylic friendly’ algae pad, for example the API Algae Pad for Acrylic Aquariums (never use an abrasive material – acrylic scratches easily). This can coincide with a water change (as you need to remove some water to get your arm in), especially as wiping algae away can make the water slightly cloudy.
Secondly, the aquarium should be kept away from excessive light, especially sunlight, as light promotes algae growth.
Thirdly, we strongly recommend the addition of invertebrates to the Norrom Aquarium, in addition to a total combined length of 20cm of fish. Freshwater shrimp (approximately 3 to 5) and freshwater snails (1 or 2) are very efficient scavengers that don’t create much waste themselves, feeding off much of the dirt, uneaten food, and algae that collect in the aquarium. Freshwater clams (1 or 2) also help to filter excess dirt in the water and around the bottom of the aquarium.
And don’t forget, once every couple of months a gravel cleaner (or pipe) should be used to manually remove any loose dirt and uneaten food from around the rocks and the ceramic pebbles.
The Norrom Aquarium filter sponge has a large groove inside for the addition of activated carbon pellets. Activated carbon is an extremely porous material which is able to absorb a large volume of dissolved contaminants, such as chloramines and chlorine, tannins, which discolour the water, and phenols, which cause nasty odors. This helps to keep the water looking (and smelling) cleaner and helps to keep it safe for the fish.
Activated carbon should be replaced each month, during the monthly cleaning of the filter sponge.
Since the aquarium filter’s role is to filter waste and contaminants from the water, the filter should be allowed to run at its most efficient all of the time in order to do its job properly. We strongly recommend removing the filter sponge once a month then rinsing it thoroughly in some old aquarium water (not tap water, as this will kill the good bacteria that neutralises harmful toxins).
Maintaining an unblocked filter sponge will ensure the maximum amount of water is flowing through the filter at all times.