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Routine Aquarium Maintenance

Updated on January 25, 2011

In order to keep your goldfish and their environment looking their best - and, more importantly - in good health, you will need to establish some daily and weekly routines. In addition, you'll need to 'spring clean' the aquarium thoroughly once a year.

Partial water changes

One of the most important things you can do for your goldfish is to ensure that the quality of the water in their aquarium is good. This means not only providing an adequate and fully functioning filtration system, but also siphoning out 10-20% of their water every week and replacing it with fresh. Don't use water straight from the tap: fill a bucket and leave it overnight to reach room temperature, then add a water conditioner to remove any chlorine.

Cleaning an External Filter

  1. Turn the coupling tags to the off position and undo the plastic nuts securing the taps to the filter body. Place the filter in a shallow bowl and tilt it to drain off most of the water.
  2. Remove the motor from the canister by releasing the locking tabs and separating the two main components. Remove the impeller and clean all plastic parts with a cloth.
  3. Remove the internal basket containing the filter media. (This filter has a one-piece assembly, but some filters have separate modules for the different filter materials.)
  4. Remove the filter media from the internal basket. Discard the soiled filter floss and the exhausted activated carbon. Both will need to be replaced. Gently wash the permanent media in water taken from the tank. Loose-fill the special bag, or an old stocking, with fresh carbon and reassemble the media. Replace the motor unit. Couple the filter to the taps and turn them to the 'on' position.

Keeping records

Making a note of when you carry out routine maintenance tasks and the results of water tests is a wise habit to develop. This will show you when such tasks are due and will also draw attention to any potential problems. Also note changes in behaviour of your fish, which might indicate the start of health problem.

Testing water

Until the tank is six weeks old, check for ammonia and nitrite at least once a week (or before adding more fish). Water quality problems can still arise later if the tank becomes overstocked, equipment stops working properly or you fail to carry out water changes. Check nitrite, nitrate and pH levels regularly. If you detect a problem, do a partial water change to dilute it, then consider the cause.

Going On Holiday

If you are going away for only a day or two, your goldfish won't miss you. You can buy 'vacation blocks', which contain food in a compressed block that gradually dissolves in the aquarium. The best option, however, is to find a responsible friend to look after your goldfish for you while you are away, ideally in your own home. Alternatively, if you have only a couple of fish, you could move them into a smaller holiday tank to take to a friend's house, but make sure this tank has adequate filtration. Don't forget to give your friend written instructions on caring for your fish while you are away and leave the phone number of the veterinarian or local aquatic dealer or pet shop in case there are any problems. It is also a good idea to measure out the food into separate plastic bags to prevent an enthusiastic friend from overfeeding your fish.


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  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Wise advice. There is no such thing as an easy pet. All owners need to be responsible. Thank you for your article.