Perform Routine Water Changes!
PROBLEM: For some reason I cannot fathom, people just do not want to stick their hands in their fish tank! Now yeah, I admit that this is the water that your fish do their “business,” but seriously, it’s not as if you cannot wash your hands afterward. There is this wonderful invention called soap! But anyway, doing water changes very infrequently (or never!) is a one of the most common causes for having a filthy aquarium.
ISSUES: No matter how effective and superior the filter is, the quality of the water in your aquarium will still gradually decrease without routine water changes. Keep in mind that an aquarium is a closed system and cannot flush and replenish its own water as the floods and rains routinely replenish the water in a stream, lake, or river. The longer you wait to clean the tank, the dirtier the job is going to be.
Don’t freak out or cringe yet! When it comes to water changes, there are two common misconceptions: one must remove the fish before doing the water change, and one must take out ALL of the water. WRONG! Removing all of the water will deplete the beneficial bacteria in the tank and it will essentially re-start the entire process of establishing the ecosystem of your aquarium. This is should only ever be done if there is a disease or epidemic in the aquarium and all other options have been exhausted. Taking out all of the fish and placing them in another container is stressful for them, and increases the chance of injury. It is perfectly fine to leave your fish in the aquarium during a water change.
So here is what you SHOULD do…
SOLUTION: Periodically remove some (but not all) of the water and replace it with fresh, clean water that has already been conditioned safe for your fish. Every individual aquarium is unique in its own requirements, but it is often suggested to do a 20-35% water change every 2-3 weeks. Regular testing of your water quality can help you determine how often and how much of a change is needed. I suggest investing in a gravel vacuum hose. This handy product will help you siphon out some of the filth from between the rocks and gravel, while also sucking out the water simultaneously. I have personally found that in most cases, by the time you have systematically used your gravel vacuum to clean out the gravel, you have siphoned out as much water as you need (roughly 20-35%).