The amount and type of fish tank care necessary will depend both on the type (saltwater vs. tap water) and size of the tank and the number and type of inhabitants. In general, after the initial startup period, regular maintenance of the aquarium should be fairly straightforward. In fact, an aquarium that is properly set up should eventually reach an equilibrium state that requires very little fish tank care.
Water Quality: The Key To Fish Health
Regardless of the type of tank, fish or theme your aquarium has, it is absolutely essential to maintain the proper water balance. Just as a swimming pool that is not properly monitored with water testing will turn mucky and kill your urge to swim, an aquarium that is not monitored for water quality can turn deadly and kill your fish. It is probably a good idea to establish a relationship with the staff at a local pet store, or better yet, aquarium store (if available). These stores will often test your water for free and recommend solutions for problems, as well as walk you through the basics of fish tank care. In general, you will need to be sure that you de-chlorinate water (if applicable), and monitor the pH, ammonia and nitrate levels. Doing so can reduce one of the leading causes of death in aquarium dwellers.
In addition to monitoring the water quality, don’t fall prey to common misconceptions about fish tank care. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to clean a fish tank is not to drain all of the water, scrub the tank and refill it with fresh water. Although this approach makes intuitive sense, there are several arguments against it. First, removing fish from the tank (especially by chasing them with a net) is traumatic. Second, no soap of any kind should ever be used on the inside of a fish tank. Residue from soaps is impossible to completely remove from the glass and will contaminate the water. A properly maintained tank will essentially be self-cleaning and will require very little fish tank care – the owner should simply circulate the water by removing some water and adding fresh water periodically (some sources say once per week, others once every 10 days, again checking with an aquarium store staff person is probably your best bet).
Finally, be sure to install a proper filtration unit – one that is big enough for the size of your tank and the number of fish it supports. Circulating water and re-oxygenating it are crucial to the survival of the fish. Proper circulation ensures waste products are removed from the system and helps prevent the formation of algae.
Following these steps will cover the essentials of fish tank care. Once these basics are mastered, more advanced techniques and different types of tanks can be explored.