Annual Aquarium Maintenance

by Nate Santora | January 31, 2012

The new year has come and gone and before too much time goes by schedule a day on the calender to complete that long overdue annual aquarium maintenance. While your at it now is a good time to do some spring cleaning and replace out of date consumables.

Let’s start with the aquarium and equipment. I like to give all my submersible equipment a vinegar bath to help remove stubborn coraline algae and tube worms. A rubbermaid container, bucket or even the bathtub can be used for the vinegar bath. Make sure the container has been rinsed of any soap residue. Start by adding one half cup vinegar to every gallon of warm water used. Add all the submersible equipment including, heaters, thermometers, pumps and powerheads to the vinegar water. I also completly submerge my protein skimmer and then plug all the pumps into a power strip to circulate the water.

After 2 to 4 hours give everything a good scrubbing with a tooth brush. Other tools that come in handy are q-tips, bottle or tube brushes and an acrylic safe pad to scrub plastic. Pumps should be disassembled and the internal components cleaned. The coraline algae and tube worm skeletons should come off without much effort. If this not the case you can strengthen the bath with another dose of vinegar. After scrubbing the equipment rinse everything with freshwater and lay it out on a towel while completing any maintenance needed inside the aquarium.

Hopefully you have done a good job maintaining your tank throughout the year and a complete teardown is not required. Even well maintained aquariums can have a few pieces of live rock that have bubble or hair algae growing on them in an impossible to get at spot. I fill a rubbermaid container with some tank water and remove the live rock that needs extra attention and work on it in the container. On really bad patches or crevices that cannot be thoroughly cleaned add a few drops of peroxide to kill the nuisance algae. Unwanted soft corals and anemones can be scraped off with a sharp knife. Give a peroxide treatment to the area where the problem animal was growing.

In worst case scenarios let the rock completely dry in the sun followed by soaking and rinsing it in reverse osmosis water before adding it back to the tank. Now is also the perfect time to change your aquascape so all areas of the tank are accessible for cleaning and routine or monthly tank maintanance in the future.

After cleaning the tank it is time to tackle the sump area. With the equipment removed it is easy to get to all the salt creep that has accumalated over the year. This is easy to remove with a damp sponge. Unplug all power cords and power strips and give them a wipedown.

Finally reassemble and reinstall all the aquarium equipment that was cleaned earlier. Clean the outside glass with paper towel and glass cleaner and you are done. As you can imagine this is pretty much an all day event so plan accordingly.

With the hard work out of the way it’s time to put your tax refund check to good use. Increase the clean up crew population so that it is large enough to handle any new growth of problem algae. I recommend one snail or crab for every gallon of tank water in a fully stocked tank. Replace any light bulbs and test kits that are more than a year old. I also throw out liquid coral foods and frost bitten fish food.

With a little planning and elbow grease you can extend the life of your equipment, give your animals a more suitable environment and make your aquarium look like new.

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