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- Daily Chores  : 


Along with feeding my fish twice daily (once in the morning and once in the evening), I top off fresh water lost to evaporation—usually about a half gallon a day, depending on the humidity level in my home. This process can be fairly easily automated, however, eliminating even this simple step.


Each day’s routine also involves an inspection of all the livestock in my tank. I want to make sure that all the animals are present and accounted for (i.e., nothing has perished in the rockwork or leapt from the tank) and that everything looks healthy, uninjured, and disease-free. This really isn’t much of a chore, since it gives me an excuse to observe the tank and enjoy the fruits of my labor.


Then I check water temperature and specific gravity to make sure these crucial parameters aren’t straying off course. Monitoring these parameters daily allows me to catch and correct subtle deviations using small adjustments rather than having to make huge (read: stressful to tank inhabitants) corrections after a precipitous change has occurred.


I also perform a quick daily inspection of all my heating, filtration, lighting, and protein-skimming equipment to make sure everything is functioning properly. I find it helpful to run my hand along the various lines, tubes, and connections to make sure everything is properly plugged in (I have a habit of leaving my heater unplugged after water changes) or connected and that I don’t feel any moisture from small leaks.


Because I keep corals and a Tridacna clam in my system, my daily routine includes the addition of calcium and a buffering agent. However, if you plan to set up a fish-only system, this step would be unnecessary.


Finally, each day I empty and rinse out the collection cup of my protein skimmer to prevent an overflow, and I wipe off any salt creep (not your humble author, but that crusty salt layer that builds up on surfaces exposed to saltwater spray) that is accumulating on power cords and other surfaces. You have to be especially cautious about salt creep on power cords, as it can eventually work its way down the cord into the electrical outlet, causing a short.


This may sound like a lot to do each day, but again, these are all very simple steps and virtually all of them can be completed in a matter of minutes.


- Weekly Chores: 

Once a week, it’s a good idea to test your ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and phosphate levels with quality test kits to ensure your tank isn’t experiencing a spike in any of these compounds. As a reef keeper, I also test calcium and alkalinity to make sure they’re in the proper range. Once your system has matured and you’ve developed a certain level of comfort and proficiency in your maintenance techniques—and assuming you aren’t continually adding or losing livestock—you may be able to get by testing less frequently.

My weekly housekeeping also includes cleaning the glass panes of my aquarium with an algae magnet (sometimes I do this as often as every other day, depending on how quickly the glass becomes fouled), wiping clean the neck of my protein skimmer to improve its efficiency, and rinsing my prefilter sponges to eliminate any trapped debris from the system before it can decompose and adversely impact my water quality.


- Biweekly to Monthly Chores: 


The most important routine maintenance chore—the partial water change—should be completed once every two weeks or, at the very least, once a month. In heavily populated tanks or tanks containing large specimens that excrete on the heavy side, weekly water changes would be even better. A good rule to remember is that frequent, smaller water changes (approximately 10 percent of your aquarium’s water) are preferable to infrequent, larger water changes, which are more disruptive to the tank inhabitants and result in larger fluctuations in water chemistry.


Of course, there may be times when a larger change is required—for example, if you have a really heavy bioload, or if testing reveals that nitrate, phosphate, or some other pollutant is beginning to accumulate and, hence, greater dilution is called for. In these cases, the potential harm to the system that is posed by the accumulating pollutant significantly outweighs any disruption that might result from a major water change.


A few days before or after every water change, it’s a good idea to replace disposable mechanical filtration media (if using a canister filter, hang-on-tank filter, etc.). Why not do this on the same day as your water change for the sake of convenience? Because dividing these tasks over different days helps to minimize any disruption to your system’s biological filtration. Remember, nitrifying bacteria will colonize mechanical filter media, so replacing them at the same time that you vacuum the substrate, scrape the glass, and perform other cleaning chores can diminish the population of these beneficial bacteria to the point that an ammonia or nitrite spike can occur.


Once a month, I also clean my aquarium cover glass as well as the acrylic shield of my lighting fixture. Over time, these develop a crust of salt and calcium deposits, which reduces the amount of light that reaches the photosynthetic invertebrates in my system. Salt can be cleaned off easily with a damp cloth. Calcium deposits are a bit tougher to clean but can be removed by wiping vigorously with a sponge or cloth soaked with white vinegar. For the sake of convenience this chore can be completed at the same time as one of your biweekly water changes.


Incidentally, approximately once a month I also use white vinegar to soak the air intake hose and valves of my protein skimmer to prevent them from becoming clogged with calcium. Clogged skimmer valves throw the mixture of air and water out of balance, which results in poor foam production and overly diluted skimmate. After soaking the valves for a while, I use a small aquarium brush (or sometimes a flathead jeweler’s screwdriver) to dislodge any remaining calcium buildup.



Bimonthly Chores : 


               Every other month or so (extra emphasis on the “or so”), I like to spend a little extra time cleaning any accumulated gunk from my protein skimmer, return pump, biofilter overflow box, powerhead, heater, thermometer, and hoses, using aquarium brushes of various sizes and, for some tasks, a razor blade. The buildup of coralline algae that develops on submerged marine aquarium components can really affect their performance over time, so I try to keep this growth from getting out of hand. If the coralline encrustation does become excessive, say on one of the pumps, a prolonged soaking in (you guessed it) white vinegar coupled with some vigorous scrubbing usually does the trick.

                   When the inside of my return hose becomes coated with gunk that can’t be flushed out with tap water, there’s a simple little trick I use to get it clean. I take an appropriately sized aquarium brush, tie a length of flexible airline tubing (longer than the hose being cleaned) to the loop at the end of the handle, thread the airline tubing through the hose so it emerges at the far end, and then pull the brush through the hose. After two or three passes, the inside of the hose usually comes clean.

                    I don’t generally use activated carbon in my system, except very occasionally to “polish” the water a bit. But some aquarists choose to utilize carbon continually. If carbon is a mainstay in your filtration arsenal, it should be replaced with fresh carbon approximately once every two months. The reason for this is that carbon left in a system too long can become used up and then “dump” the adsorbed chemical pollutants back into the water, defeating the purpose of using carbon in the first place.                 

                     As I’ve already mentioned, this aquarium maintenance schedule may differ considerably from that of another hobbyist. And the time and effort that it takes will vary based on the size and complexity of the system, the number and type of animals being kept, and the presence or absence of timesaving automated equipment. But as you can hopefully see, maintaining a marine aquarium—even a reef system—does not have to tie up several hours each day. A very modest but consistent investment of time and energy will yield a thriving marine aquarium that you can be proud of.


 Reef Aquarium Maintenance : 


- Marine Aquarium Maintenance Checklist:

“I understand saltwater aquariums are a lot of hard work. How many hours do you have to spend on yours each day to keep it looking like that?”

“I’d love to start a saltwater tank, but I just don’t have enough time in my schedule to maintain one.”

“Sure, saltwater aquariums are beautiful, but aren’t they much more difficult than freshwater?”


Questions and comments such as these, which are frequently uttered to marine aquarium hobbyists by their non-hobbyist acquaintances, drive home the point that some long-standing misconceptions still persist about marine aquarium keeping. Foremost among them is the notion that maintaining a healthy marine system requires a prohibitive investment of time and effort each day.


The truth of the matter is on most days I spend no more (and usually less) than 15 minutes performing aquarium maintenance. Sure, there are those water-change days that take up a few hours, but all in all I would describe the overall investment of time and elbow grease as quite modest—and certainly no worse than what you might expect from any other hobby or avocation.


Still, preparing for this month’s column has got me thinking about how I typically divvy up my aquarium-maintenance chores and how I could provide a sample maintenance schedule for those who are considering taking the plunge into saltwater aquarium keeping but may be discouraged by the amount of time and energy that they think the hobby demands. What follows is my best attempt to dissect a maintenance routine that, for me, has become largely subconscious and second nature. Another hobbyist’s routine might look significantly different, depending on the animals kept and the complexity of the system, but hopefully this will give newcomers a sense of what they can expect.







- Marine Compatibility Chart : 

Tank mate compatibility is crucial to a successful and healthy marine aquarium. Incompatible species will increase stress in the tank which could result in disease and considerable loss. Use the chart below as a guideline when selecting fish and please read our article "Introducing New Fish Into Your Aquarium" before making your fish selection.


Remember, no guarantees can be made about the compatibility or incompatibility of any particular species of fish. Also, particular species within a group of fish vary in temperament and may not correspond with the guideline below.


Y = Yes, Generally Compatible
C = Can co-exist with Caution 
N = No, Not Compatible

 Fish Compatiblity  Chart : 


- Freshwater & Brackish Compatibility Chart: 


Tank mate compatibility is crucial to a successful and healthy marine aquarium. Incompatible species will increase stress in the tank which could result in disease and considerable loss. Use the chart below as a guideline when selecting fish and please read our article "Introducing New Fish Into Your Aquarium" before making your fish selection.

Y = Yes, Generally Compatible
C = Can co-exist with Caution 
N = No, Not Compatible


Solution 1: 

     A plastic spaghetti strainer (found at your local discount store) can be used to contain a tank bully within the aquarium for several hours until the new arrival adjusts to its surroundings. Just float the perforated plastic basket in the aquarium. Net the tank bully and place in the floating basket for approximately four hours while the new arrival adjusts to your aquarium. Never place the new arrival in this basket; the new specimen must get familiar with your aquarium. By placing the tank bully in a perforated basket, you'll reduce the stress on your newest tank mate.


Solution 2: 

      A perforated plastic lighting grid can be purchased at your local hardware store to cut down the width of your aquarium. This grid may be used to section off a small portion of the aquarium to separate territorial or aggressive fish from the newest tank mate. After the new addition adjusts to the unfamiliar environment, the divider can be removed.

 - Be patient - never rush the acclimation procedure. The total acclimation time for your new arrival should take no longer than one hour.


- Always follow the acclimation procedure even if your new arrival appears to be dead. Some fish and invertebrates can appear as though they are deadwhen they arrive and will usually revive when the above procedure is followed correctly.


- Never place an airstone into the shipping bag when acclimating your new arrival. This will increase the pH of the shipping water too quickly and expose your new arrival to lethal ammonia.


-Keep aquarium lights off for at least four hours after the new arrival is introduced into the aquarium.


-Most invertebrates and marine plants are more sensitive than fish to salinity changes. It is imperative to acclimate invertebrates to a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 or severe stress or trauma may result.


-Sponges, clams, scallops, and gorgonias should never be directly exposed to air. Follow the acclimation procedure, but instead of netting the specimen out of the shipping bag, submerge the bag underwater in the aquarium and remove the marine life from the bag. Seal off the shipping bag underwater by twisting the opening, and remove it from the aquarium. Discard both the shipping bag and the enclosed water. A tiny amount of the diluted shipping water will escape into the aquarium. Don't be alarmed; this will have no adverse affect on the tank inhabitants.


-In some instances, your new tank mate will be chased and harassed by one or all of your existing tank mates.

Floating Method: 




1- Turn off aquarium lights.





2-Dim the lights in the room where the shipping box will be opened. Never open the box in bright light - severe stress or trauma may result from sudden exposure to bright light.





3-Float the sealed bag in the aquarium for 15 minutes (Fig. A). Never open the shipping bag at this time. This step allows the water in the shipping bag to adjust slowly to the temperature in the aquarium, while maintaining a high level of dissolved oxygen.





4-After floating the sealed shipping bag for 15 minutes, cut open the bag just under the metal clip (Fig. B) and roll the top edge of the bag down one inch to create an air pocket within the lip of the bag. This will enable the bag to float on the surface of the water (Fig. C). For heavy pieces of live coral that will submerge the shipping bag, place the bag containing the coral in a plastic bowl or specimen container.




5-Add 1/2 cup of aquarium water to the shipping bag

(Fig. D).




6-Repeat step 5 every four minutes until the shipping bag is full.



7-Lift the shipping bag from the aquarium and discard half the water from the bag (Fig. E).


8-Float the shipping bag in the aquarium again and proceed to add 1/2 cup of aquarium water to the shipping bag every four minutes until the bag is full.






9-Net aquatic life from the shipping bag and release into the aquarium (Fig. F).






10-Remove the filled shipping bag from the aquarium and discard the water. Never release shipping water directly into the aquarium.




Drip Method : 

This method is considered more advanced. It is geared toward sensitive inhabitants such as corals, shrimp, sea stars, and wrasses. You will needairline tubing and must be willing to monitor the entire process. Gather a clean, 3 or 5-gallon bucket designated for aquarium use only. If acclimating both fish and invertebrates, use a separate bucket for each.


1- Start with Steps 1-3 of the floating method to acclimate water temperature.



2- Carefully empty the contents of the bags (including the water) into the buckets (Fig. G), making sure not to expose sensitive invertebrates to the air. Depending on the amount of water in each bag, this may require tilting the bucket at a 45 degree angle to make sure the animals are fully submerged (Fig. H). You may need a prop or wedge to help hold the bucket in this position until there is enough liquid in the bucket to put it back to a level position.



3-Using airline tubing, set up and run a siphon drip line from the main aquarium to each bucket. You’ll need separate airline tubing for each bucket used. Tie several loose knots in the airline tubing, or use a plastic or other non-metal airline control valve, (Fig. I), to regulate flow from the aquarium. It is also a good idea to secure the airline tubing in place with an airline holder. The Doctors Foster and Smith Acclimation Kit is a convenient alternative that simplifies the drip acclimation process.





4-Begin a siphon by sucking on the end of the airline tubing you'll be placing into each of the buckets. When water begins flowing through the tubing, adjust the drip (by tightening one of the knots or adjusting the control valve) to a rate of about 2-4 drips per second (Fig. J).




5-When the water volume in the bucket doubles, discard half and begin the drip again until the volume doubles once more – about one hour. 


6-At this point, the specimens can be transferred to the aquarium. Sponges, clams, and gorgonias should never be directly exposed to air. Gently scoop them out of the drip bucket with the specimen bag, making sure they’re fully covered in water. Submerge the bag underwater in the aquarium and gently remove the specimen from the bag. Next, seal off the bag underwater by twisting the opening, and remove it from the aquarium. Discard both the bag and the enclosed water. A tiny amount of the diluted water will escape into the aquarium; this is O.K. Also, to avoid damage, please remember never to touch the "fleshy" part of live coral when handling.




Acclimating of reef aquarium fish, corals and invertebrates :


You've invested valuable time and money researching the habitat requirements of the fish and corals you wish to house. Naturally, you want to protect this investment by executing a proper acclimation process once the specimens arrive at your door.


The purpose of acclimation is simple: the water that the fish or corals are packaged in has different temperature, pH, and salinity parameters than your aquarium. Fish, and especially invertebrates (including corals), are very sensitive to even minor changes in these parameters, so proper acclimation is the key to ensuring their successful relocation.


We recommend either of the two acclimation methods explained below, and wish to remind you theacclimation process should never be rushed. Also, remember to keep your aquarium lights off for at least four hours after the specimens are introduced into the aquarium to help them further adjust.


Though not a requirement of our acclimation procedures, we highly recommend that all aquatic life bequarantined in a separate aquarium for a period of two weeks to reduce the possibility of introducing diseases and parasites into your aquarium and to ensure they are accepting food, eating properly, and are in optimum health before their final transition to your main display.


         Most invertebrates and marine plants are more sensitive than fish to changes in specific gravity. It is imperative to acclimate invertebrates to a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 or severe stress or trauma may result. Test specific gravity with a hydrometer orrefractometer.

- Some live corals produce excess slime when shipped. After the acclimation procedure is followed, hold the coral by the rock or skeletal base and gently shake the coral in the shipping bag before placing into the aquarium. To avoid damage, please remember never to touch the "fleshy" part of a live coral. Many species of coral will not open for several days after introduction into their new home. Please allow several days for the coral to adapt to the new conditions in the aquarium.

Quarantine Tanks

To start with, everyone should have a quarantine tank, and all new fish should spend two to three weeks in the quarantine tank before being introduced into the main fish tank. This is to make sure that the new fish are not carrying any disease or parasites. The quarantine tank can be a simple 5 or 10 gallon tank, and all you need is a sponge filter that has been in a tank with fish, so it is "charged" with the good bacteria of the nitrogen cycle, a heater, a cover and a light. If you want to treat the new fish as a preventative, give them a couple of doses of Quick-Cure (formalin and malachite green). Observe the fish every day during the quarantine period, and when you are sure they are not carrying any disease or parasites, you can put them into the main tank, using the method described above. Use the same acclimation process for introducing new fish to the quarantine tank, and from quarantine to main tank.


Water Change

You should do a 25 to 30 percent water change before introducing new fish to the tank. The reason is that, depending on the filter you have, if you don't do regular water changes the nitrates in your tank have probably built up to high levels. Fish can handle high nitrates if they have been accustomed to the high levels over a long period of time. The problem happens when you take fish from low nitrates, which will be the case in most tanks at most good local fish stores, and you plunk them into high nitrate conditions. If the nitrates in the tank they are going into are too high, this could stress and even kill the new fish. This is why local fish stores usually ask for a sample of your water if you have had their fish die shortly after being introduced into your tanks. The store wants to make sure that they are not simply sending replacement fish into a high nitrates tank to perish.


Bottom Line
Please take the small amount of time and effort required to acclimate fish. It will prevent many common problems.

The importance of properly acclimating new aquarium fish.

One of the most overlooked and important aspects of fishkeeping is how you acclimate new aquarium fish to an existing tank. Many aquarium fish that were perfectly fine at the local fish store have met untimely ends in hobbyists' tanks due to improper acclimation.


What is Acclimation?

Whenever I have gone from the cold north in the winter to higher climates in Florida or the Caribbean, or from sea level up to higher altitudes, it took me a little while to get used to the differences. The same is true with our fish, and whenever they are moved from one tank into another, they need to be gradually acclimated to the new water conditions. This is true whether the fish have been shipped from far away, or if you are moving them from one tank in your house to another. The most important water parameters that the fish need to be acclimated to are temperature, pH and nitrates level.


Acclimating New Fish

There are a number of methods for acclimating new aquarium fish to a tank, and this is how I do it. This does not mean that this is the only way to do it, or that there are not other good ways. First, float the bags the new fish come in in the tank for 10 minutes -- no more. Next put the new fish and the bag water they came in into a container that will hold about four times the amount of water that is in the fish bags. Make sure that this container is one that is dedicated ONLY to use with your fish tank(s), and make sure there has never been any soap in it. Put the fish and the bag water they are in into the container. Then, every couple of minutes over a half hour period, take some water from the tank the fish will be going into and put this water into the container. The water added from the tank to the container (each time) should be about 20 percent of the amount of water in the container from the fish bags. After half an hour, net the fish out of the container and put it into your tank. Dispose of all of the water in the container. It is very important to observe your fish for as long as possible after introducing them into their new tank, as you want to make sure they are not getting picked on by the existing inmates in the aquarium.

Acclimating New Aquarium Fish : 



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