How To Maintain a Clear and Healthy Saltwater Aquarium Featured

To keep your saltwater aquarium clear and healthy there are some maintenance tasks that need to be done on a regular basis.

The health of your saltwater aquarium is critical to the survival of your fish and corals. While feeding your fish, some tasks like observing the quality of the water, topping off the water, and checking the water temperature should be done on a daily basis. There are also other tasks you must do on a regular basis to ensure the health of your saltwater aquarium.

How often you will need to perform extensive cleaning will depend on what type of filter system you have.  Filter systems such as Jaubert/Plenum and true Berlin Live Rock don’t require much maintenance, but systems such as canister filters and Wet-Dry Trickle require much more attention.  The specific factors that will determine how often you need to clean your aquarium tank include the following:

  • The amount and type of food you feed to your fish.
  • The type of filtration that you use.
  • The biological load that is on your filtration system.
  • Whether you use tank janitors or not.
  • How often you use toxin-reducing products like phosphate and nitrate.
Monitoring weekly water tests will also help you determine whether you need to perform cleaning tasks on your tank more often or less often. One way to simplify your maintenance needs is to use EcoBio-Block products. Made of natural zeolite, the blocks contain beneficial bacteria which live and multiply in the block. Dispersing into the water, they break down organic waste and keep your tank clear and healthy. Then all you need to do is observe and take note of certain conditions in your tank to determine how often you need to clean it.

In regards to your fish, you should observe the following:

  • Their color, eyes, and fins.
  • Their movements in the tank.
  • How much food they are consuming.
  • Whether they appear to have parasites or not.
In regards to your invertebrates, observe the following:
  • Their movements in the tank.
  • How much food they are consuming.
Observe the following when it comes to your corals:
  • Their color.
  • Whether they are open or not.
Here is what to note about the water in your tank:
  • The movement of the water.
  • The clearness of the water.
In regards to the tank janitors:
  • Their effectiveness in cleaning the aquarium
  • Their activity.
When observing the substrate:
  • Check for the presence of algae.
  • See if there is debris, such as uneaten food and detritus.
You should be testing your water parameters at least once per week.  If you notice slight changes in some of your tests, that is usually normal, but keep an eye on them to make sure that they are not the start of some trends that could affect the health of your aquarium.

What are the water parameters you should be keeping track of?

  • Temperature
  • pH
  • Alkalinity
  • Salinity
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrite
  • Nitrate
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Phosphate
You should know what the Normal Sea Water (NSW) values are (consult a table that lists these, such as the one found here: and what the target water test levels (again, consult a table that lists these, such as the one found here:

There might be times when you decide that a major cleaning of your aquarium must be done. It takes a fair amount of time to do it properly, but after you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be able to lessen the time it takes to do it each time.

You should start from the inside of your tank and work outwards. Place some towels on the floor so that any water that spills out does not damage your floor (remember that the water is saltwater, not freshwater, which can increase the chances of the water damaging your floor). Scrub the algae from the submerged equipment and tank walls.  Siphon the clean substrate. Change the water. Top off the new water with new (pre-mixed) saltwater. Test the parameters that were not normal originally and record the new results.  Add supplements if necessary to adjust the levels to appropriate readings.Next, you should deal with your filtration system. Remove debris from the bottom of your sump. Either clean or change the material of the mechanical filter. Check your adsorbents and see if they need to be cleaned or even changed. You should clean your biological filter material by rinsing it in saltwater. Empty your protein skimmer’s collection cup and adjust the water and air flow as needed. You should clean around your light bulbs and fixtures. Replace old bulbs as necessary.

You should make sure that your pumps are free of blockages, cleaning the filters as necessary. You should also check the hose connections to make sure that they are operating at their full capabilities. You should also clean the salt creep (or salt crystals that are behind when saltwater is spilled somewhere and the fresh water evaporates).

Check the amount of debris in your mechanical filter to get a better idea of whether you need to do major cleanings more or less often. When a mechanical filter becomes clogged and overworked, contaminants will either go around the filter material or be forced through the filter, which will only further decrease the effectiveness of your filter.

By keeping a record of your observations, you can adjust how often you perform major maintenance tasks on your saltwater aquarium tank. By following the advice in this article and keeping a regular maintenance schedule, you can have and maintain a healthy saltwater aquarium tank.

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