One of the most common problems people encounter with freshwater aquaria is the quality of the water. Unfortunately, this is due to the lack of knowledge on how to perform regular water changes & that you MUST test water to ensure a quality home for aquarium residents. The following is a step by step guide to maintaining your aquarium.
During the time your aquarium is going through it's cycling period, you will want to check the water quality on a regular basis by performing the proper tests. If you should encounter any problems with the water, one of the helpful ways to correct this (depending on the test taken & the result) you will want to perform small water changes over a period of time so that you will not cause any "shock" to the living inhabitants. Also, when the cycling period is over, routine water changes must be done.
1) Prepare the area for a water change to the aquarium. It isn't called "water" for nothing! If you have anything near or around the aquarium that you do not want to get wet, then move it or cover it properly with water resistant material. Place a sheet or towel under the direct area you will be. Make sure that electrical outlets are covered, & all cords, wires, or items that can be tripped on are removed from the area you will be working in.
2) Make sure that all the items you will need to perform the water change are within your reach. These include: Siphon tubes or gravel vacuums, a couple of buckets or pails to siphon the water into or place items that are wet into it, algae pad or sponge, a net for removing lg. debris from the water, all the test kits you will need to check the water with, LOTS of towels, and all other items you think will make your job easier to do, so you won't have to run out of the room with a drippy wet arm.
3) Unplug & remove the aquarium cover & lighting. Unplug the heater, make sure the temperature of the glass heater tube is cool before you drain the water down. Unplug the filter & set aside for cleaning or changing. Place all of the large objects (rocks & other complicated decorations) from the tank into a pail, so that the gravel cleaning will be easier.
4) You do not need to remove the fish (or plants) from the aquarium while you do the water change, unless you absolutely have to or if you are bad at avoiding sucking up the fish into the siphon tube. They will naturally steer clear of the tube & your huge intruding hand! If you have a gravel vacuum, you will then place it into the aquarium so that the large end of the tube is inserted in to the water first (usually there are instructions when you buy it). Get a pail ready before you start the siphon, so that the dirty aquarium water will have somewhere to go besides your floor, then begin the siphon. Make sure that you use the hand that will be guiding the siphoned water to the pail, to also act as a "brake" for the water in the tube in case you have to stop the water in an emergency. Either pinch the tubing or plug the end tightly to cut off the water going through. This is so you do not have to pull out the end in the tank, then start another siphon again & again each time you need to pause for any reason. With "typewriter" sweeping motions, move side to side from front to back while vacuuming the gravel. You will see the dirt in the gravel along with the dirty water, being siphoned into the pail. Be careful not to overflow the pail, have another close by. When approximately 25% - 50% of the water is drained, you have changed enough of the water. Lift the tube out altogether and place it aside. If you have just a plain tube for siphoning, do all the steps above, except vacuuming the gravel. The tube is not designed to do this, however it will drain water, but you will have to stir the aquarium gravel "tossed salad" style. This method is just stirring up the gravel to release all of the dirt trapped in the layers of gravel, then draining the water itself.
5) Next, dump all of the dirty water where deemed necessary. Clean off all of your decorations, by washing them in warm water. If they are coated in algae you must soak them in a partial solution of bleach (or special cleaning agent sold in pet shops just for algae cleaning off decorations). Make sure you use just a couple of spoonfuls of bleach in about 3-5 gallons of water. Let stand for 15-30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with very hot water. If you still smell bleach on the item, then rinse until you do not smell it anymore! If you are cleaning coral or porous rock, then let it soak for a few hours in clean water, then rinse. Clean your filter box with just a sponge or algae pad (not bleach) replace the filter medium & clean off any other items that look dirty in the aquarium. Rinse well, being careful not to get mechanical parts wet...follow manufacturers instructions always. Place all items back into & on the aquarium (except the cover & lighting) before you fill it, remember that if you fill it all the way to the top first, & you then place the rocks in after, you may have an overflow.
6) Now you are ready to fill the aquarium. With a clean pail, fill it with just enough water that you can carry from the sink to your tank, without hurting your back or arms. It must be the same temperature of the aquarium water. Make sure you can lift the pail to the aquarium & pour the water in, otherwise have someone help you.
7) Test the water after it is freshly replaced & add any chemicals or remedies necessary. Plug in the heater, & the filtration (making sure to prime it) & make any adjustments that you need to. Replace the cover & lighting, wipe down the aquarium with a clean cloth, clean up your equipment & work area then...stand back & admire the beautiful aquarium that you have just revived!!! It may be a little cloudy but this will clear up in just a short time. If this is the first time maintenancing your aquarium, congratulations! You have done a wonderful job. Now, that isn't allot of work for a job that is done about every 2-4 weeks.