Reasons for and Proper Aquarium Cleaning

Reasons for and Proper Aquarium Cleaning

By Carl Strohmeyer

* Nitrate control- A nitrate level of 20 ppm or less is best saltwater, 50 ppm or less for FW (you want a Nitrate level of at least 15 ppm for planted FW aquariums). Please note; an average protein skimmer can NOT keep up with the organic waste output of an average stocked marine aquarium, and water changes for organic removal and nitrate control is still necessary in marine aquarium with a protein skimmer (there of coarse are exceptions in a reef aquarium with large amounts of live rock and live sand, heavy plant or green algae growth, and light animal load- even then added elements need to be replaced in a closed system).

I often have told my customers that Nitrate removal was a ONE (not the only) reason for water changes WITH vacuuming, and it is an important reason. Also as for Nitrates, especially in marine aquariums, removing organic debris before it “cycles” via vacuuming is in my opinion the main focus of nitrate removal via water change.

* Ph and KH control- Maintaining a proper ph (ph levels have a tendency to drop from biological activity), KH is the buffering abilty of the water and that too can decrease. KH is VERY important and a major problem I have seen over the years in my maintenance business when calling on customers who seemed to always have problems with their aquariums and claimed cleaning their aquarium caused their problems, which of coarse is not true. Maintaining a proper KH between cleanings is important. Wonder Shells are one way, arogonite, Calcium polygluconate are others.

* Removal of harmful elements. There are many toxins that can be introduced, airborne or in other ways enter the aquarium that are not easily measured.

* Rinsing of bio-sponges, media, ect in used aquarium water (not tap water). This includes sponge filters, bio balls, ceramic media in canister filters (canister filters need to be cleaned more often than many aquarists think)

* Removal of waste before it can go thru the nitrogen cycle

* Control of algae growth

* All these reasons are based on 27+ years of professional aquarium maintenance with some of the largest accounts in Los Angeles, CA


For cleaning your aquarium (freshwater or saltwater) a Gravel Vacuum attached to a siphon or recirculating filter works best. If you have a planted aquarium, I recommend #00 sand (3-5 cm) mixed with laterite or conditioned soil with #3 gravel (2-3 cm) on top. You should NOT vacuum the sand, as this will tend to be sucked all the way thru the vacuum, and this will also disturb the natural aerobic and anaerobic filtration going on in the substrate being performed by the bacteria and plant roots.

A new device that performs both water removal and recirculation thru a micron filter cartridge that is easily cleaned is the Aquarium Cleaning Machine. This new device uses a protected mag drive motor to remove or recirculate your water thru a filter (or both). For saltwater changes, this device is a money saver and fish saver. You can change 20% of your water, then keep refiltering it thru the micron cartridge using the gravel vacuum do pick up debris. This saves having to use more salt for larger water changes and keeps a healthier aquarium with lower nitrates, as much of the debris is removed from your system before it can go thru the nitrogen cycle (adding to the Nitrate levels).

By Carl Strohmeyer

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