Everyone manages the maintenance and cleaning of their aquarium differently, but I thought it would be helpful to go over the basics of maintaining our Freshwater Fluval Spec V. This should apply to the smaller Spec III as well.
The timeframes are a rough estimate. Life gets in the way and occasionally tasks are neglected a day or four, but this is the rough idea.
- Feed the fish / shrimp / inverts
- Dose Seachem Excel
The biggest daily task is to simply take a bit of time and observe the aquarium. So much is understood about your tank by being able to perceive small changes over time and the only way to do this is to look inside you aquarium often to notice what is happening.
It’s a bit hard for the fish to get the food that I put in with the pump flowing, so I unplug the pump right before I feed, and hopefully remember to plug it back in after they are done eating.
Twice a Week Maintenance:
- Clean the inside of the glass with my Mag-Float.
- Clean smudges, fingerprints, and water spots off the outside of the glass with a microfiber cloth.
- Add water to fill (if necessary)
I get just a bit of algae buld-up on the glass and mid-week is a great time to give it a 2 minute scrub with the Mag-Float.
Myself and the kids (mostly the kids) get the glass smudged up. I just clean it with a small microfiber cloth. Water only – wet part of the cloth to help remove the spots and then dry with the other part. I choose to never use any cleaner on the outside; certainly not anything like Windex. Spraying cleaner near your aquarium will contaminate your water and can potentially kill your fish.
If I need to add fill water because the water level is low, I add tap water to a clean (aquarium only) tupperware and then add a dose of water conditioner for that volume. My container is small enough that two drops of conditioner is more than enough. I then move the light and pour water straight into the top opening. This is sometimes challenging and you may have more luck setting the top aside. Note that if you fill it up very high, the water will touch the acrylic top when you replace it; I don’t see any problem with this.
- Clean Water spots off inside of cover
- Clean algae from inside of glass
- Clean hard water deposit from water line
- Trim Plants
- Evict extra pond snails
- Perform Water Change
- Fill water to capacity
- Dose fertilizer
My weekly maintenance is the cornerstone of keeping the tank healthy and clean. I start out by getting out the bucket that holds my aquarium supplies and laying out some towels.
I set the light aside, take off the acrylic top, and spend 20 seconds wiping the water off the inside of the Fluval Spec lid with a soft towel.
Next, I use a small tupperware to dip out some water. I want to remove enough to be able to get my arms into the tank and not displace water over the edge.
I leave some water in this tupperware and set it next to the aquarium. I then trim any dead leaves and put the clippings into this container. I also spend some time removing excess pond snails and put them in the debris container as well.
Then, I take a toothbrush (used only for the aquarium) and scrub algae down near the substrate and in areas where driftwood is tight to the glass and the Mag-Float can’t reach. I also scrub up at the water line to take off some of the hard water deposits. The last job with the toothbrush is to stir up piles of detris that collect in certain spots around the aquarium and get the junk floating up in the water. [Edit: I now use an algae scraper instead of the toothbrush and/or Mag-Float for weekly glass cleaning.]
After that, I hook up my DIY Python (type) water changer to the kitchen faucet and set the valve to suck water out. I usually perform a 50% water change, but something closer to 30% is also common. Before I start removing water with the water changer, I unplug the pump since the water level will drop below the overflow. I then turn on the water and use my DIY PVC attachment and suck out water till the level in the main tank is at half, paying attention to suck out detritus on the substrate and large floating debris. When I remove the desired amount of water, I turn off the water faucet and switch the valve to the fill position. Luckily, since the Fluval Spec line of aquariums are small nano tanks, this step doesn’t take long at all.
At this point I prepare to refill the tank. I drop in a digital thermometer to monitor the tank water temperature as I fill.
Then (very important to not forget this) I add a dose of water conditioner to remove chlorine. My product of choice for this is Seachem Prime (see my handy Seachem Prime Dosing Calculator). Since I am adding the tap water directly to the aquarium, I add a dose suitable to treat the full volume of the aquarium (about 5 gallons for my Spec V).
EDIT: I need to add a step here. After siphoning water out of the tank, it is a good idea to take your hose end back to the sink and flush clean water through the hose. If you don’t, you will pump some of the dirty water back into your tank.
For refilling, I first make note of the current temperature of the aquarium water. I then turn the facet – during the winter it is mostly cold but with a bit of hot water added in. In the summer here in Texas, I don’t bother checking the temperature with the thermometer – I just add all cold water as I can’t get it any colder than around 80 degreed F. I add water slowly while pointing the water flow at the glass, being careful not to disturb the plants or substrate too much.
Don’t be discouraged if, after all the hard work of a water change, your aquarium looks worse. All the water movement tends to stir up significant debris that you won’t be able to catch in a partial water change. Rest easy, everything will settle down. The day after a water change your aquarium will look its best.
- Clean filter media.
I do this at the same time that I perform a weekly water change, but with a few extra measures to get the filter media clean(er).
Before I vacuum water out of the main tank, I first transfer some aquarium water (important, not tap water) into a container suitable for cleaning the sponge filter media. I found a 1 gallon tupperware that is tall with a small base that perfectly contains the filter sponge.
EDIT: I have found it difficult to transfer enough aquarium water to adequately clean the media so I have started using tap water with a few drops of Seachem Prime to make it safe.
I then pull the filter media (with the biomax rings, Purigen, etc.) and plop it all in this container. I give it a bit of a squeeze to dislodge as much detritus as possible. I take the biomax ring and Purigen bags out of their respective holes in the filter sponge and swish them around in the water. For now, I just leave all of this in that container.
I then prepare to vacuum out the aquarium, but instead of vacuuming out the main display tank, I first start with the filter section. I lower the end of my DIY PVC vacuum down to touch the bottom of the filter section and start removing water. This gets much of the detris stirred up and out of the filter and pump sections.
Because I have plugged the bypass in my Spec, no water transfers over to the filter section. I can then perform my 50% water change.
Before filling back with water, I lift the sponge filter out of the washing container, put the biomax and purigen bags back in, and lower the filter media back into the aquarium filter section. Don’t become compelled to get all of the dirt out of the filter media; just try to get it cleaner, not completely clean. This is what is left over after you squeeze out and swish around your filter media:
A word of warning when dealing with the filter media. Do not rinse with untreated tap water. Chlorine in the tap water will kill the beneficial bacteria in the filter system and may stall your cycle, causing a subsequent spike in ammonia and/or nitrite. Either use old aquarium water or tap water that has been treated with a dechlorinator.
EDIT: Since I originally wrote this, I have since started to clean my filter media every time I perform a water change, which is about once a week. I started to have some water clarity problems and ended up with unhealthy fish; I attribute these problems to the filter media becoming entirely too dirty between cleanings. It really depends on your bio-load and how much waste is trapped. If you clean it out weekly but are not noticing much detris trapped in the filter, maybe you can extend the filter media clean to every other water change or every month. I encourage you to keep a careful eye on water quality and adjust the filter media cleaning frequency accordingly.