For it to be successful, your saltwater aquarium will require a commitment from you. Coral reefs provide one of the most stable environments on earth for the fish that inhabit them. You must dedicate yourself to providing as stable an environment as possible for your home marine aquarium. This will require regular maintenance of the tank. It is a good idea to establish a maintenance routine by setting up a schedule to make sure you don’t forget to take care of anything and to give yourself the opportunity to catch any problems early on. Some tasks you need to do every day without fail; other jobs you do weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. And every three months to yearly you need to conduct a thorough examination of all aquarium systems, including lighting, heating, filtration, aeration pumps, power heads and tubing. Replace or clean parts as needed.
Every Day Chores
• Turn the lights on and off. Most aquarists prefer to use an automatic timer. If you choose not to, try to turn the lights on and off in a consistent pattern.
• Feed the fishes and invertebrates twice a day, removing any uneaten food.
• Check water level and top off fresh water lost to evaporation.
• An inspection of all the livestock. 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. Be prepared to remove or treat fish that aren’t well.
• Check water temperature and specific gravity to make sure these crucial parameters aren’t straying off course. Adjust the heater as needed.
• Perform a quick daily inspection of all heating, filtration, lighting, and protein-skimming equipment to make sure everything is functioning properly and pay special attention to intakes and siphon tubes. Make sure nothing is leaking.
• Empty and rinse out the collection cup of the protein skimmer to prevent an overflow, and wipe off any salt creep that is accumulating other surfaces.
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.
Every Week Chores
• Complete a full water test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate and ph levels with quality test kits to ensure your tank isn’t experiencing a spike in any of these compounds. As a reef keeper, also test calcium, magnesium and alkalinity to make sure they’re in the proper range.
• Clean the glass with an algae magnet.
• Wipe clean the neck of the protein skimmer to improve its efficiency, and rinse the filter sponges – socks to eliminate any trapped debris from the system before it can decompose and adversely impact my water quality.
• Remove any excess algae.
Every 2 weeks Chores
• The most important routine maintenance chore 10% 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.
• Clean filters as needed. Partially change or rinse the filter media on some filters, if the bioload is high, the media is dirty, or the flow is restricted.
• Vacuum the substrate, scrape the glass, and perform other cleaning chores.
Every Month Chores
• Conduct thorough filter checks. Replace the filter carbon and rinse the filter media and components, as needed and depending on bioload.
• Clean your aquarium cover glass as well as the shield of the lighting fixture. Over time, these develop a crust of salt and calcium deposits, which reduces the amount of light that reaches the bottom.
Every 3 Month Chores
• Cleaning any accumulated gunk from the protein skimmer, return pump, biofilter overflow box, powerhead, heater, thermometer, and hoses, using aquarium brushes of various sizes and, for some tasks, a blade even soaking in white vinegar.
Every Six Months to One Year
• Replace the bulbs and/or tubes in the lighting systems. Lighting of the proper colour and intensity is crucial to the survival of photosynthetic invertebrates.
• Purchase new pumps if needed.
• Purchase new Ro/Di filters if needed.
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.