Aquarium Maintenance

Aquarium filter

Aquarium maintenance is a very important process in keeping fish and plants alive. Aquarium filters are the instruments that keep the tank clear of waste and particles. Fish waste is dangerous for the fish health. In the wild fish waste is diluted, but the aquarium is much smaller, and the waste is toxic.

Fish waste produces ammonia which is toxic in large amounts. A small tank with large fish will produce large amounts of ammonia. Furthermore ammonia can break down into nitrate. Nitrate becomes toxic when it reaches high levels, therefore keep the water clean.

Ways of filtration

There are three ways to filter your aquarium water: biological, mechanical and chemical filtration.

Biological filtration

Biological filtration is Mother nature's response to toxic waste from fish water. In nature we find bacteria that break down organic wastes from ammonia to nitrite. These bacteria need plenty of oxygen to grow and they need something to attach to, like rock, gravel and even tank decoration. The bacteria also needs ammonia to feed. It is recommended to wait until the bacteria culture is formed and only then add the fish to the water.

Mechanical filtration

Mechanical filtration is necessary for you to be a step ahead of toxic waste. Mechanical filtration means that water is filtered through a strainer such as filter wool or foam, to remove particles. The most popular mechanical filtration media are sponges, paper cartridges, loose and bonded floss. You will have to clean the filter once in a while to ensure it doesn't clog which would stop the water from passing through it.

Chemical filtration

Chemical filtration refers to the process of removing particles through chemical means. There are two ways of chemical filtration. The first one and the most common is water filtered through gas activated carbon. Another way of filtering the water is protein skimming. Protein skimmers dissolve organic waste.

What type of filter do I need?

There are many types of filters that are available on the market nowadays like:

Undergravel filter is the most common type of filter, it is very easy to use and very efficient. Undergravel filters consist of plates that are covered with gravel. The undergravel filters pass the water through the bottom gravel, which sits on top of a perforated plate. The filter is powered by an air pump through an air stone in an up- right tube. When the air bubbles moves up the tube, water is also drawn up the tube. When water passes through the gravel, waste is trapped and broken down by nitrifying bacteria.

Sponge filters, are an efficient and cheap form of biological filtration. A sponge filter consists of a tube, a sponge, and a place for air-line connection. Water is forced through porus foam by an air pump. When water passes through the sponge it allows the bacteria to break down the toxic ammonia.

Power filters, hang on the back of the tank. A tube pulls the water from the tank into a filter box and passes the water through a mechanical filter. An internal pump will return the clean water into the tank.

Canister filters, pump water with a moderate pressure through a material such as a micron filter cartridge or glass wool. Canister filters assure mechanical filtration. Wet/ Dry filters are the best biological way of filtration. These filters work on the principle that bacteria that grow in well oxygenated water break down the ammonia. Wet/Dry filters consist of filter media though which the water drips.

You can also read our review on Eheim Filter.

Aquarium Pump

The air pump is an electrical device (220v) that produces airflow and is directed into the aquarium through a hose. At the end of the hose, inside the fish tank you have an air rock that allows its exit by forming fine bubbles. These bubbles are meant to oxygenate the water.

Most internal filters come with a hose that introduces water (fine bubbles) into the aquarium and this way the necessity for an air pump decreases.

Without a filter, the aquarium pump is the only thing that will keep the fish alive for any length of time without the necessity of changing the water daily.

If you are not in a position to buy a mechanical filter, you can create your own biological filter by using an air pump and a sponge. The sponge will be kept inside the fish tank and will serve as a “house” for bacteria..

Biological filtering

You can achieve biological filtering through the ammonia-consuming bacteria and it is based on breeding this type of bacteria to filter the water.

There are some types of bacteria that progressively divide the ammonia into its' less toxic components, nitrates and nitrates.

These components are considered to be non-toxic and you can find plenty of them in nature. In presence of ammonia and oxygen they tend to multiply. Bacteria attack the aquarium, rocks, sand and even the aquarium’s decorations.

Remember that we haven't mentioned anything about mechanical filtering because this one requires just a surface on which ammonia can settle and well oxygenated water.

If you decide to limit the number of fish due to the biological filtering capacity you won’t need a mechanical filter.

In recent years, a large variety of new biological filters have appeared. They can increase the bacteria colonies’ capacity to filter the aquarium water. Actually these filters offer a bigger surface for the bacteria colonies to breed and provide a bigger amount of oxygen in the water.

Physical filtering

Ammonia comes straight from fish’ branchies, from their excrement and also from their food. If we are able to mechanically filter the solid excrement and their food remains before they decompose we can already be talking about a major advantage.

Mechanical filtering collects the excrement and food remains from the aquarium but cannot handle the ammonia problem.

A regular mechanical filter cannot avert both the algae and the small bacteria from the water nor the solid remains grasped by gravel, plants or even decorations. To avert these solid remains from all areas of the aquariums it is necessary that we use different methods.

One of the easiest is vacuuming the sands/gravels surface with a hose when you do your periodical change of water. Exceptions in this case are the marine aquariums that have living substratum.

You can choose to install circular aquarium pumps also known as wave generators which improve the chances of collecting the remains in the mechanical filter. A filter with a small filtering port collects small parts but it can also clog easily, so the rule in this situation is that the bigger the filtering port is the harder it is to clog.

As the filter gets dirtier it is less likely to be able to vacuum any large particles. When this happens, you know you need to clean your filter.

Bear in mind that a good mechanical filter is one that can retain enough solid elements that it can maintain clear water without clogging too often


Eheim GmbH & Co. KG is a German company founded by Gunther Eheim. This company manufactures different kinds of filters (internal and external). It produces filter media, pumps, accessories such as autofeeders and gravel cleaners and garden ponds.

Eheim filters are the best filters on the market. They have a very good reputation of reliability and quality. The Eheim Company produces all types of filters.
Internal and external Eheim filter

Internal filters are placed in the water, inside the aquarium. You should choose an internal filter: if you have a small aquarium ot the aquarium is not very accessible.

Types of internal filters:
  • The Eheim aquaball is an internal filter with a moveable ball, has a shaped head with adjustable air take in. It is good for large aquariums, between 3.14 - 13.9 gals.
  • The Eheim powerline - for aquariums over 7 gal.
  • The Eheim pickup - compact internal filter for aquariums up to maximum 3.14 gal.

External filters are positioned outside the tank, and maintains contact with your inside environment through hoses that connect the outside with the inside. External filters work with a big variety of media filters. They can also work for a longer period of time without maintenance.
You should choose an external filter if:
  • You want to have a good performance from different filter media.
  • You want crystal clear water
  • Cut down on water maintenance.

Types of external filters:
  • The classic Eheim - is the original Eheim filter and it still works.
  • The ecco pro filter is an energy saving filter. It uses less electricity and has a high performance. For big aquariums
The professional line - external filters that are very high tech, and are electronically controlled.

  • The Eheim professional - is the professional standard model, for aquariums up to 10 – 20 gal.
  • The professional 2 - has many useful features such as: automatic self priming, adjustable throughflow, maintenance indicator, for 24 – 41 gal aquariums.
  • The Eheim professional 3 - is used for aquariums up to 24, 41, and 83 gal. It has a special priming system.
  • The Eheim professional 3ะต - is the new kid on the block. It has everything that your aquarium needs: electronic control for flow rate, wave effect, self checking system, and is good for aquariums up to 24, 31 or 48 gal.
Aquarium Heater
Many fish passionate ask themselves why they need aquarium heaters. You must have an aquarium heater if you have freshwater fish or tropical fish. These fish are sensitive to temperature variations and they prefer a warmer environment.

The aquarium water temperature can fluctuate with the difference between night and day. A fish's metabolism and respiratory systems work much better at constant temperatures. Aquarium heaters can provide the fish the temperature they need in order to survive. A temperature of 78F is perfect for tropical fish.

Types of aquarium heaters

There are four types of aquarium heaters. Submersible heaters, non-submersible heaters, substrate heater and filter heater.

Submersible heaters - submersible heaters can stay completely under water. They keep aquarium’s temperature uniform and have an aesthetic role. This type of heater is more expensive than the others but it is very useful. You must be careful when changing the water to unplug the heater in order to avoid accidents.

Non-submersible heaters - consists of a metallic element controlled by a thermostat and enclosed in a glass or metal tube to prevent contact with water. Non – submersible heaters are hang-on heaters. They must remain above the water line. The advantage is that these heaters are not at all expensive.

Substrate heaters - substrate heaters are perfect if you want to stimulate plant growth, especially if you have live plants in your aquarium. Also these aquarium heaters are very aesthetical because they are set below the substrate. They also offer homogeneous heat to the entire aquarium’s surface.

Filter heaters - filter heaters are relatively new on the market. This type of heater is very efficient and also aesthetic. Usually it is installed into your filter, so when water passes heater activates and heats the water. The advantage is that all the water is heated equally. A disadvantage would be that they are rather expensive being so new on the market.

After you have decided what type of aquarium filter you want, you should take into consideration the size that you need. You must have in mind the aquarium’s size when you buy the heater. If you have a large tank placed in a big room, you will need a bigger heater. Also it is recommended to place the heater at the opposite ends of the tank in order to heat evenly. You must decide also the watt of the heater. So if your room is about 7-10F, a heater of 2.5 watt per gal will be enough. The heather should keep the tank at the same temperature, even if the room gets colder, especially during the night.

Heather could also fail. In order to prevent these problems you can avoid heaters that are larger than your tank’s actual size, or you could have two smaller heaters. If one heater fails the other can keep the tank warm until you remediate the problem.

In conclusion aquarium heaters are very important, almost vital for your fish.

Your aquarium is established, filled with beautiful fish, plants and rocks but something is floating on the surface, is doesn’t look nice and it smells, must be time for a cleanup!
Aquarium Cleaning
Cleaning your aquarium
Cleaning your aquarium is very important for your fish’s health.
There are a few reasons why you should clean the tank:
  • First of all it smells - there are many reasons why the water smells. It could be the fish excrement or old food that is causing the smell.
  • Algae overgrowth - if you don’t have enough good bacteria, or plants, algae will grow. Algae spoils the water quality, and bad water is bad for the fish.
  • Removal of toxins – these toxins can be introduced in your tank through air
  • Water becomes brown or yellow – these are caused by decoration, driftwood, and other components.
  • For pH control – in order to maintain a good quality of pH, you have to clean the water.

How to clean your aquarium

An aquarium should be cleaned at least once every 2-4 weeks. Once a week the water should be changed with 20% fresh water.
  • Before you start the cleaning process. Remember to unplug the heater.
  • Filter some water into a large container, and then carefully remove the fish into this container.
  • Once you have removed all the water, clean the glass on the inside. Use algae pads.
  • Next step is to remove the rocks and all decoration that have algae growth. You have to scrub off all the algae.
  • Next in line is the gravel, use a water siphon to vacuum all the debris. Vacuum carefully so that all the debris is removed.
  • After the inside is clean, clean the light, tank top and outside glass.
  • Once the inside and the outside are clean, return all the decorations, rock and plants.
  • Next step is cleaning the filter, but for that you have to wait a few weeks. Why do you have to wait? Because now that the tank is clean, all the beneficial bacteria is gone. But fortunately there still are some beneficial bacteria in the filter media. Changing the filter media now would be a disaster for the entire ecosystem.
  • The final step now that everything is clean is to fill up the tank with water, and then return the fish to the tank.