5 Ways to Make Marine Aquarium Maintenance Easier

Having a clean and beautiful aquarium does not always mean strenuous amounts of maintenance

Having a clean and beautiful aquarium does not always mean strenuous amounts of maintenance

Routine maintenance is an unavoidable aspect of marine aquarium keeping, but let’s face it, most of us would much rather spend our time enjoying the fruits of our labor than actually doing said labor. With that in mind, anything we can do to make our aquarium-maintenance chores less burdensome and time-consuming significantly increases the odds that we’ll perform them diligently.

Here are five tips that will help take the toil out of those routine maintenance tasks:

1. Site your tank close to a sink

Hauling heavy buckets up and down stairs or even through multiple rooms on the same floor can be arduous work—or potentially injurious for those of us with back problems. Also, the greater the distance between your tank and a water source/drain, the greater the likelihood of accidental saltwater spills. Not to mention, it seems there’s always something you need to rinse off as you tinker and toil in your tank.

So, the wise choice is to situate the tank as close to a sink, faucet, and drain as possible. Obviously, it’s best to make this accommodation during the initial setup of your aquarium system, but depending on the layout of your home’s plumbing, your level of DIY know-how, and other factors, you may be able to retroactively install an inexpensive utility sink nearby.

2. Keep submersed equipment accessible

We like to keep our tanks as naturalistic as possible, so we commonly take pains to hide submersed equipment—heaters, skimmers, pumps, etc.—either down in a sump or behind rockwork in the display tank. But remember, all submersed equipment is subject to encrusting marine organisms and gunk buildup over time and must be cleaned periodically. When a device is due for cleaning, you don’t want to find yourself in the position of having to tear apart your aquascaping or pull everything out of your sump just to reach it. Err on the side of accessibility over invisibility.

3. Have the right tools on hand

I know I’m much more inclined to stay on top of routine maintenance chores when I have all the necessary tools—algae magnet, scraper, tongs, siphon hose, nets, brushes of various sizes, etc.—within easy reach. The more I have to dig to find these tools, the lazier I become, so I store them on an inexpensive wooden baker’s rack immediately adjacent to my tank. For the sake of easy access, all my brushes and nets are hung on the side of the rack from a row of 3M removable hooks.

4. Allow easy access through the top

If you need to have a cover in place on the tank for one reason or another (e.g., to keep jumpy or slithery fish in their place), make sure it’s hinged or readily removable to promote easy access from the top of the tank for water changes, plucking algae, rearranging rockwork, fragging corals, netting out uneaten food or deceased specimens, or what have you.

Also, keep maintenance access in mind when choosing how to mount your lighting system. For example, if you opt for a fixture that’s designed to be placed directly on top of the tank, make sure there’s adequate space between the fixture and the top edge of the tank so you can reach into the aquarium without getting your arm wedged.

5. Clean more frequently

This tip may sound counterintuitive since the objective is to make less work for ourselves, but it actually makes sense when you think about it. Take the chore of keeping your tank glass clean of algae, for example. Taking a minute every few days to run your algae magnet around the glass will expend much less energy than it takes to clean the glass after postponing the chore for a long interval. The less frequently you clean the glass, the tougher the buildup of coralline and other forms of algae you’ll have to contend with, which means more aggressive scraping will be necessary to dislodge it.

A similar case can be made for a whole host of chores, such as cleaning the neck of your protein skimmer, rinsing filter media, ridding salt-spray-exposed equipment/surfaces of salt creep and lime deposits, etc.

What’s your tip?
So, fellow salties, what’s your labor-saving tip? Let us know in the comment section below.

Photo credit: Graffixamus

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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.

Comments

  1. Matt Bowers (Muttley000) says:

    Thinking of maintenance when setting up is a must! I was once shoehorning a slimmer in an under tank sump when I realized I was going to make every excuse in the book not to clean it. I ended up with a smaller capacity skimmer, but it gets cleaned regularly, and I’m sure produces more than its larger counterpart since the neck isn’t full of crud!

    • Jeff Kurtz says:

      I had to make a similar decision very recently. I just got a new skimmer for my 125-gallon and really wanted to make it fit in the existing sump in the cabinet stand, which would have put the collection cup really close to the tank bottom (and likely very difficult to remove for cleaning). Ultimately, I decided to put a larger sump on the floor outside the cabinet and behind the tank. Now I’m so glad I did because even though the setup isn’t as aesthetically appealing as I might like, it’s a heck of a lot easier doing maintenance when everything’s within easy reach.

  2. Great tips. Biggest one is #5 – Prevention is absolutely key when it comes to algae. Let it sit too long and its a huge pain to remove. It’s something that should be made part of your routine. Another important factor when it comes to accessibility is placing your lighting SECURELY. I have heard about people cleaning their tanks, they bump a light, it goes in the tank and yes it can electrocute you since your hands are in the water. As an extra safety precaution unplug the lights while reaching in the tank.

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