PART 4: How to Aquascape - Maintaining Your Aquascape

Written by George Farmer

 

It is a wonderful thing to have a beautiful aquascape in your living space but it’s only beautiful if it’s maintained appropriately. Maintenance can be a complex topic and there’s no real “one-size fits all” process but by following the guidelines outlined here you should be able to keep your aquascape looking good at all times.

 

High vs Low Energy

The first topic to discuss is the amount of effort and time you may need to dedicate to your aquascape. The larger your aquarium and the higher the energy, the more time and effort you will need to invest in maintenance. Energy refers to several factors including lighting, CO2 injection (if used), nutrient levels and finally plant growth rates. High energy (also known as high-tech) aquascapes tend to grow plants very fast which means also creating organic waste more quickly.  There is therefore a need for larger and more frequent water changes when compared with a low energy aquascape. The room for error also diminishes proportionally as energy levels increase. For this reason we often recommend smaller and lower energy aquascapes to beginners. This way they can learn the basics then take the plunge into the high energy systems once they’ve become experienced. There are some great examples of low, medium and high energy aquascapes at Scaped Nature from which to learn and take inspiration.


Prevention is better than cure

It is far better to prevent rather than cure any issues from occurring with your aquascape. By performing regular maintenance we ensure the aquascape does not run into any issues, especially  algae and poor plant growth. The fundamental principle to bear in mind here is that by looking after your plants to the best of your ability you can rely on the plants to help maintain the entire aquarium for you. A healthy growing plant is one of the best defences against algae. The plant needs sufficient light - but not too much. It needs to be fed sufficiently using a good quality liquid fertiliser and substrate system. The plants need good circulation levels and filtration. Around 5-10x the aquarium volume turned over per hour is ideal. Little and often maintenance is much better than infrequent large maintenance sessions. Think about preventative maintenance rather than corrective maintenance.   It’s also worth considering a clean up crew that can help prevent build ups of algae, uneaten fish food and other detritus. Amano shrimp, cherry shrimp and nerite snails all play useful roles in helping keep an aquarium clean.


Water changes are king

There is much debate about how much water needs to be changed in aquariums. We recommend at least 50% once per week. Many hobbyists and aquarium keepers will say this is too much but in our experience the more the better. Using our nutrient dosing regime of adding a daily liquid fertiliser the water change helps to ensure the nutrients do not build to excess. More importantly the water change is the absolute best way to dilute any waste organic accumulation. Waste organics are fuel for algae. Livestock thrives on fresh water but do ensure the fresh water temperature is adjusted to the aquarium and use a dechlorinator to remove harmful chlorine. In large aquarium having a long hose siphoning out from the aquarium into your garden or house plants is ideal. This can be fitted with a spare external filter inlet to also easy fitment of the hose to the aquarium, with the other end leading to the garden etc. Fresh water can be directly pumped in providing the water temperature is adjusted. In smaller aquarium and bucket and siphon hose will suffice.


Daily maintenance tasks

Add liquid fertiliser. How much depends on your setup but the higher energy you have the more you will need. Fast plant growth demands more nutrients. The Aquascaper Complete Liquid Plant Food has guidelines for daily dosing.

  • Check health of livestock.
  • Check filtration. Ensure the filter is functioning and flow is sufficient.
  • Check temperature. Ensure heater is working (if used).
  • Check CO2. Ensure CO2 levels are sufficient (if used).
  • Inspect plant health for signs of algae and/or nutrient deficiencies.

 

Weekly maintenance tasks

  • Clean aquarium glass.
  • Trim plants if required.
  • Remove any excess collected organic waste from the substrate using siphon hose just above it.
  • Clean filter if required.
  • Clean glassware if required.
  • Perform 50% water change.

Always perform your water change as the last part of the maintenance process. This ensures that any organic waste or algae that’s been dislodged into the water column can be removed as part of the water change.


Maintenance tools

  • Aquascaping scissors - for trimming plants
  • Aquascaping tweezers - for planting and removal of debris etc.
  • Toothbrush (aquarium use only!) - cleaning rocks, wood, glass.
  • Algae sponge or pad - cleaning glass
  • Towels - dry hands, mopping up any spillages
  • Old credit card or similar - cleaning glass near the substrate
  • Hose brush - cleaning filter hoses and glassware
  • Thin bleach - cleaning CO2 diffuser
  • Dechlorinator - chlorine removal from tap water
  • Liquid fertiliser - feeding plants

Scheduled maintenance

It is recommended to dedicate a portion of time every week for maintaining your aquascape. Try to keep it to the same day every week and make it a habit. By doing this you will be less likely to skip maintenance sessions and keep your aquascaping looking good at all times. Remember that it is important to carry out maintenance when the aquascape is still looking good. Do not wait until to see a problem because by then it may be too late.


5 Maintenance Golden Rules

  1. Prevention is better than cure.
  2. Look after your plants and they will help look after the tank.
  3. Big weekly water changes are key and they should be carried out as the last part of the maintenance process.
  4. Keep a close eye on your livestock and equipment.
  5. Little and often is better than large infrequent maintenance sessions.

 

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