There are many fish tank cleaner tools, methods, and equipment. Setting up your aquarium to be maintained easily and quickly is the best way to cutting down the hassle of regular maintenance. We’ll cover some simple tips that’ll make you’re life significantly easier. Topics like easy to maintain setups, great equipment to help keep your tank clean, fish tank critters to help do the job for you, and tools that’ll make things easier maintenance that can’t be avoided has to be done.
Tips to Keep Your Fish Tank Cleaner with Little to NO EFFORT
First, it must be said that the easiest thing to do is to not over feed your fish. I know, I know. You’ve heard that many times before (probably from me). But seriously, I hate cleaning my tank and overfeeding is the main culprit. My fish are always eagerly anticipating a tasty snack when I walk by. You’d think they were about to start to death. Follow care guidelines for your specific fish and they’ll be fine.
Don’t Use Sand or any other Substrate – Bare Bottom Tank
Sand, crushed coral, gravel, or whatever you have at the bottom of your tank isn’t necessary. It’s the number one place that fish waste and uneaten food will collect. If you don’t have sand, the waste can continue to float around the tank more easily and get sucked up into whatever filter mechanism you’re using. There may be some spots that collect debris but it’s easily siphoned out if easy to reach. Alternately you can redirect a powerhead toward it to eliminate the dead flow spot. If you want to learn more about aquarium sand and substrates you can read more in this article titled Live Sand for Saltwater Aquariums.
Get a Clean Up Crew
A clean up crew is what crabs, shrimp, snails, etc. are called that help keep your tank clean. The help digest and breakdown the waste and can sift through your sand. They also attack various types of algae and other unwanted growths like aiptasia anemones. Different little critters specialized in helping in different ways. You can learn more in this article on The BEST Clean Up Crew Critters.
Live rock is the primary filter in an saltwater aquarium. But a refugium with macroalgae is probably the best next solution in my opinion. A large refugium with a good grow light and a healthy ball of chaetomorpha will strip the water of phosphates that cause algae to grow. It can also host hordes of little organisms like copepods and rotifers. These little critters will feast on waste and uneaten food. They also are a great source of live food for your fish and corals. Refugiums don’t require much maintenance either. Just pull out a third of your macroalgae and toss it out each month. Couldn’t be simpler. You can learn more about refugiums in this article titled Aquarium In-Sump Refugium Facts & Benefits.
A good protein skimmer keeps your fish tank cleaner by pulling dissolved waste and uneaten food out of your aquarium before it even begins to break down. It works by frothing the water with bubbles. Dissolved organic matter sticks to the bubbles and floats up to a collection cup. Depending on your amount of feeding and the tuning of your skimmer will determine how often you need to dump the collection cup. To cut down on that regular task you can get a collection cup that has a drain which you can route to a larger bucket if you need. If you have a nano-sized aquarium and are looking for a good skimmer you can check out The 3 BEST Internal Nano Skimmers.
Making Your Fish Tank Cleaner with Easy Water Changes
Water changes are the most common and most reliable method most reefers use to keep their water quality in good shape. They are the most difficult and time consuming of tasks associated with maintaining an aquarium of any kind. Let’s cover ways of making this job much easier and even how to totally eliminate it all together.
Good Water Changing Tools
Making the job of getting your fish tank cleaner easier means you’re more likely to do it. Having the right tool for the job always makes the job go so much smoother. The same is true with the monthly aquarium water change. Carrying buckets is a real pain and with the right equipment can be reduced or eliminated.
Aquarium Gravel Vacuum:
The first tool to make sure you have is a good siphon. Having a good quality siphon that connects directly to your closest sink can almost make siphoning your tank fun. The Python Siphon connects to your faucet and sucks water directly into your drain which eliminates the need to dump buckets of dirty water. It also means you don’t need to suck start the siphon process.
RO/DI Water Filter:
LiquaGen – 5 Stage Heavy Duty – Aquarium RO/DI Water Filter System
This water filter is what is used to produce nearly perfect fresh water. If you really want to cut down on lugging heavy buckets or jugs around you’ll need one of these otherwise you’ll be making regular trips to the local fish store. You’ll also want to purchase a good quality aquarium salt such as Red Sea Salt Mix and mix it to the proper salinity. RO/DI stands for Reverse Osmosis / De-Ionization which sounds pretty complicated and scary doesn’t it? Let’s not get freaked out. It’s just a filter that runs your tap water through several different filters all in one unit.
Maintaining the filter is easy. First, be sure and purchase one with a pressure gauge. When the pressure begins to drop that means the first filter, the sediment filter needs to be changed. The second and third filters are carbon filters. A good rule of thumb is to replace these yearly. If you want to ensure you’re maximizing their life you can read up on their usage ratings and test your water for hardness. The last filter is the RO filter and the most important one. These typically last 3 years. A TDS meter is used to test your RO filter. When your TDS numbers begin to climb it’s time to change your RO filter. The last filter is the DI filter. Life of the DI filter media varies widely. When TDS of your finished water begins to climb then it’s time to change.
Automatic Aquarium Water Changer:
Neptune Apex Aquarium Controller
Taking things a step further, you can automate the entire water change process to keep your fish tank cleaner. This will require quite a bit of planning, forethought, and not to mention money, but the reward would be a much more hands off maintenance process and happier fish. The primary piece of equipment needed to make this happen is an aquarium controller like the Neptune Apex. An aquarium controller is used to monitor various parameters of your aquarium and execute actions when those parameters reach set limits. You can have one pump to remove a gallon of water once per day and another to pump in a gallon of clean saltwater. You can even monitor water levels in your reservoirs and trigger a text message or email to let you know to mix up some more salt water.
Neptune is highly regarded for it’s aquarium controller and they have several add ons that will make water changing pretty seamless:
FMK – Flow Monitoring Kit
First is the FMK. The FMK is pretty helpful depending on how you decide to implement your solution. It’s an add on that allows you to include flow meters inline with your plumbing to monitor flow.
DOS – Dosing and Fluid Metering System
The DOS is a 2 pump solution for slowly adding fluid products to your aquarium. One solution with this product is to slowly and continuously add water to your tank and incorporate an overflow to catch waste water.
ATK – Auto Top Off Kit
Last is the ATK. The ATK adds freshwater to your saltwater aquarium to account for evaporation. It includes several failsafe features to prevent overflows and can be paired with an optical eye in your reservoir you’re pumping from to alert you when it’s empty.
Stop Doing Water Changes – The Triton Method
Finally, stop doing water changes! Not doing water changes sounds crazy. How does that keep my fish tank cleaner? When you really think about it though the ideal solution is to simply have good quality water and if it can be done without water changes then all the better. The Triton Method is the holy grail in this respect. Triton is a German company that has developed supplements and a suggested aquarium design that makes water changes unnecessary. The aquarium setup basically focuses on a large refugium and a good protein skimmer along with 4 primary supplements. These supplements replace trace elements that are consumed by your aquarium inhabitants. Start by providing a sample of your water to Triton. Next, they give you a report that instructs you on how to correct any problems. Then you add Triton supplements to correct those problems.
Maintenance is one of those things we want to do our best to avoid usually so anything that helps us keep our fish tank cleaner without the hassle of having to get up off our lazy butts to actually do the work is great. Maintenance will never completely be eliminated. At least not until the robot revolution comes. Until then, good luck and happy reefing.