Aquarium Maintenance

The Nitrate-Nitrite Cycle

Fish eat, fish poop.

The poop, and any uneaten food, decomposes, producing ammonia.

There are bacteria which eat the ammonia and excrete nitrites. Other bacteria eat the nitrites and excrete nitrates.

You come along once a week and do a 10% water change and remove nitrates. (If your fish are large or messy, make that 20%).

Fish are happy and don’t die.

Three main reasons fish die

1 – Overstocking

It’s easy to overstock your aquarium, because fish are so bright and attractive and tempting, and because the pictures on the aquarium boxes usually show way more fish than the tank will hold.

Stocking rule: One inch of slim-bodied fish per gallon, one-half inch of fat-bodied or deep-bodied fish per gallon. You don’t count the tail fin in this measurement, just the body.

2 – Overfeeding

Food which is not eaten decomposes and creates ammonia, which is toxic to fish.

Feeding rule: Only feed your fish what they will eat in a minute or two at most. If they don’t finish it up, give them less next time.

3 – Overcleaning

All aquariums contain bacteria which digest fish waste. If you clean everything out, or change too much water at once, you remove so many of the bacteria that those that are left can’t digest the waste fast enough to keep it from turning to ammonia, which is toxic to fish. Rinsing your filter pad in tap water will also kill bacteria.

Cleaning rule: 10% water change once a week, or 25% once a month. Change your filter media once a month. If you rinse it, use aquarium water, NOT chlorinated tap water.

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