Vibrant fish, healthy plants, and clear water make for quite an impressive display.
One of the most important things that an aquarium hobbyist can do to keep the tank in top condition is periodic water changes.
For many people, water changes rank low on the list, if at all, when it comes to maintaining their freshwater aquarium, but they are crucial to the success of any aquarium.
It is not a difficult process if you are prepared with the right equipment and keep some important points in mind.
The biggest questions are how often to do water changes and how much water to change.
The answer, like so often is the case, is "it depends".
The number of fish is a big factor.
If the tank has just a few small fish, then less water every 2-3 weeks is probably sufficient.
If the tank contains a fair number of larger goldfish (that produce a lot of waste) then it may be necessary to do a 15-25% change every single week.
For a general rule of thumb, 15-20% water change every two weeks will serve most aquariums well.
Occasionally the situation will arise where a larger amount of water needs to be changed in the tank.
It is better to do smaller amounts more often than one large lump sum.
For example, take 10% out each day for 3 days instead of 30% all at once.
This will reduce the stress on the fish.
Less water, more often is the preferred way to go.
Always make sure that the replacement water is conditioned properly.
Do not take water out of the tank and then just dump a bucket full of water in that is freshly drawn from the tap.
It is important to use water that is the same temperature, or at least as close as you can make it, before adding it back to the tank.
If you have municipal water in your home, make sure that the water has been dechlorinated before pouring it in.
Also check the pH of the new water before adding it, as sometimes there can be quite a difference.
Changing the water can be combined with another tank maintenance task and that is cleaning the gravel in the aquarium.
There are many "gravel vacuums" on the market today that are essentially a very wide section of tubing that attaches to the smaller siphon tube that you use to take water out of the tank.
This wide section has enough suction to pull food and fish waste out of the gravel without sucking up the gravel itself.
When doing this job, make sure not to jam the tube into the gravel right at the base of your plants as this could damage their roots.
Do not deep clean more than 1/3 of the gravel bottom at any one time, either, as this could disrupt the levels of beneficial bacteria in the substrate of the tank.
Those are the key points to freshwater aquarium water changes and by doing periodic water changes properly, on a set schedule, maintaining the optimum health of your aquarium will be much easier.