All Up and Running, What Now?

Well, the first answer is ‘Well done’ and ‘Enjoy’. Though the aquarist will view the new aquarium as terrific, it will not be at its best for a while, maybe a year, perhaps more. If a reef aquarium, the corals have to settle. Also the fish have to become accustomed to their new home. As time passes, all being well, the aquarium will get better and better until it reaches the best it can be. It isn’t a sit back and wait time for the aquarist though, things need watching, and not just the life forms.

First, clean the algae off the aquarium glass panels so the inside can be clearly seen.

The most important thing in the aquarium is the seawater quality. To maintain this regular partial seawater changes need to be done. How much seawater should be changed? The start rate is 10% of the total amount. Therefore a plastic bucket with cover is needed in which to mix, heat and aerate the seawater, plus a place to keep it while this is in progress. Mixing the seawater should be for about 24 hours before it goes into the aquarium, giving time for the salt to mix, the seawater to heat up to be the same as that in the aquarium, and for it to oxygenate. So needed is a lowish power heater, and an air pump. Quite simple really, no problems. Then, when the new seawater is ready it can go in. Wait though – first check the seawater with a hydrometer. This instrument for reading specific gravity is easily available. The reading should be 1.022 to 1.025 and as time passes the reading in the aquarium should be steady. Take the reading at the same point each time, either before or after the new seawater goes in. If after give a little time for the new seawater to mix in. Heat can effect the reading so use a thermometer to check the temperature of the new seawater, it should be the same as that in the aquarium. Syphon out (taking out through the syphon any rubbish that is seen) and discard the aquarium seawater then put in the new. Very easy. As time progresses the aquarist will gather experience and be able to adjust the amount of seawater changed as necessary.

Particularly with a reef system check the lights, they are second only to seawater quality. Make sure they are coming on as required. Ensure any timers in use are functioning correctly.

Another important ongoing action is testing the seawater. The major tests are pH, nitrite and nitrate. All tests come with clear and easy to follow instructions. A very good idea is to keep a simple notebook and jot down the results of the tests, this way any indication of trends should show up and appropriate action can be taken.

Next, with the seawater at its correct level check circulation pumps and any other equipment in use, they should be running as designed. Particularly check any intakes, these can clog up because of the intake of seawater. One piece of equipment that definitely should be checked is the protein skimmer, it should be cleaned as required, ensuring that this important equipment is working properly.

Well, basically that’s it. There can be variations of course, depending on the set-up. I like to think that ‘simplicity helps success’.

One thing that is not wanted in the seawater is nitrate. The test will indicate the level. Nitrate can help unwelcome algae get a foothold. There is always some algae, on the glass etc – no problem. What is not wanted is a carpet of heavy thick yukky stuff. Ongoing correct feeding will help keep the yukky algae away, so make sure there isn’t any overfeeding. Overfeeding can occur in the early days as the new aquarist wants to ensure there is enough. Fish are likely to hang about looking for food anytime so don’t let them fool you. Observe them eating and how much they eat and all should be ok.

It isn’t long before the aquarist finds ongoing maintenance to be second nature. The checks and tests are carried out as a matter of course, adjustments with this or that being made as required. Quite slowly the aquarium advances and matures giving the aquarist an excellent sense of achievement.