Top Ten Saltwater Aquarium Maintenance Mistakes

Improve your saltwater aquarium husbandry.

Saltwater Aquarium

What’s going on Salt Nation, Jeff Hesketh here with another helpful article for those wet thumbs. When it comes to aquarium maintenance its difficult to make the information applicable to everyone, because no two aquariums are the same.  What works in one aquarium may not work in another but those of us who have kept more than one saltwater aquarium in their life have a greater sense of general saltwater aquarium maintenance. This list is based from that understanding.

Here are some FREE aquarium maintenance checklist downloads (PDF  files)

  1. Daily Aquarium Maintenance Checklist
  2. Weekly Aquarium Maintenance Checklist  with Water Parameter Guide

Top Ten Saltwater Aquarium Maintenance Mistakes

#10. Not testing water parameters on a weekly basis.

  • Staying up to date on water quality testing will help you make informed decisions as to what kind of maintenance your saltwater aquarium is in need of. Testing your water should be done before any other weekly maintenance to see how your aquarium is running. If you find that some water parameter levels are out of range, re-test them after you have made adjustments.

#9. Infrequent light bulb replacement.

  • Replacing Light Bulbs in your saltwater aquarium lighting, once a year will help your coral stay healthy and growing. Overtime, light bulbs lose their strength and can even change in color temperature. When combined with pour water quality, this can cause nuisance algae blooms as well as cyanobacteria outbreaks.

#8. Not cleaning equipment.

  • Cleaning equipment once a month will not only extend the life of the equipment but it  can ensure proper performance. This can also serve as a great time to inspect the condition of your equipment. Helping you be aware of any future replacement that may be needed. All that is needed to clean aquarium equipment is a new toothbrush, distilled vinegar and RO/DI water. Remove all calcium carbonate and salt creep to get the most out of your equipment.

#7. Not utilizing GFO and carbon.

  • GFO: (Granular Ferric Oxide) GFO removes phosphate from the aquarium. GFO looks similar to carbon and they are often used together. It is recommended to change GFO every couple of weeks to keep it effective.
  • Carbon: Carbon helps the water look crystal clear as well as removes dissolved organic compounds from the water. Carbon is often used with GFO in saltwater aquariums. It’s recommended to change every couple of weeks to make it effective.

#6. Not cleaning out dead spots.

  • Any dead spot in a saltwater aquarium will with out a doubt become a detritus trap. The problem with detritus is that it is a particulate of organic material (most likely from a dead organism or fecal matter from a living one) that will effect the water quality. A common place to find detritus accumulated at the bottom of an aquarium overflow.  Another common place for detritus to accumulate is within the aquascape (rock work) of the display tank.
  •  It’s best to prevent these dead spot from occurring i the first place but when these spots can not be avoided they needed to be cleaned out as often as possible. This will help improve aquarium husbandry and prevent a tragedy.

#5. Inadequate cleaning crew.

  • A clean up crew is a set of invertebrates put together with one goal in mind cleaning your saltwater aquarium. Different invertebrates serve different proposes that why it’s very important to have a variety. Hermit crabs are great for eating detritus and uneaten food. Where snails are great for eating algae. I’ve always done well with the 1 hermit cab and/or snail per gallon of aquarium philosophy.
  •  I  also prefer invertebrates on the smaller side for my clean up crew because corals and live rock can get knocked around. It’s also important to keep in mind to keep your crew stocked up because this little critters do not have long life span.

#4.  Overfeeding the aquarium.

  • Overfeeding is placing more food in the aquarium than the fish can eat. Uneaten food decomposes quickly, releasing an abundance of organic matter that can send nitrate levels sky high. This can cause allergy blooms, cyanobacteria outbreaks as well as a decrease in dissolved oxygen levels.  It’s best to feed in small portions only what your fish can eat in 2 to 3 minutes. If you see any uneaten food scoop it out with a fish net.

Saltwater Aquarium Coral


#3. Not utilizing a RO/DI unit.

  • Tap and even bottled water often have contaminates within them that can cause complications when added to your saltwater aquarium. These contaminates may include phosphates, nitrates, chlorine, and metals. The job of a RO/DI unit (Reverse Osmosis and Deionization unit) is to remove all of the contaminates. The propose of a water change is to remove nitrate and phosphate form the aquarium but if you are starting with water that already contains impurities, your saltwater aquarium will most likely crash.

#2. Not utilizing a protein skinner.

  • No one should ever contemplate building a saltwater without a protein skimmer. Considered a supplemental filtration device, they reduce nitrate levels in the aquarium by removing waste from the water column before the waste has a chance to breakdown. Utilizing a protein skimmer can reduce the need for water changes, increase the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water and help support proper PH levels.

#1. Infrequent water changes.

  • A 10% (of the total volume of the aquarium) water changes should be done weekly for the first year of the aquariums life.  This does two thing for the saltwater aquarium. It removes nitrate and phosphate form the aquarium as well as replenishes beneficial nutrients back into the aquarium. After the first year of the aquarium’s life you can start to rely on water parameter testing to indicate when you need to make a water change (keeping nitrate levels below 10 ppm).

Saltwater Aquarium Maintenance Mistakes Final Thoughts

I hope this article was helpful in your journey for gathering ideas for improving your own aquarium maintenance as well as helping you improve your outlook on aquarium husbandry. We also have more great articles in our aquarium maintenance section under categories. If you think that I have missed anything feel free to leave a comment below.

Save a Reef    …Grow your own.

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