Things you can change right now...

Like most aquarists, I’m always thinking two moves ahead.

I mean, it’s sometimes hard to just look at my aquarium and enjoy it without thinking about the next upgrade, the next fish I’m gonna add, or the next husbandry tweak I’m gonna employ. These things almost always involve change, or changing something: Maybe it’s part of the aquarium- keeping mindset; I think so, because I am certainly not alone in my obsession. The common denominator is about things that I want to change. I suppose it’s a good thing- always striving to improve. Or, perhaps it’s a form of OCD?

I couldn’t tell you. 

What I do know is that when it’s typically about change, the change is often a good thing.


And, of course, it’s Fall- a season of change and transition, so what better time to focus on changing stuff? Rather than discussing what grandiose upgrade plans you might have for your system, let’s focus on changes that you could- and probably should- change right now. These are changes that can not only improve your aquarium’s short term appearance and health; if done regularly, they can have real and lasting long-term impact! Here are a few things you can quickly and easily change on your aquarium right now. Of course, my list is by no means complete, and in no particular order¦

Your filter pads- Yeah, go ahead and change ˜em. If you’re not doing it weekly or more frequently already, you should. It’s important. The gross particulate matter than accumulates within polyester filter pads can break down quickly if unattended, and will have an impact on your system’s water quality. In fact, dirty filter pads are one of the culprits in declining water quality that are often sitting in front of our very nose, that we fail to take into account when algae problems and other water quality issues arise. Try weekly or every 3-4 days if you really see a lot of trapped matter in them, and you’ve eliminated a major contributor to declining water quality and potential nuisance algae.


Your dull algae scraper- No, seriously! Regardless of the type of aquarium you have- glass or acrylic- there is a point when the blades on those scrapers (plastic or stainless steel) need changing. They get worn down, pitted, and otherwise degraded, and cannot perform for the job the way they were originally intended. They can damage your aquarium if not replaced regularly. Especially the acrylic scrapers! I mean, you pretty much look at acrylic tanks the wrong way and they scratch anyways, so the last thing that you want to do is increase the potential for damage by not changing the pitted $1.29 plastic blade on your scraper. And, as you know, glass can scratch, too, so not changing a dull and/or damaged blade for glass opens up similar problems for glass aquariums. It’s such an easy and inexpensive change that you should treat it like an oil change. Just replace them every three weeks or more frequently if needed and be done with it! Or, use a different algae cleaning format.

Test kit reagents- If you are a water testing geek- and many of you are- you need to make sure that you’re getting accurate results. I mean, how else could you rationalize your decision to by that new monstrous canister filter if you can’t show that your water quality needs improvement? And if you’re utilizing test kits with liquid reagents, you’ll need to replace them from time to time, as they degrade, affecting their accuracy. I’ve seen a bunch of cases where aquarists were convinced that there might be a problem in their system, as test kit results were showing problematic readings. Upon cross-referencing every other factor they could think of, it turned out that the same test performed with new reagents yielded drastically different results. Instead of buying a some new expensive gadget, they bought more fish. Man, I LOVE this country! Change those reagents regularly!

Activated carbon and other chemical filtration media- I am a big fan of carbon and such to help continuously remove potentially problematic substances from the water. IMHO, chemical filtration are an important part of your nutrient control and export practices, and should be employed full-time in your system. If you’re utilizing these media full-time, it’s important to recognize that they don’t last forever, and that they will eventually stop removing organic substances and simply retain detritus and such, trapping it in their structure, which will function more as a biological filtration substrate at some point. Not all that bad, but when you have stuff accumulating in a matrix of carbon, resin, or other water-polishing chemical media, it’s just a matter of time before the once helpful chemical media becomes the metaphorical old broom that attracts “dust bunnies” instead of doing it’s job.

Water-  “OMG, Fellman, you’re bringing THAT up again?” Yup, I’m going to make you a habitual water changer yet. There is, in my opinion, no single practice, piece of equipment, or routine that you can utilize on your aquarium that will have more positive impact than a water change. As I discussed many times before, it’s not a bad habit to employ smaller, more frequent changes. You can do a small water change right now, and virtually assure yourself that you’re doing something beneficial and positive to keep your aquarium running in top form. Closed systems can only export so much dissolved organics without needing to physically remove some of the water on a regular basis. There’s no time like the present, so why not perform a 3% or 5% of your system capacity water change today? Your livestock will thank you, and I’ll get off of your back.


Honorable Mention:

Your aquascape- Yes, in keeping with the time-honored tradition of changing pretty much everything in the aquarium from time to time, most of you are going to want to shuffle rocks around again at some point. It’s part of the aquarium-keeping mind set, I think. If you just can’t stand your rock and wood work, and you can see a practical as well as aesthetic advantage to doing so (like, the present rock and plant configuration interferes with your flow, maintenance, or plant growth), then go for it. If you don’t it’s just gonna stick in your gut and aggravated you every time you look at your tank. One tip- do it on a day when you’re not rushed, have time to contemplate, and are in a generally creative mind set. Otherwise, you’re almost guaranteed to have all of the rocks, plants and wood out and then have some weird psychological meltdown- you know, one of those “Omigod, what have I done?!?” moments.

Okay, I’ve gotten this party started; time to hand it off to you brilliant people. What are some changes you can do to your aquarium right now that will reap immediate benefits? Let’s hear ‘em.

As always, thanks for stopping by this morning. Love your family, care for your tanks, and above all…

Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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