Hey, it's me, your local pain in the_____ . Time to remind you to do some stuff you've been putting off...
Okay, so this isn’t exactly the time of year when we start thinking about cleaning our tanks up- you know - the whole “Spring Cleaning” mentality…I mean, it’s not even Christmas yet…Nonetheless, I’ve been talking with a lot of hobbyist lately whom, for whatever reason, are looking to do overhauls on their tanks. I’m not sure what that’s all about. “Aquarium Season” is in full swing, weather is cooling down in the temperate regions of the world, and we're spending more time with our aquariums, all of these cool new fishes are coming in, new gear is available...Yeah.
Ah, maybe that’s it? We are realizing that we can’t afford all of the new toys, having just spent big bucks on the summer vacations, major household purchases and all, so we figure it’s better to improve what we have! Could be, right? So anyways, it got me thinking of the things that we all need to do once in a while to freshen up our systems…some of these can not only help you create a better system, they can help you enjoy your hobby more...or with less of that "I really need to do this" guilt trip-thing...
So, here's just a few of the nagging things on the list that you should consider "checking off" before winter.
1) Clean up the plumbing. Huh? You mean, re-work the plumbing? No! I mean, literally clean it! When mineral deposits, tube worms, etc. build up on the inside of plumbing, you get a diminished water flow; so much so that you will really notice the difference when you get around to cleaning it. How do you do this? You need to obtain a nice cleaning brush made just for this purpose, and carefully push it into you plumbing, taking care to “wipe” the sidewalls of the pipes as thoroughly as possible.
2) Get rid of the old food. Yeah, the upcoming Holiday Season is all about leftovers; However, your fish are not so fortunate. Some of that fish food (frozen, dried, or “fresh”) tends to dry out, collect “freezer burn”, or otherwise degrade in both quality and nutritional value over time. Do your fishy friends a favor and replace some of that old food with a fresh supply. Yeah, it sometimes is economical to stock up, but if you are keeping months and months of food on reserve, I never really saw the advantage…I have always found it more practical to keep a smaller supply on hand- say a month, or maybe 6 weeks worth.
3) Take inventory of your gadgets…Okay, if you’re like me, you’ll save like EVERYTHING you’ve ever used in your aquarium…What hardcore aquarium hobbyist doesn’t have a supply of old air pumps, heaters, plumbing parts, etc. accumulating in a box somewhere? And it’s hard to get rid of these things as you ponder all sorts of scenarios where you might need them or repurpose them one day…That’s me. Granted, you never know when you might need a spare ball valve. However, do you really think that you’ll need the diaphragm repair kit from that air driven pump that you haven’t used since 1987? I know that you’re holding out for the return of air-driven protein skimmers, but maybe it’s time to let go. On the other hand, I had a serious discussion with a fellow fish geek the other day about utilizing an under gravel filter in a setup I'm pondering...
4) How about re-assessing your need for essentials, like towels? Yeah, mundane, but one of the best things to have in your “go bag” for emergency spills, etc. Yeah, you need a healthy supply, so you can always create a need in the household to get new towels just so that you have an emergency towel supply on hand! I mean, I NEVER spill…but you just might…:)
5) Clean out your water mixing containers. Yeah, it seems like a no-brainer, but we never seem to get around to this. Use some RO water and an algae scrub pad to thoroughly clean your water storage and saltwater mixing containers on a regular basis. The scale of calcium, algae, biofilm, etc. that builds up in these containers in a relatively short period of time is quite impressive, and can have some impact on water chemistry, so cleaning these containers out regularly is a rational necessity, IMHO.
6) Tame your stand. Huh? Yeah, you know what I’m getting at. Almost every fish geek has all sorts of stuff hidden inside the stand- old cups, paper towels, test kits, plumbing parts, etc. Stuff that just sort of "accumulates" over time. Stuff that you may have put down "for a second" while doing other activities...and 3 months later, the "stuff" is still there. These things are just getting in the way. While you’re at it, you might as well scrub or shop vac out the area- it will remove dust, salt creep, mineral deposits, spider webs, etc, and keep the area around your important equipment clean. What’s that you’re saying- you have all of your equipment down in the basement? Lucky, but you still need to keep the area around it clean. I have seen more than one basement sump area that was, well- shall we say- in need of “freshening up….”
7) Clean up filters. Yeah, external filters tend to accumulate dirt, dust, and salt creep, all of which can ultimately affect their life expectency and performance. So it’s a good idea to regularly inspect and wipe down the fan area, couplings, and base of the filter and pump to keep them free from this stuff. Use the time to check the condition of the electrical cords as well, as these things sometimes need replacing.
8) Check plumbing connections. The flex tubing tends to lose its flex over time, and this could prove, well.."problematic" if connections start loosening as a result. This should actually be a weekly thing, but for many of us who "set and forget" our tanks, it's somewhat -umm- "less frequent." And if you have an RO/DI system, this "advisory" extends to it, too. The tubing on those things seems to be designed to just croak after a year or two, huh? No duct tape...just replace it. Don't wait for trouble. Just take a quick look, okay?
9) Re-consider those electrical connections. You know, the "jury-rigged", "daisy-chained" aggregations of power strips, multi-outlet connectors, precariously-placed plugs, and other electrical nightmares that would make your local fire department- or insurance company- freak out. If you've been telling yourself that "one of these days" you're gonna tackle this project..please do- BEFORE it becomes a really dangerous, possibly tragic issue.
10) Re-assess your need for more tanks...or (gasp) less fishes! Can't end on a downer like a fire hazard warning, can we? Nope. So here's an idea: Might be time to "vote someone off the island", as they say. You heard me...If you're like every fish geek on the planet, you're always finding "one more" fish, plant, coral, etc...and with it, you're forced to find a little extra room somewhere! This is always weird, but that's why you see so many fish rooms with tanks housing, say, Endler's livebearers, Blind Cave Tetras, and Threadfin Rainbowfishes together- you know, strange combos, brought together by an obsession for collecting more fish and a lack of available space! Unless you can add some more tanks, I say you need to make the tough call and possibly give some early holiday gifts of fish to your fellow hobbyists! Damn, I could write an entire piece on this topic...
Okay, enough. I started you off with 10 ideas on a list that probably contains 2,346 or more...But you get the idea. There literally is "no time like the present" to tackle the stuff on your "to-do" list that you've been putting off. It sucks to contemplate it now, when the sun is out and the dying days of summer are lingering, but you'll thank yourself one dreary, snow-bound winter weekend when you're encamped in your revamped, refreshed fish room!
Okay, okay, enough of this practical, decidedly "typical" blog stuff...I've dispatched my twice yearly obligation to write about something "normal." Back to the esoteric, the obscure, the provocative tomorrow.
Yeah, I feel so..."dirty"- time tow write about leaf litter or something more weird.
Until next time. Stay busy. Stay on guard. Stay engaged.
And Stay Wet.