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Tips for Better Summer Aquarium Care
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
Equipment and Water Quality
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Aquariums need to be checked dailySporting events, family gatherings, vacations, and much more. During the summer, demands on your personal time increase. A world of activities can keep you out of the house and away from your aquarium, often for extra hours, and sometimes for extra days. While time out is good for you, it may lead to disruptions in your schedule that stress your fish.

Regardless of how busy your personal schedule, the health of your aquarium depends upon routine feeding and aquarium maintenance. Here are five easy tips to keep both on track.

  1. Pick a convenient time for daily fish observation. Find a few minutes each day, at about the same time, when you can stop and enjoy your fish, and check their general condition. It may be in the morning, during feeding times, or right before the lights on the aquarium are turned off for the evening. The important thing is that it is the most convenient for you. Choosing the right time will help assure the tank is checked each day.

    Daily inspections are important because some problems appear suddenly, spread quickly, and require immediate treatment. Any time you observe your fish acting abnormally, you need to check your equipment, test your water, and make sure that all types of filtration are operating properly. Overlooked, even minor problems can become serious, even fatal. Should you fail to spot the signs of parasites or bacterial infection before an extended absence, you may return to a problem that is very difficult to resolve.

    You can become a trained and capable observer in a very short time. Read about symptoms, examine comparison photos of healthy and diseased fish, and learn about recommended treatments. See Nutrition, Anatomy, Health, and Diseases of Marine and Freshwater fish.

  2. Battery-operated air pump provides air during a power outageAutomate functions. To reduce the amount of mandatory daily maintenance and save time, take advantage of the advancements in automated equipment. Instead of replacing your care, these tools will help you fine-tune your efforts. They will also free you to take time off. Here are some good automated equipment options:

    • Use an automatic timer to regulate light in your aquarium so your aquatic life enjoys normal days and nights.

    • Install a battery-operated air pump that switches on automatically if there is a power outage.

    • Add a back-up heater that will operate if the primary fails.

    • Use a battery-driven automatic feeder. These work right through power failures, and deliver pre-calibrated amounts at your pre-determined interval.

  3. Train a helper. Find a responsible friend or neighbor who has shown an interest in your aquarium. You will find that most people will find helping you with your hobby to be a welcome opportunity, not a chore.

    The primary role of the helper should be to check that your automated equipment is functioning properly, and to inspect the aquarium for signs of sick or dead fish, removing them immediately so problems do not spread. This person should also, if necessary, know how to utilize the back-up equipment that you should have at-the-ready. Ask your helper to check on your aquarium daily while you are away, even if you have everything on auto-pilot. If problems are caught early, he or she can notify you and, under your direction, take corrective measures.

  4. Overheating can be eliminated by installing a chillerControl aquarium temperature. Temperature control can be the single most important component in the life of your fish. A sudden shift in water temperature can suppress their immune systems. During warm summer months, with windows open, room temperature can vary greatly. As water warms, it loses its ability to hold oxygen. Oxygen levels that are below recommended amounts can cause fish to breathe faster than optimum, which can result in chronic stress. To maintain constant temperature it may be necessary to heat or chill your aquarium water, or both.

    • Heater – If the daytime temperature were to rise to 90°F, for example, and fall into the 70's at night, the corresponding change in water temperature could compromise your fishs' immune systems. Under these conditions, you may actually need to turn up your heater at night to match room temperature.

    • Chiller – If you do not have air conditioning, or have an aquarium with pumps, a heavily lighted reef system, or other various electrical equipment, these devices may combine to add enough heat to warrant adding a chiller. A larger aquarium will require more cooling power, therefore, select the appropriate chiller based on the aquarium size and the environmental temperature.

    • Placement – Light is essential for aquatic life, but sunlight can easily be too much of a good thing in your aquarium. Always position your aquarium out of its direct rays. Also, keep in mind that the sun travels higher in the sky during summer, changing the angle of its rays. To keep your aquarium out of the sunlight, you may need to reposition it, or use screens or drapes to moderate the light.

  5. Battery-operated Aqua Reminders monitor 6 tasks; beeps automatically when aquarium task is neededMonitor aquarium water quality. During the summer, you cannot let up on maintaining water quality. In fact, with warmer temperatures, algae may grow more rapidly, and your aquarium may require more frequent cleaning and water changes. Here are more tips to make water quality maintenance easier:

    • Control fish populations. Adding additional fish to water with an already low oxygen level can spell disaster. Always test your aquarium water before starting to shop for additional tank inhabitants.

    • Change the aquarium water. Remind yourself to do a water change each month, or more, if necessary. If you perform the change on the same day(s) each month, you will be less likely to forget. Mark your calendar or get an electronic schedule reminder. Changing 25% of the water each month helps replace the trace minerals used by the fish, plants, and bacteria. It also reduces the amount of nitrate and ammonia that builds up in the water.

    • Anticipate changes in your water supply. Municipal water departments often change the additives in the water, sometimes due to seasonal conditions. During the summer, your water supply may contain, for example, higher chlorine levels, making the use of a dechlorinator for aquarium water even more important.

    • Special aquariums have special needs. Aquariums with live plants, reefs, or those that are overstocked may require more frequent water changes and the addition of minerals and trace elements. If you need help keeping up with scheduled maintenance, automated controllers and dosers can provide invaluable help in maintaining a healthy eco-system.

Aquarium care need not cut into your summer fun. Simply invest a few minutes each day to make sure all systems are functioning and plan ahead for the help you will need to maintain them.

How to Automate your Fish Tank While You're On Vacation 
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