What to know before performing a routine water change
Over time fish waste and excess food drops into the gravel at the bottom of your aquarium. The toxicity increases and raises ammonia levels as well as bacterial pathogens making your aquarium unsafe for your betta fish and other tank mates. Performing water changes removes unwanted wastes as well as unattractive algae making the water balanced and safe once again.
How much water needs to be removed?
In a routine water change, no more than 25% of the water is to be removed. Removing more than 25% strips the water of crucial nutrients and can stress your fish from a potentially drastic change in pH and alkaline levels.
The only exception to this rule is during certain disease treatments. Some medications will require you to do up to a 50% water change before, during, or right after treatment. This is mainly to remove any chemicals that are being used to heal illnesses.
How often do I need to clean my aquarium?
There is a lot of confusion in regards to regular tank maintenance. Some say water changes should be performed once a week while others say twice a month. The fact of the matter is that it’s all relative. If you have a twenty-gallon tank with six fish you will need to change your water more often than a thirty-gallon with one fish. To ensure the safety of your fish, I recommend testing your water before and after every water change. Checking your ammonia, nitrates, pH, and alkalinity will help you determine how often to perform water changes.
Many are surprised to learn that cleaning an aquarium too often is actually bad for the water because it raises the ammonia levels in the tank. All fish, including beta fish, build up a healthy bacteria in the water which helps to keep their slime coats healthy and ammonia levels lowered.
Preparing the water
To better prepare for a smooth water change, I recommend buying drinking water by the gallon or drawing your tap water a few hours in advance. This is mainly for the priority of safe temperatures.
If you need to do a water change now and do not have time to prepare water in advance use pitchers to collect the tap water. Then using a thermometer, compare water temperatures so you can add cold or warm water to get the pitcher as close as possible to the aquarium.
As always, add the appropriate amount of water conditioner to the water to remove any chlorine, chloramine, and other harmful elements.
Now you’re ready for the water change
*Always wash your hands and arms thoroughly with hot water before doing any aquarium maintenance.*
Unplug filter, heater, and hood light. Remove hood from tank. Remove fish if you choose so-this is not necessary but if you do have a betta fish in the tank, it woudn’t hurt to place him/her in a cup to prevent any stress during this process. Remove fake plants and ornaments. Put them in a designated container.
Wipe down the sides of the aquarium to remove algae and water spots with an algae scrub pad or algae magnets. While the water is settling, rinse fake plants and ornaments in very hot water and allow them to sit out to air dry. Letting your aquarium accessories dry out will kill algae and bacterial organisms that may be living on their surface.
Prepare your gravel vacuum by placing the small end in a bucket or sink. The larger side of your vacuum can now be placed in your aquarium. Shake the gravel vacuum up and down a few times to get the suction going. Now dig the vacuum down into the gravel to siphon out any fish waste and excess food. When you have removed about 25% of the water, pull your gravel vacuum out of the aquarium to stop suction.
Place your fake plants and ornaments wherever you desire in the tank. Now fill the tank with the water you have prepared. Remember to leave at least an inch of space between the water surface and the top of the aquarium. Betta fish have been known to jump so keeping that inch of space will prevent any jumpers from getting out of the tank and ending up on the floor.
If you have removed any fish they may now be returned to the tank. Once the hood has been placed back on the top of the aquarium you can power up your filter, hood lights, and heater. Your betta aquarium is now clean!
That is my quick 5-step method to cleaning a betta aquarium. Remember to test your water regularly and mark down when you do a water change so you can keep track of your aquarium maintenance schedule. Once you do this once or twice you’ll be able to get it down to a routine and you’ll have happy, healthy fish.