Outstanding water quality doesn’t have to be a big chore in saltwater aquarium systems, there are many tricks up an enlightened aquarists’ sleeve to ensure pristine water conditions and thriving marine life for a minimum of effort.
This is always going to ensure your marine life is kept as healthy as possible (as well as a good varied diet and minimal stressors) and is especially important for the good health of corals and other invertebrates which as more sensitive to water chemistry than marine fish.
So allow me to let you in on a couple of the strategies I use to make my life and the lives of my marine pets easier…
1. A high volume, rapid turnover protein skimmer: These devices have been hailed by many experts (I’m gonna count myself here too!) as being the single best thing you can do for your water quality bar none! The brutal efficiency of a modern, high powered skimmer of pulling dissolved organic waste (about to mineralise into toxic ammonia) out of the water column in the form of a daily cup of smelly, viscous , brown sludge will astound the uninitiated! Get one now!
2. Regular partial water changes: A simple replacement of tank water with recently made up saltwater (of the same temp., pH, specific gravity) in the order of 15-20% per fortnight will not only get rid of built up nitrates, phosphates and other undesirable chemicals it will replenish vital trace elements, improve water clarity and increases the oxygen content and buffering capacity of the water (which if you dont know makes the aquarium water more stable and resistant to such things as pH shift which is bad!). Water changes also reduce the chance of algal blooms by reducing nutrient levels.
3. Addition of Live Rock and/or macro-algae species: Most aquarists know Live Rock/Sand contains beneficial bacteria blah blah blah, but biological filtration aside the encrusting algae and tiny crustaceans etc that grow on the Live rock breakdown and utilise organic waste in the water in the form of uneaten food (taken up by the myriad of tiny scavengers) and nitrates and phosphates (mopped up by the photosynthesizing algae). Macro-algae species, which are essentially any non-pest algae species such as Caulerpa takecontaminating nitrates and phosphates out of the water which they use for growth. The bonus here is that they add oxygen back , look natural in an aquarium and effectively outcompete pest algae species which plague the tanks many novice aquarists. Adding Live rock, live sand and marine plants is a dead easy way of improving water quality and making your aquarium look cooler!
4. Plopping in some marine scavenger species: Read my post on saltwater aquarium clean-up crews which act like little tank janitors and you will see how useful these guys are. Some invertebrate and fish species will be completely happy feeding off detritus and uneaten (and some pre-eaten, eewwww!) food. This list includes quite a few crab species and sand sifting Gobies to name a few. Cleaning doesnt get much more fun than getting cool looking marine oddities to do it for you!
5. Feeding less is actually more: What I mean by this is that feeding less in your aquarium is more beneficial than overfeeding, especially for water quality. Uneaten food is a major source of toxic waste in the form of ammonia and nitrites that your beneficial bacteria then have to work harder (and multiply more) to try to deal with, uneaten food is a major source of fatal shifts in water quality. Only feed as much as your pets can eat in a few minutes any more than that is a dangerous waste of money and effort. Remember in the wild your pets dont have constant food supplies and have to work for their meals, overeating like in us humans can cause lethargy and a lack of natural behaviours, your fish probably need to eat a lot less than you think…
So, there are my 5 top tips to improve water quality by not really doing much at all.
Saltwater Aquarium Advice