Aquariums sure are beautiful to look at, but they also require regular maintenance to keep all the fish and plants living good and healthy inside. Over time, I found some homemade adjustments really help to make my tank duties go faster without as much hassle. In this post, I’ll share the tweaks I came up with that save me lots of arm aching each week.
Making Water Changes Simple as Can Be
Filling and emptying the aquarium is the number one chore I dreaded doing. Lugging buckets back and forth made my back sore. So I installed an easy water change system to make things go much smoother.
First, I added an inlet and outlet tubes with adjustable shut-off valves near the back of the tank. That way I can simply connect a garden hose outside to the inlet valve and turn it on. It slowly fills from the bottom up with no splashing.
For draining, I connected a short length of vinyl tubing to the outlet valve. This funnels directly into my bucket on the floor below. Once full, I just lift it outside and dump. No more heavy lifting!
This setup has really sped things along and made water changes a breeze. The best part is I can now easily control the flow with the valves instead of wrestling buckets.
Putting Accessories Right Within Reach
Another headache I ran into was always needing to grab the siphon tube or test kits from across the room mid-clean. Now everything stays tidily organized right next to the tank.
I installed a wooden shelf above the back glass, just below the rim. On it I placed my test strips, gravel vacuum, spare heaters – whatever tools I use most.
Just below the shelf, I mounted a small sliding drawer on drawer sliders. This holds extra filter media, algae wafers, supplements and more. Everything is within an arm’s reach while cleaning.
The finished look is clean and streamlined. No more clutter just keeps maintenance that much more speedy and convenient.
Making Dirty Work Surface Level
Cleaning underneath decorations or planting was such a pain having to reach deep into the aquarium. I found a simple solution raised the whole cleaning area up for easier access.
I cut a piece of heavy mat board to fit the bottom surface area of my tank. Then used some aquarium-safe silicone to attach four short wooden legs in each corner, bringing it up several inches.
Now instead of peering over the edge, the entire tank bottom is at a comfortable working height just below the rim. Its easy to rearrange stones, sweep out detritus and scavenge for dropped food pellets. Cleanup went from difficult to a breeze!
The following table summarizes some key elements for each DIY project:
|Water change system
|Inlet/outlet tubing, valves, garden hose
|Faster water changes without heavy buckets
|Shelf storage system
|Wood shelf plank, small drawer
|Convenient access to supplies during maintenance
|Raised cleaning platform
|Mat board, wooden legs, aquarium silicone
|Comfortable working surface for easy access to tank bottom
Let me know if any part needs more explanation or if you have other questions! Now onto some lighting and filtration upgrades…
Maximizing Light While Saving Energy
As the tank grew with more plants, regularcompact fluorescent bulbs weren’t cutting it for good growth. So I switched to energy efficient LEDs and added some lens options that made a huge difference.
To start, I replaced the old bulbs with a single strip of bright white LED lights meant for aquariums. These deliver crisp illumination over the whole spread instead of hot spots.
Next, I placed shallow acrylic lenses the length of the strip to help diffuse the directional beams better across the tank. No more shadows from tall plants blocking others.
For extra coverage, I hung a second strip vertically centered over the back glass using metal brackets. This filled in any gaps and boosted the entire display dramatically.
Plus, my electric bill barely noticed the addition of more wattage. LEDs sip power compared to old CFL or T8 tubes. The tank pearls brightly all day on very little cost to run.
The LED upgrades maximized growth and appearance without breaking my budget. New lighting options are always advancing too for even better results at lower costs.
Customizable Multi-Stage Filtration on a Budget
Filtration is key to housing fish healthily long-term. As the stock grew heavier over time, multiple smaller filters were consuming too much space. So I upgraded to a modular system that’s customizable.
First I chose a 27-gallon Rubbermaid tough storage container and drilled several flow holes near the bottom. This became my sump reservoir.
Inside I placed layers of filtration media – coarse sponge on bottom, then bio rings, then fine sponge. A submersible pump returns water up and over.
For redundancy, there’s a second sponge filter running simultaneously. Its pumped airline delivers extra surface agitation too.
To polish, the water exits the sump through rigid acrylic tubing into the main tank. It has never looked or tested cleaner.
With modular compartment trays added to the sump down the line, it can accommodate whatever specific needs arise like carbon or floss. This was a big upgrade that still looks decent too.
The following table summarizes key filtration system specifics:
|Rubbermaid storage container
|Holds multiple filter media in one large compartment
|Sponge and biomedia layers
|Mechanical and biological filtration
|Processes waste through different pore sizes
|Returns filtered water
|Circulates water through system and back to display
|Provides extra bacteria capacity and surface agitation
Creative Display Options for Fish Appreciation
Keeping fish healthy is an important part of the hobby. But it’s also about enjoying watching their unique personalities shine through. Here are some inexpensive display upgrades I tested to make observing them even more fun.
Underwater Glass Partitions
Dividing the main tank horizontally using clear acrylic sheets created perfect mid-level viewing zones. I drilled holes for cable ties to attach the partitions securely.
Now instead of just peering straight down, fish activity is viewable from multiple angles all around the tank. Their behaviors above and below the partitions are fascinating to observe.
Floating Islands and Planting Mounds
Giving fish more vertical swimming space adds dimension. I attached clumps of java moss, anubias and bucependras to mesh mats or decor ledges to create floating islands through aquascaping techniques.
Constructing elevated planting mounds from aquarium safe clay substrate in open areas provides places for fish to rest or forage amidst leaves and stems. Both additions really make swimming paths more interesting.
Angling adjustable gooseneck lamps directly over portions of the tank highlights certain display aspects. Whether aimed at driftwood tunnels, rock caves or planted areas, spotlights draw attention there.
Decor features like these that provide hiding places are fun places to watch fish interact when gently illuminated versus a single overhead fixture. Spotlighting brings the landscape to life.
The following table summarizes some creative display enhancements tested:
|Clear acrylic panels, cable ties
|Provides multidimensional viewing angles of fish behaviors
|Java moss, Anubias, mesh mats
|Adds vertical swimming spaces and dimension to scaping
|Aquarium clay substrate
|Offers places for foraging and resting amidst greenery
|Accents specific areas like caves, tunnels or plants for focus
Nourishing Livestock with Purpose-Built Feeders
Proper nutrition is key to fish thriving happily in the home aquarium. While commercial processed foods work okay, I’ve found making my own feeders enriches their diets further.
Blanched Vegetable Slices
Briefly steaming thin zucchini, carrots or spinach slices before freezing them creates sinking treats. These slowly thaw and release vitamins as fish nibble pieces over hours. It keeps them occupied and entertained too.
Gelatinous Live Blackworm Cultures
Blackworms are a favorite for many fish. To raise my own consistently, I set up simple cultures in uncovered containers with wet potting soil. Food scraps dotted on top attract worms up to feed and stimulate reproduction cycles.
Live Tubifex Worm Farms
These nutritious worms dwelling in the substrate are a hit with bottom feeders. Aerated tanks containing worm colonies supply a regular harvest. Feeding periodically with fish food powder or algae wafers keeps them multiplying.
Homemade Algae Wafers
Rolling wheat germ, spirulina powder, chopped veggies and gelatin into wafers before baking produces superfood patties fish go crazy for. These can even be frozen for long-term storage.
The following table compares the nutrition and preparation of these natural feeders:
|Blanched veggie slices
|Quick steaming then freezing
|Simple potting soil setup
|Tubifex worm farm
|Aerated tank with feedings
|Homemade algae wafers
|Vitamins, minerals, oils
|Mix and bake wheat germ mixture
Encouraging Natural Spawning with Simple Additions
For those wishing to breed captive fish, some easy adaptations to the aquarium environment can often prompt spawning behavior. Here are a few I’ve tried:
Floating Plants and Ground Cover
Filling open spaces in the tank with dense mats of floating plants like salvinia or frogbit gives fish security to spawn unseen. Java moss or microsword grass turfing the bottom also create private nooks.
Caves and Tunnels
Terra cotta plant pots turned on their sides offer cozy hiding spots. I’ve also made tunnels by connecting sections of rigid acrylic tubing siliconed together and wedged between decor. Both elicit natural urges for fish to guard eggs.
Controlled Breeding Media
Nerite snail-free ceramic shard tiles or spare aquarium sponge placed in shady areas collect eggs safely. Others use fine polyester filter floss wrapped around plants for easy future removal. These instinctually attract spawning activity.
Water Parameter Matching
Replicating the soft, acidic conditions of blackwater biotopes through peat filtration and botanicals like Indian almond leaves simulates spawning conditions for fish originating from such habitats. Parameters should remain consistent.
The following table outlines some low-effort adjustments to try and successfully induce spawning:
|Floating plants, moss, grass
|Security for fish to spawn unseen
|Tunnels, caves, pots
|Comfortable hiding places to guard eggs
|Tiles, sponge, floss
|Central location to attract eggs safely
|Replicates natural conditions encouraging reproduction
I hope you enjoyed learning about all the different things we can do to make our fish tanks easier to take care of. I tried to explain everything so that anyone can understand.
Taking care of an aquarium is important so that the fish and plants are happy and healthy. But it can also be a lot of work! I came up with some cheap and simple changes to help make the work go faster. Now water changes, cleaning and checking on the fish is way more fun.
I’m happy to share all my ideas to help others too. Please let me know if you have any other questions! It was nice talking with you all about our underwater friends. I hope you can use some of these tips in your own tanks.
Don’t forget, if your tank looks clean and the fish are acting normal, you are doing a great job! And it’s okay to ask for help if you get stuck. There are lots of kind people who want to see you succeed with your fish babies.
Thank you again for reading. I should go now but I’m always around if you think of more questions later. Bye for now, and good luck with your tanks!