Everything needs a bit of maintenance now and then. Your car needs oil changes, carpets need to be vacuumed, and grass needs to be mowed. Aquariums are no different. Aquascapers need to perform regular maintenance on their aquarium in much the same way that a gardener has to trim the bushes and get rid of the weeds.
Maintaining the health and beauty of your aquascape is practically an art form in itself. There’s a reason why many aquarium fans opt to leave aquarium maintenance to the professionals — it’s so much safer, faster, and more convenient to let trained professionals maintain the perfect pH levels and prevent your aquascape from overgrowing.
There are some people out there who love to do upkeep on their aquascape. They feel peace by putting everything in its place and they love the precise artistic expression of aquascaping. If you’re thinking about doing the maintenance on your own aquarium, these tips should help you become a top-notch aquascaper.
1. Tools of the Job
The most important thing about aquascaping is to get the right tools for the job. Tongs, long aquascaping scissors, tweezers, and other handy tools will allow you a level of precision that you just can’t get with your bare hands, especially if you’re trimming overgrown plants. Long aquascaping tools will allow you to touch up your aquascape without drenching your hand or obstructing your view.
You might think that you can improvise with household items, like using BBQ tongs instead of aquascaping tongs or normal scissors instead of aquascaping scissors. Trust me: you’re only making things harder on yourself. You wouldn’t mow your lawn with a pair of scissors, would you? Spring for the correct tools and you definitely won’t regret it.
2. The Hydra Effect
According to ancient myth, Hercules battled a multi-headed beast known as a hydra. Whenever Hercules cut off one of its heads, two new heads grew in its place. Some plants are kind of like that. Many aquatic plants will grow an extra stem whenever a stem is cut, meaning that your aquascape plants will quickly double in size as they grow extra stems to compensate for the cuts.
This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The good news is that you can strategically trim your plant in certain areas in order to control the growth pattern. The bad news is that your freshwater aquascape will always need a few snip-snips here and there. Don’t be overwhelmed by your rapidly expanding plants. Shape them into whatever pattern you want and cut away any new stems that go against the aquarium’s intended aesthetic.
3. Less Plant Life Means Less Plant Food
When you trim plants, you cut down on the total amount of plant life in your aquarium. That means that your aquascape will need less food and CO2 to flourish. Don’t make the mistake of trimming your aquascape and then using the old fertilizer and CO2 amounts. You could overfeed your aquascape, make your fish sick, or create an algae bloom.
4. Know What to Trim
Some plants, like Anubias and moss, don’t require trimming. Cutting up these plants could permanently affect the overall look of your aquascape, so do a bit of reading on the plants in your aquascape so that you know what should and shouldn’t be trimmed.
Follow these four basic rules and you should be in the clear. Plus, one of the nice things about trimming plants in an aquascape is that plants float, so collecting all of the leaves and stems is a breeze. And don’t forget about hiring a few helpers! Algae eaters and other aquatic janitors can help you maintain a beautiful freshwater aquascape.