Once your tank is established, you shouldn’t have problems keeping it clean. You should test you water every week using the API Master Test Kit. If the levels look good you don’t have to change the water. Some tanks can go two to three weeks before their levels bounce. It depends on how many fish or live plants you have. Fish and dead plant matter produce ammonia. As you should know by now, ammonia turns to nitrites, which turn to nitrates.
Nitrates cannot be recycled in a closed aquarium. They must be removed or they can poison your fish. Partial water changes, usually 20% fresh water, will keep your tank spic and span and your fish healthy.
Around once a month you can do a minor gravel cleaning. What you do is use your gravel vacuum and clean the top layer of gravel. Don’t dig too deep. Good bacteria grows in your gravel. If you clean all the gravel off, then the bacteria comes with it. Don’t clean your gravel at all when cycling.
If you tank isn’t balancing or the water is getting foggy quickly, you can do a full gravel cleaning. You can dig your vacuum in all the way and clean the gravel at the bottom. This advice is for people with small tanks (<10 gal). With small tanks cleaning the gravel can be hard to do without sucking all the water out of the tank. During your weekly water change you can try and clean around 1/3 of your gravel. The point is to clean up uneaten food and poops. Most food packages recommend feeding your fish waaayyy too much food. Like kill your fish in a month amount of food. I don’t ever have extra food in my tank. The only thing thing to clean is fish and snail poops.
Lately I’ve had to mess around with my decorations. When doing this the gunk got disturbed and fogged up my tank a bit, but the filter sorted it out. I’ve haven’t used my gravel vacuum yet because I was worried I would suck my little ghost shrimp up. They both have died now and so I can proceed to try it. I’ll give tips once I try.
You need to realize that the tank companies need to make money. They will always advise you to use more than you need. Keep this in mind with your filter. A common mantra amongst tank owners is keep your filter till it falls apart. You should not change out your filter every four to six months like the packaging recommends. I’ve heard of people keeping theirs for over a year.
When you change yours out be sure to keep a section of it. Lay that on top of your new filter. That way the water can run through the good bacteria in the old filter and help keep your Nitrogen cycle established. When changing a filter, be aware that you may get fluctuating levels. Be careful of New Tank Syndrome during this time.
I think that’s everything! If I think of anything else I add it in.