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19 Fascinating Fishkeeping & Aquarium Hacks You Never Knew

Nicole Cosgrove

Making your aquarium journey hassle-free and fun is our top priority!

Fish care and information are always evolving, and we are constantly learning new things throughout the hobby. Even if you are an experienced hobbyist who has been dealing with aquariums for several years, there are plenty of things you may not know. This is one of the reasons fishkeeping is so appealing and fulfilling. By learning new things in the aquarium hobby, you can better the life of your aquatic creatures and make tank or pond maintenance much easier.

You see, there is so much you can discover from having a whole new world in your own home. Watching fish swim around in a seemingly different world than you is mesmerizing.

This article will inform you of some of the best affordable hacks, tips, and tricks you may have never known beforehand, and some of these hacks are guaranteed to surprise you!

Let’s begin!

divider-fishbowl

1. Credit Card and Algae Scraper

Got stubborn algae growing on the tank but are unable to get an expensive alga removing tool? Look no further than your wallet! You can use an old, sturdy card to scrape the algae off the glass. This is an easy yet effective method that removes stubborn algae from inhibiting your view of your beautiful aquarium.

You want to scrape the algae in a downwards motion followed by hard scraping to ensure you dispatch it properly. Do not forget to go in sections till you get every piece, otherwise, you will be left with patches of algae, but you can always redo those parts later.

Male cleaning the aquarium
Image Credit: Hedgehog94, Shutterstock

2. Mesh Bags for Filter Media

If you are faced with the struggle of your filter media making a loud racket inside the filter from all the media jolting around, a mesh bag will help this situation. All you must do is find a mesh bag lying around, this can be a mesh bag tea holder or even a filter mesh bag from your local fish store.

Once you have added in the filter media, you then tighten the top of the bag until everything is compressed together tightly. Once that step is complete, you can go ahead and stack it in your filter with thick bunches of filter wool on each side. This will help to reduce the noise you are experiencing.

3. DIY Bowl/Vase/Hang-on Wall Bowl Filter

It can be difficult to find a small enough filter for a spherical aquarium, but do not worry, we have a great idea for you! All you need is a miniature tea mesh bag, activated carbon, filter wool, a small air stone, and an air pump. These products can be found for cheap at your local fish store or online and you only need the smallest weight volumes.

Now, layer a small bundle of filter wool at the bottom of the bag, then add a layer of your preferred filter media. Compress the media tightly into the bag and use a spoon to make a deep hole in the center. Once that is complete, add the air stone (connected by tubing) to the hole in the bag and cover it. Then add in a small layer of filter food and tightly seal the mesh bag. Place this DIY filter at the bottom of the bowl and turn the air pump on. You now have a homemade filter and aerator.

goldfish-fishbowl_LUIS-PADILLA-Fotografia-scaled, Shutterstock
Image Credit: LUIS-PADILLA-Fotografia-scaled, Shutterstock

4. Glue for Aquatic Plants

Getting your aquatic plants to stay rooted is difficult. Most aquarium substrates are not strong enough to stop your plants from floating around the tank from the flow of your filter.

Certain glues are safe for aquarium use. A gorilla gel superglue is cheap and safe for aquariums. The gluing process should be done in a tank drained of water which makes it ideal for new aquariums. All you need to do is add a pea size about to the bottom of the plant and glue it in the desired place. This can be the bottom of the aquarium, on the glass, or even on pieces of wood. Let it dry for one hour and then fill the aquarium with water and substrate.

5. Siphon for Water Changes

Most hobbyists are stuck using the outdated bucket method for water changes. The downside to this method is that buckets do not suck up the dirt in the substrate or the bottom of the aquarium.

A new innovation is the Siphon. This is a large plastic cylinder connected to a thick tube. The cylinder is placed at the bottom of the aquarium and the smaller tubing should hang on the outside in a large bucket. If you do not have a siphon with a pump if you can move the cylinder up and down in the water for gravity to move the water through the tubes and into the bucket.

You also have the choice of buying a new siphon tube that is long enough to run from the tank to the sink. These thick tubes can be found for cheap both online and at local fish stores. This method means you do not need to use a bucket and it is great for those who have multiple large tanks and do not want to heave heavy buckets around.

siphoning aquarium
Image Credit: GaViAl, Shutterstock

6. Multiple Airline Tubing Connectors

If you want to save electricity and space, you may only need one air pump for your tanks. You get airline tube connectors that have two or three outlet options. This allows you to plug a small tube into the air pump and then to one end of the connector. Then you can connect the other airline tubes to different aquariums. You must ensure that the air pump is strong enough to push out air for the different tubes and into the tanks.

7. Activated Carbon for Crystal Clear Water

Cloudy tanks are unsightly and hard to get rid of. We all want to be able to see our fish clearly through the glass. Activated carbon is a type of filter media that is excellent and clearing the water. It also reduces the smell of aquariums and can filter through unwanted substances that make their way into the aquarium-like hand lotions, dust, or aerosols.

This is also used by many experienced aquarium keepers as a long-term solution for clear water.

actual use of Neptonion Magnetic Aquarium Fish Tank Glass Algae scrapers

8. Sieve for Washing Gravel

When you get a gravel substrate, it is important to rinse it thoroughly before placing it in the aquarium. An easy way to do this is to purchase a large metal sieve and pouring the gravel into it. The gravel is too small to fall through the holes, but the dust and discoloration fall through the holes when it is rinsed underwater.

This method is more effective than rinsing the gravel in buckets. Once the water runs clear, the substrate is good to go!

9. Battery Air Pump for Power Outages

Power outages can be worrying since the fish are left without an aerator or filter for an extended period.

A solution to this is buying a battery-operated air pump. These pumps run on heavy-duty batteries and are strong enough to run filters and air stones through tubing connected to an air pump. The pumps can be cheap or expensive depending on your preference, but it is good to have a few on hand in case a power outage is happening.

Aquarium set up
Image Credit: Krysja, Shutterstock

10. Slow Down the Filter Flow with Wool

If the flow of your filter is too strong, we have an affordable and easy way to combat this problem. Before you go and spend more money on a new filter, you should give the filter wool method a try.

Take the filter apart and find space for thick bundles of filter wool. If you have an internal cartridge filter, this can be quite easy. You may have to give it a few test runs before you find a flow that works for you. You can also remove or add in more filter wool as you please. This is great for fish that cannot manage strong currents like bettas.

11. Tea for Tannins

Tannins are beneficial to aquatic inhabitants, but some can be too strong or weak for your liking. Not many people know that they may have some great tannin creators in their kitchen.

Natural teas are a great form of tannins for fish and invertebrates. Tannins are antibacterial, antioxidizing, have essential minerals, and also provide a natural look to the water.

Some of the best teas for tannins are:

  • Green tea
  • Rooibos (red bush) tea
  • Hemp seed tea

The teabag label should have no extra additives or herbs as they are not useful for fish or invertebrates and may harm them. The strength of the tannins can be altered by you, and you have the choice of adding a few teabags in overnight or boiling it first and adding in the tannin water to the tank.

12. UV Steriliser Kills Algae

Most algae-removing chemicals can pose a risk to the health of your aquarium even with short-term use. This is because algae removers can harm live plants and invertebrates, or even kill them.

This may be a more expensive route to go for removing algae, but it is worth it. UV sterilizers can run for 6 to 8 hours a day and are very good at killing algae. This should be used in severe situations where the tank has constant algae blooms. It is also effective at clearing green water commonly seen in large tanks or ponds.

13. Less Fish, the Cleaner Aquarium

Hobbyists seemingly enjoy fish so much that will try to keep as many fish in the tank as possible. This can become a problem for the long-term maintenance and water quality of the tank.

The more fish you have in the aquarium, the more waste is being produced which will cause poor water quickly. This is also known as over-stocking the tank. Fully stocked tanks will need more water changes as the ammonia and nitrates will be higher. This means you have to do more water changes and you will also struggle with algae growth and cloudy water.

A good rule to follow for a cleaner and healthier aquarium is to understock it and only keep a decent number of fish and invertebrates in it.

Aquarium
Image: Needpix

14. Handheld Thermometer for Exact Temperature Reference

In larger tanks, the temperature may be different from other areas in the tank. This is because the heater or ambient room temperature will not be able to spread around the entire body of water. If you want to measure the exact temperature in the tank, a handheld thermometer with a metal rod can get you the exact temperature in the specific area. This can also help you decide if you need to add another heater on the opposite side of the tank to keep a stable temperature.

15. Cleaning Filter Tubes with Household Items

Narrow filter tubes are hard to clean. The tubes can easily grow and trap algae, debris, and other unwanted gunk inside. You can use a cotton bud (used for cleaning ears) to scrape away the residue without damaging the delicate tubing.

If you have thicker piping that needs to be cleaned, you can glue a cotton ball to a kebab stick and use it to clean the inside.

If this choice is not working for you, you can buy aquarium tubing cleaner, but it is pricier, and you may not be able to find the right size.

FREESEA Aquarium Wave Maker close-up

16. Remove Duckweed Quickly

Floating duckweed can be difficult to remove, but we have a quick and easy solution for you! All you need is a large or medium-sized aquarium net and a bucket of water.

Now all you need to do is use the net to skim to the surface and collect as much duckweed in the net as possible. Once you have scooped a decent amount, rinse the net in the bucket of water till it is clear of duckweed, and then repeat the process. Your tank will be duckweed-free in a matter of minutes.

17. Glass Cleaner for the Outside

It is important to keep the outside of the glass clean just as it important it is to keep the inside glass clean. This allows you to have a clear view of your aquarium.

You will need a cheap glass cleaning spray and a microfiber cloth. Spray the glass cleaner on the glass surfaces you are going to clean and wipe in a square motion to get a smooth finish. You will notice the difference as soon as you are done! However, this should not be used on the inside of the aquarium.

If you do not have glass cleaner on hand, you can also use white or apple cider vinegar for the same effect!

Small Clear Aquarium

18. Light Timers are a Life Saver

If you are having trouble switching off the lights at the right times because you are too busy, buying an aquarium light with a timer will save you the hassle. If the light is left off for too long (generally over 10 hours), you are going to have unwanted algae growth. Most of us have such busy lives that we forget to switch the light off, or we may be out and about. A light timer will automatically turn the light on and off for you.

A light should be kept on in the daytime for approximately 8 hours and should be switched off before 10 pm so your fish can sleep.

19. Sponge Glass Cleaner

The inside of the glass can get dirt from other residues besides algae. The glass can get covered in natural bacteria and debris that is typically a yellow color. A new kitchen sponge used to clean dishes can be used to wipe the inside of the tank. Once you have covered every surface, you may want to do a quick water change as the residue will float in the water column and cause minor discoloration. If you have an activated carbon filter, this problem should go away within a few hours.

Once the waters are cleared, you will be rewarded with a clear view of your aquatic world.

divider-fishbowlWrapping It Up

All the aquarium hacks are affordable and time savvy, intending to make your fishkeeping journey easy and fun. We hope that this article has helped you learn new things and that some can be put to good use for your aquarium!


Featured Image Credit: M-Production, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.