Pump maintenance is one of the most overlooked tasks in the typical aquarium. Most reefers don't even think twice about it until one of their pumps stops working. Pumps have to work in a pretty harsh environment, full of algae and debris. To top it all off, reef tanks typically need to have elevated levels of calcium and alkalinity, which causes precipitation and buildup in things like pumps.

Precipitation is what causes the majority of issues. Pumps create at least a small amount of heat which encourages precipitation on their surfaces, in particular the moving parts. If left untouched, it can easily build up until it restricts the movement of the parts.

The best thing to do is add pump maintenance to your normal schedule. It can be as simple as breaking the pump down and giving a quick clean to all of the parts. The hardest stuff to remove is the calcium carbonate precipitation and the coralline algae (which is mostly made of calcium carbonate). The easiest way to remove this is with some sort of acid. There are products that you can buy, like the citric acid sold by Tunze, as well as simple white distilled vinegar. Soak the pumps for an hour and then clean.

There is a pump cleaning kit sold by Tunze. The kit includes a variety of brushes for getting into areas large and small, a towel, and some citric acid. I especially recommend the brush with hard bristles for scrubbing the harder material off of pumps and other surfaces. If you don't need a whole kit, many of these individual brushes are available on the internet as well by searching for test tube or pipe brushes.

I suggest cleaning pumps every few months, but at the very least you should do it twice a year. It will extend the life of your pumps and save you from costly disasters related to pump failure.

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