All aquariums, new and old, require regular maintenance. Daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, and even annual tasks are going to be necessary to keep the tank looking great, keep your equipment in working order, and ensure a healthy environment for the animals inside.  If you're a first-time tank owner, remember this particular maintenance routine is going to be somewhat specific to you, your tank, and your personal lifestyle in terms of what tasks you need to do and when to do them.

Download PDF: Saltwater Aquarium Maintenance Checklist

Daily Tasks - Must Be Performed Every Single Day

  1. Feed fish and other livestock at least 2-3 times per day.
  2. Dose your tank to maintain major elements. This is applicable only to reef tanks and involves using additives like BRS Pharma Two-Part or Tropic Marin All-For-Reef.
  3. Observe livestock for any problems. Knowing what healthy looks like is a big part of your success.
  4. Check water temperature using a separate thermometer to measure the temperature of the water directly and/or check your heater/temperature controller.
  5. Some species of snails cannot right themselves if they have fallen over.  If you find some snails on their back, just turn them over manually, or else they will starve.
  6. Refill your tank with fresh water to replenish water lost to evaporation. This will maintain the salinity and water levels. REMEMBER!! SALT DOESN'T EVAPORATE, only freshwater evaporates so only add fresh filtered RO/DI water back into your tank for daily top-off. The pump chamber in your filtration is the only chamber where the water level changes with evaporation. 
    • **Pro-Tip - Get an ATO - auto top off system, your life will be much easier and your tank will stay more stable. An ATO automatically fills the tank with freshwater for you from a freshwater reservoir.

2x Weekly Tasks - Must Be Done Twice Per Week

  1. Scrape and clean the glass to remove algae and build-up. It's not a bad idea to clean your filters chambers as well. If you neglect this task on a regular basis, cleaning becomes far more difficult, not to mention the tank looks gross. 
  2. Change out filter sock and/or filter sponges and pads. You need to clean or replace your mechanical filtration on a very regular basis otherwise all the debris these filters catch will not be removed from the water.
  3. Fill your ATO freshwater reservoir.  Whether you're using an ATO or not, you need to always have fresh RO/DI water on hand to top off the tank.

Weekly Tasks - Performed Once Per Week

  1. Water testing: Ammonia and nitrate are critical during the first few months as the tank cycles and you stock the tank. After the tank is cycled and established, you should monitor nitrate, phosphate, salinity, and temperature.  
  2. Feeding corals and/or anemones: Broadcast or target feed your corals and anemones to ensure complete nutrition.  While these animals are photosynthetic, they really benefit from regular feeding which helps with both coloration and growth. Just don't overdo it, feeding corals and anemones too much leads to excessive waste.
  3. Visually inspect all of your equipment - pumps, filters, heaters, etc.  Ensure they are operating correctly and nothing is clogging or blocking them up. 
  4. Clean your skimmer cup - sometimes better done twice per week but at least once per week. It's stinky, doing it more often is better for both your household and the skimmer performance. Just empty the contents, wipe out the muck and build-up, then rinse it in hot water.
  5. Wipe down the tank to remove spots and any salt spray or creep. DON'T USE GLASS CLEANER, IT'S TOXIC.  Instead, use fresh RO/DI water or aquarium glass cleaner. 
  6. Replace activated carbon if you are using it.
  7. Perform your water change - hands down the best maintenance task you can do to benefit your aquariums overall health.

Watch Video: Why Water Changes Matter Most for Your Saltwater Aquarium! - Ep: 25

Semi-Monthly Tasks - Performed At Least Twice Per Month

  1. Clean your sand bed with a gravel vacuum. You can clean the sand with your weekly water change but you should be sure and give it a thorough cleaning at least twice a month to keep it looking nice and avoid excessive detritus build up. 
  2. Remove salt creep - be sure to do this regularly because if you neglect it, it just gets worse. Salt creep collects on the rim of your tank, overflow, and sump filtration. 
  3. Make RO/DI water and fill your freshwater reservoir. If you don't have an RO/DI system, go buy some freshwater for your ATO
  4. Siphon and clean out the rear filtration chamber if you have an AIO tank or siphon and clean out your sump. 

Monthly Tasks - Performed At Least Once Per Month

  1. Replace your GFO or other optimal chemical filter media like ChemiPure or Purigen. While carbon should be replaced weekly, GFO and other chemical media can last as long as 4-6 weeks. Of course, this only applies to tanks that require the use of chemical media. We only recommend GFO and other media be used on an as-needed basis.