Welcome to cffm.net! We are here to help answer any questions you may have about fresh and saltwater aquarium maintenance. This site is intended to be a resource for people who wish to perform their own aquarium maintenance. Most companies out there charge upwards of $85/hr. to “professionally” clean your office or home fish tank, so it makes good financial sense to want to clean your fish tank on your own. There are many facets to cleaning your own tank, such as: reef chemistry, fish behavior, lighting, protein skimmers, phosphate reactors and various mechanical parts such as over hang boxes and return pumps. While each tank set up is slightly different from the next, we will cover the basics and the give you links to more resources in each section of this website. Cleaning a tank is much more than changing 10-15% of water each week, the filter sock (if applicable) and scraping any algae off the tank walls. We will break down each part into sections and give you an overview of what it’s going to take to get the job done.

Water changes

For both fresh and saltwater fish and reef tanks, regular water changes help ensure pristine water. You also help export bad and harmful nutrients that could negative affect the quality of life for both fish, invertebrates and corals. You should be changing around 5% to 10% of your total water volume each week. At this point in time, it’s wise to change out any filter socks, as well as clean out any gunk or biological obstructions in the filter area. Some tanks use a mechanical filter and others use an overhang box on the bank of the tank that has one or two hoses that feed water down into the sump of the aquarium. Check to make sure there are not any obstructions such as hair algae or other debris that could otherwise impede water flow. For reef tanks, there are many schools of thought on which water is best: synthetic or actual ocean water. For those who live in inland states in America, sometimes synthetic water is all that is available. We here are cffcm.net believe that synthetic water is superior to ocean water. Synthetic salt water is professional created and all the nutrients and minerals that your tank needs is included.

Reef and Water Chemistry

Each tank requires different parameters to ensure a healthy environment for fish, invertebrates and corals alike. It is impossible to go over every single application, and we advise you visit one of the resources we linked to at the bottom of this website for more information about your current tank set up. There are, however, several parameters that you should constantly be aware of, and checking for:

  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Phosphates
  • Chlorine (usually not an issue if using ro/di water)

These are the “4 bad ones”. While nitrates are a byproduct of nitrites, you should aim to keep a very low level of each. Phosphates in high concentrations are extremely bad for reef tanks and chlorine is something you want 0ppm in your water. There are various water test kits you can purchase, both online and offline. Any local pet store should carry the test strips, wherein you take a thin strip of paper and dip it into the water. Depending on the color that it turns, it will show you the levels of nitrates, nitrites and phosphates in your water column.


One of the most tedious parts of saltwater fish tank maintenance is the scraping of algae off the sides of your tank walls. For glass tanks, we recommend using a metal razor blade (sold in pet stores) and applying gentle pressure to remove the nuisance algae. For acrylic tanks, you need to be extremely careful as a sharp metal edge will scrape up the sides of your tank very quickly. Sometimes a scraper that has a felt tip works the best.


This video describes the basic tenets of aquarium maintenance.


Q: Where can I find aquarium maintenance service in the area that I live in?
A: You can perform a Google search, or you can ask for a referral from your local fish store. Such companies as Orange County Aquarium Maintenance offer fish tank cleaning services for homes and businesses in the Orange County, California area.

Q: What is the cost of cleaning tanks professionally?
A: It really depends on the company. We have seen it as low as $50/hr and as high as $125/hr. You should ask around and get a few quotes before you sign any contracts or commit to any services. You will also be required to pay for any additional materials, such as water, coral, rocks, plants, fish and/or nutrients added to the tank.

Q: Do you service houses purchase in Beverly Hills or sold by Michael Libow?
A: Yes, we service all of Orange County and Los Angeles areas. We have a special arrangement with Mr. Libow in which we give his customers 50% off their first month’s invoice.


Here are a few resources you can view in order to help you make the best decision when it comes time to performing your own fish tank maintenance:

1. Freshwater Change

2. Saltwater maintenance

3. Saltwater Reef forums