Most saltwater aquarists agree that one of the most time consuming and dreaded aquarium chores can be cleaning algae from the rocks, substrate and walls of an aquarium. A certain amount of algae in an aquarium is natural, expected and actually a good sign of a healthy aquarium. Unfortunately, excessive algae can be a real problem and trying to keep it from over running everything in your tank can be very time consuming as well as frustrating.
Preventing unwanted algae blooms to begin with is obviously the best route to take, but not having to deal with the algae that gets through the preventive measures on a daily basis can go a long ways in saving aquarium maintenance time.
Selecting the right Tank Janitors (also known as Clean Up Crews, Reef Cleaner Packs, etc) can almost eliminate the time spent cleaning algae. Many people just throw a handful of Snails and/or Hermit Crabs in their tanks and expect all the algae to miraculously disappear forever. Unfortunately, it doesn't really happen that way in real aquariums.
Snails are great algae eaters. Unfortunately, some of them will also destroy corals, while others won't tread on your substrate no matter how much food is out there. Some snails and hermit crabs won't come anywhere near Red Slime Algae, but will devour Green Hair Algae by the bucketful. Some hermit crabs will also dine on that coralline algae you are so proud of. One size of algae eaters does not fit all situations.
Picking the right Reef Safe Sand Sifters and Rock and Glass Cleaners can go a long ways in reducing the time you need to spend cleaning algae from your tank. They won't get every bit of it, but running an algae magnet over your aquarium glass a couple of times per week doesn't take much time at all.
Time required to run an algae magnet over your tank glass: 20 seconds
Most saltwater aquarium filtration systems do not require daily maintenance. If your filtration system does require daily or even frequent maintenance in order to function at its optimum level, you might want to take a serious look at upgrading it with a more efficient filtration system.
Most filtration systems include a mechanical filter to capture large and small particulate matter. It is this mechanical filter material which requires the most frequent maintenance (cleaning or replacement). The other filtration (biological, chemical) materials also require periodic, but less frequent maintenance.
The time required to service the mechanical filter material (usually a floss type material) in a canister varies by the model of filter. The Fluval filters are the easiest to service because the material is located on the side of the filter. Other canister filters, such as the Rena Filstar, have their mechanical filters in the bottom of the 3-5 filter trays.
With either of these filters, if the filter material is simply replaced with a clean filter pad, rather than removing the material, cleaning it, then replacing it. Store the soiled materials in a container of water and rinse them when you have several to clean.
This may not save you much time overall, but the time required to have the filter turned off and the components spread all over your kitchen counter is much shorter. This is an example of how the Fluval's design makes filter maintenance faster and easier. Replacing the Fluval mechanical filter material can takes less than a minute and can be done without moving the filter.
Top Canister Filter Picks will give you an idea of what is available on the market today as well as how much you can expect to pay for them.
The biological filter material (bio-balls, bio-bales, ceramic rings, etc.) require periodic cleaning to remove matter which has bypassed whatever mechanical filter is used in a system. Normally, only a portion of the biological filter material is cleaned at one time, in order to avoid weakening the filter.
Containerizing the biological filter material in smaller portions makes it much easier to remove only part of the material for cleaning. Plastic containers and mesh bags work well for this. One word of caution, though: The fine material that the small mesh filter media bags are constructed of will impede water flow through them. The water has a tendency to bounce off the mesh and flow around the media, rather than flow through it.
Top Wet/Dry Trickle Filters will give you an idea of what is available on the market today as well as how much you can expect to pay for them.