Your mom was correct: it is always easier to prevent problems than to fix them, and water fountains are no exception. Pay a little attention to the basic issues outlined here and you may well save yourself the hassle and expense of blown fuses, burned out pump motors, major messes, and worse.
Fountain Safety Precautions
Before plugging in your water fountain, always double-check to make sure that the cord is not crimped or constricted by rocks or other materials. Sometimes cord crimps are just accidents, but often they are the direct result of crafters trying very hard to prevent the cord from showing in the finished fountain. If you find yourself tempted by a strong desire to hide the cord, it may not be worth it. It's not worth the safety risk or the risk of frustrating yourself into a completely non-artistic state. Water fountains use electricity to pump the water and electricity requires a cord: it's just that simple.
Another worthwhile precaution is to create a "drip loop" in the electrical cord. A well-crafted drip loop ensures that water dripping out of the fountain and down the electrical cord will fall to the floor, and not drip into the electrical socket.
It's a good idea to always turn off your fountain if you will be gone for several days. If your water fountains are not filled, they can take in air and start spewing water. Left unattended, a spewing fountain can quickly lower the water levels enough to burn out the pump's motor, not to mention soak your furniture or carpet.
Water levels for the Water Fountain
It pays to keep an occasional eye on the water level in your fountain, since water levels that are too low can cause the motor to burn out. (The water level should always cover the pump's intake filters by at least an inch.) Evaporation levels depend on atmospheric moisture levels, and can vary from week to week and location to location. Thirsty pets can also contribute to low water levels. You might find it helpful to connect checking your fountain's water level with another regularly scheduled task such as watering the indoor plants or scrubbing the kitchen floor.
A noticeable decrease in your fountain pump's performance is a good indication that it's time for a cleaning. Plant debris, dead insects, and other items can accumulate around your pump's motor and cause problems. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions that came with your pump for cleaning specifics. A small brush or a stream of water will usually be enough to remove any debris. Replacement filters are also available in many stores or by mail order from the manufacturer.
Mineral deposits from hard water can also cause performance problems. To remove hard water buildup, place your pump in a large plastic bowl, add a bottle of white vinegar, and run the pump for an hour or so. (Do not leave the pump in the vinegar for an extended period of time.) Rinse the pump and the bowl with water, and then run the pump in plain water to clean. To eliminate white scale build up you can use the No More White Scale fountain care product.
If your fountain is difficult to disassemble, the vinegar can be added directly to your fountain as long as your fountain's materials won't react adversely with the vinegar. Test the materials by adding a few drops of vinegar. If you hear a buzzing sound and/or see small bubbles, then the vinegar is reacting and could possibly cause damage. It's important to distinguish between vinegar reacting with a fountain material and vinegar reacting with some type of bacteria or mold that's on the surface of the materials. You can be sure it's the latter by scrubbing a small area and then adding a second drop of vinegar. If it doesn't bubble this time, then you can safely proceed with the vinegar treatment.
Unwelcomed Guests in the Water Fountain
A host of microscopic life forms may welcome your fountain into your home with as much joy as you do. When present in limited numbers, algae, bacteria, and other small life forms can usually coexist in your fountain without causing problems. As their numbers increase, however, your irritation may also increase. Cleaning the water basin with bleach or a bleach substitute every few months may be necessary; just be sure to rinse the fountain well after cleaning. If small children or pets don't have access to your fountain, you might want to explore the many algicides available on the market. There are some non-toxic, all natural water treatment options available. See the description of each in our Water Fountain Cleaning Guide.