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Weekly partial water changes are good for your aquarium and the fish living in it. Many good suggestions have been made here. Just use your common sense and take the advice that makes the most sense to you.

-never use soap
-leave the fish in the tank
-check your water parameters, if you don't know how, take a sample of your aquarium water to your LFS and ask them to test it, they usually will.

Your fish died because the tank had not completely cycled and there was too much of a bio-load on the tank. It's a common mistake to put plecos in a new tank. You can't, trust me, I found out the hard way years ago. Plecos will die in an uncycled tank every time. Good luck.
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