If it’s that time to clean your fish tank you came to the right place. Before you start the entire process of cleaning your fish tank you will want to follow this guide so that you don’t destroy the bacteria colonies that filter out fish waste.
Of course, if your tank is beyond the threshold of tolerable cleaning, then you might want to start from scratch with a complete hard-core scrubbing and buying new tank decorations.
How to Clean Your Fish Tank
Short of a complete dirt fish tank, a bit of hard scrubbing and the right cleaning tools your fish tank can be as good as new in a short period of time.
Cleaning Supplies You Will Need Before Starting
- A water siphon
- Lots of paper towels
- Filter Brush
- Fish tank safe lime remover and glass cleaner
- A straight edged blade such as a razor blade or a plastic blade for tanks made from acrylic
- Large “aquarium only” bucket
- Algae pad or scraper
- New filter
- An old towel that can get nasty
Once you have all your tools for the task of cleaning your fish tank you will want to proceed in a specific order to ensure the easiest route for a good deep clean.
Start with Cleaning The Interior Glass On Your Tank
Begin with an algae pad on the outside glass surfaces. Make sure the algae pad you use is intended specifically for cleaning fish tanks as these lack chemical residues that non-conforming pads may contain.
Choosing the right algae pad is essential. You will want one that is has a comfortable grip such as a long handle scrubber that can reach tight areas. There are many on the market to choose from. You may want to experiment around until you find one that you like.
The algae pad won’t quite get everything, and this might be where you need to break out your straight edge razor blade to clean those pesky stains. Just be careful as these suckers tend to be sharp. If your tank is NOT made of glass, such as an acrylic tank, take note and use a plastic version of a razor blade.
With a bit of elbow grease and muscle, your tank’s glass will be clean as a whistle using this technique.
Next, Clean the stones, rocks and fish tank décor
Start by removing the heaviest algae offenders that have noticeable build up. You will want to only use an algae brush or pad on your decorations. Avoid soaps at all costs. Soap is hard to completely remove once clean and this can have unwanted effects on your fish such as death. Remove all castles, rocks, and plants and scrub thoroughly outside the fish tank.
You may wind up with some stubborn algae build up that a brush can’t quite handle. But don’t worry, there is a solution. Simply mix a 10% bleach solution with water and place the stubborn offenders in this bath for about 15 to 20 minutes. After they are done soaking begin by wiping off the excess algae build-up. This should be easy to do if you followed this step.
From there, rinse thoroughly under running water, then let them air dry which will remove any bleach runoff.
*Note – for living, breathing plants, if they are NOT typical stem plants they can be bleached as well. But do keep in mind, you will want to reduce the strength of your bleach/water solution to around 5% and only soak them for no more than 2 minutes. Once complete, rinse them very well.
Aquarium Gravel Siphon Technique For Cleaning Your Tank’s Gravel
Once you are down to only the gravel in your fish tank, meaning you have removed all fish tank decorations, you can now vacuum the smaller gravel. This will stop algae coated gravel from contaminating other parts of your décor by doing it in this order.
There are different kinds of siphons available but they all act in the same manner. Their purpose is to remove larger pieces of gunk in the tank by vacuuming it up and filtering out larger particles and returning smaller gunk to the tank.
Vacuum the tank’s gravel more than you think you have to. Gravel moves around quite a bit because of its tiny structure to be very thorough when performing this step.
Cleaning Fish Tank Fixtures and Outside Glass
After everything inside is clean such as décor, plants, and gravel, it’s time to move onto the filter, fixtures and the glass on the exterior portion of the fish tank. Be sure to use approved cleaning solutions that are suitable for fish tanks. Store bought cleaners can contain some chemicals that will hurt or kill your fish even with trace amounts of chemicals left over after cleaning.
Vinegar can also be used to safely clean this portion of your aquarium but always rinse more thoroughly than you think you must. Even with approved fish tank cleaners.
Return Your Clean Décor To The Tank
Once the above has been completed, it is safe to return all your fancy fish tank decorations back into the tank. Place them however you want and create a nice place for your fish to live. They will thank you!
Wait 2 Whole Weeks To Replace The Filter
It sounds counterintuitive but the truth is, if you replace the filter sooner, the friendly bacteria we talked about earlier will be destroyed. This can have catastrophic effects on the water balance. Ammonia will soon spike and essentially poison your fish.
There is typically a build-up of eco-friendly bacteria that live in your filter. If they are removed right after a tank clean, they cannot help filter out the waste in your tank’s water.
Be sure to also take the time to clean out the tubes and lines in your filter at this stage. By now important bacteria will have a sufficient population in the entire tank to do their jobs.
There you have it!
This is a good start to getting your tank clean. In the meantime, you will want to create an ongoing schedule to maintain your tank between cleaning. This will keep your fish happy as well as reduce the time it takes to clean moving forward.
Clean the glass weekly, change the filter every month and siphon the rocks whenever you switch out the tank’s water.
With a bit of care, your tank will be the envy of all fish in the neighborhood.