How To Clean A Fish Tank? – An Extensive Step By Step Guide!

Written by Dennis

How to clean a fish tank?’ – is one of the most frequently and widely asked questions by the fish tank keepers on the internet. However, you will be surprised to know, that cleaning the fish tank is even easier than fish keeping.

Although at first, it seems really overwhelming, cleaning a fish tank is not a daunting task at all. Needless to say, effective cleaning is essential to keep the fishes thriving. So, when I am mentioning easy, you may be questioning ‘how effective it will be?’

Well, I am in this hobby for more than 10 years now, so I think, I am experienced enough to help you out with the easy cleaning steps which will also be efficient enough to keep your tank ideal for your fishes.

Steps Of Cleaning a Fish Tank 

  • Measures to reduce tank cleaning frequency.
  • Siphon cleaning of the aquarium gravels.
  • Cleaning the aquarium decorations and fixtures.
  • Getting rid of algae from the rocks or woods.
  • Cleaning the inside without getting scratches.
  • Safe cleaning of the outer housing of the tank.
  • Buffing The Tank to hide minor scratches.

Fish Tank Maintenance Tips 

Instead of asking, ‘how to properly clean a fish tank?‘, it is crucial that you must know how to maintain the tank so that you do not need to do the frequent cleaning. As it will both save your time and effort.

Here are some tips to keep your fish tank as clean as possible.

Steps That Will Reduce Your Tank Cleaning Frequency

If you are a beginner, then maybe you are also confused about the fact that ‘how often you should clean fish tank?’

To be very frank, it depends on the hygiene of the tank.

Poor hygiene of your fish tank will increase algae formation, and make your aquarium grimy. Also, it is not possible to clean the tank, again and again, to get rid of those, ridiculous dirt and debris. Below are some of the easy maintenance tricks that will reduce your frequency of tank cleaning and give you a clean tank for days.

  • Keeping Tank Cleaner Fish: 

Believe it or not, catfishes are the best tank cleaners that you can have for you. But not all of them are equally capable of accomplishing the cleaning task. The Otocinclus, Twig, and Corydoras Catfishes are the most suitable tank cleaning fish varieties.

These types of catfishes are bottom dwellers and continuously hunt for foods. They eat up algae from gravels, decorative plants, and even from your fish tank glass. Clearly, to keep the growth of algae under control, these fishes are must-haves.

  • Stuffing The Tank With Shrimps: 

Algae and decaying plant matters are the favorite foods of colorful shrimps. As shrimps are really small in size, you can easily stuff 4 – 5 of them in a nano tank of 2 gallons. So, if you are asking, ‘how to clean a small fish tank or keep it tidy?’ then I will definitely suggest you to have this cleaning crew.

  • Proper Lighting: 

Bright lights often increase the growth of algae. So, proper lighting is crucial to keep your tank clean and tidy.

You can avail many decorative lighting for your fish tank, but before buying any of those you must keep the watts per gallon rule in mind. It is strictly advised to keep 1.5 watts of fluorescent light per gallon and 2 – 2.5 watts per gallon for CFLs.

LED lights can also be suitable. However, keeping the photoperiod (duration of lighting) in the track is essential too, as, putting on your light for longer duration works as a catalyst in algae formation. So, it is recommended to use the lights daily for 6-8 hours only. Using more than that may affect the tank environment.

  • Using A Canister Filter:

Canister filters are highly recommended for fish tanks, as the 3 stage cleaning process of the filter will keep your tank safe from all kind of unwanted substances, that might build up in layers under the substrate and affect the health of the fishes.

Needless to say, if the layer comes into contact with the waterline, it will make the tank dirty. As, canister filters clean the water biologically, chemically and mechanically, you can easily get rid of these filthy particles.

  • Using A Reverse Osmosis Filter: 

Normal tap water will increase the chances of scaling in your glass tank, as unfiltered waters are added with impurities. So to minimize such chances, you can filter your water with the reverse osmosis filters, that purifies the water through channelizing it up to 4 – 5 cleaning stages.

Filling up the tank with clean water will not only keep your fishes in good health but also decrease the chances of dirt and scale formation.

How To Clean A Fish Tank? –  Step By Step Guide

Every fish tank has its own colony of beneficial bacteria. Now, if you clean the tank without following certain measures, it may be the case, that you will end up affecting the colony or completely tearing it down.

In that situation, your tank may face a sudden spike of ammonia because there will be not enough bacteria left to eliminate the toxins.

So, to keep your fish tank clean as well as safe for your fishes to thrive in, make sure to follow the guide with care.

Steps Of Cleaning A Fish Tank

  • Using a siphon cleaner for cleaning aquarium gravels.
  • The process to clean the inside and outside of the fish tank.
  • Cleaning algae from decorations and fixtures.
  • Cleaning aquarium rocks.
  • How to clean a fish tank filter?

How To Clean A Fish Tank Gravels Using The Siphon Cleaner? 

Needless to say, before cleaning the fish tank, you need to take out all the aquatic lives safely and place them in a separate tank, using the old tank water. But while doing that make use, the tank or the bucket you choose is only for keeping the fishes only.

Don’t use an old bucket, as it may have patches of soap or detergent in it.  And it will severely affect the health of the fishes.  So using a brand new bucket will be a good solution.

Now it’s time to empty the tank water and clean the substrate. For that, you can use the siphon cleaner for aquarium gravel, as it is the best way to clean the substrate effectively.

Follow the below steps to clean the aquarium gravels.

  • Take a bucket and place it on a stool, in front of the aquarium.
  • Now, take the wider end of the siphon and insert it slightly deep within the gravel.
  • If your siphon does not have a gravel vacuum, then you will need to keep the siphon a little bit higher than the layer of gravel but within the tank water.
  • Place the other end of the siphon into the bucket.
  • If you are using a cleaner with the long hose it will be hassle free.
  • Now, to start the siphon, suck the open end slightly above the bucket but lower than the other end in the aquarium until water starts to come out.
  • Keep the water coming until there is only 10 – 15% left out.

If you feel like that the gravels are yet not properly cleaned then, you can fill some water and then start siphon cleaning again, until you are satisfied enough.

How To Clean A Fish Tank Glass Inside and Outside?

  • How To Clean A Fish Tank From Inside?

To clean the glass fish tank from inside use an algae pad for proper scrubbing. You can avail a wide variety of scrub pads from handheld scrubbers to magnetic rings, but I will recommend you to go with the algae scrub pads.

Although, the kitchen scrub pads look like same that of the algae scrubbing ones, do not ever use those for your aquarium. As the soap and detergent leftovers are lethal to your aquatic lives. For stubborn spots on the glasses, you can use a razor sharp blade to scratch those out.

In case, you have an acrylic tank, use the plastic razor blades, as standard blades will scratch the tank.

You can also clean fish tank with vinegar. Especially the 1:1 solution of white vinegar and water is said to be an awesome tank cleaner. I will discuss it in detail in the decoration cleaning section.

  • How To Clean A Fish Tank From The Outside?

Many glass cleaners contain ammonia in them. Though it is outside of the tank, I will highly recommend you not to use any cleaner before ensuring it is safe for your aquarium. Some lime cleaners are also added with ammonia. So, it is better to use cleaners dedicated for aquariums only.

How To Clean Algae Off Fish Tank Decorations And Fixtures? 

Fish tank decorations and fixtures usually get highly affected by algae build up. To remove all those stubborn tacky things, the best you can do is to submerge them in a vinegar solution.

Just take a big container to completely submerge all those decorations, then fill it up with 1:1 white vinegar and water solution. Keep them submerged for 15 – 20 minutes. It will remove all the debris.

If you want, you can use a brush and clean them off again. Now the most important part is to rinse, rinse and rinse until the decorations are properly cleaned.

How To Clean Fish Tank Rocks? 

The reason why I separated the cleaning technique of aquarium decorations and rocks, is that vinegar solution will react with lime stones. Hence if you have a decoration made of limestone, you cannot use the vinegar solution.

The acid will react with the carbonate ions and form bubbles, and this reaction will cause erosion. Clearly, it is an unsuitable process to clean the rocks.

Using bleach solution will be the perfect technique. Just add a half cup of bleach per gallon water, and soak the rocks for 10 – 15 minutes. You will see algae floating off; clearly it will be the sign that you need to rinse the rocks now.

How To Clean A Fish Tank Filter?

Instead of ‘how to clean a fish tank filter?’, ‘when to clean it?’ will be the appropriate question for you.

Because, most of the aquarist tend to clean the filter along with the fish tank, which is indeed one of the worst cleaning mistakes.

As, every fish tank has a colony of beneficial bacteria, after cleaning the aquarium, it is natural that they will be gone.

So this must be done only after you read extensively on the subject. We are going to publish a detailed guide on this soon.

Wrap Up:

You are all done now. The last step includes refilling the tank, decorating it and fixing all the equipment correctly. Then release the fishes into their new clean housing. I am sure the view of the tank will give you a peace of mind. And if you still have any doubts about how to properly clean your fish tank, please leave a comment below and we will help you.

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