How to Clean Your Fish Tank
There are a lot of reasons to own a pet fish. Compared to owning a dog or cat, they’re far cheaper, and a lot easier to maintain. They don’t cause a mess around the house, and they don’t cause noise, either. Of course, you can’t cuddle with them or pet them, but other than that, there’s not much to hate about them.
With that being said, however, owning a fish does require a bit of maintenance every now and then. The most important chore you need to do on a regular basis is cleaning the fish tank. Fish tanks aren’t nearly as big as a lake or ocean, and the water’s stagnant, so it can accumulate dirt and algae over time.
If you don’t know how to clean your fish tank, don’t worry – you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a simple guide to cleaning fish tanks that’ll keep your pets’ homes spick and span.
A quick note before we explain the process, though – no, you don’t need to remove your fish while cleaning the tank. As long as you’re careful with your cleaning, the fish won’t be harmed at all. Besides, having to catch them individually and place them somewhere else can be a challenge on its own.
Prepare the necessary materials and equipment
Of course, to clean the fish tank, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Specifically, here’s what you’ll be needing:
- A bucket
- An algae scraper
- Razorblade (Plastic or metal, depending on the type of fish tank)
- Water siphon
- A towel
- Aquarium-safe glass cleaners
- Bleach (Optional)
- Chlorine remover (if you use bleach)
- Aquarium filter brush and media
Let’s go through each one by one to explain what they’re used for.
The bucket will be used for holding the decorations and plants in the tank. Not only do you want to remove them to make the tank easier to clean, but you’ll also want to clean them too. The scraper and razorblade will be used to get rid of the algae that grow inside the aquarium walls. You’ll want to use the algae scraper as much as possible, as it’s the preferred tool. However, if some spots are just too difficult to remove with the scraper, don’t be afraid to use the razorblade instead. A metal razorblade works fine as long as the aquarium isn’t made of acrylic – if it is, use plastic instead.
The water siphon serves two purposes. For one, it vacuums up the debris that gathers up in the gravel. Aside from this, as the name suggests, it siphons water in and out. The siphon brings in new water as it sucks up the existing water in the tank.
You’ll be needing a towel or cloth and aquarium-safe glass cleaners for the outside of the tank. Be sure to get aquarium-safe cleaners, as regular glass and lime cleaners contain toxic components that can kill the fish. If you can’t get your hands on a cleaner, a vinegar solution works as an effective (albeit smelly) substitute.
Then, there’s the bleach and chlorine remover. When cleaning your decorations and plants, you’ll want to use the algae scraper as much as possible. But if they’re too difficult to clean with the tool, bleach works fine. You won’t be using pure bleach, of course – just a mixture of it. The chlorine remover will be used to get rid of any remaining chlorine in the decorations if you haven’t left them out to dry for long enough.
Finally, there’s the aquarium filter brush and media. The aquarium filter should be cleaned separately from the rest of the setup. Ideally, you’ll be cleaning the filter a couple of weeks after cleaning everything else. We’ll explain why shortly.
Get rid of the algae inside the glass
To start the cleaning process, you’ll want to get rid of the algae that grow inside the tank. Depending on the size or shape of the tank and its condition, it may take you a few minutes to up to half an hour. Apply a decent amount of force, but be careful not to apply too much pressure on the glass while doing so. Ignore any tough spots as you go along with the scraper.
Once you’ve gone through the whole tank with the scraper, you can finish up with the razorblades. Again, be mindful of the type of tank you own, and use the appropriate razorblade. The last thing you’d want is scratches all over your beautiful acrylic tank.
Clean the decorations inside the tank
Get your bucket filled with dechlorinated water and place all your decorations, rocks, and plants in them. Give them a good cleaning with the algae scraper, and if that isn’t enough, use a 10% chlorine solution to kill the algae and bacteria, soaking them for 15 minutes or so. Be sure to leave the rocks and decorations out to dry to get rid of the chlorine afterward, or use a chlorine remover instead.
Use the water siphon to clean the gravel
Now for the vacuuming. Use the water siphon to suck up any debris that’s found in the gravel. Be sure to connect the siphon to a bucket with dechlorinated water at the same temperature as the water in the tank. Any temperature change in the water can be bad for your fish.
Clean the outside of the tank with the cleaner and towel
Finish up the first cleaning phase by wiping the cleaner or vinegar solution around your tank. Again, be mindful of applying only moderate pressure on the tank as you clean.
Clean the filter a couple of weeks afterward
The reason why you clean the filter later is that it is home to plenty of bacteria that cleans your aquarium. Cleaning the aquarium usually gets rid of these bacteria, but by keeping the filter as is, you can allow the bacteria to repopulate. After two to three weeks, feel free to replace the filter.
Cleaning a fish tank can be challenging the first time you do it. Over time, however, you’ll find that it’s not as difficult as it seems.