Cleaning an aquarium is, no doubt, an essential part of a fish owner’s responsibility. Keep in mind that fish need chemically balanced and clean water to survive and thrive. With proper maintenance and regular cleaning, you are creating a delicately and exquisitely balanced ecosystem where your fish can live for several years.
And guess what? Keeping your fish tank immaculately clean does not have to be extremely hard.
On the surface, cleaning an aquarium seems like a tall order and a remarkably hectic task. But, with a little know-know and a few tools, you can quickly and conveniently clean your aquarium and create a safe haven for your fish.
Truthfully, keeping your fish tank fresh, hygienic and sparkling is like doing some routine maintenance for your home appliances or car.
And, in this article, I am going to teach you how to clean aquariums the right way to avoid a nasty headache and a disaster.
- Why You Should Clean Your Fish Tank
- Regular Aquarium Maintenance
- How to Clean the Aquarium for Freshwater Fish
- How to Clean Saltwater Aquarium
Why You Should Clean Your Fish Tank
When we say clean your aquarium, what we are actually suggesting is to maintain your fish tank through changes in its water.
And, these changes in water do not just improve the aesthetics of your aquarium. As a matter of fact, it restores as well as maintains a perfectly balanced fish tank by diluting and physically harmful chemicals. Furthermore, it helps replenish the crucial elements of your aquatic ecosystem.
Here are the main reasons why you should clean your aquarium regularly.
- Reduces unhealthy and harmful compounds – Nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia can cause health problems to your fish.
- Gets rid of decaying waste materials – Your aquarium’s decomposing organic waste will release harmful chemicals, like phosphates and nitrogenous products.
- Replenishes essential minerals and trace elements – Fish, in their natural habitat, get a consistent supply of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals.
- Improves water clarity – A cleaner tank ensures your water is not discolored or cloudy.
Regular Aquarium Maintenance
Before I unveil the techniques to cleaning an aquarium, let us first discuss the weekly and daily maintenance tasks. While it may seem not-so-important, these maintenance tasks ensure your aquarium remains healthy in between cleaning sessions.
Daily Aquarium Maintenance
- From time to time, check all the fish in your aquarium. See if they are injury-free and are behaving normally.
- Feed your finned pet a couple of times a day, and remove food leftovers after 5 minutes. That way, you are preventing any unconsumed food from decomposing and affecting the aquarium water quality.
- Check the specific gravity and temperature of the water. Checking these parameters every day lets you make adjustments when needed.
Weekly Aquarium Maintenance
- Do a quick check of your fishkeeping equipment like lighting and aquarium canister filter at least once a week. This is just a brief check-up to see if everything is properly working. You can check the rest thoroughly as you clean the aquarium.
- Check the water quality by measuring the levels of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. You may either have your aquarium water tested at a local fish store, or buy your own testing kit. I prefer the latter because home kits are so easy to use and are rather effective.
How to Clean the Aquarium for Freshwater Fish
Cannot wait to get into the action? Here is the detailed, step-by-step guide on how to clean your aquarium for your freshwater fish.
1. Get Your Equipment and Supplies Ready
Start your aquarium cleaning task by making sure that you have all the supplies and equipment needed.
- Water testing kit
- Aquarium water conditioner
- Aquarium vacuum
- Bucket (5 gallons)
- Magnet or algae pad
- Algae scraper (such as straightedge or scrubby pad)
- Plastic or metal razor blade (optional)
2. Prepare Your New Aquarium Water
It is best to prepare new tank water the night before you do the actual aquarium cleaning.
If you are using faucet or tap, your water likely contains a ton of unwanted, harmful elements, such as chlorine, toxins, and heavy metals. Although not harmful to humans, these elements can make your fish sick or even kill them.
Also, the water temperature from your tap might not have the ideal temperature and conditions.
For best and safe results, fill up your bucket with water, and add a water conditioner. Afterward, let the water sit overnight.
This helps in evaporating the chlorine as well as makes your water safer and healthier for your fish.
Moreover, it brings the water in your bucket to room temperature. And, it reduces the likelihood of your aquarium’s temperature having some dramatic change.
If you are having issues with pH or water hardness, you may use this period to make changes to your impending new aquarium water.
Also, do not forget to check the water parameters and see if they are in their ideal levels before you add the water to your aquarium.
Check out this detailed video tutorial on using tap water for aquariums:
3. Prepare Your Aquarium
Position your water heater, if you are using one, in a way that it will remain fully submerged as you are siphoning out the old aquarium water.
If your aquarium water gets exposed, it might overheat or crack and eventually break. If there is no way to position your heater, you may turn it off for a short while.
Also, I suggest that you turn off your filter during the process.
4. Clean the Aquarium’s Sides Using the Algae Pad
Run the algae pad along the glass and scrub the algae that are sticking to the fish tank. If you stumble upon a difficult residue patch, use a plastic blade or razor blade to scrape it off the aquarium glass.
- You can also do this step after taking out 10 to 20 percent of the aquarium water.
- Avoid using the scrubber or sponge from your kitchen sink. Also, do not use anything that might have the residue of cleaning chemicals like detergent. A tank-only and clean algae pad prevents detergents and harmful chemicals from getting inside your tank.
- Wear a pair of fish tank gloves to complete this step, especially if you are somewhat allergic to synthetic salt mix or anything else in the tank.
5. Clean the Decorations
With your algae pad, scrub the decorations of your aquarium lightly. Alternatively, you may remove them if you are struggling to clean them inside the aquarium.
Once removed, use the pad to clean the aquarium’s decorations. Do not use boiling water or bleach to clean them.
Both boiling water and bleach will kill their beneficial bacteria. Also, if you are going to use bleach, it might poison your finned pets.
6. Siphon the Aquarium Water and Clean its Substrate
Start this process by siphoning the water of your tank directly into your bucket. Ideally, you should buy a bucket that should only be used for this purpose.
Keep in mind that if you use it for home cleaning, the bucket will have residues from detergents and soaps, which can be harmful to your aquatic creatures.
As you siphon the water out, go carefully through the tank’s gravel, and remove as much food leftover and waste as possible.
- Keep siphoning the tank water until 10 to 15 percent of it has been removed and transferred into your bucket.
- If you are using sand on your fish tank, do not use the aquarium vacuum like a typical shovel. Use the vacuum’s hose part, and hold it about an inch from its surface to suck up waste. Trust me, this technique will not disturb your tank’s sand.
- If your fish are quite small and are worried about vacuuming these creatures, you should put a brand new stocking on the siphon’s end. Just make sure that the mesh has enough space for the debris to enter.
Check out this cool video tutorial on cleaning an aquarium:
7. Rinse Your Aquarium’s Filter Media
You are not going to replace your aquarium’s filter media. Changing water and replacing filter media will remove a whole lot of bacteria, which upsets the chemistry of your tank water.
Ultimately, this will cause a shock to your fish.
If you think it is extremely dirty, just give it a rinse.
And, avoid using tap water when rinsing a filter media. Instead, use the water in the bucket that you individually purchased for aquarium cleaning purposes.
Remember, the tap water’s chlorine content will kill all the healthy bacteria living in your aquarium’s filter.
8. Pour the New Fish Tank Water
With a thermometer, check if the water’s temperature is within the ideal range for your aquarium.
A dramatic water temperature shift can kill your finned pets. Once you get the ideal water temperature, carefully refill your fish tank.
Also, keep in mind that your aquatic pets need some space between the top of the tank and water. Give them the space they need, so that they will have enough carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange to breathe.
By the way, you might consider buying a superior quality aquarium pump if you are struggling to lift the bucket to the edge of the tank.
How to Clean Saltwater Aquarium
Need some cleaning tips for your saltwater aquarium? Then, spend some time reading these tips and guidelines!
1. Prepare the Water
To clean a saltwater aquarium, first, you need to mix a solution for it. Additionally, the water’s salinity, pH level, and temperature must be all within the ideal range for your saltwater fish.
You should perform this process the night before cleaning the bank. And, be sure to purchase reverse osmosis or distilled water from the local grocery store.
- Put the water in a clean bucket (plastic and should only be used for this specific purpose)
- With a specialized heater (can be bought at pet stores), heat the water.
- Pour the salt mix into the water. There are plenty of salt mix solutions available at fish pet stores. Just follow the instructions stated on the label. Generally, you should add ½ cup of this mixture for every gallon of water.
- As you mix the salt, aerate the water.
- Check the water’s salinity in the morning, with a salinity probe, a hygrometer, or a refractometer. Ideally, you should have a salinity of around 30 grams for every liter.
- Check the water’s temperature.
2. Prepare Your Cleaning Equipment and Supplies
Saltwater fish tanks have a few special needs in addition to the typical, necessary supplies you use for freshwater tanks. When cleaning a saltwater aquarium, make it a point that you have these supplies.
- Bleach solution (optional)
- Salinity probe, hygrometer or refractometer
- pH meter or strips
- Vinegar solution or aquarium glass cleaner
- Filter media if you are replacing your filter
- Aquarium vacuum
3. Remove the Algae
With an algae pad, carefully eliminate the residue of algae inside your aquarium. Use a plastic or razor blade to remove algae residue that is difficult to get rid off.
4. Siphon out the Aquarium Water
When it comes to saltwater tanks, it is ideal to change 10 percent of the aquariums every couple of weeks. Mostly, this technique is perfect for removing the nitrates from the aquarium water.
5. Clean the Aquarium Gravel
Push the vacuum cleaner through the aquarium’s gravel. Debris, excess food and fish waste will be sucked into the aquarium vacuum cleaner.
If you have a delicate, weak, or small fish, put a fishnet over the siphon’s end.
6. Clean the Tank Decorations
Gently wipe the decorations with a soft-bristled toothbrush or an algae pad. Alternatively, you may remove the decorations from the aquarium, and soak them for about 15 minutes in a bleach solution (10%).
7. Pour the Water to the Tank
Carefully add the premixed water into the aquarium. You must, however, check again if the water has the ideal temperature and salinity. And, do not overfill the fish tank.
Check out this informative video about fish removal:
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