How to Clean Aquarium: Step by Step Instructions

How to Clean a Fish Tank – Provide a Healthy Environment to Your Little Pets

Many people love to keep fishes as they are considered to be low maintenance pets. The only major maintenance that is required is cleaning the tank. And cleaning a tank is not easy, more so when you have a big tank, and it is full of algae.

Cleaning the tank on a regular basis is important to keep the fishes healthy. A lot of algae accumulates due to light exposure overfeeding. Make sure to clean the aquarium every 2-4 weeks and change 25% of its water.

Should you be cleaning the tank after emptying it? Or will you be able to clean it without emptying? These are some of the questions new fish owners ask. Here, we will talk about all these and much more.

How to Clean an Aquarium the Proper Way?

In order to clean an aquarium, you will need a couple of tools and follow a few simple steps in the right way.

How to Clean an Aquarium the Proper Way

What Tools Will You Need

Items you need to clean an aquarium include:

  • Algae scraper pad
  • Plastic scraper blade (optional)
  • Razor blade
  • Bleach
  • Large buckets
  • Aquarium-safe cleaners
  • Aquarium siphon kit
  • Vinegar
  • Hand soap
  • Paper towels
  • Thermometer
  • Liquid metal and chlorine neutraliser
  • Aquarium treatment and testing kit

Steps to Follow

1. Use the Algae Scraper Pad to Clean the Interior of the Tank

The first step is properly washing your hands. Rinse off all the soap as your hands will be entering the tank.

You will not have to remove your pets from the tank for doing a basic routine cleaning. It will cause more harm than good to your little pets. The transfer itself will stress them out and staying in their temporary home can cause a lot of danger to their health as the water is not aerated and filtered.

Now, use the algae scraper pad to clean the insides of the tank. Please do not use a kitchen cleaning sponge as these usually have traces of chemicals that can later become lethal to your pet. Loosen all the algae from the four walls of the tank and let the filter take care of the rest.

If there is any stubborn residue on the wall or you are finding it hard to scrub the corners, use a razor blade to scrape off algae from the glass. In case the tank is made of acrylic, make sure you use plastic scraper blade.

2. Clean Rocks and Decorations with Water

Remove all the large rocks, artificial plants, and decorations from the tank and take them to the sink. Place them under running water and let the algae and dirt get washed away. Make use of the algae pad and scrub gently. Do not use soap as it has chemicals.

If this does not work, boil a pot of water. Remove from flame and put all the items inside for 20 mins. Hot water will loosen the algae and other dirt residue making it easy for you to clean.

If you have any non-porous decor accents, you can clean them using cold water mixed with bleach diluted to form a 5-10% solution.

3. Siphon Gravel and Remove 25% of the Tank’s Water

Before placing the decorations back, do the following.

Use a siphon to clean the gravel. You can easily buy a siphon kit from your local pet store, and these do not cost much. It consists of a flexible tube with a vacuum plastic head, designed especially for this purpose.

Submerge this vacuum end in the tank and lower the rest of the tube into the water, slowly, until the air inside the tube is replaced by water completely. Now with the vacuum end still underwater, seal the other end with your thumb so that the tube gets filled with tank water.  Lift the tube and put the sealed end into a large bucket, kept below and removed your thumb. The dirty water from the tank will start flowing into the bucket.

Now put the vacuum head into the rocks and let the siphon clear out the gunk. Keep using your thumb to control the water flow on the discharging end. This will help in cleaning debris and gravel. Continue until a quarter of the water has been removed from the fish tank.

4. Cleaning the Exterior

Use aquarium-safe cleaners to clean the hood, light, outside glass and top of the aquarium. These are easily available in pet stores.

5. Add Fresh Water and Bring The Tank to Equilibrium

Now put all the rocks and decorations back into the aquarium. Fill a large bucket with tap water to replace the water you have removed in the third step.

Mix the liquid metal and chlorine neutraliser to the bucket to remove any chlorine and heavy metal. Read the label carefully before adding it the water. Now use a thermometer to check the temperature of this water and wait till it settles down to the same temperature as the water in the tank. Now pour the water into the fish tank. Check if it has the correct pH and balance of ammonia and nitrates using the aquarium treatment and testing kit. This will help your fishes adjust to the changes easily.

6. Changing the Filter

Do not replace or clean the filter at the same time as the fish tank. The filter has beneficial bacteria that is usually lost from the tank while cleaning. Wait for at least a week before you replace the filter. Read the manufacturer instructions properly while replacing it.


Some questions you have might include:

1. How Often Should I Clean The Fish Tank?

This depends on how many fishes you have and how often the water becomes messy. Make sure to clean it once every two weeks.

2. How to Clean a Fish Tank Which Has Eggs in it?

Are the eggs on the gravel? Then you just avoid cleaning the gravel areas and continue with the rest. Wait till the eggs hatch and they try to start swimming before you clean the gravel again.

If the eggs have been laid elsewhere, avoid cleaning that area. Fish eggs usually hatch within a week and will not affect the cleaning schedule.

3. How to Get Rid of Algae from the Fish Tank?

Algae is something that you will have to deal with if you have an aquarium. You can make use of magnetic and algae scrubbers to get rid of algae from the tank. You always do not have to clean the entire tank.

4. How to Clean a Fish Bowl?

Fish bowls are like your fish tanks, but they need frequent cleaning and more so if they do not come with a filter. If your fishbowl is not equipped with a filter, change the water frequently. However, make sure not to change more than 10-15% of the water each time.

While cleaning, take the fish out and keep them in a large glass bowl with water taken from the fishbowl itself.  As far as cleaning is concerned, follow the same steps as mentioned above. Scrub the glass and remove all algae. Make sure not to use detergent or any other chemicals.

Maintain cleanliness as it will help your fishes to stay healthy and also extend their lives. Unlike other pets, it is difficult to diagnose the health problems of fishes and keeping the tank clean is the least that you can do for them. Whether or not you are attached to your fishes, do not forget they are more than just decoration. As a responsible pet owner, make sure that your fishes are living in a healthy and clean environment.

Also Read:

Tips for Cleaning Your House Fast
Effective Ways for Maintaining Your Vacuum Cleaner
How to Clean Your Sofa, Mattress and Pillows at Home

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