how to clean a fish tank

How to Properly Clean a Fish Tank

Beyond looking much better, a clean tank will keep your fish happy. After all, they are not meant to, nor do they enjoy, swimming in an algae-filled environment. This is why fish owners need to know the proper and thorough way of cleaning their tanks in order to keep fishes healthy.

It goes much further than just replacing the dirty water because leaving the tank not completely clean can make it easy for algae and other dirt to come back. It is highly recommended that tanks are cleaned regularly depending on your available time. It is also ideal to eliminate the algae weekly to avoid build-up. Moreover, the water should be completely changed at least every 2 weeks. If you have the time and you prefer cleaning out the tank even before the green tint shows up, you can also clear it out more often.

While there are general steps to follow when it comes to maintaining the fish tank, you should also try to remember what the pet shop told you about cleaning the tank when you bought your fish. Different types of fish would have completely diverse needs and this will influence your cleaning process.

advantages of cleaning your fish tank

Advantages of Cleaning Your Fish Tank

The fish tank is the entire living environment of your pets and this means, unsanitary or unhealthy conditions will directly affect the health and lives of your fishes. They still do breathe in oxygen from the water, and a dirty tank limits the supply of fresh air. When there is a lot of grime and dirt there, you can pretty much bet that your fishes do not have adequate oxygen in the water. Clean the tank as soon as possible in order will give them fresh oxygen all the time.

The second advantage of cleaning is dealing with the algae buildup in the tank. Living algae do not do any harm to fish, but dying ones will use up a lot of oxygen and even possibly remove all the good air from the tank.

Steps in Cleaning the Fish Tank

  1. Remove the Water

The first step involves changing the dirty water in the fish tank. However, while common sense dictates that you should remove all the water and just replace it with fresh one, this might actually be hurting the fish more than helping them. Changing all of the water will get them too stressed; literally staying in familiar waters is good for them.

For those who are consistent in cleaning the tank, you would only need to change 15% of the water each time. If you cannot manage the tank as often as you could, you should try changing 25% of it.

To do so, you need a manual siphon, taking out the right amount of water to renew. Throw this water away and prepare fresh water. Make sure it has the ideal temperature for your little pets. Coldwater fish love water at 64 degrees Fahrenheit, while tropical ones prefer 77 degrees. If you are not sure, you should ask the pet shop guys to check it out again.

Make sure that you only use clean buckets (scrubbed a little bit after draining dirty water) that do not have any soap on them.

  1. Remove Algae

To do this step, you need an algae pad, which you can buy at any pet shop. You can use it to wipe off the algae on the inside walls of the tank. For tougher ones, you can use a brush with stiff bristles in order to scrub it from the glass.

You should avoid using any sharp instrument at all costs, as they can leave some scratches on the glass. If you have an acrylic fish tank, this can be very dangerous. You should also avoid using anything sharp if you want the fish to remain in the tank while cleaning it.

  1. Remove Bacteria

To do this part, you would need the help of a friend. First of all, when cleaning the bacteria hiding under the aquarium gravel, you would need to use the siphon hose above the surface with the gravel. You would need to run your fingers through the gravel to release old food and dirt. The other person can take care of sucking up the dirt with the siphon.

  1. Clean the Decorations

To do this step, you need to remove the items from the tank and leave them soaking in a tough cleaning solution. For example, you can mix together warm water and bleach (1 part of bleach to 9 parts of water). Just make sure you use protective eye goggles, gloves, and that the area is properly ventilated. It is also important to read the instructions on the bottle and other safety instructions to properly clean the decorations. Once you are finished soaking them, it’s time to rinse completely with hot water. You can then put the decorations back in the tank.

Related Post: Best Aquarium

  1. Clean the Glass

This step is more for aesthetic reasons than actually being good for the fish. This is because cleaning the glass will not affect the fish. However, you can then see your fish better and it will contribute to the overall cleanliness of the tank.

Cleaning this part of the tank is like cleaning your mirrors or glass windows. You can use a cloth dipped in white vinegar or you can use a glass cleaner, wiping across the glass to remove fingerprints and dust. Let it dry naturally, and you can buff the glass with a clean dry cloth to remove any watermarks or streaks.

With these five simple steps, you can easily transform a tank with the green and murky water into one with clear water and happy fish. As you do it more often, you will find that it becomes easier and faster as you develop the good habit that your pets will surely approve of. Try and do it more often as opposed to waiting until it looks disgusting so that the dirt and algae do not build up and the work becomes easier.


  1. How to Clean a Fish Tank, HowStuffWorks
  2. How to Clean Your Fish Tank, WebMD
  3. How to Set Up a Fish Tank and Keep It Clean, PetMD

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