How To Clean Your Fish Tank – A Complete Beginners Guide

You’ve got your fish tank all set-up, your fishes are alive and swimming, and now you’re an official aquarium owner! Well, almost. There’s still one last key aspect of running your own aquarium to pick up before you’re actually full-on pro. This particular process is crucial to the survivability of your fishes, it is the aquarium maintenance that requires your continuous attention much more often than we’d like – the cleaning of your fish tank.

For freshwater aquariums, a regular upkeep of cleaning once every 2 – 4 weeks is necessary. This seems like a lot of effort to dedicate but it really isn’t so. In today’s guide, we’ll be teaching you how to clean your tank in the simplest and most hassle-free manner, showing you all the equipment that you’ll need, and how to complete the entire process in just 30 minutes.

3 Steps Clean Your Fish Tank​

In a nutshell here’s the entire process broken down to 3 key parts:

  • 1. Scrubbing of algae and dirt.
  • 2. Removal of 15 – 25% of water and gravel grime.
  • 3. Adding of treated water back into the tank

What You Will Need

Here’s all the equipment you’ll need for cleaning your fish tank, apart from your tank set-up:

  • Algae scrubber pads or magnetic scrubbers.
  • Gravel cleaner or DIY siphon hose tube.
  • Buckets.
  • Freshwater treatment conditioner.

All of these are common aquarium goods that can be easily found at your local pet store. Simpler than what you had in mind? Let’s get started.


How To Clean Your Fish Tank

Step 1: Removal of algae and dirt

This first process focuses on removing algae and visible grime in the tank and on the tank ornaments.

  • To begin the entire cleaning process, switch off all the filters, air pumps and heaters you have installed.
  • Using the scrubber pad or magnetic scrubber, clean the sides of your tank of any algae sticking onto it. Ensure the glass is algae-free.

For the decorations you have in place in your aquarium, we do not recommend you clean them during every water change. There is always a substantial amount of healthy bacteria that forms which adds to the biological filter of the tank. Frequent cleaning of the decorations will remove these beneficial bacteria and damage the quality of the natural filter.

  • However if there is a large visible build up of algae and muck on the ornaments, you then have to remove them from the tank and wash it in clean warm water, getting rid of the algae overgrowth. We’d say do this once every 2 months.
  • Clean the filter pads in your tank’s filtration system if necessary. Likewise do not do this too often unless there is an overgrowth of algae.

Do not remove your fishes from the tank when cleaning unless desperately needed. It might induce stress to the fishes and injure or cause illness to them.

One important note, live aquatic plants are very delicate during the cleaning process and are prone to being damaged or killed if cleaned without proper care. They still have to be cleaned regularly like everything else. We advise you scrub them softly while algae build-up is still minimal.

Step 2: Removal of 15% - 25% of old water.

The second step is the focal portion of the whole procedure, replacing the old stale water and anything foul within it.

  • Begin by using the gravel cleaner tube to siphon the water out from the tank into the bucket. We recommend you purchase a gravel cleaner that has the functionality to start a siphon, be it a pump or a faucet.
  • However, if what you’re using is a DIY hose-tubing siphon, here’s how to initiate it: Immerse the entire hose into the tank’s water, removing all the air within it. Then plug one end of the hose with your finger, and take that end out of the water and place it in the bucket. Release your finger and the siphoning will begin. The bucket has to be on a lower ground than the aquarium to kick-start the siphon.

Once the siphon is initiated, you will be sucking water out from the tank into the bucket.

  • Use the gravel cleaner to pick up as much grime, debris and solid waste in the water. A lot of the pollutant substances will be lying under the gravel so sift the suction motion and gravel cleaner tube through the gravel to loosen the waste underneath.

This prevents gunk and decay matter build up within your aquarium, maintaining the health of your water. Stop once 15% - 25% of the water has been removed.

Step 3: Replacement of treated water into the tank.

We’ll be showing you the simplest way to add a fresh supply of water back into your tank.

  • First use a bucket and fill it up with tap water. Using your aquarium’s thermometer, match the temperature of your tank’s old water with the bucket’s tap water.
  • Next, add the freshwater treatment conditioner to the new tap water to dechlorinate it. If your aquarium is still within it’s cycling period, add some living bacteria treatment to balance the natural biological filter. Stir lightly to evenly spread the chemicals in the water.
  • Once ready, use the same siphoning tube to siphon the water back in reverse, from the bucket into the aquarium. Place the bucket on a higher ground to allow for a smoother process.

Fill the tank back up and always leave a gap between the water surface and the top of the tank to prevent your fishes from jumping out.

Last but not least, switch all your heaters, air pumps, and filtration systems back on.

Job done.

That’s it!

If you’ve followed our guide clearly you would have just successfully learnt how to clean out your tank with one of the simplest methods available.

One last key caution is to never use any soaps or detergents when cleaning your tank. This will contaminate the water and possibly kill your fishes.

And that’s it! Maintenance of your aquarium once every 2 – 4 weeks is vital to healthy fishes, and now you can accomplish it almost effortlessly under 30 minutes.

If you liked this article and would like to read more about aquarium, please leave us your feedback in the comment box below. Until next time, enjoy!​

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Kevin Watson

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