How to clean a Fish tank: Beginners Step By Step Guided

Table of Contents

How to clean a Fish tank: Beginners Step By Step Guided

Welcome to our guide, on how to properly clean a fish tank for beginners. Keeping a fish tank full of beautiful fish, can be a fun. and rewarding hobby, but it does require some maintenance to ensure the health and well-being of the fish. In this guide, on how to clean a fish tank, we will walk you through the basic steps of cleaning a fish tank, like how to properly clean the substrate. wipe down the sides and decorations, and perform a partial water change. We will also discuss the importance of testing the water before and after cleaning to ensure the water quality is safe for your fish. Whether you are new to fish keeping or simply looking for a refresher, this guide will provide you with the information you need on how to clean your fish tank to keep your fish tank in top condition.

How to clean a fish tank:

It is important to follow the steps for cleaning a fish tank in the correct order and with the correct techniques. Skipping or rushing through any of the steps can result in poor cleaning, leaving debris or buildup in the tank. This can lead to poor water quality, cloudy water, algae blooms, and can harm or even kill the fish. By not following the proper steps it can also lead to a stressful environment for the fish. By taking the time to clean the tank the right way, you are not only ensuring the health of your fish, but also prolonging the life of the tank and the equipment in the tank. Following the steps correctly will help you to maintain a clean and healthy environment for your fish, which will lead to a more enjoyable fish keeping experience.

Cleaning supplies that you will need:

  • Aquarium water test kit
  • Gravel vacuum
  • Bucket for holding dirty water and adding new water
  • Algae scraper
  • Algae scraper blade for the stubborn algae
  • Toothbrush for cleaning plants.
  • Water conditioner or dechlorinator

1. Wash your hands and arms to the elbows.

Proper hand washing is essential when cleaning a fish tank, to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria and other contaminants. Our hands come into contact with various surfaces throughout the day and can come into contact with bacteria and other microorganisms, and if they are introduced to the fish tank they can cause harm to the fish, and other inhabitants and lead to poor water quality. To ensure the safety of your fish, it’s crucial to wash your hands thoroughly, up to the elbows, before handling any equipment in the tank or cleaning it. This will remove any bacteria or contaminants that may be present on your hands and also ensure that your hands are free of any soap or chemical residue that could harm the fish or change the water chemistry.

2. Unplug all electrical equipment.

It is extremely important to unplug all electrical equipment, such as filters, lights, and heaters, before cleaning your fish tank. Failure to do so can result in serious injury or death by electrocution. Water and electricity do not mix and even a small amount of water can cause a short circuit in the equipment, which can damage the equipment and potentially start a fire. Unplugging the equipment also allows you to safely handle and clean the equipment without the risk of electrical shock. It also prevents any accidental turning on of the equipment while cleaning or maintenance is being done which can damage or harm the equipment or fish.

3. Close the valves to your filter

After you have unplugged all the equipment you need to close the valves to your filters. This will prevent water from backflowing into your tank while you are cleaning it and it will also prevent the filter from sucking up any large pieces of debris that you stir up while cleaning the tank.

4. Remove any fake decorations for cleaning and scrub with a soft brush.

Removing fake decorations and cleaning them with a soft brush is an important step in maintaining a clean and healthy fish tank. Over time, dirt and debris can accumulate on decorations, creating an unsightly appearance and providing a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Removing the decorations allows you to clean them thoroughly, removing any buildup and restoring them to their original appearance. Using a soft brush ensures that the decorations are not damaged during the cleaning process. Hard-bristled brushes can scratch or damage the decorations, which can cause them to deteriorate over time. Additionally, fake decorations can accumulate algae or other microorganisms that can negatively affect the water quality, by removing and cleaning them you can ensure that the water stays clean and healthy for your fish.

5. Clean the sides of the aquarium with a scrub brush or an algae pad.

Cleaning the sides of an aquarium with an algae pad or scrub brush is the best way to remove algae buildup on the inside of your aquarium. You can use an algae pad or a scrub brush specifically designed for aquarium cleaning. These tools have soft bristles that will not damage the aquarium glass. When using an algae pad, saturate it with water and gently scrub the sides of the aquarium, moving in a circular motion. If you’re using a scrub brush, use a similar technique, being sure to apply only light pressure to avoid scratching the glass. Make sure to rinse the pad or brush frequently in clean water to remove debris. Repeat the process until all algae buildup is removed. After cleaning, remember to rinse the sides of the tank with clean water to remove any residue from the algae and then wipe them dry. This will help you to maintain a clear and healthy environment for your fish, as well as a good appearance of the tank.

algae scrubber pad for cleaning the sides of an aquarium

6. Use a Aquarium gravel vacuum to clean the substrate in your fish tank.

Using a gravel vacuum to clean the substrate in your tank is a quick and easy way to maintain a clean and healthy environment for your fish. You can use a gravel vacuum that is specifically designed for aquarium cleaning. As you are vacuuming, be sure to move the hose around the substrate, being careful not to disturb the roots of any live plants. Be sure to also vacuum the corners and crevices of the tank to remove any debris that may be hiding. It’s important to note that when using the gravel vacuum, you should also perform a water change, as the vacuum will remove debris but also dirty the water. After vacuuming, dispose of the debris and rinse the gravel vacuum before storing it. This process will help you maintain a clean and healthy substrate for your fish to live in.

How to use a gravel vacuum

  1. Get a bucket that is large enough to collect all the water your are planning on removing from your fish tank.
  2. Put the large suction tube into your fish tank and the small hose end into your bucket.
  3. Rapidly move the suction tube up and down in the water to start the suction of the vacuum.
  4. Once water is flowing into the bucket go ahead and start vacuuming the substrate.
  5. If you have gravel it is okay to disturb the substrate to get at all the debris that will work its way down into the gravel. If you have sand or a planted substrate it is better to just brush the top to get the debris that is sitting on top of the sand.
  6. Work your way into the corners and under any rocks or decorations that are in your tank as these will be the places that a lot of debris naturally goes to.
  7. After you have cleaned the bottom and removed all the visible debris go ahead lift out the vacuum.
How to vacuum the substrate in your media

7. Clean your filter media

Cleaning your filter media the right way is one of them most important parts of cleaning a fish tank. You should take apart your filter and replace any parts of it that are really dirty and cannot be salvaged, if you have just put new media in and it does not look too dirty you can go ahead and just rinse the media of the large debris. This keeps the good bacteria in your filter media and will help prevent a spike in ammonia and bad nitrates when doing a water change.

8. Refill your fish tank with treated water

Once the cleaning process is complete, it’s time to refill the tank with fresh, clean water. It’s important to match the temperature of the new water to that of the existing aquarium water. To do this, you can use your hand or a thermometer to test the temperature of the tap water and adjust it accordingly. Once the temperature is matched, you can use a bucket to slowly pour the fresh water into the tank. Be sure to empty out the old tank water, which can be used to water indoor and outdoor plants. It’s also important to add dechlorinator to the new water, whether it’s in the bucket or directly into the tank, following the dosing instructions based on the volume of the aquarium. This helps to remove any chlorine or chloramines present in tap water which can be harmful to the fish. This is also a good opportunity to add any liquid fertilizers or root tabs to the substrate to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and plants.

9. Replace all the decorations that you have taken out.

10. Turn all electrical equipment back on

once your are confident that no water is going to drop down the cords into your outlet it is time to plug your equipment back in. You may have to prime your pump to get it flowing again.

11. Test the water quality

It is important to test the water after refilling the tank with new water, because you can make sure that the water quality and parameters are within the proper range for your fish. Testing the water will help you to detect any issues such as high levels of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate, or pH fluctuations. These parameters are important to monitor because they affect the health and well-being of the fish and other aquatic life in the tank. High levels of ammonia or nitrite can be toxic, leading to fish stress and even death, whereas pH levels that are too high or too low can also affect the fish and cause health issues.

By testing the water after refilling the tank, you can quickly identify any issues and take make changes before they become a serious problem. This is especially important after adding new water, as the water may have different parameters than the existing aquarium water. Testing the water will give you a clear picture of the water quality, and you can take the necessary steps to adjust it to the optimal range for your fish. Overall, testing the water after refilling the tank is a critical step in maintaining a clean and healthy environment for your fish and other aquatic life.

Fish tank cleaning tips:

How often do you need to clean a fish tank?

This going to depend on a lot of different factors, like how many fish do you have, do you have live plants in your tank, and how big is your tank. In general you want to clean your tank anywhere from every other week to once a month if you have an established tank. If you tank water is clear and the fish are swimming around normally then your water is probably fine and it is not time for a cleaning quite yet. If your fish seem to be lethargic and the water appears hazy it is time for a cleaning and water change.

ParameterFreshwaterBrackishCoral Reef
pH6.5 – 7.57.5 -8.48.0-8.5
Alkalinity4 – 8 10-186-8
General Hardness4-1212-20
Nitrite less than 50 ppmless than 50 ppmless than .25 ppm

Do you need to take the fish out when cleaning your fish tank?

No you do not need to take your fish out when cleaning your fish tank. As long as you are careful not to suck any up in the gravel vacuum you can leave all your fish in the tank.

How long should you let your water sit before adding to the tank?

You should let your water sit long enough for the water conditioners that you add to start working. It is more important to make sure that the water you are adding is the same temperature as your aquarium water so you don’t shock the fish.

Related Posts You May Like

Leave a Reply

Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson

Aquarium Enthusiast

I love sharing my knowledge about all things aquarium related. I have been keeping aquariums for over 20 years and cannot imagine a life without an aquarium. 

Lee Johnson
My Personal Favorites