How to Clean a Fish Tank – Best Guide Ever

Keeping your fish tank clean can enhance the appearance of your home as well as create a comfortable environment for them. It’s essential to know how to clean a fish tank to keep it healthy.  In case you are unsure of how to clean your fish tank, you can find plenty of online resources to guide you. All owners of fish tanks should understand how to clean a fish tank properly, so research the proper steps and techniques so that your tank stays healthy and clean.

how to clean a fish tank

The first and most important reason to keep your fish tank clean is to ensure a safe and healthy habitat for them. A clean tank not only improves water quality but also prevents the spread of harmful bacteria and parasites.

When you keep your fish tank clean, you can fully appreciate their vibrant colors and natural behavior. Dirty tanks can obscure their beauty and cover their unique features. If your aquarium is sparkling clean, however, you may be able to observe your fish and other aquatic inhabitants more closely, such as snails and shrimps.

Moreover, cleaning your fish tank can also save you money in the long run. Neglecting regular maintenance can lead to expensive repairs and replacement of equipment. The proper maintenance and cleaning of a tank can also help to prevent the need for costly medication and treatments for fish diseases.

The Importance of a Clean Freshwater Fish Tank

The health and well-being of the aquatic life in a freshwater aquarium depend on maintaining a clean tank. A clean and healthy tank requires regular cleaning and disinfection, as well as regular maintenance of the filter and other components. For this, one must know how to clean a filter cartridge, restart a tank, disinfect the tank, clean the filter, air stone, and sponge filter, remove algae, and clean artificial plants.

The following steps can help you create a healthy and clean environment for your freshwater fish, which will lead to a happier and healthier life.

  1. Water Quality: Water quality can be affected by a dirty tank, resulting in fish that are harmed or even killed. You can keep your fish safe by maintaining the proper pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in your tank.
  2. Disease Prevention: It is possible for bacteria and parasites found in dirty aquariums to cause diseases in your fish. Maintaining a clean tank prevents the spread of disease, ensuring the health and happiness of your fish.
  3. Aesthetic Appeal: It can be detrimental to your fish’s natural beauty if their tank is dirty. Your fish will exhibit vibrant colors and natural behaviors in a clean tank, so it will be a pleasure to watch them.
  4. Fish Longevity: A dirty tank can shorten the lifespan of your fish. A clean tank will ensure that your fish live a long, healthy, and happy life.

What Cleaning Supplies will you Need?

For cleaning a freshwater aquarium, you’ll need a scrub brush, aquarium-safe soap, vinegar, water conditioner, paper towels, a bucket, and a gravel vacuum. You may also need a solution specifically for cleaning algae, depending on the buildup in your tank. Additionally, it’s important to have a backup plan for fish while you’re cleaning, such as a temporary tank or container.

how do i clean my fish tank

Proper cleaning techniques are crucial to prevent harm to your fish, such as avoiding cleaning the tank after a fish’s death, after a disease outbreak, or after conditions like ick, fin rot, and fungus. Before using a new or previously unused tank, it’s important to thoroughly clean and disinfect it. The same cleaning steps apply regardless of the size of the tank, including for a 3-gallon betta fish tank.

To clean your fish tank, you will need a few basic cleaning supplies:

  • Scraper or algae pad: Using this tool, you can remove algae and buildup from the tank’s glass.
  • Clean, damp cloth: It can clean the tank’s glass and other surfaces.
  • Gravel vacuum: By using this tool, debris, and waste can be removed from the substrate (gravel or sand) of a tank.
  • Designated toothbrush: The tank’s decorations, rocks, and plants can be scrubbed with this solution.
  • A test kit or water sample container: This is used to test the water quality before and after cleaning the tank to ensure that the pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are within a safe range for your fish.
  • Dechlorinator: This purpose is to remove chlorine and chloramines from tap water before adding them to the tank.
  • Filter media and container: The filter in the tank is cleaned and maintained using these items.
  • Bucket or container: Wastewater is collected during the cleaning process and filter media is stored here.

It’s also important to have a plan before cleaning the fish tank, so you can be prepared and not miss anything that needs cleaning.

How you should Clean out your Aquarium

Clean your aquarium in the following order:

  1. Take care of the Cleaning
  2. Turn Off Your Filter and Unplug Your Heater
  3. Cleaning Decorations and Rocks
  4. Scrubbing the Inside Glass
  5. Clean Aquarium Gravel using a Siphon
  6. Clean the Tank Filter
  7. Fill the tank with fresh water
  8. Outside Glass and Equipment
  9. Monitor the Tank

1. Take care of the Cleaning

Put on a large T-shirt and organize all your materials in a convenient location. Next, thoroughly clean your hands and lower arms. This process, known as “scrubbing in” among doctors, helps prevent the introduction of harmful substances into your aquarium water. Remember to completely remove any soap residue.

2. Turn Off your Filter and Unplug Your Heater

It is recommended to turn off your aquarium filter while cleaning as debris can easily be removed from the bottom of the tank rather than getting sucked into the filter.

how to use a vacuum to clean a fish tank

Additionally, when performing water changes or cleaning the heater, it is important to unplug the heater to avoid burning out the machine. This is because exposing the heater to air while it is still hot can cause damage. Allow the heater to cool before continuing with the cleaning process.

3. Cleaning Decorations and Rocks

After ensuring that the aquarium glass is spotless, remove any rocks, artificial plants, and decorations with a significant amount of algae growth. It is difficult to remove residue with soap or detergents completely, and even the slightest amount can cause harm to the fish. You can remove algae and dirt from rocks and plants by using an algae scraper and warm water.

If your cleaning issue is particularly stubborn, you can soak the items in a 10% bleach solution for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with running water and allow to air dry to eliminate residual bleach. Wait until the aquarium is free of chlorine odor before placing back. Alternatively, you can rinse them in water that has been treated with a de-chlorinator such as sodium thiosulfate to remove any chlorine.

how to clean water in fish tank

A 5 percent bleach solution can be used to remove algae from live plants. However, it is important to note that stem plants are not suitable for bleaching. The process involves soaking the plants for a duration of 2-3 minutes before rinsing them thoroughly. When cleaning the tank, it is recommended to remove all rocks, decorations, and plants to prevent debris from settling on them while vacuuming the gravel.

Additionally, it is important to use a new bucket specifically designated for aquarium use to avoid introducing any unwanted chemicals from soap or detergent.

4. Cleaning the Inside Glass

Cleaning the inside walls of your tank is another crucial step in maintaining a healthy aquarium. As time goes by, algae and other debris can accumulate on the walls, which can affect the overall appearance and water quality of your tank.

To clean the walls, use a scraper or a sponge specifically designed for aquariums. Gently scrub the walls, being careful not to damage the decorations or plants in the tank. You can also use a solution of water and vinegar to remove stubborn algae buildup.

It’s important to note that while cleaning the walls, you should also pay attention to the corners and edges of the tank, as these areas tend to accumulate more debris.

Once finished, rinse the scraper or sponge thoroughly before using it again to avoid introducing any harmful chemicals into your tank. Additionally, make sure to rinse the walls of the tank with clean water to remove any remaining cleaning solution.

5. Clean Aquarium Gravel using a Siphon

Cleaning the gravel, and the small rocks that sit at the bottom of your tank is an important step in maintaining a healthy aquarium. As tanks age, they tend to accumulate detritus, or the decomposed remnants of leftover food, fish waste, and decaying particulate matter. This detritus can settle between the small rocks and build up, causing health issues for your fish.

how to clean out fish tank

To effectively clean the gravel, a gravel vacuum is a must-have tool. This device, consisting of a plastic siphon attached to a length of tubing, removes large amounts of dirty aquarium dust. To use it, simply submerge the siphon in the water to create a suction that pulls water from the tank through the tube into a bucket. The amount of vacuuming required will depend on the level of dirtiness in your tank. When the water pulled through the siphon is no longer cloudy and gray/brown, your gravel is clean.

Once finished, don’t discard the water in the bucket just yet as it will be used in the next step.

6. Clean the Tank Filter

Cleaning the tank filter is an important step in maintaining a healthy aquarium. The filter is responsible for removing debris, waste, and toxins from the water, so keeping it in good working condition is essential.

To clean the filter, first, turn off the power to the filter and remove it from the tank. Then, disassemble the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will typically involve removing the filter media, such as activated carbon or ceramic noodles, and cleaning or replacing them as needed.

Next, use a brush or a sponge to clean the filter housing, paying close attention to the impeller and other moving parts. Make sure to remove any debris or buildup that may be present. You can also use a solution of water and vinegar to remove stubborn grime.

Once finished, reassemble the filter and place it back in the tank. Turn the power back on and check for any leaks or other issues.

It’s essential to clean the tank filter regularly, as a dirty filter can lead to poor water quality and can also be harmful to your fish and other aquatic inhabitants. Cleaning the filter every two to four weeks is usually sufficient, but it’s essential to monitor the water quality and adjust the cleaning schedule as needed.

7. Fill the Tank with Fresh Water

It is crucial to ensure that the new water added to the tank after siphoning out the dirty water is properly prepared. This includes making sure the temperature is similar to the existing water and treating the water with a conditioner to remove any harmful chlorine and chloramines present in tap water. To do this, fill a bucket with tap water and use a thermometer to adjust the temperature as necessary.

how to clean an aquarium

Follow the instructions on the water conditioner and add the appropriate amount for the number of gallons being introduced to the tank. Slowly pour the treated water into the tank, taking care not to shock the fish. Once all the water has been replaced, the heater and filter can be turned back on.

8. Outside Glass and Equipment

After completing the cleaning of the interior of the aquarium, it is important to also clean the exterior glass, as well as the hood, light, and tank top. It is crucial to avoid using regular glass cleaners as they contain ammonia which can harm the fish. Additionally, using standard lime cleaners is even more toxic.

how to clean your fish tank

Using either vinegar or a cleaner specifically labeled as safe for aquariums is recommended and thoroughly rinse the surfaces with a clean, damp cloth.

9. Monitor the Tank

Monitor the tank for a few minutes to make sure everything is working properly and the fish are not stressed.

By following these steps regularly, you can ensure that your aquarium is clean and safe for your fish to thrive in. Remember to always test the water quality before cleaning and to use appropriate tools and techniques for cleaning different parts of the tank.

Here are Some Tips to Keep an eye out for

Several factors affect how often you should clean out your fish tank, including its size, the types and the number of fish, and its filtration system. A daily cleaning routine is not necessary unless you notice any unusual behavior from your fish, such as gasping for air or lethargy. In such cases, a partial water change is recommended.

  • For average-sized or large fish tanks, it is beneficial to perform weekly partial water changes to maintain the cleanliness of the tank and the health of the fish.
  • Furthermore, monitoring the pH, nitrate, and ammonia levels in the tank can help identify potential problems and maintain consistency.
  • Watch your fish’s behavior and the appearance of the water as a general rule.
  • If the fish appear distressed or the water is cloudy, it may be necessary to perform a partial water change.
  • Keep in mind that the well-being of your fish is in your hands, so take the time to observe them and understand their routine.
  • Keep track of water evaporation in the tank and examine all equipment twice a year to ensure proper operation.


1. How often should I clean my Betta fish tank?

Maintaining a clean and healthy environment for a betta fish is essential to its well-being, and the size of the tank doesn’t matter. Whether you have a small 1-gallon betta tank or a larger 5-gallon tank, it is important to know how to properly clean it. The process of cleaning a betta fish tank includes removing debris, uneaten food, and waste, as well as cleaning the tank itself.

If you own a biorb fish tank, the steps for cleaning may vary slightly. For those without a siphon, there are alternative methods to clean the tank, such as using a scrub brush and aquarium-safe soap. It’s recommended to clean a betta fish tank every 2-4 weeks, although the frequency may vary based on the tank’s size, the number of fish, and other factors. To ensure the best results, it’s important to understand how to best clean a fish tank, taking into account the specific needs of your betta fish and its environment.

2. Can I clean my fish tank while the fish are still in it?

Yes, you can clean the tank while the fish are still in it, but it’s important to not remove more than 50% of the water at a time to avoid shocking the fish. You should also acclimate them slowly by adding a little bit of the main tank water to a temporary container every 15 minutes until the water is at the same temperature and pH.

3. What should I use to clean my fish tank?

You can use a clean, damp cloth or a scraper or algae pad to clean the walls and bottom of the tank. An acrylic-safe or glass scrub can be used to clean the glass. A designated toothbrush and hot water can be used to clean the decorations, rocks, and plants. A gravel vacuum can be used to clean the substrate.

4. How do you clean a fish tank after a fish dies?

When you discover a dead fish in your tank, remove it immediately. Examine the fish for signs of illness or natural causes of death. You should check the water quality in the tank if the fish appears diseased or bloated. On the other hand, if the water quality is not the problem, perform an emergency water change to protect the remaining fish. As a precautionary measure, clean all accessories and decorations of the tank thoroughly.

5. Can I use tap water to clean my fish tank?

It’s not recommended to use tap water to clean your fish tank, as it can contain chlorine and other chemicals that can harm your fish and disrupt the balance of the tank’s ecosystem. It’s better to use dechlorinated water or water that has been treated with a de-chlorinator.

6. How do I clean the filter in my fish tank?

To clean the filter, remove the filter media and rinse it gently or squeeze it in a collected bucket of wastewater. Avoid using tap water, as it can kill the beneficial bacteria that live in the filter. It’s okay to replace the filter media every month, but if it’s falling apart, you should replace only 1/4-1/3 of the total media at a time.

7. How do you clean a fish tank without a vacuum?

One effective way to clean the bottom of your fish tank, which is where most of the debris and waste tend to accumulate, is by using a water siphon. These can be easily purchased at pet supply stores or you can even make your own at home.

8. How do I remove algae from my fish tank?

Algae control in fish tanks isn’t easy, but with the right techniques and tools, it’s doable. The first thing to do is empty and clean the fish tank. This involves taking the fish out of the tank, draining the water, and scrubbing the tank with a non-abrasive brush. It is important to clean the decorations, rocks, and other items in the tank after emptying it in order to remove any algae buildup. Once the tank is empty and clean, it is important to refill it with clean, dechlorinated water, and then put the fish back in.

To prevent algae from forming, one should clean the filter regularly and make sure the tank is not exposed to direct sunlight. Additionally, one should clean the acrylic fish tank with a fish tank-safe cleaner, and use a razor blade to remove any brown algae on the glass. With these steps in mind, one can keep their fish tank clean of algae.

9. How do I keep my fish tank clean without changing the water?

To keep your fish tank clean without changing the water, you can use a gravel vacuum to remove debris and waste from the bottom of the tank, clean the filter regularly, and add an algae-eating fish or snail to the tank. It’s also important to keep an eye on the water quality and do a partial water change as needed.

Final Words

When you know how to properly clean a fish tank, you can ensure that your aquatic pets live a long and healthy life. Regular maintenance and cleaning will maintain your fish tank’s optimal condition and provide your fish with a safe, healthy environment. Take care of your fish tank, and enjoy the satisfaction and joy of watching them flourish.

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