How to Clean a Dirty Fish Tank

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Dirty Tank

Posted: 19 January 2018

The road of life is easier to walk down when you have someone by your side. While friends, family, and loved ones all make our journey a good one, there’s another companion that brings joy into your life.

That’s right – we’re talking about pets. Having a friend with fur, feather, or scales has a positive impact on your well-being.

Pet ownership is linked to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and decreases feelings of loneliness. But what if you don’t have enough space something like a dog or a cat?

Don’t worry – fish make excellent pets, too! Not only do they lower blood pressure, they’re beautiful to look at.

As with all pets, you’ll have to do some maintenance. Dogs need to be picked up after, cats have to have their litter scooped; with fish, you need to deal with a dirty fish tank.

It seems daunting, but we’ve got a step-by-step guide to cleaning your fish’s tank. Grab your algae scraper and follow along!

Tools of the Trade

Just like any cleaning task you need to tackle, the right tools make the job much smoother. Here’s a list of things you’ll need to clean your dirty fish tank:

  • Algae pad
  • Bucket
  • Bleach
  • Lime remover for aquariums
  • Water siphon
  • Filter brush
  • A plastic or metal razor blade (use plastic if you have an acrylic tank, metal for glass)
  • Filter media
  • Old towels, paper towels, rags

Get these together before you begin so you can get it done quickly and easily.

The Order To Clean Your Dirty Fish Tank

Being able to clean your fish tank quickly isn’t just to free up more time during the weekend. The sooner you’re able to get your fish’s environment clean and reduce the stress they’re under from being outside of the tank, the better it is for them.

Now that you’ve got the tools on hand, we’ll show you the correct order of dealing with your dirty fish tank.

First, you’ll want to deal with the inside glass. Next, you’ll move on to cleaning the decorations, like the rocks and plastic plants.

Following that, you’ll clean the gravel itself from the bottom of the tank. Lots of gross stuff can be hiding down there to don’t skip this step.

After that, you’ll scrub down the outside glass and fixtures and end with the filter, a very important component.

Ready to start? Follow along!

Keep Your Fish Safe

Before you can drain the tank and get to work, make sure your friends are safe. Gently transfer your fish from the main aquarium to a temporary home.

Be sure to use some of the original tank water to reduce stress on the fish. Cover your temporary tank with a lid to keep the fish from jumping out due to stress.

Once you’ve got both of these tanks prepared, it’s time to drain your tank and scrub it clean.

Cleaning The Inside Glass

First things first – scrub the inside of your tank with an algae pad. Be sure you’ve purchased a real algae pad and not any kind of kitchen sponge.

Why? A regular kitchen sponge might contain residue that isn’t safe for your fish. Fish can be very sensitive to changes in their environment and that bit of residue could be lethal.

Got stubborn residue? Here’s where your razor blade or plastic scraper comes in handy.

Carefully scrape any gross stuff that’s stayed behind. Remember to use metal on glass and plastic on acrylic.

Doing the Decorations

Remember what we said about the soap residue on a kitchen sponge? This applies to everything else you use for your dirty fish tank – including the bucket.

When you pull the decorations out, don’t drop them in soapy water. First, use a scraper to remove any algae or residue you can see.

Next, prepare a 10% bleach solution. Soak the plastic plants and other decorations for about 15 minutes.

Once that’s done, give them a thorough rinse with water. Allow them to air dry.

Gravel and Glass

You can always add new gravel, but you can just as easily clean it with a siphon as well. It’s an easy and neat solution to dealing with a big component of your tank.

After that, you’ll want to move on to the hood, aquarium light, outside glass, and any other exterior areas. It goes without saying that all of these things should be unplugged before you begin.

A word about removing the lime from the exterior of the dirty fish tank: make sure the lime remover you use is aquarium-friendly. In a pinch, you can even use vinegar.

Cleaning the Filter

Once you’ve done everything in the steps outlined above, you’re done – for now. Obviously, you have to clean the filter, but give it a couple of weeks.

Why? After a thorough deep clean, your tank’s beneficial bacteria has been disturbed and/or eliminated. But there’s still some left on your filter’s media.

Allow your filter to re-introduce that healthy bacteria to your tank so the cleaning isn’t such a shock to your fish. If you don’t wait, you risk spiking the ammonia levels and hurting your fish.

When it comes time to clean your filter, you’ve got two options depending on the type you use.

Media filters that use carbon, ion-exchange resins or ammonia absorbers get worn out easily. After three weeks of use, they should be replaced no matter what.

Media filters that use ceramic rings, sponges, or other physical means of removing toxins can simply be rinsed out an returned to the filter.

Want To Win? Stick With Us!

Your tank is sparkling, your fish are happy, and all is right in the world. While your floating friends are lowering your cholesterol, why not see if you can win a fish-related prize?

We’ve got tons of giveaways going on all the time and there’s something for everybody. If you’re looking for the latest and greatest pet finds (plus more life hacks), check back often!

Stay with us and you’re sure to find some fantastic pet prizes! Keep clicking for more fun!

Dirty Tank

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