How to Clean your Aquarium and Decorations
Updated: Apr 10
Tank decorations are a great way to show off some individuality in your home. Whether you’re wanting to create a serene and natural look to help maintain the calm, or you’re big into superheroes and want a Lego fight scene between your favourite Marvel and DC characters, or you’re into heavy metal and love coffins and shipwrecks. There’s always something you can find to make your aquarium your own, but they all have one thing in common. They need to stay clean.
If you’re sprucing up your tank with aquarium décor, it’s going to need to be cleaned on occasion. Here’s how we recommend doing it without endangering your fishes’ environment.
Keeping your aquarium clean is more than just a matter of having it look nice – it also has an impact on the water quality in your tank which directly affects your fish. Remember these little guys are swimming and breathing in this every moment of their lives and as such, high water quality is the main goal of any fish owner. To keep the water quality in your tank high, you should clean your tank decorations on a regular basis.
Inside your tank you may have one or two fish, or you may have a delicate community of fish, shrimp and even snails. To keep your community of fish and invertebrates happy and healthy, you need to maintain a clean tank so that your water quality will always remain high. And even though a lot of people think that they need to remove all of the water from the tank and do a complete water change, the truth is that you really don’t have to go to such lengths unless the tank is in really poor condition. Only doing around a 20% water change and keeping most of the water in the tank will actually help in maintaining the right level of good bacteria that are necessary for a healthy aquarium.
Just follow the steps below to clean your tank easily and efficiently. Be sure to do this on a regular basis to keep your aquarium looking beautiful and your animals healthy.
You can use an algae pad to clean the insides of your aquarium glass. There’s a wide range of different ones on the market but choosing one suitable for your tank will help remove any algae that's stuck on to the glass. In case you do get some really stubborn algae clinging on, you can use a razor blade if your tank is glass, or a plastic one if your tank is acrylic.
On to decorations now and this never has to be difficult. You can start by using a water siphon to slowly clean underneath the gravel. It’ll help suck up any debris that’s collected down there over time. To make sure that you are getting everything, make your way across the tank slowly and deliberately, ensuring that you are covering every area.
Anything that you put into your aquarium could have an impact on your water chemistry and water quality. This means that if you clean your tank decorations with soap and don’t rinse them properly, the soap could change the conditions in your tank and if this is the case it will almost certainly have a negative impact on your fish. This is why you need to be careful about how you clean your tank decorations.
Start by removing your tank decorations one at a time for cleaning - if you clean out the whole tank, you could cause your fish to become stressed, which will increase their risk for getting sick. Place the decoration in your sink and run hot water over it for two to three minutes. This will help to cut through accumulated algae and make the cleaning process easier.
Make a 5 percent bleach solution by mixing about 4 teaspoons per 2 gallons of water.
Pour the bleach solution over the item or place the item in a bucket filled with the bleach solution. Allow it to soak for two to three minutes. Use a toothbrush or bristle brush to scrub any algae and debris off the item and then rinse the object thoroughly in cool water for about 5 minutes to remove any traces of bleach.
Fill another bucket with warm water and treat it with a dechlorinating agent or a water treatment product you’ve got, we suggest using Aquasafe. Add the cleaned item to the bucket and allow it to soak for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing it again and then placing it back in the aquarium.
By following these instructions you can safely clean the objects in your aquarium without putting your fish at risk. Just be sure to only clean one large object (or several smaller objects) at a time so you don’t stress out your fish or kick up a lot of debris in the tank. You should also avoid cleaning your filter and your tank objects at the same time because you don’t want to kill off too many beneficial bacteria or your tank might re-cycle and that could kill your fish. This is why we opt for only a 20% water change at a time. Entire water changes are rarely needed, sometimes up to 50% may need to be changed but only in certain conditions like illness and very bad living conditions for your fish.
Next, you can clean the outside of your tank, but make sure to use a product that is designed for use on aquarium glass in order to make sure that it is safe. You can even take a natural approach by using a household product such as vinegar. Make sure to never use toxic glass cleaners or lime cleaners even on the outside of the glass. No matter what, you are cleaning the outside of your aquarium, including the outside glass, the top of the tank, the hood and so on, so you shouldn’t be getting any of the solution into the fish tank water.
Next add back the tank decorations that have been cleaned. And also prepare the appropriate amount of water to add back to the tank, as the process of siphoning the gravel will end up removing some water from the tank. Remember, though, that you should really only be replacing up to 20% of the water in your tank, so you don’t want to overdo it and remove too much.
It might not be a good idea to clean out your filter when you are doing a tank cleaning, as that could cause an imbalance of the beneficial bacteria in the tank. Therefore, experts recommend waiting a couple of weeks before doing a filter cleaning. Keep in mind that how you maintain your filter will also depend on the type of filtration system that you are using
If the lighting in your tank is too high or if there is an abundance of nutrients which is often due to infrequent water changes then you are likely to have algae problems. The best way to prevent excessive algae growth is to limit your tank lighting to 10 to 12 hours per day and to keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight. In addition to taking these precautions you can also reduce your tank cleaning requirements by using low-maintenance décor options. Fake plants and artificial driftwood can look good in your tank without increasing your tank maintenance duties – they don’t need any special lighting or substrate and they won’t change your tank water chemistry. It also doesn’t hurt that artificial tank décor options are usually much less expensive than their real counterparts.
Keeping your aquarium clean is essential for the health and wellness of your aquarium fish but you must strike a balance between cleaning often enough and cleaning too much. Your best bet is to set up a maintenance schedule for your weekly water changes and to correlate that with your décor cleanings. Cleaning one large tank object per week when you perform your water change will ensure that your tank stays clean without putting your tank at risk for re-cycling.
So in conclusion, clean once a week but only change 20% of the water. Only clean one big decoration or a few smaller ones at a time. Don’t clean your tank, decorations and your filter all at the same time as this will set your tank on a path for re-cycling.
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