What are the Best Tips for Tank Cleaning?

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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2019
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Tank cleaning is a necessary part of aquarium maintenance. Regular cleanings prevent dirt buildup in a saltwater tank, keep the aquarium environment attractive and help the pet fish stay healthy. Fish tanks should ideally be cleaned every week, or at least once a month.

To begin with, purchase tank cleaning equipment from a fish supplies store. The basic things required are tank tongs, a long-handled algae scraper, a soft bristle scrub brush, a fish net and a gravel vacuum. A one-step saltwater mix is useful if natural ocean water is not available.

An aquarium cleaner or some bleach may be needed for tank cleaning. Keep two or three buckets and some towels at hand. Remember to wash your hands before proceeding with the tank cleaning.

Disconnect the filter, aeration, water heater or any other electrical appliance connected to the saltwater fish tank. Remove the tank covering and set aside. Prepare replacement salt water in a bucket by adding the saltwater mix to dechlorinated tap water. Leave the saltwater to settle to room temperature.


Using the gravel vacuum, siphon off some of the tank water into another bucket. The amount of water to be removed depends on the size of the salt water tank. For a small fish tank or fishbowl, generally 30 to 50 percent of water should be replaced. For a larger saltwater tank, changing 10 to 30 percent water is sufficient. Don't change more than 50 percent as this could upset the pH balance.

Scoop out the fish with the fish net and put in the bucket with the removed tank water. Now, with the tank tongs, remove some of the tank decorations, rocks and plants. Remove some portions of the filter unit, either the cartridges, the sponges or the carbon packets.

Removing and cleaning only a few things at a time is advisable as most tank equipment have beneficial bacteria growing on them. These act as natural filters, and should not be disturbed or harmed. Clean the removed items with the previously siphoned-off tank water or with the new prepared salt water. Set aside to air dry.

If there is an algae build-up, use the algae scraper to scrape it off the fish tank walls. The addition of algae-eating fish to an aquarium can help control algae growth, but tank cleaning is still required. Remove any salt creep accumulated around the upper tank edge. Stir the bottom gravel lightly. Use siphon to remove loosened algae and any debris accumulated on the gravel.

Reinstall the aquarium items and plants into the salt water tank. Reverse the gravel vacuum and siphon the replacement saltwater into the tank. Leave space between the water level and the tank top edge to facilitate oxygen exchange. Switch on the electrical appliances. Let the filter run for a few hours to ensure the water is at normal room temperature.

The fish can now be put back into the saltwater tank. Replace the cleaned tank glass cover. The tank cleaning is done.


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