How to Clean the Aquarium

Cleaning Your Aquarium

Aquariums are great to look at, and taking care of fish can be a rewarding learning experience for children.

When your fish tank gets dirty, however, the water gets cloudy and the whole area starts to smell. If you let it go too long, you can kill the fish!

If the responsibility of cleaning an aquarium has fallen upon your shoulders and you don’t want dead sea life on your conscience, you should learn to clean the aquarium properly.

It’s not difficult, but if it is not done correctly, you may still have dead fish!

Getting Started:

Tearing apart your aquarium is a lot like cleaning your house. You start at the top because the gunk is going to fall to the bottom. It’s like dusting before you vacuum.


Start by siphoning about half the water into buckets and dump it into the sink or toilet.

Now take your algae scrubber and start cleaning the inside glass of the aquarium. You might have to scrub fairly hard to get all the algae off the sides.

Next, take all of the decorative items out of the aquarium. Do NOT put them in the spare tank with your fish.

Put them in the strainer and rinse them under water. You should scrub them with the algae scrubber. If you can’t get much of the gunk off of them, you can use a weak bleach solution of one part bleach to 9 parts water.

Even live plants can soak in a 1 to 19 bleach solution, but only for a minute or two. If you use bleach, rinse very well with water.

After you’re done cleaning the decorative items, rinse them with filtered, distilled water and put them on paper towels to dry.


You should continue siphoning water until you get out as much as possible. When you siphon at the gravel level, you will be sucking out a lot of dirt and bacteria with the water.

If your gravel is completely coated with sludge and goop or you just want a gravel color change, take out the gravel and toss it.

If you still have live fish (remember that guy swimming in the old water), you should probably stick with the same gravel for now.

If siphoning picked up the majority of big particles, leave the gravel. Your fish has been living in the nasty water for a while now, and just the cleaning you’ve done will be a big shock to your little marine ecosystem.

You have to keep some of the bacterial colonies alive to help balance your newer, cleaner water.


The bacteria colonies that don’t live in the gravel live in the filter. Believe it or not, after all of your hard work, you are not going to replace or clean the filter yet.

Once you put in fresh water (distilled), salt (if saltwater), decorations, and chemicals, turn on your nasty, dirty filter. This will help keep down the shock factor on your fish going from filthy to clean.

If you have stress water conditioning drops, add them. Allow the filter to run for a while, and then use a test kit to check the condition of the water.

When it’s healthy for your fish, add him (and some of his filthy water) back to the aquarium.

Keep the light turned off to cause less stress for the little guy. Check water conditions with testing kits every few hours to make sure all is well.

In about two weeks, change or clean your filter. Be sure to scrape algae and change 10-25% of the water every week or two weeks, depending on your tank.

Rest assured, if you keep up on things, It will be much easier to clean in the future.