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Cleaning a Freshwater Aquarium

Posted by on Dec 06 2017

Cleaning your freshwater aquarium might sound like a simple and easy enough task, but there are a number of hints and tips to ensure the process goes swimmingly, especially if you are a first-timer.

Even if you have been cleaning fish tanks for some time, but have recently noticed something fishy about how quickly your aquarium is becoming dirty, you might be missing one of our killer tricks for tank perfection.

We have compiled a manual to help you get your freshwater aquarium looking fintastic in no time.

How to Tell If Your Freshwater Fish Tank Needs Cleaning

The most obvious and simple way to tell if your fish tank is ready for its next clean is to simply look! The sight of your fish tank is a fool-proof way to determine whether you need to get your cleaning accessories out or not.

If the aquarium glass is all clear, it’s probably okay to wait a couple of day. If the glass is looking a little tainted or scummy, now is your time! Equally, if the glass is clear but you notice cloudy water in the tank or uneaten food and waste floating around, it’s time for some aquarium maintenance.

Should You Remove Your Freshwater Aquarium Fish When Cleaning?

For many people that are new to cleaning aquariums and fish tanks, they often have the misunderstanding that you need to remove the fish during the process.

However, for simple cleaning jobs like the one we have detailed below, the task can be completed without having to remove the fish from their home. Siphon vacuums and algae pads entering the tank are much less distressing for the fish than removing them altogether.

Removing your fish from the aquarium will also leave them more susceptible to infection or becoming ill from cross contamination. If you keep on top of your aquarium cleaning, there should be no need to remove your fish from the tank.

The Equipment You Will Need…

Although cleaning tropical fish tanks is often seen as a simple, there are a few tricks to ensure you are doing the job thoroughly and effishently. Firstly, by making sure you have all the correct aquarium tools and accessories ready to go:

  • FILTER MEDIA – cartridges, sponges, carbon packets

How to Clean Your Freshwater Aquarium

1.      Decide how much water you need to change

You should never change 100% of your current water, which is another common misconception amongst tank cleaning novices. If you are changing your tank water on a regular basis and you have healthy fish, you should only be changing 10 to 20% of the water at a time.

If you are leaving it for slightly longer periods of time or your fish are sick, you need to change no less than 25 to 50% of the water at a time.

2.      Starting from the top…

The most constructive approach to cleaning your fish tank is to start from the top and work your way down as any waste removed will naturally sink to the bottom and you don’t want to clean the bottom twice!

Using an algae magnet cleaner or an algae pad, begin to eradicate any algae that is stuck to the interior glass of the tank. You want to avoid using an already used scrubber from your kitchen as any detergents or cleaning products will be detrimental to your fish.

As you begin to scrub the algae off the surface you should notice it sinking to the bottom or your fish tank.

3.      Siphon out the old water

In step one, we told you to consider how much water you need to change this time around, so whether you decided to empty between 10 and 20% or 25 and 50%, now is the time to do so. Start up your siphon and disperse of the old water into an unused bucket.

We recommend buying a new bucket or water holder that you will only use for future tank cleaning. We will be coming back to this water later so it is important that it is not contaminated with old cleaning products and don’t throw it away just yet!

4.      Hoovering your fish tank rocks and gravel

The quickest and also most successful method of cleaning your fish tank rocks or gravel is by using special aquarium gravel cleaner. It takes little to no effort and a gravel cleaner removes more excess waste and food than what would be possible by hand, without having to completely empty the tank and remove the fish.

Suck up the gravel using your cleaner and gradually pull it towards the water’s surface. As you near the top of the tank, the gravel will fall and only dirty water, grime and waste will be removed by the washer. Move any rocks, plants or aquarium decorations along the way to ensure a meticulous cleaning of the gravel.

5.      Cleaning your fish tank decorations

Scrubbing your aquarium would be a waste of time without also cleaning your fish tank decorations, especially if they are covered in algae. The best way to do so is using your algae pad and scrub all decorations in the bucket of old water you previously removed from your tank.

6.      Topping up your water

After siphoning out old water and cleaning your gravel, your water level will have dropped and now is the time to top it up. Using a jug designated for the job, transfer water into your tank that has been appropriately treated to suit your fish and that is the same temperature as your current water.

The safest way to test water temperature is using an aquarium thermometer rather than guessing. Remaining within the temperature boundaries for your specific fish is absolutely pivotal for their health, so you want to be as accurate as possible when adding new water.

If you are using water from your tap, it is vital that you condition the water to remove any toxins or metals that will harm your fish.

7.      It’s time to clean your filter

The final job inside your aquarium is to clean or change your filter. You should look to clean your filter at least once every two weeks as the carbon inside the filter cartridges can become hazardous if left too long.

To clean the filter, open it and remove the sponge from inside and soak it in the water you removed from your tank. However, you must remember that cleaning the filter does not mean that you don’t have to change it, this is still extremely important.

You should completely change your filter at least once a month, although if it appears to be dirtier than usual before a month has passed, you should change is straight away.

8.      The big finale… Your fish tanks exterior!

The final job on your to-do list is the exterior of your fish tank. You don’t want to go through all that effort to only complete half a job.

Once cleaning the inside of your aquarium is complete, you want to look at cleaning the outside glass, the hood and the light to ensure your aquarium is sparkling clean.

Avoid using regular glass cleaner even on your tanks exterior as glass cleaners contain toxins that could harm your fish. Instead, opt for a glass cleaner specially designed for aquariums, or make your own concoction at home using vinegar. 

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