Suddenly, your crystal clear fish tank is looking a bit cloudy. In fact, you aren’t quite sure your fish are all still there, because the water isn’t clear enough for you to see them. When this happens, you have reached the point where your aquarium will need to be thoroughly cleaned before your fish become ill from swimming in the dirty water. Of course, you really shouldn’t wait until there’s a problem before cleaning your aquarium. Ideally, a tank should be cleaned every two weeks.
To begin cleaning the tank, you should start by unplugging filters, heaters and any other electronic devices to avoid getting electrocuted. You won’t need any soaps or detergents as the chemicals contained in them could be dangerous for your fish. Don’t remove the fish from the tank while cleaning as this will often cause more harm than good. The fish are used to their environment and will become stressed if they are moved. When cleaning your aquarium, only use dechlorinated water as a cleaning agent.
You should use an aquarium algae scraper to wipe the algae from inside the aquarium. Different types of algae wipers are used depending on the type of aquarium you have. Acrylic aquariums scratch more easily than glass tanks and need a less abrasive scraper. Wipe everything in the tank including plants and decorations. Rinse the filters. Avoid removing the things in the aquarium to clean them as you could disrupt the ecosystem of your fish, which is dangerous to their health. You may want to consider purchasing an algae eater for the tank, as it will help prevent the aquarium from having a lot of algae in the first place.
Next, you will need to clean the gravel. To do this, you can use a python, a vacuum that connects to your sink and allows you to drain the water right into it. To prevent your aquarium’s gravel from getting dirty and smelly too quickly, you should avoid over-feeding the fish, since the food will eventually rot on the bottom of the aquarium. Carbon is used to remove smells within the aquarium, so you may want to purchase a filter that allows you to use carbon. Be sure to replace the carbon every 3 weeks.
Once you have cleaned the aquarium’s sides and gravel, it is time to clean the water. It is important to clean the water last, because removing algae and cleaning gravel puts pollutants back into the water. Don’t completely remove the water from the aquarium. You should ideally remove about 20% of the water at a time, since a complete change is a big shock for your fish. If the nitrate level of the tank is too high, you may want to remove up to 50% of the water at a time. The best way to change the tank’s water is to use a siphon, such as the python.
Refill the tank with dechlorinated water. Make sure the temperature of the fresh water matches the temperature of the aquarium. You wouldn’t want the fish to be subjected to shock, as this could kill them. Afterwards, connect the filter and heater again and turn them on. Remember to regularly check the levels of the elements such as nitrate and ammonia, to make sure they are in order. If you have a saltwater aquarium, check also the salinity of the water in the tank and the water you’ll be adding.