How to Properly Clean an Aquarium

Views 3 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful
How to Properly Clean an Aquarium

A clean fish tank ensures optimum health for the fish living inside, and provides them with a safe environment in which to swim and grow. It is a delicate ecosystem which can easily become toxic to its inhabitants if the right precautions are not taken. Cleaning the aquarium is not a very time consuming process. With the help of some handy tools and accessories, which can be purchased on eBay, it is a simple and straightforward task.
There are various factors which affect the frequency with which a tank must be cleaned. All tanks need to be periodically cleaned out but if the tank is crowded, or if too much feed is used and the excess builds up, then a normal filter system will find it difficult to handle the water quality. If a UV filter is present and if the mechanical filtration system is efficient, this will lessen the need for cleaning the tank.


In the case of salt-water fish, the proper ratio of salt and water needs to be prepared beforehand. Regardless of the type of marine life, the water should be the same temperature as that already in the tank, and will need to be free of chlorine and other additives.

Before cleaning, it is a good idea to make a comprehensive check list of all the accessories and tools that may be required.

Tools and accessories


The tank to be cleaned.

A gravel cleaner

A good siphon vacuum gravel cleaner in plastic is best suited for the short work of cleaning the gravel in the aquarium.

A magnetic

Algae scraper

Nothing takes algae off glass like a good scraper. A metal razor works well on glass aquariums, while plastic is safest for acrylic tanks.

A bucket

Use a bucket that has never had detergents or household chemicals in it.


Used to neutralise the chemicals so that they do not destroy nitrifying bacteria or damage the mucous membranes of the tropical fish.

Aquarium bacteria

Available in liquid form to mix into the water.

Water testing kit

Checks the level of chemicals in the tank water.

Net Soak

Using net soak will prevent transmitting disease, and has the added bonus of prolonging the life of the fish nets.

Filter Brush

When cleaning the filter, the right brush is everything. Be sure to have a filter brush on hand to get into those tight spaces.

Filter media

Cartridges, sponges, carbon packets, and so on – these need to be replaced when changing the filter.

Water Removal And Gravel Cleaning

Cleaning the aquarium involves partial water changes, and best practice is to do this on a weekly basis. Before getting started, new water will need to be prepared to replace the old water that will be removed and discarded from the tank. Changing water is important because for the vast majority of aquarium systems, as there is no other way to remove nitrates from water.

Clean the inside of the aquarium glass once in every week or two, and  in an average-sized aquarium change 15-20% of the water, along with cleaning the outside of the glass. A realistic guide is to do the cleaning once in 2 weeks, which is adequate if care is taken not to over-feed the fish. In the case of larger fish, a larger volume of food and waste products means that up to half of the water should be changed each time.

How to Clean the Gravel in Your Fish Tank While Extracting Water

The biggest repository of beneficial bacteria in the aquarium occurs on the surface of each piece of gravel. Therefore appropriate measures need to be taken in the process of gravel cleaning not to destroy this bacteria. Following are the do’s and don’ts of the process:

  • Start by shaking the gravel cleaner up and down in the water to create a flow of water from the tank into a bucket.
  • Never clean gravel with anything but plain, aquarium-temperature water which should be chemically safe for both tropical fish and helpful bacteria.
  • Do not try to use bleach or soap to sterilise the gravel, it kills the nitrifying bacteria and will allow ammonia levels to increase rapidly in the water.
  • The optimal way to clean gravel is by using plastic gravel cleaner with a hose attached. These can be easily found on eBay.
  • While siphoning out old water for partial water changes, the large tube is pushed into the gravel briefly, and then lifted.
  • Pushing a gravel vacuum cleaner through the gravel will suck up the fish waste, excess food, and other debris while the heavier gravel falls back to the aquarium bottom.
  • Stop extracting water when about one fifth of the water has been removed from the tank.

Filter Cleaning

Filter cleaning forms an integral part of the aquarium cleaning procedure. The 2 important things to consider in regards to filter cleaning are:

  • Cleaning the filter at the same time as tank cleaning can be too much of an environment change for your fish at one time. It is best to wait at least a week from the last time the tank was cleaned. That way, the fish will have had time to adjust to their new environment before another disruption takes place in the water and routine.
  • The cleaning method used depends on the type (or types) of filter in use. It will be necessary to refer to the owner’s manual to seek out details and directions for cleaning a particular model. Some filters use disposable filter media and other may utilise permanent filter media.

Steps to Cleaning the Filter

  • Cleaning the filter in the same water extracted from the fish tank will help retain the bacteria present in the filter sponge, which is necessary for the fish tank. Use the siphon, or a plastic cup, to remove as much water as judged necessary. Drain it into a medium sized bowl, like a small mixing bowl, or drain it in a bucket and transfer it to the bowl.
  • Unplug the mechanical filter to avoid receiving an electric shock while cleaning. Then take it off of the tank if possible, and place it in the awaiting bowl, bucket or sink.
  • Use a sponge to remove all detritus the filter apparatus, using water from the aquarium.
  • Use the leftover water to clean the other parts of the filter, or take a little more from the tank if the water becomes too dirty. Use a filter cleaning brush to access hard to reach spots - these can be ordered online at eBay in the fish tank section.
  • After cleaning, the filter can be returned to the fish tank.

Filters with Disposable Filter Media

Various filters use disposable media and the convenient way to clean these filters is to replace the media with a new one. The only cleaning it really needs is to swap out the carbon on a regular basis, usually about once a week or whenever the water seems cloudy - whichever occurs first. Remove the carbon before the steps given above for filter cleaning and replace it with the new carbon before reattaching the filter to the tank. It is a wise practice to change the filter cartridge about once a month.

Algae Control and Cleaning

If any alga has grown on the inside of your tank, use a magnetic algae scraper to remove it. Many varieties of algae scrapers or scrubbers are available on eBay .

Ensure the following to prevent or maintain the algae in the aquarium

  • Attach the magnets to either side of the glass, and slowly scrape the inside of the tank. This will loosen the algae, which will then be filtered out of the water by your filtering system.
  • Do it with about 20% of the water removed, to prevent spillage.
  • You may consider adding algae-eating fish-like plecostomus catfish to the aquarium population.
  • Don't overfeed the fish (which leaves behind scraps), and avoid excessive sunlight, which can aggravate algae growth.

Topping Off the Fish Tank

The tank initially reduced by 15-20 % water can now topped up with clean tap water. Ensure that the tap water is de-chlorinated to make it safe for your fish. For this, you may treat the new tap water with a tap water conditioner or dechlorinator.

It is also vital that bacteria levels in the aquarium are maintained, as the health of the fish depends on them. You may also choose to add some live bacteria to the water to replace the bacteria which has been removed. Aquarium bacteria comes in liquid form so it can simply be poured into the tank – refer to the product instructions for the correct amount to use. You can now put the tank lid back on and turn the filter and light on.

Water Chemistry

While replacing the water, consider specific water conditions for the aquarium fish in order to survive and flourish which includes the levels of chemicals like ammonia and nitrate that must be controlled in the tank. You can either test these levels yourself with a home test kit, or take a water sample to your fish retailer for testing. If necessary, the water chemistry can be altered by adding the necessary chemicals to the tank.

How to Buy Aquarium Cleaning Equipment on eBay

All the necessary equipment and materials for maintaining a clean aquarium can be found on eBay, under Pet Supplies > Fish > Water Treatment & Cleaning. Individual products may be sourced by using the search function, and it is possible to narrow down the search further using filtering options in the left bar column.


Good tank maintenance will keep an aquarium healthy for years to come. With regular cleaning and water changes, it shouldn't ever be necessary to empty the tank entirely for cleaning, and the aquarium and its inhabitants can be kept happy with a minimum disruption for them and for their owner.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides