Fish are relatively low maintenance pets, especially when compared with walking a dog, taking your cat to the vet, or exercising a horse. But while fish may not need much daily care, fish owners can’t skimp on performing regular aquarium maintenance. The water in your fish tank is the air that they breathe as well as the environment in which they swim. Keeping it clean is the most important thing you can do to keep your fish happy and healthy.
How Often to Clean Your Fish Tank
How often should you clean your fish tank? Cleaning it can be a big undertaking, and you don’t want to shock your fish by getting into their tank too often. Many factors determine how often you’ll need to clean a tank and change the water. Usually, the size of your aquarium, the amount and types of fish you keep, the nitrate levels in the tank, and the kinds of plants you have will affect how often a fish tank needs to be cleaned. Many aquarium stores and pet stores offer guides so that you can make sure you’re cleaning your tank an appropriate amount. In general, for a standard 5 to 10-gallon tank, the consensus is that it will need a 10 to 15% water change about once a week.
The most important tool you’ll need is a simple one: an aquarium bucket. You may want to have more than one, as you’ll use them for every part of an aquarium clean. The bucket will be what you use to prepare your water for the water change, where you siphon old water into, and where you will rinse aquarium objects. It’s important to get one that will hold enough water for your water change and always keep it free of harsh detergents and chemicals.
For how to clean your fish tank filled with fresh water, the process starts the night before. Fill your bucket with water, and let it sit overnight with a water conditioner to make sure that all the chlorine has evaporated. This will also ensure the water is truly at room temperature before you begin your water change.
When tank cleaning day arrives, the most common question new fish owners have is how do you clean a fish tank without removing the fish? Are you really supposed to leave them in? For a 10-15% water change, also known as the average tank cleaning, you don’t want to stress your fish by moving them. It can cause injuries, as they may resist being corralled and caught. Of course, if you’re not supposed to remove them, how do you clean your fish tank without killing the fish? You will want to wear long gloves when you reach in and avoid using bleach, soap, or hot water throughout the entire process.
How to Clean Your Fish Tank
The first thing you’ll want to do is turn off and submerge any delicate equipment, like water heaters or filters. Next, using an algae pad and wearing gloves, gently scrub off algae from the sides of the tank. You can also use a toothbrush to get at tank decor with difficult angles.
Siphon out about 10-15% of the tank’s water using a water siphon or aquarium gravel cleaner. Be careful not to suck up any smaller fish (an unused stocking can be stretched over the end of the siphon, for extra safety). The siphon removes old tank water (and with it harmful excess nitrates). It also sucks up any fish waste and uneaten food from the substrate. Siphoning at an angle is how to clean rocks and sand at the bottom of the aquarium.
About once a month, at least, you’ll want to add in the extra step of rinsing your tank filter in the bucket of recently removed tank water. Don’t use tap water or soap for this, just swish it around in your siphoned water bucket.
Finally, you can add back in the new water. Testing it with a tank thermometer first will make sure it’s the same temperature as the current water – a drastic difference of degrees can be deadly for your fish! Remember to always leave a little space between the water and the top of the tank, in order to allow for the exchange of oxygen and CO2 that lets fish breathe.
How to clean a fish tank with saltwater is only a little more complicated than a freshwater tank cleaning. It will need to be slightly done more often, and with a few more steps involved. However, the same rules of the 10-15% water change apply. The only differences are that you will need to empty and rinse the protein skimmer, check for salt creep, and regularly test your saltwater aquarium to ensure that nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, and ammonia levels stay under control. White vinegar can be used to clean pumps, air intake hoses, and clogged skimmer valves.
Commonly Asked Questions When Cleaning Fish Tanks
If, for some reason, you have to change most or all of the water in the tank, how long do you let water sit before putting fish in again? Let the water sit for 24 hours so that friendly bacteria can re-grow, and the pH can rebalance.
Are there any fish that clean tanks and can help me have to clean less frequently? Algae eating fish can help you keep a cleaner aquarium, as long as they fit into your existing ecosystem. Some common tank cleaning fish are the Bristlenose Plecos and the Otocinclus Catfish.
Conducting a regular 10-15% water change will leave your fish tank cleaner than it was before and will make your fish happier and healthier inside of it. As long as you avoid chemical cleaners, let the water sit at room temperature, and monitor the water’s temperature, chlorine, and nitrate levels, you can make the tank cleaning process safe for your aquatic pets, such as Betta Fish and Koi Fish, and simple for you.