How to Safely Clean Your Tank and Aquarium Decorations

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington

For all aquarium aficionados, the decor and the display in their tank are the biggest pride and joy – besides the fish, of course. Depending on the size of the tank, you can have a variety of setups and decoration pieces in the water. Your abilities to decorate are limited only by the size of your aquarium. And when you’re sprucing up your tank with aquarium ornaments, it’s inevitably going to need to be cleaned on occasion. Things that stay in the water for a long time are bound to become grimy, calcified, faded, and simply unsanitary. That can’t be good for the delicate aquarium fish. In other words, cleaning is crucial. But how do you go about it without making the marine environment compromised and unhealthy for its inhabitants? So here’s how to do it without endangering your fishes’ environment.

Keeping your aquarium clean is more than just a matter of aesthetics – it also has an impact on the water quality in your tank which directly affects your fish. To keep the water quality in your tank high, you should clean your tank decorations on a regular basis. Don’t let the grime and growth appear and spoil the water. Instead, establish a regular cleaning schedule of the tank, and that way your water and decorations will always be optimally clean. Just keep the following tips in mind and you won’t compromise the fish in any way.

Tips for Cleaning Your Tank

To keep your community of fish and invertebrates happy and healthy, you need to maintain a clean tank so that your water quality will always remain high. And even though a lot of people think that they need to remove all of the water from the tank, the truth is that you don’t have to do that unless the tank is in really poor condition. Keeping most of the water in the tank will actually help in maintaining the right level of good bacteria that are necessary for a healthy aquarium. A bit of a paradox, right?

Just follow the steps below to clean your tank easily and efficiently. Be sure to do this on a regular basis to keep your aquarium looking beautiful and your animals healthy.

1. Using an algae pad, you can clean the insides of the glass walls of your tank. There are a lot of different algae scrapers to choose from, but the right one will help remove any algae that’s stuck onto the glass. If there is quite a bit of stubborn a

Note: It might not be a good idea to clean out your filter when you are doing a tank cleaning, as that could cause an imbalance of the beneficial bacteria in the tank. Therefore, experts recommend waiting a couple of weeks before doing a filter cleaning. Keep in mind that how you maintain your filter will also depend on the type of filtration system that you are using.

You already know that regular maintenance is crucial when keeping a fish tank- not only it will make your prized aquarium look spotless, but it also ensures that the fish and the plants in it thrive and stay healthy. To make your job easier and to ensure you’re not inadvertently endangering the flora and the fauna in your tank with the supplies you’re using, you need to have the right type of aquarium cleaning tools and solutions. They have to be both efficient in what they do and deemed safe and non-toxic. These are our choices when it comes to the best fish tank cleaning tools and products:

Removing pesky algae from your aquarium sometimes takes a lot of scrubbing and scraping before that glass or plastic is spotless again. It can be tiring, challenging, and costly. This nifty design, however, allows you to do both without needing different tools: the dual-sided magnet cleaner polishes the surface and the stainless steel scraper on the edges will remove hard algae deposits with ease. Simple and efficient! FL!PPER Algae Cleaner will work on both glass and acrylic aquariums and comes with replaceable blades for both types of surfaces.

2. Best Vacuum – Aqueon Medium Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

Cleaning aquarium gravel is a dreaded task for most fish keepers - it can be really challenging, tedious, and detrimental for the tank environment. But with the right equipment on hand, it doesn’t have to be as taxing as you’d expect it to be. This high-quality siphon vacuum efficiently separates debris from gravel and it’s easy to start and use. The potent sucking power might not be the best choice for small aquariums or nano tanks, but if you have a medium or large fish tank, this tool will become an irreplaceable part of your aquarium cleaning arsenal.

3. Best Cleaning Set – JZMYXA Aquarium Fish Tank Cleaning Set

In case you’re new to the world of fish keeping or need to replace your old tatty aquarium cleaning supplies, this budget-friendly fish tank cleaning set might be just what you need - without the need to break the bank. It contains six multipurpose tools: fish net, spoon net (for daily pickup of debris), aquarium surface cleaning sponge, an algae scraper, plant fork (for extracting aquatic plants), and gravel rake. All these tools are installed on an adjustable handle – 1.8ft to 2.6ft length – so you can adjust it to clean both small and large tanks with the same ease.

4. Best Water Filter Cleaner – yueton Aquarium Water Filter Pipe Cleaner

This inexpensive tool is ideal for cleaning aquarium canister filters, sink overflow tubes- or any kinds of fish tank pipes and hoses, really. You’ll be impressed with how useful these small gentle brushes are for regular maintenance- they’ll easily remove gunk and deposits of all kinds of nastiness in your aquarium equipment. This is one of those tools that all aquarium enthusiasts simply need to have in their cleaning arsenal.

5. Best Gravel Cleaner – Natural Rapport Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

If you want to prolong the periods between actual gravel cleaning without risking the quality of the water, this is the thing to go for. This liquid cleaner boasts a professional-grade, non-chemical formula that can be safely used in saltwater and freshwater tanks both. It will eliminate organic waste buildup, improve water quality, and reduce odors- so you won’t have to get the pump out as often. No mess, no hassle- a perfect addition to your fish tank cleaning routine!

6. Best Tool Kit – Segarty Aquarium Tools Kit 5 in 1

An often overlooked- but equally important- part of aquarium maintenance are aquascaping and general aquatic plant care. Not unlike plants in a garden, aquatic plants also need to be trimmed, the gravel around them as well as any aquarium decor clean and neat, and generally pruned and maintained to thrive. And to do that successfully and with ease, you’ll need the right tools- such as this handy Segarty Aquarium Tools 5 in 1 kit. The set includes two pairs of scissors (one straight and one curved) for trimming and shaping of the plants, even if they are in the remote corners of the tank, a spatula for aquascaping and arranging the gravel, and two pairs of tweezers (one straight and one curved) for cleaning debris and planting new specimens in the aquarium.

All of the tools are made from forged stainless steel, ensuring their durability and rust-resistant qualities, so you can be certain these will last you years with ease. The handles are smooth and ergonomic so they are also comfy to grip and use- the only “downside” is that you can’t avoid wetting your hands when you use these aquascaping tools. But hey, where there’s fish, there’s bound to be water too!

Tips for Cleaning Tank Decorations

Anything that you put into your aquarium could have an impact on your water chemistry and water quality. That means that if you clean your tank decorations with soap and don’t rinse them properly, the soap could change the conditions in your tank and it might have a negative impact on your fish. This is why you need to be careful about how you clean your tank decorations, and to be thorough in everything you do as well. To clean your aquarium décor safely, follow the steps below:

Remove your tank decorations one at a time for cleaning. If you clean out the whole tank, you could cause your fish to become stressed, which will increase their risk for getting sick. Be steady, slow, and precise when removing these decorations - don’t rush in and splash about. That will also stress out the fish and disturb their environment. The less noticeable you are, the better.

Related: The Truth About The 1 Inch Per Gallon Rule

  • Place the decoration in your sink and run hot water over it for two to three minutes. This will help to cut through accumulated algae and make the cleaning process easier. The hot water is, of course, another good way at killing bacteria and disinfecting items.
  • Make a 5 percent bleach solution by mixing about 4 teaspoons per 2 gallons of water.
  • Pour the bleach solution over the item or place the item in a bucket filled with the bleach solution. Allow it to soak for two to three minutes. This is another great way of disinfection.
  • Use a toothbrush or bristle brush to scrub any algae and debris off the item. This is particularly important for objects that have been in the water long, and accumulated gunk and filth over time.
  • Rinse the object thoroughly in cool water for about 5 minutes to remove any traces of bleach.
  • Fill another bucket with warm water and treat it with a dechlorinating agent.
  • Add the cleaned item to the bucket and allow it to soak for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing it again and then placing it back in the aquarium. Remember to be as thorough as possible in everything you do, especially rinsing. This can be crucial for the wellbeing of your fish.

Related: How to Anchor Live Plants to Driftwood for a Natural Décor Scheme

By following these instructions you can safely clean the objects in your aquarium without putting your fish at risk. Just be sure to only clean one large object (or several smaller objects) at a time so you don’t stress out your fish or kick up a lot of debris in the tank. You should also avoid cleaning your filter and your tank objects at the same time because you don’t want to kill off too many beneficial bacteria or your tank might re-cycle and that could kill your fish. Any sudden changes to the “ecosystem”, i.e. the tank environment, can be very detrimental for the fish, especially the sensitive and exotic breeds.

Low-Maintenance Décor Tips

If the lighting in your tank is too high or if there is an abundance of nutrients (often due to infrequent water changes) you are likely to have algae problems. The best way to prevent excessive algae growth is to limit your tank lighting to 10 to 12 hours per day and to keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight. Not only will direct sunlight boost algae growth, but it can also fade decorations, aquarium fittings, and raise the temperature of the water. It is always better to keep the tank out of direct sunlight, and in a bit of a shade. In addition to taking these precautions you can also reduce your tank cleaning requirements by using low-maintenance décor options. Fake plants and artificial driftwood can look good in your tank without increasing your tank maintenance duties – they don’t need any special lighting or substrate and they won’t change your tank water chemistry. It also doesn’t hurt that artificial tank décor options are usually much less expensive that artificial options.

Keeping your aquarium clean is essential for the health and wellness of your aquarium fish but you must strike a balance between cleaning often enough and cleaning too much. Your best bet is to set up a maintenance schedule for your weekly water changes and to correlate that with your décor cleanings. Cleaning one large tank object per week when you perform your water change will ensure that your tank stays clean without putting your tank at risk for re-cycling. Of course, you can also seek out the advice of experienced and longtime aquarium owners. See how they clean their tanks, soak up some valuable information, and steal the tricks of the trade. Experience comes with time, and learning from the best is a sure way to succeed and keep your fish thriving.

Simple Tips for Aquarium Maintenance

Once you set up your aquarium, you should let it run for at least a week or two before you add your aquarium fish. This gives the tank time to “cycle” which simply involves building up a colony of beneficial bacteria that will help facilitate the process of waste metabolism, helping keep the conditions in your tank within the healthy range for your fish and other tank inhabitants.

Here are some simple tips to help you maintain your aquarium:

  • Test your tank water on a weekly basis. The only way to know whether conditions in your aquarium are ideal or not is to perform weekly water tests. Record the results in a notebook so you can compare them week to week, checking for problematic changes.
  • Perform regular water changes. Changing your tank water helps remove dissolved wastes and replace trace nutrients, so perform a water change at least once every two weeks of at least 10% to 15% your total tank volume. We all know that the quality of modern tap water is not ideal, and it can contain many unhealthy additions. That is why regular water replacement and filtration are very important.
  • Always condition new tank water. Before adding new water to your aquarium, you need to treat it with a water conditioner to remove chlorine and heavy metals that are toxic to your fish.
  • Clean and service your filter on a monthly basis. You’ll need to replace your filter media once a month and clean the filter – just avoid cleaning the biological filter so you don’t kill your beneficial bacteria.
  • Remove algae as needed. Over time, algae may accumulate in your tank, especially if you leave your lights on too long or there is an abundance of certain nutrients. Remove algae by using a gravel vacuum when you perform water changes and manually remove algae as needed.
  • Check to make sure everything is working. In addition to checking the conditions in your tank, you also need to maintain your equipment properly. Check everything at least a few times a week to make sure it is still running and do a more in-depth check once a month.

With the right tools and equipment, maintaining your aquarium won’t be difficult. It is all about practice and routine – after a few successful cleanups, it will be easier each time. As long as you stay on top of your routine maintenance tasks and pay attention to the little details, your aquarium will be alive and thriving for years to come.

Additional resource:

Top 5 Invertebrates to Hire For Your Freshwater Cleanup Crew

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Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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