The Aquarium Cleaning Guide

Cleaning your aquarium is a simple, but essential, part of creating a healthy and thriving aquascape. I will be discussing important aspect of aquarium cleaning.

While there are many components to be considered in your cleaning ritual, such as your equipment, the sand, or glass, there are many best practices you can follow to save you time and effort in cleaning your tank.

When cleaning your aquarium, the key concepts to focus on are the tank bottom, water freshness, and filter; however, additional concepts to keep in mind for a healthy and thriving aquarium is the amount of bacteria you have in the tank eco system and the characteristics of the tank itself.

Aquarium Cleaning tools to keep in mind

The use of bacteria, a siphon, and a glass cleaner are all essential tools you will require when cleaning your aquarium.

Using bacteria acts as a preventative measure in keeping your aquarium cleaner for longer.

Comparatively, a good hose and glass cleaner will make the process much simpler on your side when you’re doing the actual cleaning.

“Good Bacteria”

Good Bacteria on Filter

Bacteria are essential to a healthy thriving aquarium.

These bacteria will reduce the nitrate levels in your tank to a less harmful degree.

Nitrates come from fish feces, uneaten food, and other waste.

Using a healthy amount of good bacteria will naturally consume these nitrates and keep your tank cleaner for a longer amount of time.

Hose and Siphon

Aquarium Siphone and Hose

A hose and siphon system allow you to clean the substrate and gravel of your aquarium.

As all waste falls to the bottom of your aquarium, regular cleaning of the tank bottom with a hose and siphon is essential to maintaining a healthy ecosystem in your aquarium.

If waste from your fish and plant life remain in your aquarium for too long without cleaning, it is likely that your fish and plants will be negatively impacted. These tools will also provide a means to simultaneously remove old water.

However, a general rule is to remove only 40% of the old water. If you remove too much and then introduce new water to your system it is possible you can shock the fish and harm them inadvertently.

If you are serious about aquarium, a hose and siphon is a must have for cleaning purposes.

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Glass Cleaner

Aquarium glass cleaner

Finally, the glass in your tank also acts as a magnet for dirty substances from your aquascape.

When cleaning your aquarium, using a glass cleaner will greatly improve the aesthetic of your aquarium and help sustain a cleaner aquarium in the long term.

Many people use a sponge to clean the glass of their aquariums, however, magnets and algae scrapers are also common tools for cleaning your aquarium.

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Miscellaneous Tools

Apart from these tools, it’s also useful to have a large bucket and net you can use to displace your fish for a few moments while you are cleaning the aquarium.

Use the bucket as storage and put some of the old aquarium water into it; once you have enough water, input the fish into this container while you are cleaning.

This will help you avoid the common issue of damaging your fish unintentionally.


While tedious, cleaning your aquarium can be made simple and quick using a uniform process.

Below is a step-by-step overview of how to clean your aquarium in an efficient and effective way.

Step 1 Unplug your equipment such as heaters, filters, lights, or CO2 system.
Step2 Remove fish and artificial plants by placing them in a container with the old aquarium water.
Step3 Once the tank is empty, use an algae scraper, sponge, or magnet to clean the glass of your aquarium.
Step4 Take your internal equipment such as your pump, tubing, and artificial plants to the sink. Clean all components gently with soap and water and be sure to rinse thoroughly.
Step5 Using a siphon and hose gravel cleaner system, push the nozzle all the way to the bottom of the tank and leave it there. Debris and other waste will rise into the siphon; continue this until the water starts to clear or you have cleaned all of the gravel floor sections. Remember to not remove more than 40% of the water in the tank.
Step6 Take the temperature of your tank and collect water at the same temperature before refilling your aquarium.
Step7 Replace your plants and fish.
Step8 Reinstall your equipment.

These eight simple steps can be repeated for a number of aquarium types, nevertheless, when cleaning an aquarium with real plants, be careful as to avoid disturbing the roots of your plants and stunting their growth.

The frequency of the cleaning varies on the size and composition of your tank, yet it is generally accepted that the more fish or plant life you have, the more waste there will be, which in turn requires more cleaning and maintenance.

Be conscientious of the most recent time you cleaned your tank and observe how long it takes for your water to begin showing signs of waste.

Based on these observations, you should be able to determine how often your tank needs to be cleaned.

5 thoughts on “The Aquarium Cleaning Guide”

    • i don’t remove the fish either. i carefully rub old sponge on the insides of the glass, trim out dead leaves and excess growth, replant and reposition plants and hardscape as necessary…

  1. been keeping aquariums on and off since 2007, and i never use soap or other chemicals on anything i put inside the tank, especially the filter components – use some of the old water to gently rinse them out.

  2. When I was a kid, I always wanted to have my own aquarium and that desire still hasn’t changed. I never knew that bacteria inside of tanks is crucial in helping the tank to last longer and stay clean. If I ever buy an aquarium, I will probably have to talk to an expert and get more information on how to maintain one.


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