DixieFish said:HI there! Cleaning a tank is super easy. Take out everything in the tank and empty the water. If you had a filter, take it out and place it in a small container with some of the water, so that you don't kill the bio-filter (will get to cleaning the filter in a minute. Clear off a level table or something to put the tank on.
From here the methods are the same, but the cleaning solutions vary by preference. First, I like to spray the inside with plain tap water, then drain. I then add about a gallon of tap and one or more of the following cleaning solutions (one is usually sufficient):
Aquarium Salt - a generous handful, it does not all need to dissolve because the crystals provide a bit of extra scrubbing action. Avoid iodized salt. Sea salt works fine, but more expensive.
Distilled White Vinegar - a couple capfulls work. Also helps dissolve calcium deposited. Apple Cider Vinegar will do in a pinch, but its usually a weaker cleaning solution. Combining with salt is fine.
Dawn Dish Soap - just a few drops. You want a thin solution or you'll be rinsing it out forever. Contrary to belief, it will not hurt your fish or the tank's cycling ability (they use it to clean oil off baby ducks, after all). I would not trust any other brand as they may contain other chemicals, and be sure it is UNSCENTED.
Gently scrub the tank inside and out with a dish towel. Dish sponges may be treated with chemicals to prevent bacterial buildup so I don't use them. Rough scrubber pads are the same way, plus they can damage the seals.
Take extra care to clean the seals and check for seal damage while you're at it. TIP: when transporting your tank, be sure to support the bottom.
THank you so much for the long list of info! I will definitely be using these tips!
NEVER EVER EVER use RUBBING ALCOHOL or any other alcohol solution, because it will DESTROY the surface areas in the tank that nitrifying bacteria need to flourish. You literally kill the tank and it will never cycle properly again. Same thing for substrates and decore.
Just to be safe, do not use bleach, either.
Next, dump the cleaning water and rinse the tank very well with tap water inside and out. Allow the tank to dry thoroughly.
TIP: Use room temperature, or luke-warm water only. Hot water will "shock" the glass, causing it to crack or shatter. Cold water just plain doesn't clean.
To clean rocks, sand, and decore, just scrub and rinse the same as you would the tank, just in a separate bucket or container. I don't use soap on this stuff, though, for fear I might not be able to remove all the residue. This includes the heater if you have one, BUT NOT THE FILTER (getting to that).
TIP: If you have a heater, always unplug it and let it cool at least an hour before removing it to prevent it from shorting out or shattering.
What you CAN do with the substrate, gravel or sand, is boil it hard for about 15 minutes, and I like to add a generous amount of salt during boiling, too, just be sure to rinse thoroughly in fresh water. If you won't be setting the tank back up that day, spread it out on a clean towel and let it dry completely before storing it in a container or plastic zipper bag.
Now, finally, the filter (if you had one). Because the filter is the primary source for your bio-filter, DO NOT use any cleaning solutions on it whatsoever. Instead, take it apart and gently wipe out the worst of the scum. Don't bother with getting into every little nook and cranny - you never want to over clean a filter. Go ahead and toss the carbon, but only gently rinse the coarse filter pad in dechlorinated water (this, too, houses good bacteria). Remove any large debris or waste from the filter and check for clogs in the intake valve. If you can get inside the pump housing, you can gently rinse\wipe that out, too (just don't shake it - I killed a filter on accident that way!)
Now its easier cleansing a sponge filter. Just give it a couple of squeezes in the old tank water to remove the worst of the grunk. Again you don't want to over-clean. Store in the old water or in clean, dechlorinates water until you set the tank back up.
Once your tank and tank items are clean and\or dry, you can set it all back up at your leisure. If you did not have a filter, you'll need to hold off on adding fish for 4 - 8 wks to let the tank re-cycle. If you did have a filter, and you didn't over-clean or let it completely dry out, I would still give it two weeks for the bacteria to reestablish themselves, just to be safe and ensure success with my new fish.
TIP: You can add all the live plants you want, anytime in a cycling tank. I personally believe that it does speed up the process.
TIP: This is a well-known trick, but before you add your gravel\sand, you can sprinkle a fine layer of finely powdered fish food on the bottom of the tank. Then add the substrate right on top. The decomposing food will release extra ammonia into the water, which the nitrifying bacteria will eat and thus get established at a faster rate. And if you get plants, they will absorb the excess ammonia and nitrates gladly.
After at least four weeks of cycling, you can test the water for nitrites/nitrates. If you don't have a test kit or strips, take some tank water in a clean container to a fish store for testing. It may cost a couple bucks, but if it tests okay then you can proceed straight to the display tanks!
I hope I didn't forget anything. I personally always enjoyed tank cleaning. I find it therapeutic. Which is ironic because I absolutely DESPISE washing my everyday dishes, LOL!
Good luck and Happy Fishkeeping!
EDIT: Sorry, I didn't really intend to make a manual! I always write way too much when I've had too much caffeine...