How To Clean The Aquarium?!

  • #1
Hello all. I'm new to keeping tropical fish and am planning on getting a tank in the next week or so but there's one thing I can't quite work out and that's the level of cleaning involved. I'm definitely going to set up a tank, nothing can put me off, but I'd be very grateful if someone could give me some realistic cleaning tips.

I know I will need to change around 20% of the water every week and clean algae off of the glass. However, I remember when keeping gold fish, even with a filter the tank would become dirty with algae after a month or so and we'd need to empty the entire thing out every month for a clean and start again. I'm guessing this isn't the case as you need to maintain a stable environment - but do you ever have to do this?

Also, on the site it mentions cleaning gravel with a hose - what does this mean? How would I clean gravel in the tank, do I need to scoop some out, clean and plop it back in?

I know these are really basic questions and appreciate any help with this.


  • #2
Hello Mr. Jack. Yes, you will need to clean the gravel with a hose. You can get the hose in your pet store. And don't worry, you won't have to take the gravel out, clean it, and put it back in! In fact, it's very easy - what you do is you vacuum the gravel with your hose every time you change the water (not everyday!). You may be changing 20% or 25% of the water, once every week or once every 2 weeks - depending on how many fish you have and what kinds of fish they are. You simply siphon 20-25% of the water every week or two from the bottom of your tank in order to remove the wastes and uneaten food from the gravel. Vacuum the gravel until 20-25% of water is removed. Good luck with your new tank!
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thank-you Aqua Girl for replying so quickly and so clearly! Quite excited about this, I wish I knew about the gravel hoover back in the Goldfish days

Love this site, hopefully I'll be able to report back with a success story soon.
  • #4
Mr. Jack,
Welcome to Fishlore! How exciting to set up your first tank! If you haven't already, please make sure you understand the cycling process, and if you haven't fishlore has a good article about it to help you out:

The article mentions cycling your tank with fish, which many hobbyists now consider cruel. The alternative is to do what is called a fishless cycle where instead of the fish providing the ammonia to feed the bacteria, you use pure plain ammonia (the kind with not additives). You would add the ammonia to the tank slowly until your reading was 4 or 5 ppm, and continue to keep the ammonia at that level with daily checking until you can add ammonia and ammonia and nitrite levels are at zero within 24 hours. You should also have a nitrate reading at this point. My first tank was cycled with fish, and I have cycled a few others with fish. I am not here to judge, but please do your research on what fish you would cycle the tank with before getting fish, and make sure you do water changes when the ammonia and nitrite levels get high.

You shouldn't clean your tank out like that every month. Everyone has algae at some point in their tanks, and it would be better to find out what the problem is with your water chemistry and try to fix it. Completely cleaning and starting over every month will definitely take a toll on you and you will probably not stay in the hobby long. You are destroying all the bacteria in your tank when you do that, and it may be just something simple like overfeeding that caused the problem. Also, depending on what type of fish you choose, live plants in your tank will actually help you with that problem. They will compete with the algae for nutrients, and will even help keep your nitrates down.

A gravel vacuum is essential for every tank. It's basically the same principal as siphoning gas with a hose, but instead you are sucking out water from your tank. While your siphon is primed, you can put the end of the hose in your gravel, and it will suck out crud from the gravel (it's called mulm in the fish world). If you are getting a tank larger than 10 gallons, I would suggest investing in a python. You hook it up to a faucet or garden hose, and it uses the water pressure to remove or add the water to the tank. I absolutely love mine, and since it's attached to a faucet or hose, you don't have any buckets to haul.

While you're here, check out some of the profiles and learn about the different types of fish and their requirements. A good rule to go by is unless you are doing a species specific tank, look into getting compatible fish which swim in different levels of the tank. That way you have activity all over, and don't have a bunch of fish fighting for the same space. Again, welcome, and hope you enjoy the site!
  • #5
just to add to aquagirls comment. when you go to get the gravel hoover don't just look for a hose. Its more like a hose with a larger plastic tube on the end. It sucks up the gravel about an inch or two and then it falls back down, the mess in the gravel goes up the tube
  • #6
This is what my gravel vacuum looks like, except I attach the end to my garden hose and run it outside to the yard. Then I siphon and gravel vac all my tanks at once then fill them back up all at once.
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Wow, thanks for all your advice everyone! I'm off to investigate some shops tomorrow around the south London area. I'll be watching out for sick fish and bad conditions - I'm not buying tomorrow, just looking into where I can buy from and costs.

I'm not sure whether the hose gravel hoover will work cos I have to have them in my room, which is quite far from a tap. I'll have to look into that a bit more too.
  • #8
Then you could use the one like in my picture and siphon into a bucket.
  • #9
I'll be in London in 2 weeks! Can you tell me where the fish stores are?
  • #10
Butterfly, I have exactly the same one, LOL. But how can you attach it to a garden hose? How does it work with a garden hose? Anyhow better or faster?
  • #11
Isabella my husband cut the brass end off the hose and put an adaptor in it(1) and the vacuum fits on the other end(2) a small computer keyboard vacuum brush(3) instead of the vac tube can also be used to clean fry and bare bottom tanks also. Hope this has given you some ideas!!
  • #12
Jack, my tank is in my room and I syphon the water into a bucket. Its no problem at all
  • #13
Very innovative of your husband, Butterfly! Thanks!
  • #14
Gunnie, the last time I went to london there where hardly any fish shops in the centre, you need to go out to the outskirts.
  • #15
my tank is in my bedroom as well but I can't get my gravel vacuum 2 work!!! I don't understand what I'm doin wrong how do u get it 2 start suckin up the dirt??? I tried movin it up and down really fast but it still doesn't start workin!
  • #16
haha, the key word in "syphon vacuum" is "syphon". to make a syphon you have 2 options:

either put the large end in the water and suck the hose end until the water comes very close to your mouth
put the whole instrument in the water, making sure there aren't any air bubbles in the tube at all, and remove the smaller end, leaving the larger end under the water.

which ever way you do it, to keep the syphon, you need to keep the small end at a lower point than the large end. the lower the small end, the faster the flow
  • #17
ahhhhhhhhhhh got u!!!!! and that was comin from a guy who got 10 good gcse passes last week!!!!!! bak 2 skool 2moro YEH! gotta dig that enthusiasm
  • #18
eeeuuugghhh! GCSE's hav'nt thought of those in a long time
  • #19
It is tricky to start. The trick is to submerse the hose sideways into the tank so a couple of feet are filled with water. Then quickly upright it, allowing the water to flow downwards into the bucket. Moving it up & down helps. It usually takes a few tries to get started. Once running, skI'm it over the gravel to remove debris.
  • #20
Rather than having to lift it quickly over the tank (probably making a lot of mess) put you thumb over the end so that the water stays where it is. You can move it up and down without losing any water, it just stays in the tube
  • #21
I recently moved and had my tank just sitting around. (no fish) some work was done in the house and some dust and saw dust got into the tank. I'm reaqdy to start it up again but I need to clean the tank from the dust. thanx for any help.
  • #22
Just fill it up with hot water and give it a good scrub. You really don't need to use any chemicals. A good rinse with hot water and a scrub brush will get rid of any residue and get it ready for the fish.
  • #23
Hello Halfguard. Great tips from Kitsune. Just remember "NOT" to use any chemicals or soap and I think you'll be fine too.
I've moved your thread to the "freshwater beginners/cleaning and maintenance" section of the forum.
  • #24
a friend of mine told me to use bleach. what your opinion on this?
  • #25
Bleach is good if the last inhabitants had a disease.
You didn't mention that was the case so I'd agree with the above posters.
  • #26
yea, no disease, just a lot of you think I should use all new gravel also?
  • #27
If you can rinse the gravel really well and it hasn't been exposed to toxins or anything I think it's ok to use.
  • #28
HI Halfguard.

Great info and advice above. Hope to see photos of your new tank once it's set up. Good luck!
  • #29
its fish tank cleaning day (sadly) is it really as easy as scooping water out and putting new water in what water do I use water from the sing or the hose and 50% or how much and how do I clean my gravel and plants my plants have brown stuff on them how do I clean those and I don't have a gravel vacuum and don't have extra gravel to replace and I can't go to the pet store today and this needs to be done todday also how do I get the brown spots off the glass just a sponge right? this is my first time cleaning my 30 gallon and I want to make sure I'm doing everything right. o yeah what do I do with my fish (rainbow shark, tiger barb)

I would be very thankful for any help I get thanks jordan
  • #30
You only need to scoop out about 10-20% of the water and replace it, no more!

As for the brown stuff, I think they're diatoms, which grow in newer tanks and eventually go away on their own.

Yeah, just scrub the glass with a clean, detergent free (preferably brand new) scrubber like scotch-brite or whatever else that is usually used for scrubbing dishes.
NOT the metal wiry spongess though, I think they might scratch the glass.

You can just leave your fish in there, you never need to take your fish out for water changes. You're only changing 10-20% anyway so they won't be bothered.

Invest in a gravel vacuum, it will really help you keep the substrate clean.
  • #31
I agree, gravel vacuum makes things much easier. If you aren't using TSS or similar product, and the tank isn't cycled, then you should be changing the water frequently anyhow.
  • #32
HI Jordan

I am sure some punctuation marks will get you more responses, it is very hard to follow a text if each paragraph consist of a single sentence.

From what I am getting:

1. Yes is as simple as taking water out and replacing it with treated water. However, the most efficient way is with a gravel vacuum. Food left overs and feces get trap in the gravel and the only real way to get rid of that is with the gravel vacuum (siphon). In the mean time a house hose can do the trick

2. You do not want to change your gravel

3. You can use your hose to fill the tank. Obviously, either treating the water before in a bucket or the whole tank if you are filling the tank directly with the hose

4. To clean the plants just use the discarded water

5. I clean the glass with towel paper

6. Just leave the fish there during the process. They may get a bit scared but for sure is less stressful than removing them
  • #33
whats the best gravel vacuum to get at petco
  • #34
You will not need to replace the gravel. A gravel vacuum does not actually suck the gravel out, it gets the food and feces out of it.
  • #35
My betta is dying so I bought a new betta today. I want to take out the dying betta (euthanize it) and then put the new betta in the tank. But I don't know what's killing my old betta. How should I clean the tank so that the new betta doesn't catch what the old one got?

The old betta lost part of it's tail and then grew white fuzzy stuff on the edges of the tail. Now it's pineconing and sinks to the bottom. Should I do a 100% water change? Get new filters? But then I'd have to recycle the tank. It's a 10 gallon with live plants (java moss, amazon swords, wisteria, java fern).

I had tried to treat the old betta with bettafix, stress coat, jungle fungus tabs, aquarium salt, but nothing is working. And all these chemicals are still in the water. So should I do a 100% change?
  • #36
I'm sorry.

Sounds like fin rot with secondary infections. Pineconing can mean Dropsy.

Bettas have soft long fins and prone to finrot. The idea is keep good water quality, meaning good hygiene and nutritious diet. If meaning more frequent smaller water changes.

I'd do a large water change and add activated carbon. If there's gravel do a really good vac. Rinse the filter media in fresh dechlorinated water.

Ideally it would of been better to tare down the tank, disinfect and start over. I know a pain.

Some things that may help and I use is Fish Protector and VitaChem. But I'm not a Betta keeper.

Good luck with your new Betta.
  • #37
THe only thing in the filter is a activated carbon filter pad thing, and some mesh from an old filter and I think there's a sponge. I could throw all that out and replace it from a filter cartridge from another betta tank and do a 100% water change. I'm worried about damaging the plants too.
  • #38
Try pimafix or kanaplex with the fungus tabs. take out the carbon pad thing in your filter it is pulling the medication out of the water. you can do either a salt dip or bleach dip on the plants to sterilize them they should recover. And I would recommend taking down the tank 100% and cleaning it with a chlorine only bleach diluted since it will be easily neutralized later with a good rinse and primed water. You might be better off with new filter media rather than using your old one you really would be best off to pin down what is killing your betta first weather it is internal parasites or a bacterial infection. That way you can eliminate the source of the infection before exposing the new betta.

Do it right from the start do a fishless cycle and make sure everything is good to go then add the new fish.
  • #39
I drained the tank and filled it with hot tap water. Then drained it again and refilled it. I replaced the filter cartriges and added a table spoon of aquarium salt. Then I added stress coat and start zyme. How long until I can add the new fish?
  • #40
Well, if the filter is brand new (IE not from another cycled tank) then you'll have to decide if you want to do a fishless cycle or buy some TSS. Either way, if you put a new betta into an uncycled tank, you're unfortunately setting yourself up for a similar situation. Bettas do not do well in cycling tanks, and the added stress can lead to disease again. As an example, if the ammonia leads to ammonia burns on his fins (tips turn black) then that can be an easy opening for a secondary infection or finrot, which can lead to dropsy, etc etc.

I am sort of dealing with the same situation, though I bought Marcyn and Maracyn-two today, so hopefully I'll be able to save my betta. I'm sorry to hear you weren't able to save yours.

(PS. On a lighter note, I love your avatar. )

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