How To Rip Clean The Correct Way Without Recycle


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More than 10 years
This is the procedure for rip cleaning, which I performed on my tank with the help of my niece (@GothicDamselfish ,) and my son. We were having a problematic issue with cyanobacteria which I dealt with for months , trying everything from hand guiding to dosing h2o2.These were all just bandaids, and the issue persisted. If steps are done properly you will not have any issue with a recycling scenario. If done incompletely or improperly they may cause issues with them. Proceed at your own risk!

This procedure can be applied for any nussiance algae or issue.

Before pictures



· Various sized brushed

· Turkey baster

· Mister clean magic eraser

· Water siphon to drain water

· Various buckets, containers, spare tank or rubber maid tote for all your live rock and livestock

· Prepared saltwater for rinsing, scrubbing and refilling tank

Drop test fail

Drop test pass


Step one: Prepare a tank or container to hold your live stock. I used a 5g tank with fresh saltwater, a small hob filter and heater to temperature-match the tank.

Step two: Move all live stock into the holding container with fresh salt water or you can use some water siphoned from the tank.Do not reuse this water when reassembling tank all freshly mixed salt water should go in when reassembling.

Step three: Set up three containers for cleaning live rock and tank equipment. Each container should be filled with Freshly mixed saltwater.

Step four: Grab each live rock individually and began to scrub the surface and crevices, making sure to dislodge any organics, food or detritus built up on them. Then use the turkey baster to rinse and move the cleaned rocks to a second container. After each container is used once, dump all the water and fill it with fresh mixed water. Move the rock to a bucket or tank with freshly mixed saltwater to hold until all the rip cleaning was complete and was ready for reassembly. Be careful to keep all live rock and sand wet to prevent any die off of beneficial bacteria.


Step five: Grab a handful of sand from your tank, lift it to the top of the tank, and watch it drop back down. If it clouds the water, it’s saturated with detritus and various other nutrients and/or silt, which can fuel algae growth and cause cycling issues. This is called the ‘Drop Test’.

Step six: Remove all equipment from your tank and scrub any detritus, algae or debris built up on all equipment.

Step seven: Clean the glass of the tank and any compartments within in to remove all detritus, algae or unwanted organics/build-up that may fuel algae growth or mess with the cycle.

Step eight: Agitate the sand to disrupt any non-desirables in the sand bed and drain your tank. (If your tank is small enough I would recommend taking this tank outside to make this step easier.) Then, with tap water, keep filling the tank while running your hands through the sand to disrupt any non-desirables. Dump the water each time. Rinse and repeat until you can agitate the sand without having any clouding of water. At this point you want to drain as much water as you can and do a final rinse with freshly mixed salt water, and then remove as much water as you can. This step may take a while. (It took me 30 minutes of filling, rinsing, and dumping the water to clean it all out. You should be able to Drop-Test your sand and have it just fall to the bottom of the tank like a snow globe, with no clouding and just clean sand.)

Step nine: Reassemble tank, live rock, equipment and anything that was removed before refilling with fresh saltwater.

Step ten: Let the temperature in your tank match the holding container(s) and then you can reintroduce your live stock. (At this point I dosed some seachem prime as an added measure, just in case.)

You have completed a rip cleaning and your cycle should be intact! Scrubbing of live rock and rinsing of sand will not destroy your cycle. The majority of the bb is housed in the bio film of the rocks and sand. Scrubbing and rinsing will not dislodge this, it will only remove the detritus, organics and non-desirables.

Tank after rip cleaning

nice scape.jpg

You can get help from your family, like I did. I had my niece and my son help with the scrubbing of live rock while I worked on the tank and sand.


You will want to test you tank the first few days just to be sure that everything is good. I tested mine the first week every day, and then every other week after that and had no issues.

You will want to ‘hand-guide’ a.k.a remove any small amounts of algae that may return to defeat this invader. With regular maintenance it should be controlled.
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