Proper Protocol For Disinfecting *everything* In 65g Tank After An Outbreak

  • #1
HI everyone,

I wrote a few weeks ago about an outbreak of something in the 65g tank that started like ich, but very quickly claimed lives of most of the tank inhabitants (I lost 2 upside-down catfish, 2 small plecos, a molly and some guppies). Back then I removed inhabitants that were still alive, split them into 3 different tanks and drained the water from 65g as I didn't understand at all what I was dealing with and didn't want to take any more risks (plus was very upset about losing both upside-downies so quickly). Before draining I put some malachite green in the tank as a first measure against pathogens, so some stuff is a little stained now.

Now while my Raphael catfish is still fighting for his life in a small 13g tank (I have a whole separate topic on this here), I want to start preparing 65g for his safe return to his bigger home (fingers crossed he'll get better soon).

I need to clean and disinfect the 65g with all the stuff from it and I'm trying to plan the best path forward. I am not sure what pathogens were there (and might still be as I wasn't able to drain 100% of water and gravel is still wet there). It stayed fishless with very little water since Dec 31 or so (almost 2 weeks).

So, here's what I have to clean/disinfect:
(picture of a tank from a few months ago attached)

1) 65gal tank with glass covers on the top and all plastic moldings
2) Gravel (visually quite a lot, maybe 60lbs or so)
3) Eheim submersible water heater
4) Marineland 350 Bio-Wheel Power Filter (I think I discarded any disposable filter media from it already)
5) Glass thermometer
6) Various ceramic decorations (a "waterfall" with a bubble maker, various bowls and a huge cave)
7) Various plastic/plastic+ceramic decorations (trees)
8) PVC pipes for airstones (some of them are stained blue from ich meds)
9) Huge Top Fin Gravel Vacuum (also stained blue a little bit)
I don't have any live plants there

At this point I have the following things/chemicals at my disposal:
1) Household bleach - I read it was one of the safest fish tank cleaners as it cleans well, degrades to safe components quickly and rinses easily)
2) Some methylene blue
3) Some malachite green
4) 1oz of potassium permanganate (KMnO4)
5) Small Karcher power washer (nor sure if I need it for a tank or not...)

My plan so far is the following (and please correct me if you think it's an overkill or if I'm missing anything or doing something very wrong):
1) Tank itself - put a few gallons of 1:10 bleach solution, use sponges to clean off everything from walls. Drain, put water with potassium permanganate dissolved, let stay for a day, drain, rinse with water, wipe clean / let dry
2) Gravel - soak in potassium permanganate and/or bleach, rinse, heat-treat in a stove
3) Pretty much everything else - wash thoroughly with bleach solution or soak in it for a day, soak in potassium permanganate solution, rinse clean, dry; for a filter - pump KMnO4 solution through it for a while

Any advice on specifics?
The goal is clearly to make sure whatever pathogens that have been there would have no chance of surviving the whole procedure

Thanks a lot!


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  • #2
The bleach on its own might be sufficient if you use it at a high enough concentration. One big advantage of bleach is that it is chlorine. Just like what we already use dechlorinators to get rid of from our tap water. So, a couple good rinses and a treatment with a large dose of dechlorinator and you know you've got nothing toxic left in the tank.
  • #3
I used bleach successfully on both of my tanks so far! Be sure to keep bleach and water away from your electronic components (but the bits that get submerged are ok to clean) and rinse your tank thoroughly at least 3 times after bleaching (but preferably 5 or until you can no longer smell bleach + a couple more times)
  • #4
You can also use white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. I didn't want to use the bleach in the house (personal preference). Again, just like the bleach, rinse until you can't smell it and then rinse again. Pour a bunch of water treatment in a full tank, let it sit and then dump it out.
  • #5
Here's a 3rd party link, it compares vinegar and bleach with a quick bit about hydrogen peroxide. It certainly does not deny that bleach is a disinfectant. I don't think using salt is recommended on aquariums, as it could scratch it. If you want to know for sure, try it on a spot in the back that will be covered up by the substrate.
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thanks everyone! I totally forgot about vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
The only reason I started looking for something else / in addition to bleach was that I read somewhere that there definitely are certain strains of bacteria as well as parasites at certain points in their lifecycles (like cysts or something like that, sorry, not completely sure how those forms are called correctly), that can survive even a very extensive bleach/chlorine attack.

Potassium permanganate was one of the things that just popped up from my mind from my early childhood when I've seen people disinfecting stuff with it.

And I like the idea about using dechlorinator after bleach/rinse - I think I've seen some hard numbers on Seachem forums on how much chlorine can be eliminated with 1ml of prime, so I can make sure no chlorine is left in decorations.
  • #7
Good luck and I hope it fixes it.
  • #8
I never did well in Biology...

Wouldn't a regular cleaning without chemicals, then letting it sit for a period of time kill whatever bacteria is there? Doesn't the virus need water or food to survive?

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