Cleaning and Maintainting an Aquarium

By fballguy

Regular tank maintenance is critical to maintaing a healthy aquarium. This is a detailed explanation of how to clean a tank and maintain it regularly.

Aquarium Cleaning

For cleaning a tank you are going to need a gravel vacuum, a bucket(if you have a Python you will not need a bucket), a filter brush and an algae scraper(paper towells work great too).

Step 1:

The first thing you will want to do is scrub off any algae. The best method is to start from the top and work your way down. If there is any stubborn algae that will not scrub off, a hard squeegee or a razor blade will scrape it off easily. If you want to remove algae from the decor, do that next.


Hang on back filters: Now it is time to clean the filter. Take out the cartridge and set it to the side in a bowl of water from the tank. Do not let it dry up, you are going to reuse it. Now remove the intake pipe. Use the filter brush to scrub it out, anything that is in there will slow down the flow of the filter and cause it to not work as well as it should. Inspect the impeller, and all moving parts and make sure they are not damaged. If there is gunk on them, clean it off. Leaving gunk on moving parts will cause damage over time.

Undergravel filters: With undergravel filters, you will want to make sure you really shove the gravel vacuum down in the gravel deep, and hold it there for a few seconds. Holding it in place will suck up gunk from under the filter plates. This is important because undergravel filters will collect gunk underneath that will rot and create excess ammonia, nitrite, nitrates. Once every 1-2 months, you will want to totally remove the plates and clean really well, because gravel vacuuming, no matter how much you do it, will never get everything out.

Canister filters: I have never kept a canister filter myself, so instead I will link to a few sites that describe how to clean canister filters.

First Tank Guide

Step 3:

Next you will want to do the gravel vacuuming. Shove the vacuum down deep into the gravel to suck out as much gunk as you can. Take your time, and thouroughly vacuum all of the gravel. Don't forget to move around the decor and vacuum under everything. If you finish vacuuming quickly, continue to siphon out water until at least 15%-25% of the water has been drained. This is important because it removes toxic nitrates from the water.(see: Cycling) Before you dump your bucket of water, take your filter cartridge and swish it around in the old tank water to get it clean. By doing this you can make a cartride last for several months, and save money by not changing it every couple of weeks like the company wants you to do. DO NOT rinse it in tap water. Chlorine and chloramines will kill the beneficial bacteria that removes wastes from the water. When you refill your tank be careful to use a bucket, jug, ect. that has never come in contact with soap; even the smallest trace of soap can devastate life in an aquarium. If you have a python you don't have to worry about this, refilling the tank is as easy as a flip of the switch.

Step 4:

The last thing you want to do is trim live plants if you have them. I reccommend trimming plants last because if you do it first, you may mess them up while cleaning, then you will have to rearange all over again. Trim them as you see fit, until you have an appearence that you like.

How Often Should I Clean my Aquarium and Filters?

Regular water changes, gravel vacuuming, and filter cleaning should be done once every week.

Undergravel Filter plates should be removed ever 1-2 months and cleaned thouroughly.

Plants should be trimmed as needed to achieve the appearance you like.


Back to Articles