Last modified on October 12th, 2020 at 2:54 am

How To Properly Clean Wastes From Your Fish Tank

Having an aquarium in your home can be very rewarding and aesthetically pleasing. Many people enjoy keeping pet fish because they require much less maintenance compared to other domestic pets. Although fish don’t need much attention other than feeding, maintaining the aquarium is very important for their health and the cleanliness of your home.

When fish tanks aren’t properly and regularly cleaned, they can build up residue and algae within, which clouds the visibility and lowers the quality of water. To keep your fish happy and healthy, establish some regular rituals around maintaining the cleanliness of the tank. 

How Often You Should Clean Your Fish Tank

The recommended frequency of cleaning a fish tanks vary depending on who you ask. Consulting online blogs, such as Fish Lab, can provide you with helpful tips and information on how to keep your tank in optimal condition. Some say you should clean it weekly; others might say once a month. It also depends on how many fish you have and what sort of aquatic life you keep in your tank, including live plants.

All living organisms create organic byproducts that can build up with time and affect the quality of the ecosystem they live in. In general, you should scrape the glass interior weekly and scrub underwater plants or objects when you notice algae or debris building up on the surface. The water filter should be cleaned on a monthly basis.

Keep Fish Safe While Cleaning

It’s perfectly fine to keep fish in the tank while you clean. It’s actually more traumatic to the fish if you take them out of their habitat and, then, put them back in. You can drain some of the water and keep it at a shallow but adequate level so your aquatic pets can comfortably swim around you as you’re cleaning. 

Here are the cleaning supplies you’ll need:

  • Water test kit
  • Buckets
  • Algae scraper
  • Scissors
  • Toothbrush
  • Towels
  • Glass cleaner
  • Water conditioner
  • Vacuum or water siphon

Steps For Proper Tank Hygiene Maintenance

  1.  Test Water Quality

Maintaining water quality and chemistry is crucial for sustaining life in your tank. Before you set to cleaning, do a routine quality check with a kit to test for pH balance, general hardness, alkalinity, nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia levels. The kit you use should provide instructions and guidance on what baseline levels to look and test for.

  1. Remove Algae And Other Growth

Use a scraper or razor to remove algae and waste particles from the interior walls of the tank. This improves visibility from the outside, as well as keeps your tank’s inhabitants healthy and happy.

  1. Plant Maintenance

Take the opportunity to trim or prune the plants you have living inside the tank. This keeps the tank looking well maintained and groomed, and prevents aquatic foliage from getting too thick and wild. You can also check your plants’ health and clean off any waste buildup or algae. 

  1. Turn Off Equipment

Make sure all the electronics for the tank, including filters, lights, heaters, and pumps, are off.

  1. Partially Drain The Water

Drain out the tank so you can do a water change, but leave just enough water for your fish to be able swim comfortably around as you clean. 

  1. Vacuum The Interior

Clean the gravel on the bottom of the tank with a water siphon or gravel vacuum to remove waste sediment and algae. The vacuum should suck up any debris without the gravel itself. 

  1. Replace The Water

The replacement water you use should be at the same temperature as the water that remains after cleaning. A 25% water change is considered perfectly fine for a monthly cleaning. 

  1. Turn On Equipment

At this point, you can turn all your aquarium equipment back on to resume business.

  1. Clean The Exterior

Once you’ve finished cleaning the inside of the tank and put everything back to where it belongs, wipe down the outside with glass cleaner. Clean everything else, including the tank lid, hood, and light, with a cleaner that doesn’t contain ammonia or other chemicals that are toxic to fish. Vinegar is a safe and effective cleaning agent to use on the inside and anything else that the inside is exposed to.                  

  1. Clean The Water Filter Two Weeks Later

It’s best to wait a few weeks after doing a thorough spring cleaning of your tank before cleaning the water filter. This is because the filter contains healthy bacteria that are needed to maintain the balance of the tank’s ecosystem. Cleaning it too soon can shock the life inside.


With proper and regular maintenance and cleaning, your aquarium should be looking healthy and fresh, and all the aquatic that lives in it will be happy and thriving. It’s a good idea to do research on the fish you keep in your tank as some require more frequent maintenance than others. Also, keep in mind the water that you keep in the tank, whether it’s freshwater or saltwater. There are different maintenance methods recommended for each kind, but, in general, the maintenance needed for optimal cleanliness is fairly straightforward and manageable.