Aquarium cleaning – made easy

Today comes the more or less unpleasant part of aquaristics – cleaning the aquarium. If you want to clean the aquarium, there are some things to consider and also some accessories, which are sometimes more and sometimes less helpful. With the aquarium you can also do a lot of things wrong, we show the most common mistakes and how to do it right.

The most common mistakes when cleaning the aquarium

  • excessive cleaning
  • too thorough cleaning
  • wrong accessories
  • Fish are taken out
  • excessive water change
  • Use of chemistry

Frequent aquarium cleaning – how often?

Many aquarium keepers are not aware that an aquarium is a biotope, which is not the glass plate of the living room table, but a habitat that contains a lot of life – even besides the fish and plants. If the aquarium is not visibly heavily polluted, there is no need for action. How often you have to clean the aquarium depends on many factors:

  • which animals are aquarium
  • how many animals on how much space are in the tank (stocking density)
  • Size of the aquarium
  • Strength of the filter
  • Quantity of feeding
  • Species of fish
  • Frequency of the water change
  • Lighting duration
  • Planting and nutrients

Not all aquarium inhabitants pollute the aquarium equally. On the one hand, some fish eat more food than other species and thus excrete more pollution. On the other hand there are fish, shrimps and snails that even help to keep the aquarium clean. Small tanks have to be cleaned more often than large aquariums, especially if there are many creatures in the aquarium.

The aquarium filter also helps with cleaning. If the filter is too weak or has the wrong filter media, the tank will get dirty more quickly. If you give the fish too much food and thus dirty the bottom, you will have to clean more often, especially if there are no fish to clean the bottom. If you change the water too seldom, you will also get cloudy water more quickly, which will cause dirt to be deposited at the bottom of the tank. With too much lighting and little planting, the perfect conditions for algae to grow are created.

Complete cleaning?

Basically there should be no reason to clean the aquarium completely, unless you give up your hobby, a serious disease breaks out or you are left with a dirty tank. I keep seeing instructions on the internet, especially on Youtube, showing how to completely clear the tank, take out all fish, clean the filter and replace the water completely. You cannot do anything worse to your aquarium. In the habitat of the aquarium there is a balance of life, if you do nothing wrong.

This includes bacteria, mulm on the bottom and everything that belongs to nature. Bacteria are usually not harmful, but an elementary component for a healthy aquarium. They help to break down toxic substances. But valuable nutrients are also found in water. If you constantly polish your aquarium to a high gloss, you will often have failures in the stock. In addition, taking out the fish causes unnecessary stress.

Unnecessary accessories

I keep seeing advertisements for some high-tech vacuum cleaners that are advertised with the highest words and then, once a few have been sold, get the worst ratings of all. Even with overpriced special cleaning brushes, which are actually normal brushes, I always have to smile that people are willing to buy them for a lot of money. Which accessories one needs and which makes sense, we will clarify later in detail.

Chemistry in the basin

I have seen cleaning operations where aggressive chemicals were used, which are difficult to get rid of afterwards. In the worst case plants and fish die or suffer from it later. There is no reason for meticulous hygiene, unless it is a special kind of fish that you want to breed. But here too, chemistry has no place, only the willingness to clean the tank properly must be there.

Accessories Aquarium Cleaning

What you really need for cleaning, we’ll look at now.

  • Sponge
  • Brush
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Hose
  • Mulm suction bell(optional)
  • pH measuring instrument
  • Thermometer
  • Water starter (optional)
  • Towels

If you really want to clean the whole pool because you just got it dirty or want to pass it on clean, the following accessories may be useful:

  • Network
  • Glass cleaner or a vinegar solution
  • Bleaching solution
  • Razor Blade

Now we should have all the accessories together and be able to get started.

Aquarium cleaning instructions

How to clean an aquarium also depends on whether you have a freshwater or saltwater tank. Let's look at cleaning a freshwater aquarium. By the way, it makes sense to do the cleaning on different days. If you want to scrub algae, eggs and lime from the glass, there will be some floating dirt. A large part will be caught by the filter, the rest will sink to the bottom. This is not bad, once the dirt has settled you can clean the floor.

Cleaning the windows - Step 1

Use a sponge or a soft brush and clean the glass surfaces. The cleaning tool should only be used for the aquarium and not in the kitchen. Otherwise soap, chemicals or food residues could stick to it. Make sure that there is no sand in the brush or sponge, otherwise scratches may occur. A view from the side (i.e. from the outside) helps to see if you have missed any spots. If the windows are clean, there could be a lot of algae or debris floating in the water. Don't panic, the dirt will sink or be sucked away by the filter.

Cleaning the floor - Step 2

No matter if you have gravel or sand, there is no reason to take it out unless there is a serious mold spot somewhere. We put up a bucket and take a hose - optionally we attach a suction cup. The suction bell has the advantage that you can dig deep into the ground without sucking the soil away. The light dirt is sucked away, the heavy sand or gravel remains. The disadvantage of the bell is that it is not as flexible as a hose, especially in narrow places you can not reach as precisely as with a clean hose.

Some aquarium owners do not put the hose to the bucket, but directly into the toilet. I do not recommend it, because otherwise small fish, shrimps and especially snails are often sucked off. In the bucket you can save them, in the toilet they are lost. We only suck off the surface. With gravel you can use the mulching bell to go much deeper into the ground, so that dirt that has fallen into the gaps is also sucked up. Now we suck the hose. Here some timing is needed, otherwise you have a mouth full of aquarium water. If you suck too short, there is not enough suction and the water will not flow into the bucket.

Now the bottom is vacuumed thoroughly until all larger dirt residues are removed. If the mulching bell is fixed, you can go into the bottom, if only the hose is used, then you stay 1-2 cm above the bottom. Broom clean is enough, not everything has to be vacuumed away. Here you should work relatively fast, so that you do not get too much water out of the aquarium. Nevertheless it is important to work carefully, otherwise you might hurt fish or plants.

Cleaning the aquarium equipment - step 3

Personally, I hardly ever clean the furniture. If you really have such a strong contamination that the furniture is very dirty or infested with algae, you can take it out. To avoid the use of cleaning agents, you should try to remove the dirt or growth with a brush under warm running water. If you really can't do otherwise, you can also soak them (attention not suitable for roots or other wooden parts that get soaked). There are special cleaning agents for this purpose, such as Power Clean from JBL. I have been using my pools for several years and have never used this product.

Refill water - step 4

Now the water must be refilled. Make sure that the water has about the same temperature as the water in the pool. In the aquarium, a heating rod with thermometer is always useful, which quickly brings the temperature differences back into balance. There are aquariums that have an overflow function. This means that the tank cannot overflow. It is better to stand next to the tank until it has the optimal amount of water again or to fill it with buckets.

Because if the tank overflows, not only does it use up water unnecessarily, it also dilutes the water balance of the tank. This rinses out and reduces bacteria and nutrients. When the pool is full, the pH value and, if necessary, the water hardness is checked and adjusted. It is also possible to add a starter to the new water, which destroys metals and provides the fish with vital and caring substances. Its use is controversial and not every aquarist will agree with it.

Cleaning the filter - Step 5

Under no circumstances should the filter be cleaned on the same day as the aquarium. When should the filter be cleaned? The filter is also inhabited by beneficial organisms such as bacteria. Therefore, the filter is only cleaned when it can no longer perform its function. This means that it no longer filters or no longer forms the necessary flow. Simply take a bucket of aquarium water and clean the filter media easily in the bucket.

Filter sponges are lightly pressed on, cotton wool can be replaced (wash cotton wool thoroughly beforehand). Substrate is swivelled slightly in the bucket. Please do not clean the filter media completely, otherwise you will destroy the bacteria household. Chemicals or cleaning agents have no place in cleaning the filter (if it is reused afterwards).


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Conclusion on aquarium cleaning

The aquarium should be cleaned with care and under no circumstances should it mutate into a cleanliness freak. An aquarium does much less work and stays clean much longer if you have useful creatures in the tank. Catfish, finned suckers, snails and shrimps, among other things, help to clean the tank of dirt and algae. If you have any tips or questions, please leave a comment.

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