Simple cleaning errors can make the difference between a happy fish and a dead fish.
To make sure you don’t have a fatality on your hands, here’s Rooke’s simple guide on what to avoid and how to clean your fish tank:
Avoid soap. Whether it’s on a scrubbing pad or you’re using a soapy liquid to clean tank decorations – don’t! Even residue left from soap, which you may not be able to see, can be lethal to your fish.
For the glass or an acrylic surface in the tank, use an algae pad –be aware this is not the same as a housewares pad. If the grime on your tank’s glass is stubborn, a razor blade will help to scrape it off. If the surface is acrylic, use a plastic razor blade instead; normal blades will scratch the surface.
Once the tank’s glass is clean, it’s time to focus on the items within the tank. Remove rocks, artificial plants and decorations that are covered in algae.
Usually an algae scrubber can remove the dirt, but if it’s really stubborn algae, soak the pieces in a 10% bleach solution for 15 minutes. Scrub the remaining residue off, rinse well under running water and let the air dry it, to eliminate any lingering bleach. Live plants can also be bleached, in a 5% solution, but do not bleach stem plants.
Do not clean your pieces in a bucket or container that has previously had soap or other chemicals in it, it could kill your fish. Designate a bucket for fish use only.
Next up, clean the gravel. Use a water siphon to vacuum away debris, there are plenty of types to choose from.
Once it’s all clean on the inside, move to the hood, light, tank top and outside glass. But avoid glass cleaner. It contains ammonia, which is toxic to fish.
The solution is vinegar or a cleaner labeled aquarium safe. And remember rinse, rinse, rinse!
Now your tank is all sparkly, you may think you’re on a roll and want to clean the filter too, but whatever you do, don’t! Wait a few weeks.
The cleaning you’ve already done will have got rid of the beneficial bacteria within the tank, as well as the bad stuff. So the filter at this stage is a fish savior.
Some beneficial bacteria live in the filter, so you haven’t completely upset the eco-system. If you were to change the filter at the same time, you could trigger a dangerous ammonia spike – another potential hazard for your watery friends.
Sometimes there is an excuse not to clean – enjoy it.