If you own fish, lizards, snakes, or other creepy crawlies like tarantulas, then cleaning an aquarium regularly is part of the bargain. Just like humans, it’s important for our many-legged (and finned) friends to have access to a clean, garbage-free environment.
In this post, we’ll look at how to clean aquariums for reptiles or insects, and also cover how to clean those that are home to fish. Without any further ado, let’s get started:
Items Needed to Clean an Aquarium
- New Algae Pad
- New Tooth Brush
- 5 Gallon Bucket of Water
- Vinegar and Water
- Safe Cleaners
- Replacement Filter
- Gravel Vacuum
- Dish Soap
Remove Some of the Water from the Tank
First, we’ll take a look at how to clean an aquarium that is home to your fish friends. Start by siphoning between 10% and 20% of the water from the tank. While you do have the option to drain the entire thing, and start from ground zero, it’s recommended that you only replace about a quarter of the water each time you go cleaning. That way, your fish can adjust to the new water easier, and without risking their well-being.
Once some of the water has been removed from your aquarium, it’s time to eradicate all of the algae. Algae grows due to the nutrients living in the water, and can be tough to remove.
Use a brand new algae pad and thoroughly scrub the tank sides, toys, and decorations. If you find a particularly hard-to-reach spot, you can use something sharp like an Exact-O knife or razor blade, just make sure to do it carefully to avoid scratching the glass or cutting yourself.
Pay special attention to the decorations that sit at the bottom of your tank. Over time these catch tons of debris, fish excrement, and underwater plants. A thorough cleaning of these objects will ensure your fish can live comfortably and safely for years to come.
If needed, remove the decorations from the aquarium and hand wash them using safe cleaners like non-toxic dish soap.
With the algae out of your way, it’s now time to take care of the gravel. The bottom of your aquarium is where old fish food, fish excrement, and microscopic organisms go to die. If it isn’t addressed, it can also contaminate the water and contribute to poor health or the death of your fish.
Get out your gravel vacuum, and start slowly but surely working your way across the bottom of the tank. The more careful and methodically that you do this, the better, as you want to give the vacuum plenty of time to pick everything up.
Depending on the size of your fish, you may also need to put a safety attachment on the end, so as not to suck any of the little ones up.
Add New Water
The gravel, tank, and decorations are now all clean, so it’s time to replace the 20% of water that you removed at the beginning of the cleaning process. Use distilled or treated water, so as not to put any heavy metals or other chemicals into your aquarium. Fish have a hard time adjusting to any fluctuation in their environment, so if you use tap water, it’s not going to go over well.
In addition, make sure that you match the temperature of the new water with the water that is already inside your aquarium. Winging it can lead to a mass die off, and if you’ve invested a lot of money in your fish and aquatic life, you’ll be left disappointed.
Change the Filter
With the interior of your aquarium taken care of, it’s now time to replace your filter. Just like the air filters in your home, you will want to do this about once a month. If you wait any longer, the filter can clog leaving your tank vulnerable to infection or disease. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can also rinse your aquarium filter once a week. This won’t substitute installing a new one, but it will increase the current filter’s lifespan.
Now that the interior of your aquarium is clean, it’s time to move on to the outside. Use animal friendly safe cleaners for this process, either a mixture of water and vinegar or some other safe cleaner. Spray the exterior, and with paper towels or a micro fiber cloth wipe all of the water stains and gunk away.
Cleaning Without Fish
Let’s take a few moments to talk about cleaning a tank that doesn’t house fish. If you are a parent to a lizard, tarantula, or boa constrictor, the process is pretty much the same, but it doesn’t require removing or adding water, and it won’t take as long either.
First, remove your pet from the glass, along with its food and water dishes, as well as any decorations or toys that are free standing in the tank. With that out of the way, it’s time to utilize safe cleaners and paper towels to remove any excrement, shedding, dirt, or junk that’s collected over time. Scrub the bottom of the tank, sides, lining, and exterior while you are at it.
Second, with the help of animal friendly cleaners, wipe down the water and food bowls, as well as any decorations or toys that your pets regularly play with. Once these items are dry, you can put them back in the tank, re-fill the food and water dishes and let your pet back into its home.
That’s it! Without water, there’s no filter to worry about, and as long as you are using non-toxic eco-friendly cleaners you won’t be putting your animals at risk either.