Here is what you will need for aquarium cleaning:
- Clean five-gallon bucket (one that has never held any soap or chemicals in it)
- Gravel cleaner or hose
- Sea salt, natural or synthetic
- Thermometer for checking water temperature
When cleaning your aquarium, you can split your cleaning regimen into two parts. The tank itself needs to be cleaned once a week on the same day each week. Then, you need to clean the tank filters every two to three weeks.
Unplug Your Tank Heater Before Cleaning
Before you start cleaning your fish tank, the first thing to do is to unplug your tank's heater, if you have one. The heater must NOT be removed from the water while it is hot. So, make sure your tank heater is unplugged for at least 20 minutes before removing it from the tank. That's because the water cools the glass on the heater. If you remove the heater too soon, the glass may crack or even shatter.
Also, never stick your hand inside of your fish tank before unplugging the heater from the wall. Even a tiny crack in the glass of the heater can lead to a shock that could severely injure or even kill you. Once the heater is given time to cool, then it can be safely removed from the tank. If you have a submersible heater, you can simply push it down to the bottom of the tank.
Cleaning Your Fish Tank's Gravel
Remove any decorations in your tank until all you have left is the small gravel at the tank bottom. Doing this allows you to remove any dirt covered up by those decorations. The best way to clean the gravel is a gravel cleaner that you can buy from any aquarium supply store. This special plastic tube will help you stir up any dirt that has settled in between and beneath the gravel. Push the plastic tube into the gravel to the bottom of the tank. Then, siphon the water into your bucket. Every couple of seconds, move the tube over an inch or so. Repeat this process until you remove about 15 percent of the tank's water or all the gravel is cleaned.
If you do not have a gravel cleaner, you will need to get your hands wet. Stir up the gravel to get any dirt that has settled. Then, remove the water into your bucket with a hose. In either case, do NOT dump out the water. You will use this to clean the filters.
Clean Your Aquarium Filters
You may wonder why you kept that dirty water. The reason you need this for cleaning your aquarium filters is that the water is full of bacteria. The inside of your aquarium filters is where good bacteria grow. These bacteria break down nitrates and nitrites from uneaten food and fish waste in the water. Because you do not want to kill all of these friendly bacteria, you actually want to clean your filter materials in the water you siphoned from the tank before.
Take everything out of your aquarium filters and rinse them off in that dirty aquarium water bucket. Take the filter sponge and squeeze it a couple of times in the bucket. Finally, you can reassemble your tank filters and put them back onto the tank.
You only need to clean the tank filters once or twice a month, but it should be done at the same time as your regular tank cleaning.
Refill the Water in Your Aquarium
Lastly, you will need to replace the removed water from your aquarium tank. Before doing so, you want to add a tiny bit of sea salt to the tank. Even fresh water tanks must have a little bit of salt, as it exists in any water. You will want to add roughly 1 cup of sea salt per 50 gallons of water.
Before you add water to the tank, make sure that the water is only a degree or two different than the water already in the tank. This is because any drastic change in the aquarium's temperature can put the fish into shock. Fish going into shock will either die or suffer lowered immunity, meaning they can die more easily from disease.
The best way to get the water to the right temperature is to clean your bucket and fill it with hot water. Then, check it regularly with a thermometer until it is about the same as your tank, within a degree or two. Then, add the water to the tank slowly. Lastly, restart the filters and the tank heater.