Fish are low-maintenance pets. They are cheap, easy to feed, and generally don’t require the same level of care that other animals do. Not to mention the fact that they are quiet.
You also don’t have to worry about them launching into destructive behavior when separation anxiety kicks in every time you have to leave them at home all day. Plus, it’s a great way to gauge whether your kids are ready to handle the responsibility of a puppy if they’ve been nagging you for one.
But we don’t need to sell you on why fish are great. The fact that you’re here reading this means that you already have a fish tank at home and are trying to figure out how to clean it. And yes – you do need to clean and disinfect your aquarium.
This is important to maintain the delicate ecosystem there if you want to keep the fish alive. Without further ado, here’s the ultimate guide to cleaning a fish tank with vinegar.
Cleaning Fish Tank With Vinegar – The Step-By-Step Process
Cleaning an aquarium is a lot easier than most people think. There’s also something all-so therapeutic about it that makes the whole process quite enjoyable.
The best part is, you don’t even need expensive chemical-based cleaners to do it. Good old-fashioned white vinegar (link to Amazon) is all you need. It works like a charm to remove hardened algae, water, and limescale stains. (Is there anything vinegar can’t do?)
First off, here’s a list of the items you’ll need for the task.
- Distilled white vinegar
- Table salt
- Non-scratch scrub sponges
- An old razor or razor blade scraper
- Regular tap water
Phase 1: Deep Cleaning the Fish Tank
The first stage involves deep cleaning your tank. This is particularly recommended for acrylic and glass tanks. Keep in mind, though, that you have to be gentle when doing it. Otherwise, you’ll end up scratching the surface, which will leave permanent and unsightly marks.
Here’s how to deep clean the fish tank.
1. Empty the Fish Tank
Start by transferring all the fish to a separate tank or holding container. A regular bucket will do. Then, proceed to remove all the aqua plants, decorations, and peripherals so that you’re left with an empty aquarium.
2. Loosen the Stains
Next, wet the non-scratch scrub sponge (link to Amazon) with tap water and use it to wipe down the interior and exterior surfaces of the fish tank. This loosens the calcium and algae deposits. Again, you need to be gentle to avoid scratching the surface, particularly if your tank is made of acrylic.
3. Scrub With Table Salt
Take the same sponge and wet it with water once again. Then, add a tablespoon or two of salt to the sponge and repeat step 2 above. Focus your efforts on the areas that have stubborn stains to ensure you remove everything.
Add more salt to the sponge if necessary. Leave the salted surfaces to sit for 3-5 minutes, but don’t let them dry out completely.
Take your fish tank outside, or somewhere close to a tap. Connect a garden hosepipe to the tap and proceed to rinse out the tank thoroughly until there are no traces of salt left. Inspect the surface and see if you got all the stains. If not, proceed to step 5. If you did, proceed to step 6.
5. Scrape off the Stubborn Stains
Use an old razor or razor blade scraper to very gently scrape off the hard calcium and algae deposits on the surfaces of the glass. If you have an acrylic tank, you might want to skip this step.
6. Disinfect the Fish Tank With Vinegar
Mix a 1:1 solution of tap water and vinegar. Pour it into the fish tank and use the sponge to give it one final scrub. Make sure you do this thoroughly for both the interior and exterior surfaces of the aquarium until all traces of calcium and algae are gone.
7. Give It a Final Rinse
Once you’ve disinfected the entire tank with vinegar, rinse it out thoroughly with tap water. Then leave it out to dry completely.
Phase 2: Cleaning the Plants, Decorations, and Peripherals
Now that your tank is clean, the next stage involves cleaning your plants, decorations, and any other gear that’s usually in the tank. This includes the aquarium filter. Everything needs to be cleaned and disinfected before you can put it back in the tank.
1. Clean the Plants
Mix a 1:1 solution of tap water and vinegar in a basin. Then, place the plants in it and let them soak for 5 minutes to loosen the algae deposits. Don’t leave them there for any longer than that.
2. Rinse the Plants
Very carefully rinse the plants under cold running water until all traces of algae and vinegar come off. Then, replace them in the now-dry fish tank.
3. Clean the Decorations
Repeat the same process for the decorations by soaking them in a 1:1 tap water and vinegar solution, only this time, you let them soak for at least 10 minutes. Then, using a toothbrush, scrub each of the items thoroughly to remove any calcium and algae deposits. Dip the toothbrush in undiluted vinegar to scrub areas with tough stains.
4. Rinse the Items
Give the decorations a good rinse under running water. Make sure to remove all traces of algae and vinegar.
5. Clean the Peripherals
Mix a 1:1 solution of tap water and vinegar. Then, dip your sponge in it and gently scrub any calcium deposits and stains on the surfaces of the filter casing, cover, and any other peripherals.
Ensure that you also clean the filter unit by disassembling it and soaking the individual parts in the water and vinegar solution for at least 10 minutes.
6. Rinse the Peripherals
Then, rinse all the items under running water. Reassemble the filtration unit before replacing it and all other items in the tank. Finally, fill up the tank with water and replace all your fish.
A Clean Aquarium Extends the Lifespan of Your Fish
While some people believe in using bleach to disinfect their aquarium, cleaning fish tanks with vinegar is a much safer alternative since there’s less risk of poisoning your fish. It’s usually quite difficult to rinse out the bleach, and it may cause discoloration or corrosion to the decorations and peripherals.
Vinegar is just as effective in getting your aquarium completely clean. Use the steps detailed in this guide to clean your tank. Happy fish keeping!