What Can I Clean My Fish Tank With? (Essential Tools To Clean Your Fish Tank)

Optimizing the conditions of your tank is crucial to the survival of your fish. Besides the basic steps of changing water and putting in filters, cleaning the entirety of an aquarium is also a must. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to do this correctly.

If you ever find yourself asking “What can I clean my fish tank with?”, then this article is for you. Scroll down and see the best tips and tricks regarding tank cleaning!

What Can I Clean My Fish Tank With?

Cleaning your fish tank requires several items, including some scrubbing pads, a bottle of vinegar, and a few spoons of salt.

white vinegar

The scrubbing pads allow you to get rid of most residue inside the tank without exerting yourself. At the same time, salt and vinegar combined are the best way to disinfect the tank, as well as minimize the stains coming from the fish and hard water.

Even better, these two chemical components help to get rid of the uncomfortable smell, giving your tank a fresher scent.

That said, there are still other objects needed for tank cleaning. For example. if you find the glass walls of your tank filled with algae buildup, using a magnetic algae cleaner is highly recommended.

Or, in case you do not need a thorough tank cleanup but rather a quick improvement of the water, a sponge filter will suffice. By submerging the filter inside the tank, moving it around, and letting it absorb any harmful substance, your tank’s water is bound to be pristine and hygienic within minutes.

The Importance Of Cleaning Fish Tanks

Add in sufficient amounts of minerals

Minerals are vital to the survival of fish. But unfortunately, RO water used in aquariums – which has been subject to the reverse osmosis process – tends to lack the necessary minerals.

This is because all so-called impurities are removed from tap water, leaving the resulting water bare. Hence, cleaning a fish tank gives you the perfect opportunity to put in minerals and ensure the well-being of your fish.

Reduce the nitrate and ammonia levels

Nitrate and ammonia are a nightmare to fish. If their concentrations are too high, a spike in fish’s stress levels will soon follow. Cleaning up your tank with a suitable filter minimizes the accumulation of said components, which creates a more favorable habitat for the fish.

Get rid of waste

A tank’s waste does not merely come from your fish’s excretion. Sometimes, pieces of your plants and bits of the decor – both organic and inorganic – can build up at the bottom of the tank. Leaving them unattended usually pollutes the water and induces fish to contract more diseases.


1. How often do you clean a fish tank with a filter?

cleaning tank

In most cases, the filter inside a fish tank will take care of the dirty work for you. Thus, you do not need to give the tank an overhaul regularly. Instead, make sure to take care of the filter cartridges.

A monthly cleanup is required to optimize the efficiency of your filter. Each year, make sure a deep tank cleanup – including all the tools and equipment – is performed twice.

If you follow these frequencies, rest assured that your fish will enjoy the tank’s cleanliness for a long time.

2. How to clean a fish tank without removing the fish?

There are multiple ways for aquarists to clean a tank without harming the fish inside.

  • Vacuum the gravel: Dirt, feces, and other matter are usually found at the bottom of the tank, where the substrate locates. The easiest way to clean the tank is to target this area in particular, preferably with the help of a gravel siphon kit.
  • Rinse the plants and decor: Bleaching the plants and decor – both the living and the artificial ones – is a cheap way to expel bacteria, parasites, and algae. If possible, add in a bit of salt and vinegar for a more thorough rinse.
  • Change your water frequently: A weekly water change of roughly 10 to 15% will dial down the levels of nitrate and ammonia in your tank. It also helps to push out harmful bacteria and add in a steady flow of water. The only thing to be careful of here is to stabilize the conditions of your newly added water. If the parameters are too different, your fish may experience a temperature shock.
  • Clean the glass surfaces: Slime matters from food waste and your fish’s skin are bound to stick to the walls. If left there for a long time, they can be detrimental to the water’s parameters. A scrubbing pad soaked in vinegar or an algae scraper will be useful in removing these unwanted residues.

3. What cleaners are safe for fish tanks?

If you want to clean a tank with fish inside, opt for organic cleaners such as vinegar and salt. The acetic acid found in limes or lemons is another option, as it is powerful enough to get rid of the dirt without compromising the livelihoods of the fish.

salt and limes

On the other hand, you do not need to be as careful once all of your fish are temporarily out of the tank. Any chemicals used in cleaning – from chlorine to sodium hypochlorite – will do the job.

All you have to do is to check the instructions carefully before using them and ask the sellers for more information, lest you abuse the product.

Last but not least, remember to stay away from washing soaps and detergents! These items are highly concentrated bleaching solutions, rendering them harmful to the fish.


Hopefully, the question “What can I clean my fish tank with?” no longer bothers you. Now that you have learned the importance and procedures of tank cleaning, make sure to keep your tank pristine and healthy for the sake of your fish!