How To Keep Your Fish Tank Clean

Many people don’t realize how much work a fish tank is going to be when they buy one. Are you unsure of how to keep your fish tank clean? That’s okay, we’ll walk you through each step.

Soon, you’ll be a master cleaner, and you’ll have a beautiful, healthy tank for your fish.

How Do You Keep Your Fish Tank Clean?

Cleaning your tank is not simply changing the water and scrubbing the sides. Keeping your fish tank clean is an active process every day, even if you’re not getting your hands wet.

Use A Filter

The most important piece of advice we can give you is to equip your aquarium with a filter.

Filters will suck up large pieces of waste to keep your water clean. They usually consist of a sponge or sponge-like material. It catches the waste and prevents it from going back into the water column.

Filters are also wonderful places for bacteria to live. They will usually live within the filter media itself.

This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s good to have bacteria living in your aquarium. This all has to do with the nitrogen cycle which keeps your water healthy.

Many filters also contain some kind of chemical filtration. Chemical filtration removes harmful toxins from the water such as ammonia.

Don’t Overfeed Your Fish

Feeding your fish the right amount of food can do wonders for keeping your aquarium clean. One of the biggest reasons people wind up with a dirty tank is that they’re feeding their fish too much.

You should only give your fish as much food as they can eat within two to three minutes. Remove any food left after two to three minutes. You can usually do this with a fine-meshed fish net.

Avoid Too Much Light

Another mistake many new fish keepers make is having too much light in their aquarium.

You should avoid placing your fish tank near a window. Constant light throughout the day will cause algae to grow all over your tank.

This goes for artificial lighting, too. You should only have your aquarium light on for about four to six hours a day.

Keep A Bigger Tank

Most new fish keepers start out with a smaller tank because they think it will be easier. But, the opposite is actually true.

It’s harder to maintain healthy water parameters in a smaller tank. Your water levels are more likely to fluctuate than in a larger tank.

If you can, consider starting with a 20 to 30-gallon tank.

Buy Algae Eaters & Bottom Feeders

Algae eaters and bottom feeders are wonderful for helping to keep your tank clean.

If you have a smaller tank, you should stick to shrimp and snails. They will help clean up the algae and leftover food, but won’t contribute much bioload to the tank.

If you have a 10-gallon tank or larger, you can get other fish to help your tank.

Some great algae eaters include:

Some great bottom feeders include:

How Do You Clean Your Fish Tank?

Now that you know how to prevent your tank from becoming dirty, you’ll also want to know how to clean it.

Clean The Filter

Before removing any water, you should unplug the filter. If you leave the filter running and the water level gets too low, you could ruin the motor.

Then, you can lightly wipe the filter down with a cloth to remove any scum. You don’t want to clean the filter too thoroughly. This can kill off the beneficial bacteria living there.

Change The Filter Media

The filter media needs to be replaced about once a month. Depending on the kind of filter you use, you may need to throw out the filter media and replace it entirely. Or, you may just need to clean it. You’ll want to follow the directions on the filter media packaging.

Scrub The Inside Of The Tank

Before removing any of the water, you’ll want to scrub the sides of the tank to remove any algae. You can buy a more expensive magnetic tool for this if you don’t want to get your hands wet. Or, you can just buy a simple algae sponge.

Be careful about which tool you buy. Most are made specifically for glass or acrylic aquariums. If you buy the wrong one, your tank might get scratched up.

Keep Up On Water Changes

The water is going to get dirty, that’s a given.

If you have a filter, you should replace 25% of the water once every one to two weeks.

If you don’t have a filter, please get one! Otherwise, you’ll need to do 75-100% water changes two to three times every week.

Use A Gravel Vacuum

While doing your water changes, make sure that you clean the gravel. The gravel is where all the fish waste and leftover food is going to hide.

Gravel vacuums are super easy to use. Most have a pump attachment to begin the suction. Water will come up through the tube, and into the bucket or sink you have available. Stick the suction tool into the gravel, stir up the gravel, and the waste will be sucked up with the water.

Clean The Decorations

Next, you’ll want to give the decorations a good scrub down. Save the old water that you removed from the tank for this. It will prevent you from getting chlorine or heavy metals from tap water on your decorations.

Then, simply scrub the decorations with a sponge or fine-toothed brush. You can even use a toothbrush.

Clean The Outside Of The Tank

Lastly, you’ll want to clean the outside of your tank. This is simply so you can keep your aquarium looking nice and clear. You can use a damp cloth to wipe it down before following it with a soft, dry cloth. You can even use glass cleaner as long as you’re careful not to get it in the water.


Keeping your tank clean is very important for the health of your fish. Plus, it makes your tank more enjoyable to look at!

There’s a lot of steps to cleaning your aquarium, but it’s not as hard as it seems. After cleaning your tank a few times, you’ll have the process down pat.

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