Cleaning A Used Fish Tank | How To Do It In 6 Steps

If you have an old fish tank in your storeroom, that has not been in use for years, you can remodel it and use it again. Many of us shy away from keeping an aquarium at home, thinking it involves a lot of investment.

But, if you, or someone in your family, had a fish tank earlier, then you can indeed remodel the tank again and host new fish in it.

It will help you save the money you would have otherwise spent buying a new fish tank. The only thing you need to be careful about is that the aquarium should be clean.

Today I will tell you about cleaning a used fish tank – how to do it properly and make it suitable for your aquarium fish.

Steps For Cleaning A Used Fish Tank

Cleaning an old fish tank might seem a fussy job initially. The very sight of the accumulated dirt on the walls of your old fish tank can be so repulsive that it can turn you off completely, forcing you to think that it’s best to get a new tank for your fish.

I know most people try first, then avoid cleaning an old fish tank because they have little or no knowledge of how to go about it.

But, what if I tell you, what exactly needs to be done to clean the tank? Would you still think of replacing it? Well, think it over again after you’ve gone through this step-by-step guide on how to clean an old fish tank.

Steps For Cleaning A Used Fish Tank

1) Get Over The Repulsion

The first thing you need to do is overcome your aversion. Before I get into the process of cleaning the fish tank, I would like to tell you that you have to get the initial repulsion out of your mind.

This can be done by thinking of the advantages of having a fish tank at home. Like, you should recollect the memories associated with the old fish tank. Playing on your sentiments will help you overcome your initial reservations when cleaning the tank.

You can also think about the financial aspect. Not getting a new fish tank enables you to save a lot of money, which, in turn, acts as a driving force that makes you clean the tank.

2) Empty The Fish Tank

After you have made up your mind that you want to clean the fish tank, you need to first empty the tank. It is best to take out all the removable things from the tank and set them aside. In some cases, if you cannot remove the pebbles by hand, you can use a fishnet.

If you have a big fish tank, then try removing the rocks/gravel using a siphon. You need to also keep the ornaments separately if you feel they are in usable condition.

3) Sanitize Your Fish Tank

The third step of cleaning a fish tank is sanitizing the walls of the aquarium. In case you wish to reuse the decorations, you need to sanitize them as well. 

You can use bleach to clean and sanitize the walls of the aquarium. When used in proper concentration, it is safe and highly effective for aquariums.

The right proportion is 1 cup (8 ounces or 240 milliliters) of bleach in one gallon of water (3.8 liters), i.e., 1 part of bleach in 9 parts of water. Make sure the bleach used to clean the aquarium is non-detergent.  

Most people who wish to clean home fish tanks restrain themselves from using bleach and prefer using vinegar and water instead as a cleaning solution.

They mix equal portions of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray it on the aquarium walls in adequate quantities so that the aquarium floor is covered with the solution.

How to Sanitize an used fish tank

This mixture works as an excellent cleaning agent. It effectively removes hard water stains and white residue from the fish tank. It also helps in sanitizing the fish tank and neutralizes the fishy odors in the fish tank.

While cleaning the aquarium’s outer walls, you need to ensure that the aquarium is placed on a safe surface for vinegar or bleach.

In case you are using a vinegar solution, you can leave the tank soaked in the solution for up to 48 hours so that the dirt absorbs the solution completely.

But, in case you are using bleach instead of vinegar, make sure you do not leave the aquarium soaked in the solution for more than 15 minutes.

4) Rinse With Tap Water

  • You need to fill the tank with fresh water and rinse the tank properly. 
  • Leave it soaked in fresh water for approximately 15 minutes. 
  • Remove the fresh water using a bucket. 
  • Once the water is removed from the fish tank, leave it open and let it air dry. This helps in breaking down the chemicals into harmless by-products.

5) Scrub The Remaining White Residue

If you still observe any white residue on the fish tank walls, make sure you scrape it from the walls of your old fish tank using a razor.

However, I suggest using an algae scrubbing pad that is safe for your fish tank instead of a razor to avoid scratches on the walls’ surface.

Just in case you don’t have an algae scrubbing pad, I would suggest that you use a plastic razor instead of a metal razor. If you find a lot of debris, you might have to rinse the aquarium walls again to ensure the fish tank is completely clean.

6) Clean The Decorations Of The Fish Tank

If you wish to reuse the old decorations, you need to use the same cleaning solution you used to clean the fish tank. Follow these steps to clean the decorations:

  • Place the ornaments on a surface that is safe for bleach or vinegar.
  • Spray the solution on the decorations generously, and let them soak in the solution for 15 minutes.
  • You need to rinse the solution from the decorations by washing them in tap water.
  • Let the decoration dry for 24 hours.

In case, you need more detailed instructions, you can read how to clean aquarium decoration (the easy way).

Wrapping Up

Therefore, to conclude, it can be said that if you want to save money and still take care of your pet fish properly, you can use your old fish tank. 

The only thing you need to ensure is that the tank is clean and safe to host fish. To clean the fish tank, we need to first get over the initial hesitation that crops in due to the repulsion caused by seeing a dirty fish tank. 

Once you make up your mind to clean the tank, you can follow these steps, and in no time, you will see your tank is ready to host fish.

  • Firstly, drain the water from your fish tank using a siphon.
  • Secondly, empty the tank. Make sure you segregate the decoration pieces you wish to reuse from the ones you are thinking of throwing away.
  • Thirdly, make a cleaning solution. You can either use bleach or vinegar. I prefer using vinegar for home aquariums because bleaches cause erosion.
  • Spray the solution on the wall of the aquarium and the decorations generously. Soak it in the solution for 15 minutes. In case the glasses are filthy, and you are using vinegar instead of bleach, you can leave it for up to 48 hours.
  • Rinse the solution from the surface of the aquarium using tap water.
  • Let the aquarium dry for 24 hours. In case you still find residues, you can use an algae scrub or razor to remove the residue from the glass and from the surface of the decorations.
  • Rinse the aquarium again and let it dry.

I know cleaning an old aquarium requires time, energy, and effort, but once we are done with it, the level of satisfaction supersedes the happiness of buying a new fish tank. 

If you follow these steps, you can successfully clean the fish tank and reuse it to host new fish. It is worth all the effort at the end of the day because it saves money and gives you mental satisfaction.

Sujit Modak

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