How To Clean Aquarium Decorations In 6 Easy Steps

It’s a great feeling when you finally get to keep all of those beautiful fish in your aquarium. But, if the decorations start looking dirty- that’s no good! 

You’ll need some thorough maintenance tips for cleaning them up, so they’re as pristine and pretty again.

Have you ever wondered how to clean aquarium decorations? If so, I hope this post will help. This is a step-by-step guide on how to clean the decor in your fish tank.

I will try to focus on – 

  • How to clean your decorations without bleach or chemicals.
  • How to clean algae off your decors.
  • How to use bleach to clean aquarium decorations safely.
  • Other necessary tips. 

Why Do You Need To Clean Aquarium Decorations?

Fish tanks are the perfect place to house your favorite pet. They offer a sense of security and peace for many people. But over time, these beautiful aquaria can lose their appeal with dirt covering all surfaces – including decorations!

To keep your aquarium clean, you’ll need to regularly wash its decorations.

Keeping up on cleaning duties is important not just because it improves the aquarium aesthetic but also impacts water quality which directly affects fish health and well-being overall.

How To Clean Aquarium Decorations (Step by Step)

How To Clean Aquarium Decorations - Infographic

Though not an arduous task, many people don’t know how to properly clean their aquarium decorations, especially newcomers!

The essential reminder is that you should never use soap or unsafe chemicals for the cleaning task, especially soap, which can be really harmful to fish.

Below I will describe the entire task step by step.

1) Preparation

cleaning aquarium decorations - preparations

Wash Your Hands And Arms Without Soap

The first thing you need to do before cleaning your aquarium decorations is given your hands a quick wash with lukewarm water and make sure that you don’t use soap. You don’t want germs or bacteria from your hand to come in contact with your fish.

Turn Off All Pieces Of Equipment (Filter, Heater, etc.)

Turn off all equipment like the filter, heater, pumps, etc., before starting the cleaning job of aquarium decorations. Also, ensure all electric devices are off and unplugged before putting your hands in aquarium water – otherwise, it would be unsafe. 

Move Live Plants To One Corner Of The Tank

Live plants are beneficial for the environment and your tank. They naturally clean themselves, so you don’t have to worry about removing them when cleaning! 

Just move all of the existing plants over into one corner so that you can see and access other items to perform the cleaning task. 

You can replace old live plants with new ones if you want a different look throughout your aquarium.

2) Cleaning Aquarium Decorations Without Bleach

For the aquarists who perform frequent and routine cleaning, a typical vacuum with hot water wash can be sufficient to clean their things without using bleach or any chemicals.

Here are the steps below:

cleaning aquarium decorations - clean without bleach

Gently Remove All Decorations

Aquarium decorations are delicate and should be handled with care to avoid damaging them. Although all of the items can be removed at once, it is best that you only clean one-third of your fish’s décor in a single cleaning session.

Removing all decors at a time may stress out aquatic residents who don’t like a drastic change in their known surroundings. So instead, take away just one or two pieces of decorations, clean them, and put them back in place.

No, need to remove fish or live plants during cleaning. 

Clean Decors With Hot Water

For plastic plants and ornaments, you can start by boiling water on a big container that can comfortably hold all your aquarium decorations. 

Once the pot of hot liquid has boiled, soak in it for about 10 minutes to kill most algae before brush cleaning!

Anything delicate may melt at higher temperatures, so use hot tap water for them instead. 

Clean Algae Off Using A Soft Brush

It’s time to give your decorations a scrubbing.

I recommend using toothbrushes because they effectively remove algae in hard-to-reach places! In addition, toothbrushes are soft and won’t damage delicate items.

After brushing away all of that algae and rinsing them with clean running water, you’ll have sparkling items again ready for use.

3) Clean Aquarium Decorations With Bleach

If you don’t clean your aquarium decorations frequently, there might form stubborn dust, and only hot water cleaning may not be sufficient. If the outside of them still looks dirty even after scrubbing with a toothbrush – a stronger cleaner with bleach will need to do its job for good results!

cleaning aquarium decorations - clean with bleach

Make A Bleach Solution & Dip Decorations In It 

Prepare a 5% bleach solution. To do this, mix four teaspoons in two gallons of water. 

To clean aquarium decorations with bleach, dip them in a bucket filled with that solution. Leave these things on there for about five minutes before you take them off!

While bleaching, make sure you have a well-ventilated room and wear protection for your eyes and hands.

Clean Stubborn Algae Off Your Decorations

The next step is removing stubborn algae by scrubbing it off with a toothbrush. 

But be sure you have soaked decorations in a bleach solution at least five minutes before starting this process as well – as stated in the previous step!

Rinse decors thoroughly under running water for 2/3 minutes, and that will remove residual bleach from them. 

There are different types of algae, sometimes a specific treatment is required to remove those algae. Below are some of the guidelines:

Related Resources:

Soak The Decorations In De-Chlorinated Water

Bleach is harmful to fish that can even kill them. To avoid this, be sure not to leave any bleach residue behind after you clean your decorations! 

Fill another bucket with water and add in some chlorine-removing agent before dipping all of those bleach-cleaned items in that clean water; 30 minutes should do it nicely enough.

However, rocks and gravel can absorb bleach, so never apply it to those aquarium items to avoid health risks to your fish.

I don’t like to use bleach solutions for cleaning aquarium items because it could be deadly to your fish. However, you can keep your aquarium decorations clean enough without a bleach wash if you perform the cleaning task regularly.

4) Cleaning Your Substrate

The substrate is the bottom bed of an aquarium, usually made up of gravel or sand. Substrate cleaning is a bit tricky, so it is necessary to follow the proper procedure.

cleaning aquarium decorations - clean the substrate

Vacuum Your Gravel

If your aquarium substrate is gravel, you’ve got to vacuum your aquarium’s gravel to keep the water clean and algae-free. Uneaten foods and fish poops can be accumulated in the bottom and decompose to produce harmful products. So, gravel cleaning is vital for aesthetics and good water quality. 

Different types of gravel vacuum cleaners are available on the market, and they’ll suck all dirt and grime outta your rocks.

Cleaning The Sand Bottom

Some aquarists prefer to keep sandy materials as the substrate. But, cleaning the sand bottom can be trickier and require more time and patience. 

You can use a vacuum cleaner for the sand cleaning job also. You can read my article for a detailed procedure – How to Clean Aquarium Sand, the Simplest Way in 7 Steps!

But if you do it frequently, vigorous cleaning should be avoided as the substrate is the home of beneficial bacteria, and you don’t want to lose them.

5) Trimming Your Live Plants

cleaning aquarium decorations - trim live plants

The plants in your aquarium are very important. They serve as a home for the fish and provide shelter from predators. But you must trim them regularly to keep them in good shape. 

After you have completed substrate cleaning, trim carefully and place back your plants. 

Especially, it’s important to trim any dead leaves and remove any floating dead plants.

6) Place Decors Back In The Tank

cleaning aquarium decorations - put back all

Once you’ve finished cleaning, it is time to put the decorations back on. But, again, do it carefully, as decorations might be delicate and fragile.

However, it’s a great opportunity to rearrange your tank’s decoration! 

Related Resource: What Should You Do To Make Your Decorations Safe?

How Often Should You Clean Aquarium Decorations?

Typically once a month is fair enough. 

Regular cleaning of aquarium decorations makes the cleaning task easier, and you can make them sparkling without using any chemicals or bleach! That’s a great benefit.

But too frequent cleaning can stress your fish and kill off beneficial bacteria. 

Can You Clean Aquarium Decorations With Vinegar?

Vinegar is a great cleaner for aquarium decorations. Soak all of your items in 1:1 vinegar/water solution and leave them to soak overnight, then rinse everything off really well before using it again!

How Do You Wash New Aquarium Decorations?

Cleaning your new aquarium decorations is easy with boiling water. Simply put one or two items into the hot water pot and let them soak for about 20 minutes. This should kill most of the germs on these materials, making them clean!

But don’t use boiling water on delicate items that can be melted with heat. Instead, use moderately hot tap water. 

How To Clean Aquarium Decorations Without Scrubbing

Wrapping Up

Without the right tools, cleaning can seem like an overwhelming task! However, as long as you stay on top of these routine tasks with care (following tips from above), maintaining a thriving fish tank for years isn’t too difficult.

If you have any further queries, please ask me in the below comment box, and I will try to reply as soon as I can.

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Sujit Modak

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