Introduction: Cleaning and Preparing a Fish Tank

Read before you begin cleaning your fish tank:

  1. Read all steps thoroughly under each section before beginning the tank cleaning.
  2. Your tank should be cleaned using this method once per month.
  3. These instructions are intended for cleaning tanks between 5 and 20 gallons.
  4. Wear clothing you do not mind getting wet or dirty.
  5. It is okay to leave your fish in the tank when cleaning it using this method.
  6. Be careful when using hot water to clean tools.
  7. Be careful working with water around electronics and electrical outlets and wires.
  8. Place laptops, tablets, phones, etc. on a surface away from the fish tank and any other water sources.
  9. If you are reading the instructions from an electronic device, be sure to dry your hands before each time you touch the device.
  10. Make sure all supplies are clean, or rinse them well with hot water before beginning (make sure no cleaning supplies, soaps, or chemicals were used on the supplies, with the exception of towels).

Supplies you need:

  1. Clean Towels
  2. Bathtub or sink with access to water
  3. Clean sponges
  4. 5-inch, 5-20 Gallon Gravel vacuum
  5. 14 Quart bucket (or similar size)
  6. Smaller container for scooping water
  7. Thermometer
  8. Aqua Safe (Betta Safe)

Step 1: Prepare Your Space

  1. Gather and familiarize yourself with all of the supplies.
  2. Lay out towels over the floor and surfaces near your fish tank that you wish to keep dry.

Step 2: Ready the Tank

Remove the filter:

If you have a sponge filter with an air pump, follow the directions below for cleaning your tanks filter. If you have a different type of filter, follow the cleaning instructions that came with the filter.

  1. Unplug the fish tank filter and remove the filter from the tank and place it in the bucket.
  2. Disconnect the air tube from the air pump, place the air tube in the bucket and the air pump off to the side away from any water.

Remove other tank items:

  1. Remove all decorations from the tank and place in the bucket.
  2. Unplug the tank’s heater, remove from tank, and place it in the bucket. (If you do not have a heater, skip this step).
  3. Once all items are removed from the tank, bring the bucket to the bathtub or sink and place each of the items from the bucket in the bathtub or sink. Bring the empty bucket back to your fish tank.

Step 3: Vacuum the Water Into the Bucket

Watch the attached video for a demonstration on how to use the gravel vacuum.
  1. Put the gravel vacuum's hose inside the bucket, using the bucket clip that came with the vacuum to keep the hose in place.
  2. Place the vacuum end of the gravel vacuum in the fish tank, making sure it is completely submerged in the water.
  3. Rapidly move the vacuum up and down until a siphon begins and the water comes out the other end of the tube, emptying into the bucket. (It may take some time to get the siphon started, if it is not working, move the vacuum up and down more quickly).
  4. Once a siphon has begun, push the vacuum down into the gravel and continue the up and down motion while moving the vacuum across the floor of the tank. When the vacuum is full of gravel, lift the vacuum slightly to release the gravel back into the tank.
  5. Work quickly so as not to lose too much water from the tank. Continue cleaning the remainder of the gravel in the tank.
  6. Stop cleaning the gravel once the water reaches the 50-40 percent level of the tank.
  7. Remove the gravel vacuum from the tank and be careful that all water is emptied from the vacuum and the hose into the bucket to avoid spills.
  8. Dump the dirty water from the bucket down the bathtub or sink drain. Rinse the bucket with hot water.

Step 4: Clean the Heater

    If you do not own a fish tank heater, you can skip this step.

    1. Scrub the tank’s heater with a sponge and warm water.
    2. Set the heater to the correct temperature for your fish tank (the correct temperature is different for different types of fish, research what will work for the fish that you own), place the heater back in the tank to keep the water temperature up during the remainder of the tank cleaning.

    Step 5: Clean the Glass of the Tank

    1. Scrub the inside glass of the tank with a damp sponge to remove any calcium buildup.
    2. Do not wring out the dirty sponge into the fish tank, wring the sponge out in the bucket.

    Step 6: Clean the Filter

      If you have a sponge filter with an air pump, follow the directions below for cleaning your tanks filter. If you have a different type of filter, follow the cleaning instructions that came with the filter.

      1. Disassemble the tank filter in the bathtub or sink.Rinse it once with cold water and wring it out in the bathtub or sink.
      2. Rinse and scrub the remaining parts of the filter with hot water and sponge.
      3. Reassemble the tank filter according to the directions that came with your filter.
      4. Place the filter back in the tank and reconnect it to the air pump.
      5. Plug the air pump into an outlet. This will get the water in the tank moving again, helping to keep the temperature up.

      Step 7: Fill the Tank With Water

      1. Run the cold water tap in your bathtub or sink. Check the temperature of the running water with your thermometer. The water temperature should be between 70 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
      2. If your water does not fall between the 70 and 72 degree mark, slowly turn the hot water tap higher or lower until your thermometer shows that the water has reached the desired 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
      3. Once the temperature is between 70 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, fill your bucket with the water.
      4. Lift the bucket using both hands, lift with the legs, not the back. Bring the full bucket back to your tank and set it down in a safe place.
      5. Measure/count out the correct amount of Aqua Safe into the bucket of water according to the 2 drops per Liter indicated on the back of the Aqua Safe bottle.
      6. Scoop the water out from the bucket using a smaller container and slowly pour it into the fish tank.
      7. Using your tanks thermometer, make sure the water in the fish tank stays near the “safe zone” temperature while you are adding water to it (for Betta fish this is between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit). It is okay if the temperature fluctuates about 3-4 degrees outside of the “safe zone”.
      8. Fish are sensitive to water temperature changes. If the temperature drops too much, take a break and wait for the tank water to come back up to temperature.
      9. Continue filling up the tank until the water in the tank reaches your desired level. Be careful not to overfill as you still need a bit of room to put your decorations back in.

      Step 8: Clean Your Decorations

      1. Scrub each of the decorations using the sponge and warm water.
      2. Rinse each item off using hot water.
      3. Place the decorations back in the fish tank.

      Step 9: Clean Your Workspace and Supplies

      1. Wipe up any water spills that may have occurred on the surfaces surrounding the tank, bathtub, sink.
      2. Rinse and wring out the sponges that were used for cleaning.
      3. Rinse the bucket and gravel vacuum using hot water. Leave bucket, vacuum, and sponges out to dry in a safe place.
      4. Hang towels to dry and wash them before using them for your next tank cleaning.

      Step 10: Monitor Your Tank

      1. Over the next few hours, periodically check the temperature using your thermometer to ensure the tank’s temperature stays within the “safe zone”.
      2. Pay close attention to the behavior of your fish to ensure he/she is healthy and adjusting well to the water.