Introduction: How to Clean Your Small Fish Tank

Fish tanks require a lot of cleaning due to algae growth and waste from the fish. Often times, the green algae will cover the glass of the tank, which is not healthy for the fish. There are many ways to clean tanks, and today I will explain my method.

My method works well for people smaller fish tanks (ten gallons or less) and for people that do not want to invest money into extra equipment. You can use my process by completing the following steps.

Step 1: Gather All of the Necessary Materials.

In order to clean your fish tank, you will need the following items:

-Paper Towels


-Tooth Brush

-Dechlorinated Water (at least two gallons)

-Water conditioner

-Tap water dechlorinator

-Fish net

-Large container or bucket (approximately one gallon)

-Smaller fish tank or container

These items can be purchased at your local grocery and pet store. The fish net is not mandatory, but it helps catch the fish. I have used a cup to catch them in the past, so you could try that first before buying a fish net. The toothbrush could also be replaced with any sort of scrubbing brush. You just need something that gets the job done. All of the items that I use for my tank are shown here.

Step 2: Remove All Decorative Pieces, Filters, Bubblers From the Tank.

Make sure your hands are clean and no soap is remaining. Soap is not good for the fish. Turn off and unplug any sort of electrical devices because it could be dangerous for you. Then reach into your tank and take out any plants, decorative pieces, bubblers, or filters. There should be nothing except pebbles remaining in the tank. This will make the next step easier to handle.

Step 3: Remove Fish From Tank.

Use the smaller fish tank or container and the cup to scoop water from the tank into the new tank or container. Once the container is filled with enough tank water, use the fish net to remove the fish from the tank and place the fish in the smaller container. Repeat until all of your fish are removed from the tank. Try to find a container big enough to support the number of fish that you have so that the fish are comfortable.

Step 4: Scoop Out Some of the Tank Water and Save.

Using the cup and large container or bucket, scoop out at least half of the tank water and save it. Make sure to place the water aside, and do not add anything to it. This water will be reused later. Reusing tank water is important because fish need a certain amount of bacteria in order to survive and reuse helps with bacteria levels.

Once at least half of the water is saved, carefully pour out the remaining water into the sink. Do not allow any pebbles to go down the sink because it could be bad for your drain if pebbles go into the pipes. To prevent pebbles from passing, try placing your hand by the spout.

Step 5: Clean the Tank, Rocks, and Decorative Pieces.

The inside of the tank is cleaned by using a paper towel and wiping the sides of the fish tank clean. This will remove any algae on the glass. If the tank it too dry, then wet the paper towel with tap water. DO NOT USE ANY SOAPS OR CHEMICALS WHILE CLEANING. Adding soaps could kill your fish, and it is safer to use tap water while cleaning. Change out the paper towels as they become dirty. Cleaning is complete when no more algae remains.

Clean the rocks by adding tap water to the tank. Once an inch of water is added, move the tank back and forth so that the water moves around in the tank. Move the tank enough so that debris is lifted, but be careful not to splash water. Once debris is visible, pour out the water. Repeat these steps until the water no longer picks up debris. This is an easy way to clean out waste from the pebbles. For a deeper clean, you could take out the pebbles and rinse them separately. When cleaning the rocks is completed, remove all water. Again, be careful not to let any pebbles fall into your sink.

In order to clean the decorative pieces, use the toothbrush to scrub each piece clean. Algae will come off onto the brush. If it becomes too dirty, rinse the brush with tap water and continue scrubbing. Cleaning is finished once no more algae remains.

Step 6: Add Water Back Into the Tank.

Take the existing tank water that was placed aside in the large bucket or container and add it back into the tank. Then add the new water, which is dechlorinated, into the tank. Make sure that there is enough space to fit the water from the small tank with the fish. Once all of the water is poured, add two drops of tap water dechlorinator. The water used in this process is dechlorinated already, but tap water was used during the cleaning process; therefore, dechlorinator is added to be safe. Water conditioner is then added so that the water is clean for the fish.

Once the water is added, add the filter, bubbler, and decorative pieces back into the tank. Turn on all of the devices so that the water can move around, and wait 30-60 minutes for the water to adjust. It is important for the water temperature to be around the same as it was before. So do not add any refrigerated water to the tank.

Step 7: Add the Fish Back Into the Tank.

After the water has been sitting for 30-60 minutes, add your fish and small tank water back into the large tank. Be careful while adding your fish so that their stress is reduced. Do not touch the fish while moving it back.

Your fish will love the new clean tank and you will love the way that it looks.

This process does not require any expensive tank cleaning items, such as a water vacuum or special scrubber; therefore, it is perfect for small, low maintenance tanks. Once you are completed with cleaning, the tank will look much brighter due to the removal of algae. This type of cleaning should be repeated whenever algae is noticeable. Make sure to do routine water changes at least once every two weeks.