How To Clean Aquariums

If you have a dirty aquarium you will probably agree with me that it’s not great to look at, but more important, it’s not a good environment for the animals. This guide will be geared towards saltwater aquariums, but some core principles will apply to freshwater systems as well. If you’re more of a visual learner, there is link below to a YouTube video sharing my cleaning routine and methods.

To stay organized, I personally like to break down my cleaning into these three categories:

  • Daily Cleanings
  • Weekly/Bi-Weekly Cleanings
  • Quarterly Cleanings

Daily Aquarium Cleanings

On a daily basis I clean the algae build-up on the inside of the aquarium. I use a tool popular in the aquarium hobby called the Flipper. I LOOOOOOVE this thing. The Flipper has a very ingenious design where you can “flip”, hence the name Flipper, between a scrubbing pad and a blade without removing the wet half from the aquarium. When using the bladed side, pay close attention to the silicone seams on the corners of your saltwater aquariums. For the outside of the glass, pretty straightforward here so I’ll be quick. Just take an old t-shirt and wipe off the smudges that build up during the day.

Weekly Aquarium Cleanings

Let’s talk weekly or bi-weekly items. You can choose your frequency here but there really is no wrong answer.

I do 10% weekly water changes, it’s what has worked for me in all the aquariums I’ve ever had running, so it’s what I’ll keep doing. What is a water change? A water change is where you replace a certain percentage of aquarium water with the same percentage of freshly mixed saltwater. So on a 65 gallon tank, I suck out 6-7 gallons of aquarium water and replace it with 6-7 gallons of freshly mixed saltwater. If you need help mixing saltwater, click on this link to watch a video on how to mix salt for saltwater aquariums.

When you’re doing your water change, it’s a great time to also do a few more maintenance tasks.

If you’re running filter socks, this is a great time to clean them. I like to keep a few extras on hand so I can just remove the dirty ones and drop in a clean one. To clean the dirty filter socks I just run them under tap water to get off the gunk and leave them to dry until I’m ready to swap them out again.

It’s also good to keep an eye on salt creep. Water will splash in certain areas and salt deposits will get left behind after the water evaporates. If it’s not cleaned periodically, salt creep can lead to major issues.

Last thing I want to cover on the weekly list is for those who are running skimmers. Your skimmer has been working hard all week removing organics from your water column. What I like to do is, when I’m doing my water change, I empty my skimmer cup and then use the old aquarium water I just sucked out to rinse the cup. In general, when you’re cleaning any aquarium equipment, just rinsing and cleaning in aquarium water is best. You should stay away from soaps and harsh chemicals.

Quarterly Aquarium Cleanings

Now we’re getting into the deep cleaning, the quarterly preventative maintenance cleans. This is when you’ll want to clean your major equipment like pumps, powerheads, and skimmers. These items are not cheap and although they will eventually fail at some point, routine cleanings will keep them running efficiently and longer.

Get comfortable disassembling these pieces of equipment. You don’t want want to go too far and break it down where it will never work again, but just far enough where you can give the components a good scrubbing to remove build up. So as an example, on a powerhead I remove the covers and take out the propeller/impeller, and that’s about as far as I’ll need to go to keep the powerhead properly maintained.

Quick Aquarium Cleaning Tip

Here is a quick tip on how to keep your water clarity pristine. Use activated carbon pellets in your aquariums. I use little mesh bags and swap out a fresh batch of carbon every 4 weeks with a water change. Why 4 weeks? Carbon basically loses its effectiveness after that amount of time. So I just take the mesh bag, pour in some fresh pellets, and drop it in my filtration compartment. The carbon pellets will help absorb toxins released by corals and also help with removing any yellow discoloration of the water.

How to Clean Aquariums Video

Aquarium Maintenance Options

If you’re local to San Diego, and want to hire someone to clean and maintain your aquarium Contact Me to discuss options. A healthy aquarium is a happy aquarium!

If you’re not local to San Diego but have some questions, feel free to contact me as well and I’d be happy to help.

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