How to Clean a Fish Tank The Proper Way & What You Need To Do It!

I hope you love the products I recommend! By the way, any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other retailers are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance for your support!

With that out of the way.

Do you find yourself struggling with cleaning your fish tank?

You’re not alone. The process can be difficult and frustrating, especially if you don’t know what to do or how often to clean it.

The good news is that we’ve got all the answers! We’ll teach you exactly what you need to know to keep your fish happy and healthy for years to come.

So read on, fellow fish-keeper, and learn more about this very important topic.

Your fish will thank you! :)

What Cleaning Supplies Do You Need?

If this is your first aquarium, you should check out these 9 Tools For Cleaning an aquarium.

Common Challenges When Cleaning A Fish Tank

People usually clean their fish tanks because they want their fish to be healthy and happy. Dirty tanks can have all sorts of problems, like making the fish sick or making the water cloudy.

You don’t want that to happen, so it’s a good idea to clean your tank regularly.

One of the most common challenges people have when it comes to cleaning their fish tank is knowing what to do and what order to do it. As you can see from our easy-to-follow steps, it’s not as difficult as it may seem!

However, some people still struggle with this process, which can lead to a dirty tank and unhappy fish.

Another challenge people often face is figuring out how often they should clean their tanks. This varies depending on the size of your tank, the number of fish you have, and how often you change the water.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to clean your tank at least once a month. You’ll need to do more frequent cleanings if you have a larger tank and/or more fish.

How to Clean a Fish Tank The Proper Way

It’s very important to clean your fish tank the proper way if you want to keep your fish healthy and happy.

If you don’t know how to do it, don’t worry! We’ll teach you everything you need to know.

1. Remove The Fish Or Leave Them In

There are both pros and cons to removing the fish from your tank before you clean it.

If you decide to leave them in, then just be aware that they may get stressed out by all the changes in their environment. You should also expect this to take much longer than if you remove them.

So, if there are any signs of unusual behavior (such as hiding or acting abnormally), remove them immediately to avoid stressing them out too much.

Some fish like the Betta can get stressed out very easily when you clean their aquarium. If you have a Betta, you may want to read how to clean a betta fish tank to ensure you don’t harm your little guy.

On the other hand, some people prefer leaving their fish inside during cleaning because it’s easier for them.

You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle without having to worry about finding a good place for your fish while you’re busy working on the tank.

2. Clean The Glass And Remove Algae

You’ll start this step by rinsing the algae pad or sponge in your tank water.

Then, you can use it to wipe down all parts of your aquarium glass, or anything in the aquarium where algae might be growing.

3. Trim And Remove Dead Plants (If You Have Them)

Before you clean anything else, you should trim and remove any dead plant leaves (if there are any). If these aren’t removed from the tank, they’re going to cause more problems than they’re worth.

They may even spread disease! So, it’s important that you don’t forget about them during your cleaning process.

Don’t worry if some of your live plants need to be removed while you’re working on your fish tank. This will help revitalize those that are still alive so they grow faster!

4. Turn Off And Remove Equipment (such as filters, pumps, etc.)

Next, you’ll need to turn off all equipment in your aquarium.

This includes filters, pumps, heaters, etc. If there’s anything electrical in the tank (heaters), make sure you unplug them first.

Then, remove anything else that can be taken apart easily.

If something needs replacement part(s) to work properly again (such as filters or pumps), make sure you get those before cleaning. You don’t want to put things back together without them because it will cause problems down the road when the parts arrive!

5. Vacuum The Substrate And Remove Dirty Water (Water change)

Before you start vacuuming, make sure your bucket is on the floor next to your tank.

Then, start with a thin layer of gravel first before vacuuming up everything on top of it. That way, the rest of the substrate will stay put while you work.

Try to vacuum as much as possible without stirring up your gravel too much. If you’re going to stir up your substrate more than a little bit during this process, then consider changing out about 20-30% of the water.

You also need to remove any dirty water from your fish tank during this step. This will happen as you vacuum the gravel naturally, but if you need to remove more water you can just leave the siphon in the aquarium.

6. Rinse & Clean All Equipment & Decorations

Before putting anything back inside your fish tank, you should rinse it off first with the water that was just previously removed in step 5.

7. Put Back Equipment & Decorations

Put the equipment back together (if you took it apart) and put in any decorations last after making sure they haven’t broken or cracked.

8. Refill Tank With Dechlorinated Water

Last but not least, you need to refill your tank with dechlorinated water. You can use a product like Seachem Prime, it dechlorinates tap water instantly so you don’t have to wait.

Once the tank is full you can turn on all your equipment and observe everything closely for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.

There’s always a chance something might not be working right or damaged. If anything looks like it might have been impacted, make sure you either fix the problem right away.

9. Add Fish (If you removed them)

Gently reintroduce your fish to their new clean home.


Follow our instructions for cleaning your fish tanks properly by removing any dead plants or animal life from the substrate, turning off all equipment that might be running inside of it (filters), vacuuming up dirt particles on top of the gravel before rinsing everything down with water.

If anything looks broken don’t hesitate to get replacements so things will work again. Lastly, make sure to spend an appropriate amount of time observing after you are all done.

Aquariums are a great addition to your home, but they can be tricky when it comes to maintaining them.

Cleaning the tank may seem daunting at first, but with these easy steps and some patience, you’ll have it looking like new in no time!


How often do you need to clean a fish tank?

Typically, you should clean your aquarium once every 1-3 weeks. This may vary depending on the amount of fish you have and how much organic debris is inside the tank at a time.

Where do I put my fish when cleaning the tank?

Ideally, you should move your fish to a temporary tank with clean water while cleaning the aquarium.

This can be done using a net and temporarily take them out of the home so they won’t get stressed out during the cleaning process.

That said, netting your fish and moving them from their home is also stressful, you know your fish best so do what’s right for you.

How often do you check your filters?

Typically, filter media should be replaced every 2-4 weeks. This will vary depending on how much debris is inside of it at any given time. You don’t want to change this too often because it may affect the quality of the water in your tank!

Can you clean a fish tank with soap?

No, never use soap because it will affect the quality of the water, kill your beneficial bacteria, and is toxic to your fish as well.

Follow Me