There’s no point putting together an aquarium stocked with beautiful fish, only for dirty glass panels to impair your view of its contents. Although many aquarium owners reach for limescale removers and harsh chemicals to clean dirty tank walls, the best cleaning solution is an entirely natural one: vinegar. Not only is vinegar an incredibly cheap solution for keeping on top of aquarium cleaning, it is also very effective at tackling the issues of green algae and unsightly stains caused by hard water. Below, we outline what you need to do to give your aquarium a deep clean with vinegar.
Does Your Fish Tank Need Cleaning?
Any aquarium owner will need to tackle tank cleaning at some point. When it comes to unsightly stains and blemishes on fish tank walls, there are two main causes. One of these is green spot algae. Although most varieties of algae are pretty simple to get rid of, often requiring a gentle brush, green spot algae is far more stubborn. Left unchecked, green spot algae can lead to tough deposits that are nigh on impossible to remove by brushing alone.
This form of algae is most noticeable when it builds up on glass walls, but can also grow on gravel substrate and aquarium rocks, as well fish tank ornaments. It can even grow on other plants within your fish tank. Obviously, this is a problem, as sufficient algae growth on plants can limit their ability to carry out photosynthesis, leading to malnourished and withered plants.
Hard water is another likely cause of unsightly spots on fish tank glass. Hard water staining is chiefly caused by calcium, although other minerals within water can contribute towards it. When water within your tank evaporates, stubborn minerals like calcium are left behind on the glass. This quickly hardens, with the deposits leaving a stubborn white residue. It’s not just aquarium glass that can suffer from hard water staining. If you have a fish tank filter that is not completely submerged, it can also suffer from similar staining.
Thankfully, both green spot algae and hard water stains can be successfully tackled with white vinegar. Provided you are diluting vinegar with sufficient water, this natural cleaning agent can be used to flush out both aquarium water and your filtration system. Unlike other cleaning agents, a white vinegar and water solution will not harm your fish and aquatic plants. It will also have little impact on the chemical balances of your aquarium water. What’s more, white vinegar will not leave behind the residual stains and blemishes that are typical of more aggressive cleaning agents that are often used to tackle tough fish tank stains.
Carrying Out a Fish Tank Deep Clean
In addition to white vinegar, you’ll need a few other essentials to carry out a thorough clean of your fish tank and get to work on tough stains and hard water deposits. You’ll also need some fine table salt to use along with the vinegar itself, while you’ll also need to dilute your cleaning solution with standard tap water. Some cleaning instruments are also needed, however these are basic items you will likely already have lying around the house. These include a couple of new sponges, a toothbrush and a razor blade that you’ll need for scraping. You’ll also need a hosepipe. If you’re looking to tackle algae growth, a magnetic algae cleaning device is also worth having to hand.
Provided you have all of these items, you can commence a deep clean of your fish tank. To start, you need to empty your tank of all of its water and ensure your fish have been temporarily rehoused somewhere else. You will also need to remove any aquatic plants and fish tank ornaments. If you want your tank to be cleaned completely, you should also think about removing your substrate layer.
You can now focus on getting rid of those bothersome stains. To begin, grab a sponge and moisten it with plain old tap water. Use this sponge to clean both the outside and inside of your fish tank. At this point, you’re aiming to loosen and remove as much of the existing algae and hard water deposits as you can. As you’re using a sponge, you can put in considerable elbow grease at this point, without the worry of damaging your tank.
Once you’ve carried out a superficial sponge clean of your tank, reach for some table salt. Apply a generous layer of salt on the surface of the sponge and wipe down the fish tank once again. You can apply a more rigorous scrubbing motion around calcium and algae deposits at this point. Once you’ve applied salt on the worst affected areas, leave it for a few minutes until it begins to dry. After a few minutes have passed, use a hosepipe to rinse the tank. If there are still noticeable deposits on the inside of your tank, reach for a razor or scraping tool to scrape them away.
Cleaning a Tank with a Vinegar Solution
You can now finally reach for the white vinegar. As a rule, mix one part vinegar with one part tap water. Once you have made up your vinegar cleaning solution, you can pour some onto a new sponge. Use this sponge to scrub the inside and outside of your tank. This solution should prove very effective at loosening up any remaining algae spots and calcium deposits. Once you have thoroughly scrubbed the inside and outside of your aquarium with the vinegar solution, you will need to once again rinse it with a hosepipe. Once this is done, you can leave your tank to dry out.
As your fish tank is drying after its rinse, you can focus on cleaning your tank decoration, plants, filters and other items. Before you reach for your diluted vinegar solution, first rinse these items underneath regular tap water. If your aquarium plants are covered with algae, you can prepare a vinegar and water bath to soak them in. You should aim to use the same water/vinegar concentration ratio as before.
You can simply place your plants in a bath of this solution to soak for a few minutes, saving you the need to brush away any debris manually. However, never leave plants in this solution for longer than five minutes. Once they’ve had their soak, you will then need to rinse them off under clean tap water. This will get rid of any excess vinegar, as well as any algae it has loosened up.
Carry out the same soaking method with your aquarium decorations, ornaments and filter systems. Unlike aquatic plants, these items can be left to soak for longer. Once they’ve been left to soak for a while, remove them from the vinegar solution and rinse them under the tap. You can also use an old toothbrush to loosen up any stubborn stains and deposits if the vinegar bath hasn’t shifted them. Once cleaned and rinsed, you can return these items to your tank. If you have disassembled a filter to clean it, make sure all the components have been put back together properly before refitting to your aquarium.
Although a deep clean of your tank is recommended every few months, you don’t need to carry out the complete steps outlined above all that regularly. Once a deep clean has been carried out, you can use a white vinegar and water solution to keep on top of smaller cleaning jobs as and when the need arises. If algae blooms are causing you recurrent trouble, you probably have an issue with nitrate and phosphate levels.
Carry out some water testing to determine levels in your fish tank, before tackling the root causes of the issue to prevent future algae blooms and green spot blemishes. To prevent calcium deposits from causing you problems, keep an eye on the water level within your tank. Make sure your tank water is being replenished regularly if it has a tendency to evaporate quickly. This will prevent mineral deposits from having the chance to dry and harden.