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How to Clean Algae from a Fish Tank

Updated on May 27, 2013

The typical signs of a dirty fish tank

How to clean a dirty fish tank
How to clean a dirty fish tank

Why is my fish tank dirty ?

Any fish lover who has owned a marine fish tank or a fresh water fish tank in their life has had to go through the same trouble you are about to go through.

With a little patience, you can have it all sorted out in a few hours from start to finish.

If your fish tank looks like this one does in the picture alongside, have no fear for help is near.

Let me teach you how to clean the algae from your fish tank.

Step one - this is what you will need

One large clean bucket for clean water

One medium of large bucket for dirty water

One small fish tank net

One small water jug

One finger nail scrubbing brush - household type

Some sponges to soak up some water

Some wire wool or steel wool

Step two - Removing some of the water

Take the large or medium dirty bucket you will be using and place it as close as you can to the fish tank, but on the floor as it will get heavy.

Using the jug, start to empty the water slowly from the fish tank without causing to much distress to the fish and pour the dirty water in the bucket you have next to you.

As the bucket fills, go and pour the water into a toilet as it will smell a bit if you empty it else where in your garden.

You will need to remove about half of the water in the tank until you can start to see the sand/stones in the bottom of the tank.

Step three- Removing the fish

You should now be able to see the fish swimming for cover in the bottom of the tank. Take care not to hurt them when removing them and do not ever touch them with your hands as they have sensitive scales that can be affected by the oils on your skin.

Place some fresh water into the clean bucket to about two thirds full.

Now remove the fish one at a time and place them into the room temperature clean water you have in the clean bucket. They will now be happy there for about an hour.

If you need new plants you can get them here

Step four - removing the stones and plants

Remove the plants one by one and place them into the bucket.

Take the plants to the sink in your bathroom as it is ceramic and does not carry disinfectants as much as a kitchen sink does.

You can now wash the plant thoroughly with the scrubbing brush and sponges with fresh water as best you can. If you do not get all the algae off of the plants in not a major problem as some fish still need to eat this in small doses. Once clean, place all the plants into the fresh water that the fish are in so that they have some form of shelter to hide under. It will calm them.

Next you will clean the stones. I find that the best method for cleaning the stones from the bottom of the fish tank is to first collect them into the bucket and empty them into the bath tub in your bathroom.

You will now need to spray them with a shower hose attachment or keep moving them around the bath under a constant pour of running water until the water gets clean that is draining from the stones.

The easiest way is to take a handful of stones and place your hands under the running water to remove all the loose dirt. Now grab two handfuls of stones and rub them together in your hands to remove more of the algae. This should take about 15 minutes to do. Now move the stones to the sink and leave them there for now.

Step 5 - Now go and remove all the old water

Empty the balance of the water from your fish tank and ensure that the grates in the bottom, if you have them, that are used to aerate the water and stones are cleaned also in the sink with a scrubbing brush ensuring that all the algae is removed.

Use the sponges to get most of the water out of the bottom of the tank.

Now pour in some fresh water and get to scrubbing the side of the tank and the bottom with the wire wool that you have got.

Keep emptying the old water using the sponges until you are happy that the entire tank is clean and free from wire wool, algae and any traces of dirt.

Step 6 - Replace all the clean items

You are now ready to set up your clean and free from algae tank again.

Start by filling the tank with about a third of fresh water and see if there is any foreign matter floating on the surface that you may have missed.

Now add in the stones and fish tank grates to the bottom of the tank.

You can now add the plant and larger rocks you may have. Be sure to clean these too if you have them in your tank.

Now fill the tank another third until the fish tank is about two thirds full with fresh water.

Leave it like this for about half an hour in order for the water to settle as it is chlorinated when it comes out of the tap.

After this, you can now place your fish into the tank. The best way to do this is to merely pour the bucket of fresh water in with the fish instead of trying to catch them. Do it slowly so as to not disturb the stones and plant in the tank and stir up the water again.

All should now be a happy tank once again.

Get a plecostumous fish

The plecostumous is a species with various types of algae eaters
The plecostumous is a species with various types of algae eaters

Some additional tips

The fish sucking on the glass of the fish tank alongside is called a Plecostumous and is the most revered of the algae eater family for home type fish tanks. Look at your local pet store if they have any. They will assist in naturally keeping the tank clean.

Tip two

Always keep your fish tank out of direct sunlight as this will speed up the growth rate of algae.

Please be sure to let us know how you go.

Good luck


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