Fish tank cleaning is simple. All you need is a test kit, a bucket, tank vacuum, and some chemicals.
Cleaning a fish tank is really easy although it may seem like a daunting task. It is important that your fish get fresh clean water because they are dirtying their environment every day.
The first task is the check the PH, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels. This is because once you have done the water change, and added the de-chlorinator, your readings will be off the mark. The PH should be correct for the type of fish you have. Do your research. You will need a test kit to do this. If it is too high or low, there are buffers that you may buy at your local fish store that will help you achieve the correct PH. Next, use test kits to check the levels of the nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels. These must be kept low or you will be poisoning your fish. If you keep your fish tank clean, you will most likely not have to deal with these issues.
You will need a bucket and a tank vacuum. The bucket should be big enough to store vast amounts of water (at least 5 gallons) and still be small enough for you to carry and empty. I have found using an old cat litter container very useful. The vacuum needs to be large enough for the amount of water and debris you are taking out of the water. Vacuum the tank by placing the suction part in the tank and using a up and down motion to create a vacuum while keeping the other end of the tube in the bucket. Soon, it will create a sucking noise and water will quickly fill the bucket at the end. You want to move quickly by taking suction end through the tank substrate from one end to the other. You might find it helpful to remove some decorations prior to vacuuming, just so you waste less time. Be careful so that the heavy objects in your tank are stable and do not harm your fish that are hiding from your arm and the vacuum. You do not have to get all of it, just most of the debris. The filter should pick up what is left in the tank. When the bucket is filled, lift up the vacuum and take the water to the toilet to empty. You might have to do this a couple of times.
Also take a few cups of tank water and put it in your bucket. Stop the motor of your filtering system and take the filter out. It will most likely be dirty, brown, and slimy. Put your filter in this bucket and rinse with the water. Do not use the water from the tap. The filter helps with the balance of the nitrate/ nitrite/ and ammonia cycle that you have in the tank. Using chlorinated water from tap will kill the good bacteria that live in the filter. Replace the filter. And restart the filtering system.
When you are done vacuuming and cleaning the filter, replace all decorations, moving rocks and plants around. Next, take a bucket to fill with clean water from the tap and pour it in the tank. The tap water should be the same temperature as the water that is in the tank. Fish get stressed over water temperatures. Use your hands to judge the temperature. Because you will do an overhead motion, I usually go less on the water so that it’s easier to lift up and pour. Fill up the tank.
Wipe the inside of the tank glass with a cheap dish scrubber. Use those thin ones that come in packs of ten. This will take care of the natural algae that accumulate on the glass.
The final task is to take the de-chlorinator and stress chemicals and pour the right amount into the tank. They may be found at your local fish store. These vary in strengths and should have instructions on the amount that is needed for your tank size. You do not need to do a full cleaning everyday, every week, or even every month. This can be done every other month. It really depends on your tank size and how dirty your tank gets. What you do need to do is make sure to monitor the PH, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels, and do a partial water change.
To do a partial water change, take about 20 percent of your tank water out and replace with the same amount from the tap. You should make sure that the temperature of the water poured into the tank is the same that is in the tank already. Add your de-chlorinator and de-stress chemicals.