AquariaWise is a participant in the Amazon Associates program and a few other affiliate programs and may earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. However, we have vetted every program in this guide and believe they are the best for generating affiliate revenue. You can read our full affiliate disclosure in our privacy notice.
Can You really use vinegar to clean your fish tank?
The simple answer, YES!
Distilled white vinegar (Recommended:Lucy’s Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar) is excellent for removing hard water stains especially on aquarium glass or acrylic surfaces.
A mild solution of vinegar can also be used to clean fish tank decorations, rocks, plants or used in filters to lower aquarium water ph.
The small amounts of vinegar that dribble into your tank while you clean should not be harmful to your fish. You could even put it intentionally to neutralize alkaline aquarium water, only make sure the solution is mildly acidic.
It’s advisable to use no more than 1ml of vinegar per gallon of water added to an area with high water-flow and few creatures, to allow proper dilution.
Let’s dig a little deeper into how you clean a fish tank glass using vinegar. Also, how to clean aquarium plants, decorations and rocks.
Will Vinegar Kill Your Fish— Is it Safe Safe for Use in Aquariums
Will vinegar kill your fish?
There is a slight chance it could, but the way vinegar is used to clean aquariums, it is generally safe for both fish and plants.
When cleaning your fish tank, only use small diluted amounts which even when they drop into the tank won’t cause any major changes to the water ph.
Too much vinegar will make the aquarium too acidic in a way that harms fish that prefer alkaline water. Though fish that love a lower ph like Oscars and neon tetras might hold on longer.
Also, aquarium water with a low ph is risky when you have snails in your tank. The acetic acid in the vinegar will react and dissolve their shells.
Can You Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Clean a Fish Tank
Distilled white vinegar, often five percent acetic acid, is best for use in fish aquariums.
Apple cider or wine vinegar rarely come pure, they contain organic materials like yeast that may not be exactly safe in fish tanks.
Basically, apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple juice extracted from crushed fruits then squeezed out. After, bacteria and yeast are added to the juice to start an alcoholic fermentation process.
That being said, there is no specific organic material in apple cider vinegar that has been precisely identified as being harmful to aquarium fish. Which means, the only reason most aquarists stick to white vinegar is mostly for cautionary purposes.
Mix one part water with one part vinegar when doing general cleaning, but in case you are cleaning a pre-loved fish tank, you can use it straight albeit the overpowering vinegar smell.
How to Clean Aquarium Glass with Vinegar
The hardest dirt to remove from aquarium glass or acrylic are hard water stains, luckily vinegar comes in handy.
Usually, hard water stains are caused by minerals in hard water that leave a white residue forming on the top of your glass. The minerals are left as the mineral-rich water evaporate from your fish tank.
Though there are other ways you can remove the stains, using vinegar is the cheapest and the most natural way.
Use this 5 five-step guide to clean your glass.
- First, you’ll need to relocate your fish to an appropriate holding tank. Then drain your aquarium completely after removing any plants and decorations.
- Lay your tank down on a towel and pour vinegar on the glass. Use straight vinegar when dealing with large or deep stains. Alternatively, use a solution with equal amounts of water and vinegar to remove lesser stains.
- Leave the solution to sit for 20 to 30 minutes then scrub the glass with a non-abrasive pad or cloth. Some stains are stubborn thus hard to remove, in which case, use a razor blade or algae scraper to scrape the build-up gently.
- Once all stains are removed, rinse your tank thoroughly and let it dry before you start the next step.
- Refill your tank and put back your plants and decorations before reintroducing the fish in the tank.
You may have to repeat this process a couple of times before all mineral residue clears. But don’t use the same hard water that caused the stains to clean the tank for very obvious reasons.
Vinegar can also be used to clean mineral deposits on aquarium hoods and the glass above the water level without relocating the fish.
Put simply, rather than spraying or pouring vinegar on the glass, use a rag dabbed in the solution to clean your surface. However, you most likely won’t remove the stains the first time, so repeat the process every once a while till the glass is clear of all deposits.
Cleaning an Old (Empty) Fish Tank with Vinegar
Considering you cant use average cleaners like soap and detergents on a fish tank, vinegar and salt are perfect when cleaning second-hand fish tanks.
These cleaners are natural, cheap and fortunately safe. Vinegar is excellent at cleaning water stains, while salt will generally clean out the tank as soap would.
Both products disinfect the old tank and remove any germs picked up from the previous premises or the pet store.
Moreover, vinegar is especially useful when you need to expel unpleasant odors that second-hand tanks develop from old water and gravel residue.
Since you don’t have fish in the tank yet, clean it with straight vinegar which is more effective, only make sure you rinse it thoroughly. Also, don’t be shy with the salt, scrub the tank wholesomely making sure you get to the tightest crannies where the aquarium glass surfaces join.
Once your tank is clean, you may want to check for leaks before your fill and start cycling it.
How Do You Clean Aquarium Plants with Vinegar
Vinegar can be used to clean and remove mineral deposits from aquarium plants if you have any.
To do this, you would have to remove the plants from the tank and soak them in a vinegar solution for five minutes. Then wipe off the plants and rinse them in running water before putting them back.
Vinegar can also be used to dust off algae from plants and fish tank decorations, but instead of soaking them, it is more effective to brush them using a toothbrush dipped in the solution.
This way you will get to every part of the plant.
Alternatively, soak artificial plants in boiled water for about 10 minutes and scrub off the algae with your finger or a clean toothbrush.
For live plants, soak them in a mild bleach solution for five minutes or less when you have delicate plants.