How To Clean Aquarium Plants with Bleach (+Without Bleach)

How To Clean Aquarium Plants with Bleach (+Without Bleach)

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If you are new to the fish keeping hobby, or a really cautious fish owner, I’m sure you are wondering what on earth this post is about. Well Yes, you can bleach aquarium plants, and not only plants but live ones in this case.

Why would anyone do that you ask?

Well, it turns out bleach is a pretty good aquarium plants disinfectant and algae cleaner, a small amount will instantly kill any fungi or disease on the plants.

A quick overview of how to clean aquarium plants with bleach if I may!

Start by removing the plants from the aquarium and use a clean toothbrush or an algae pad to expel any tough debris that won’t come off with the rub of your finger. The add two (2) tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water (19 cups of water, for every cup of breach) in a clean bucket and use that to clean your plants.

That said, please make sure you rinse off your plants properly before placing them back into the fish tank, and only use non-scented, non-gel bleach.

Aside from bleach, maybe you do not have some lying around your home, you can also use white vinegar, potassium permanganate, or hydrogen peroxide to clean live plants.

As for fake (plastic) plants and decorations, boiling or using a dishwasher to clean the decor is perfectly Ok.

Please read on to find out exactly how each of the said remedies works. But first, a more in-depth look at “how to clean aquarium plants with bleach."

Is Bleach Bad For Aquarium Plants?

I’m sure this is a concern for many aquarists every time they are confronted with the idea of using bleach on their fish tank anything.

So, let’s address this elephant in the room before we look at a step by step how-to guide below.

Well, let’s face it, liquid Sodium Hypochlorite commonly called bleach sounds bad enough and is most definitely harmful to aquarium fish. Apart from causing health issues in the fish, the chemical will mess with your water parameters if introduced into the tank.

But as always, there is a caveat!

Using bleach to clean aquarium plants, which you then rinse off thoroughly before putting back in a fish tank is everything but harmful.

Moreover, assuming bleach is bad for your plants, the concentration recommended for cleaning algae and other debris on aquarium plants has almost negligible effects.

Please follow this step to clean your aquarium plants with bleach, especially if you are not sure how much of it is safe and how long to bleach-dip the plants.

How to Clean Aquarium Plants with Bleach: 5-Step-Guide

Before you start this project, there are a few items you will need to have, but none of them is overly expensive, plus they’re all normal household items that are easy to use.

They include:

  1. Regular bleach (Unscented)
  2. Water conditioner
  3. A clean bucket with room temperature water
  4. A container with clean water
  5. Aquarium plants

Step #1.

Start by adding the conditioner to the bucket with the room temperature water in it, then add 19 cups of water to the large container (which you could do before you start) and one (1) cup of bleach to that.

Step #2.

Now you are ready to dip bleach your plants. To do this, place them in the container with the bleach-water solution for only 4 minutes as any period longer than that will fade and harm the plants.

You can soak both live and fake aquarium plants, though some species like jungle val and dwarf water lettuce are quite fragile and should be soaked less.

Ideally, dip bleach the less hardy plants for two (2) or three (3) minutes at most.

You may want to move the plants around while in the solution to make sure the bleach gets to every side and part on the plant. If you see any algae on the leaves at any one point, gently rub it to try and get that out.

Step #3.

One your plants have been in the solution for two (2) to four (4) minutes, its time to move them into the bucket with the room temperature water and conditioner.

Leave them there for three (3) minutes, then drain and refill the bucket with water and conditioner, and rinse them through again. Repeat the process another two (2) time or keep going for around 10 minutes to be sure you’ve rinsed them enough.

That way, you will be sure that no bleach residue finds its way into your aquarium once you put the plants back in the tank.

Step #4.

The last step is to put back your plants in the fish tank once you are confident they are properly rinsed, and observe them overtime to make sure none of them are affected by the bleach.

If your go for several weeks with no ill effects in the fish tank, then you can confidently assume they are perfectly clean and were not affected by the bleach.

Please note that this last step of being on the lookout is quite crucial because it charts a path for you in case you want to dip bleach your plants in the future.

Also, don’t reserve this remedy to cleaning algae on plants, you can also use it to clean parasites, pest snails and snail eggs on both new and established aquarium plants.

How to Clean Aquarium Plants without Bleach

Now, I know not all aquarists are ok with using bleach in their fish tank plants, plus you may not have quick access to bleach at all times. In which case, you can use any of these other remedies (as I mentioned before) to clean your aquarium plants both for parasites, algae, and snails.

Cleaning Aquarium Plants with Vinegar

White vinegar is another good solution to cleaning aquariums plants. Moreover, vinegar is probably safer than bleach, you can even introduce the solution in your tank in small amounts for other uses such as to lower you aquarium ph.

Apart from cleaning algae and parasites, vinegar will also remove calcium deposits (limescale) from aquarium plants if there are any.

To clean your plants, combine half a cup of pure white vinegar with half a gallon of distilled water, then soak your plants as you would while dip bleach cleaning (for 15 minutes).

That said, although vinegar is not exactly harmful to fish, you still want to rinse your plants thoroughly as any residue will buffer your aquarium ph, whether introduced intentionally or not.

Also, remember to only use pure white vinegar and not apple cider or other vinegar types as they contain additives some of which are harmful to fish.

Cleaning Aquarium Plants with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide to clean aquarium plants?

Well, yeah, many aquarists (I included) are actually more comfortable using H202 than bleach.

Unlike bleach, hydrogen peroxide will turn into harmless water and oxygen within 24 hours of coming into contact with water, though I would not recommend adding it straight into your fish tank.

If you must, I suggest you move your fish into a holding tank because the solution is lethal in its initial active state.

Essentially, hydrogen peroxide will kill all pathogens and algae spores in lesser concentrations, while a stronger solution can be used to clean algae from aquarium glass.

If your fish tank is infested with stubborn green algae, I would recommend treating the entire tank with H202, but remember to hold your fish somewhere else, plus it should only be considered a last resort.

On the flip side, hydrogen peroxide is probably not the best remedy if you are looking to clean snails from your aquarium plants.

Given that background, use one part H2O2 to 150 part water to clean general parasites and algae on aquarium plants, and a higher concentration, maybe three (3) percent H2O2 for 5 minutes, or 1.5 percent mix for 15 to 30 minutes, to dip clean aquarium plants with tough algae.

Be sure to only use household grade hydrogen peroxide as a dip to disinfect your plants or to rid your fish tank of algae.

How to Clean Aquarium Plants With Potassium permanganate

While hydrogen peroxide is not exactly an ideal way of dealing with pest snails on aquarium plants, a potassium permanganate dip or bath will get the job done.

The dip will kill any snails eggs and snails lurking in your plants instantly. Potassium permanganate will also remove any organic build up inside your tank water including bacteria and fungi.

To clean your aquarium plants with KMnO4, add 20 mg crystals in a gallon of water then stir until the solution turns deep blue or purple.

Dip your plants in the solution for about five (5) minutes, trying to only dip the leaves but not roots. After the dip, you’ll need to rinse your plants thoroughly to make sure none of the potassium permanganate residues find a way into your tank.

Cleaning Aquarium Plants Dishwasher

When cleaning aquarium decoration including fake plants, caves, and rocks, removing algae formation from the nooks and crannies can be quite challenging.

So, is it ok to use a dishwasher?

Yes, a dishwasher may help clean aquarium decoration, but I only recommend it as a solution to remove stubborn algae, and not general cleaning.

Plus please beware that washing your aquarium items in a dishwasher will kill beneficial bacteria that are quite important in keeping your fish tank safe for the fish.

Eddie Waithaka

Resident Content Creator and Marketer at AquariaWise who talks about aquariums and fish and aquascapes a lot.

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