There are various types of filters and tools like gravel vacuums that help in maintaining a clean fish tank, so you will most likely not need to remove your fish to clean your aquarium.
However, if you are battling a snail infestation or an algae overgrowth, removing everything from your tank for a thorough wash might be your only option.
So, where do you put your fish to make sure they remain safe while you scrub the crevices of your tank?
I recommend putting them in a clean equally size fish tank, with the conditions set to mimic those your fish are used to living in.
Even so, I’m aware this is not always feasible, since many hobby fish keepers only have one display tank, with no spare for emergencies.
Hence, an alternative is to hold your fish in a container with some of the water from your aquarium, making sure the water remains warm enough, especially if you have tropical fish that prefer things on the warmer side.
I do not recommend removing your fish when cleaning your tank unless absolutely necessary. When you do, make sure you gently move them with a net and place the fish in a large aquarium bucket filled with the original tank water.
That said, I’m sure you will need a little more context on how to move your fish safely, with minimal incidences. And it’s for that reason that I’ve made this article; please read on.
How To Remove Your Fish From The Tank You Want To Clean
Before you pick up a net and start moving your fish, the first thing you want to do is switch off all equipment, particularly those connected to a power source.
This will make sure you do not get zapped and also help keep your equipment from getting damaged.
Essentially, remove your filters, heaters, and air pump before anything else. Once that is done, move to your decorations, rocks, and plants.
You may want to clean your plants with bleach in case of algae overgrowth. Potassium permanganate is more effective at eliminating pest snails and eggs.
Next, use a net to catch your fish and move them into the new tank or holding bucket making sure you remain gentle not to stress them.
It also helps to stop feeding your fish a few days before the day you move them, this will make it easy to lure the fish into the net with food pieces.
If you must, it is Ok to remove the gravel too, more so when dealing with snails that sometimes hide under the substrate and only coming out at night to feed. Though in most instances, a quick clean of your gravel with a siphon will suffice.
Moving gravel is not hard either, all need to do is use a clean container or large plastic cup to scoop it out and place it in the cleaning area.
Make sure you place the substrate on a clean surface, plus do not wash the whole bunch. Instead, leave a portion unwashed to help recolonize your tank once you set it back up.
How Long Should You Wait To Put Fish in Tank After Cleaning?
How long you need to wait before putting your fish back into a tank you just cleaned will depend on whether the parameters in the tank.
If not much has changed in the aquarium, you can put back your fish 24 hours after you place all equipment, decoration, and plants in the tank.
To be safe, you may also want to return hardy fish like mollies, platys, and white clouds before other species because they are more capable of handling changes in the environment.
You also want to make sure you check all parameters including the ph, ammonia, and nitrates levels, and temperature. Make sure ammonia and nitrite levels are stable at 0ppm.
On the flip side, in case of significant changes in your aquarium conditions, you may need to cycle the fish tank a fresh.
To ensure you do not go through this hassle, I recommend leaving your filter and gravel unwashed for the established bacteria colonies to recolonize your clean tank in the shortest time possible.
A normal nitrogen cycle takes four to six weeks, though it can go up to eight weeks.
Can You Leave Fish in The Tank When Cleaning?
Yes, you can clean a tank with fish in it. In fact, it is the best and recommended method of cleaning a fish tank because emptying the aquarium stresses your fish and you may end up losing most of them.
As I mentioned before, there are several tools and equipment made for this purpose depending on what you want to clean of course.
To clean your gravel, a siphon vacuum is the best alternative, though a tube siphon is best when cleaning sand substrates.
To clean your aquarium glass you can use an algae scraper or aquarium safe sponge. It is also perfectly ok to clean your glass with vinegar particularly to remove white residue (limescale).
As for plants, decorations, and rocks, I recommend dusting them, then use a toothbrush to remove tough detritus that can’t be removed by hand.
Bleach plants and decorations with tough algae on them or use vinegar instead. Hydrogen peroxide will also work for algae, while potassium permanganate is best for eliminating pest snails.
How Do You Keep Your Fish Tank Clean
I bet you do not enjoy cleaning your fish tank all the time, so you want to figure out how to keep it cleaner for longer.
The most basic way to do this is to get an effective filter that will remove all debris from your aquarium within the shortest time. Apart from a biological filter, you want to get a mechanical media as well to remove any solid debris from the water column.
Chemical filters are also necessary to remove elements, that though not visible, can cause some serious issue in your tank. The media in a chemical filter will especially remove elements like phosphates that otherwise act as nutrients for the algae menace.
Another effective hack is to add a clean up crew, which includes bottom feeders like cory catfish and algae eaters like bristlenose pleco, snails and shrimp in your tank to help clean any leftover fish food and algae from the substrate and aquarium decor.
You’ll also want to perform 10 percent water changes once a week or 25 percent water change every two weeks to remove any waste that the filter may have missed. This will ensure your water remains clean and safe for your fish.
To make sure your water is safe, keep test kits in your house for random quality checks, which may come in handy to catch faults with the filter. I recommend doing a water check once every week to be safe.
A couple other cleaning tools you may want to have around includes a gravel vacuum, algae scraper, and vinegar.
One last hack I would suggest is adding live plants in your tank. Though they may trap unwanted solid debris like uneaten food in your tank, they also consume nitrates in the tank which otherwise feed algae and pest snails.
The plants also act as food traps for ornamental snails, scavenger fishes, and shrimp, which play a role in keeping your aquarium fish.
Hortwort is especially effective at consuming nitrates, which goes a long way in dealing with algae.
Should your plants become the source dirt in your tank, you can quite easily clean them with bleach or vinegar outside the tank, then place them back once you rinse them thoroughly.
Lastly, planted tanks need a generous amount of light for the best plant growth, but make sure you do not leave the lights on all day because the results can easily be counterproductive.