It's that time of the year again... time for spring cleaning. You know, when you do a deep deep clean of your living space and start fresh again. Unfortunately, our aquatic friends cannot clean up after themselves, so it is our responsibility to keep their living space clean and sanitary. A dirty aquarium really takes away from your newly cleaned home, so time to get to work!
Cleaning Your Decorations
The first thing you should do is remove all the dirty rocks, artificial plants and miscellaneous decor you have set up in your aquarium, and place in a large bucket. If you are cleaning a planted aquarium, you can gently rub or brush off algae growth or remove and soak in a 5% bleach solution (excluding stem plants). To rid your plants of any pests, soak your plants in a bath of Pisces Pro Plant Dip. Avoid using soaps to clean your decorations, residual residue can be harmful to your aquarium. I suggest cleaning your decorations over the bathtub with hot water and a good scrubber. After all your decorations are cleaned, place in a clean bucket and set aside.
The next thing i like to do is clean the inside of the aquarium glass. Save the outside for last, splashing from changing the water is close to inevitable. Grab your algae scrubber and start going to town on the inside of the glass. Mag-float Algae Scrubbers are great for quick everyday maintenance, but can struggle with some of the really stuck of algae. Pisces recommends the Kent Pro-Scraper ll for a fantastic all-in-one aquarium scraper wand. You can use a razor blade if needed for really tough areas or hard-to-reach places (not on acrylic tanks). Remember to get that wand deep below the substrate to get all the algae growth under the gravel! Avoid shop scrubbers found at home depot, they may have chemicals or residue on them harmful to your aquarium, stick to pet shops.
Water Change & Gravel Clean
Now it is time to do some vacuuming. Never do this step BEFORE cleaning your aquarium glass, as this process makes your water very dirty. Clean out all the gunk and grime stuck between the layers of your substrate by using a gavel vac, Pisces recommends Marina Easy Clean Gravel Vac. Ensure your filters and heaters are turned OFF. To quickstart a siphon, rapidly move the head up and down in the water (click here for instructional video). After the siphon has begun, penetrate your substrate with the head of the vac to suck out the debris. Go over as many times as you feel necessary, do not remove more than 50% of your tanks total volume. Now that your gravel is clean, top your aquarium off with fresh, conditioned water.
Clean The Filter
Flash-forward 1-2 weeks. That's right, we don't want to immediately whip out all of the beneficial bacteria that resides within our filter system. By deep cleaning our aquarium, we lost some of our beneficial bacterial colonies within the tank and we want to give our aquarium time to cycle again before cleaning the filter (cleaning filter at the same time could cause a dangerous ammonia spike). Any sponges, ceramic rings, or filter fibre should be rinsed and returned. Filter media containing carbon or ion-exchange resins should be replaced every three weeks. Lastly, remove the tubing and the misc removable parts of your filter and give a good clean with a scrubber or large pipe cleaner. The less sludge built up on the inside, the better your filter will run.