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How to Clean A Fish Tank with Vinegar

Vinegar is a useful cleaning material in our daily life. We can use it to clean the oil stain, water stain and rust. But can we use it to clean a fish tank considering that it contains some chemical components? The answer is yes. Actually, it is more useful and less harmful than other chemical products.

But how to clean a fish tank with vinegar? Which kind of vinegar should we use? How much should I use every time? Don’t worry, this article will give you a detailed guide on how to use vinegar to get a clean tank with the help of the products from Petnannystore.

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What can vinegar remove?

There is much dirt that influences the appearance of your fish tank, making it cloudy, dirty and smelly. The vinegar is effective in removing some dirt but not all of it. But it can make cleaning other stuff easier.

The water in your fish tank contains some chemical elements. When the water evaporates, the chemical element stays on the surface of your fish tank, which is what we called a water stain. Some slight water stains are easy to remove with a wet towel or a piece of wet cloth. But some are hard to scrape even if you use much strength.

But after filling the tank with water and part of vinegar and soaking it for a while, you can easily wipe the stains. It also works while cleaning other equipment in your fish tank.

Moreover, it can also remove some stubborn algae in your fish tank. Not all algae can be easily removed with a sponge or a scraper. Green spot algae, for example, are hard to clean if you only use normal methods. But with vinegar, you can handle these algae with the equipment you use to clean other algae.


The benefits of using vinegar in tank cleaning

  • It won’t harm the fish in your tank or influence the water parameters.
  • It’s cheap and easy to get.
  • It’s effective and easy to use.
  • It won’t bring scratches to your fish tank.
  • You don’t have to remove the fish with some special vinegar.


Types of vinegar we can use to clean a fish tank

To clean your tank, you might need acetic acid, which is contained in the following 3 types of vinegar.


1. White vinegar

White vinegar contains 5%-20% acetic acid, which makes it more effective than the other 2 types. It can help remove some stubborn dirt, including water stains, calcium deposits and algae thoroughly.

But if you use white vinegar, you must remove the fish from the tank since it is in a high concentration of acetic acid. It’s difficult for fish to adapt to the acid water although it won’t harm the fish.


2. Apple cider vinegar

This kind of vinegar is a seasoner used in cooking, but it can also help clean a fish tank.

Compared to white vinegar, it has a lower concentration of acetic acid, which is about 5%-6%. This proportion of acetic acid won’t get the attention of your fish although they are in the water with it. Thus, you don’t need to keep your fish in another container, which will make them stressed.


3. Distilled vinegar

Distilled vinegar contains 5%-8% of acetic acid, which makes it a good choice for those who don’t want to remove their fish.

Considering that it only contains a low level of acetic acid, it might not be so effective in cleaning hard stains or algae. So if the dirt in your tank is not so hard but also not so easy to remove, try to use distilled vinegar.


How much vinegar should we use in tank cleaning?

Now comes the next step, how much vinegar should we use when cleaning a fish tank.

It depends on the hardness of the dirt in your fish tank. If the stains, algae and deposits are too hard to remove, you might need more vinegar and don’t have to dilute it. But if there is just slight dirt in your tank, you should use less and dilute it before using.

A great thumb of the ratio of vinegar and water should be 1:1. And this can change according to real conditions.


When should we use vinegar to clean the tank?

There are many factors influencing the time to put vinegar in your tank.

If you use white vinegar, you should use it after you’ve removed the fish regarding the high proportion of acetic acid.

But if your tank has no hard dirt, you can use the vinegar with fish in the tank. The vinegar you can choose from has been mentioned above, which are apple cider vinegar and distilled vinegar.

Except for the detailed time to use vinegar, you should also know the time. The time means when should you decide to use vinegar. For example, when you find there is hard dirt on your aquarium and you can not remove it by wiping it. It’s the time you can consider using vinegar to do a tank cleaning.


Things to prepare before you start

Here is a list of things you should prepare before using vinegar to clean your fish tank:

  • A bucket
  • A fishnet
  • A container to put fish
  • A bottle of vinegar
  • Tap water
  • Some cleaning tools, such as sponge or cloth
  • Algae scraper


How to clean a fish tank with vinegar?

Step 1: Remove the fish

If you use white vinegar, you need to remove the fish from your tank. Since the cleaning may take some time, you should put your fish in a comfortable spare container. Using a fish net can avoid injuries to fish.

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Step 2: Unplug and remove all the equipment and decorations

The cleaning of the fish tank should be separated from the cleaning of accessories in the fish tank. So you should take out the things in your tank.


Step 3: Pour out the water

Pouring out the water means you should empty the water in your tank, not part of it.


Step 4: Fill your tank with vinegar

The type of vinegar depends on the real situation. If you use diluted vinegar, the ratio of vinegar and water should be 1:1. Then, you should leave it for about 1 hour to let the vinegar do its work.


Step 5: Pour out the vinegar into a bucket

After 1 hour, the vinegar has loosened the dirt in your tank. So you can pour it out into a bucket. Use a container to collect the used vinegar since it can be reused to remove the dirt on the accessories.


Step 6: Clean the tank glass with an algae scraper

It will be easier to clean the tank glass with an algae scraper once it has been loosened. But you should pay attention when you scrape the glass, especially the acrylic one. If you rudely scrape the glass, you will find scratches on your tank after the cleaning, which are very annoying.

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Step 7: Clean the substrate with a gravel cleaner

The debris will sink to the bottom and hide in the substrate if you don't remove it in time. Thus, it's important to clean the substrate. You can use a gravel cleaner to suck in the debris and wash the sand or gravel. What's more, some gravel cleaners can also be used as water changers and filters.

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Step 8: Clean the accessories

For most accessories, using water to rinse is enough. But for some difficult ones, you can soak them in the bucket with vinegar for a while. Then, use an old toothbrush to clean them.

Attention: The cleaning of the filter should be done 2 weeks later.


Step 9: Fill your tank with water and put the accessories back

Once you’ve cleaned the fish tank, you can put everything except the fish back.


Step 10: Put your fish back into the fish tank

After you finish step 9, you should wait for 24 hours before putting them in the fish bank. The cleaning of a tank will remove much waste but also many beneficial bacteria. A newly established tank is not suitable for fish, and so does a freshly cleaned fish tank. So before you put your fish back, leave the tank some time to rebuild a healthy biological system.



See? Cleaning a fish tank with vinegar is not difficult at all. On the contrary, it makes cleaning simpler. Without vinegar, the stubborn dirt in your tank may be time-costing to remove. With vinegar, you don’t have to worry that whether there are remaining products that will harm your fish.

Cleaning can be an easy or a difficult task according to how patient you are. If you don’t want to encounter hard dirt, don’t forget to do daily and weekly maintenance. You should also learn to avoid overfeeding and overstocking, which are the main causes of a dirty fish tank.

If you are considering using vinegar to clean your fish tank, hope this article can give you some guidance!

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