Cleaning Fish Tank With Vinegar: Is It Safe?

A healthy and thriving community of fish in your aquarium needs a safe, clean environment. Many fish care guides will tell you to grab an algae scraper and some bleach, but is that really necessary? Is there a more natural way? You may have read that vinegar is the ideal option for cleaning a fish tank and are wondering whether that is true or not.

The simple answer? Yes, cleaning a fish tank with vinegar is perfectly fine. Vinegar can be used in a tank for a number of benefits, aside from a cleaner environment. In fact, aside from cleaning a tank with vinegar, you can use a mild solution to neutralize alkalinity, too.

Let’s discuss more about how cleaning a fish tank with vinegar works.

Will Cleaning With Vinegar Harm My Fish?

If you have a freshwater fish tank, you might soon come to realize how difficult it can be to remove algae and other stains from the glass, decorations, and plants. Most aquariums are made of acrylic or glass, making them prone to hard water staining. Luckily, the acid in distilled white vinegar is the perfect solution.

Here are five steps to clean your aquarium glass with vinegar:

Cleaning aquarium in 5 steps

Step One:

Before doing any kind of cleaning, you will want to relocate your fish to another tank. Once they are safely moved and plants and decorations have been taken out, drain the water from your aquarium completely.

Step 2:

Lay the tank on a towel and pour vinegar directly on the glass. You can use straight vinegar here, especially with large stains or excessive grime. If the stains are not as bad, you can use a diluted solution of 1:1 water/vinegar to remove any dirt and buildup.

Step 3:

Leave the vinegar solution in the tank, resting the stains for about 20-30 minutes then scrub the tank with a non-abrasive sponge, cleaning pad, or cloth. Any stubborn stains can be taken care of with a razor blade or algae scraper.

Step 4:

After the stains have been removed, rinse out the tank thoroughly. Let it dry completely before the final step.

Step 5:

Refill your tank and put the plants and decorations back in. Then reintroduce your fish.

Depending on how caked on the minerals are, you may have to do this a couple of times before the residue breaks down completely. If needed, spray a rag or paper towel with some vinegar then dab at more stubborn mineral deposits and stains. This can help remove stains a little faster. Don’t use the same water that caused the staining with cleaning.

Cleaning Old Fish Tank With Vinegar

Did you get a second hand fish tank from a friend? Found the old 10 gallon up in the attic? Since you can’t use regular household cleaners like detergents or disinfectants on a fish tank, you can thoroughly cleanse an old fish tank with vinegar and salt.

Not only are vinegar and salt natural and safe, they work together to remove stains and sanitize. This means you can rid the old tank of germs before adding fish and plants. Furthermore, if you notice the secondhand tank has a foul odor, you can use vinegar to expel the smell.

Since you wouldn’t have had fish in the tank yet and probably won’t be adding them in right away, you can clean an old tank with straight vinegar. Just be sure to rinse the aquarium out completely and let it dry out as long as possible. When using salt, be liberal. Scrub at the tank, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.

Once the old tank has been cleaned out, consider checking for leaks or other problems that may have been covered up by wear and tear or grime.

Cleaning Saltwater Tank With Vinegar

You really can’t beat distilled vinegar when you want to clean your saltwater tank of calcium deposits and salt creep. You can also use distilled vinegar to dissolve pesky coralline algae, which can get crusted around equipment and decorations. Many parts of a tank can be affected by calcium carbonate from the water or algae buildup, such as heaters, siphon tubes, hoses, piping, plastic rims, filters, return nozzles, and protein skimmers.

To clean these components, all you need to do is place the pieces in a bucket or wash basin, fill it with a 1:1 water/vinegar mixture, and let them soak. For electrically powered filters and powerheads, you can plug them on and let the gear work overnight. The vinegar/water blend will work into the smallest interstices to remove grime.

Cleaning An Acrylic Tank With Vinegar

You are probably aware of this, but an acrylic fish tank is different from a glass one. Acrylic scratches more easily than glass, so you need to be careful with how you clean it, since a razor blade or scraper will inevitably ruin the acrylic. You can buy an acrylic scraper online and pair it with a vinegar solution, however.

To clean an acrylic tank, grab a soft towel (not a paper towel) and pour vinegar directly onto the cloth. Slowly rub the towel against the walls. Let the vinegar soak into stains and algae. Once the vinegar has soaked in enough, you can begin wiping it and scraping at it with the acrylic glass scraper to remove debris. Pour vinegar directly on spots that won’t loosen up.

Never use a paper towel on acrylic, since it will scratch the tank walls.

Cleaning Aquarium Plants With Vinegar

Vinegar can be used for cleaning fish tanks—but what about the vegetation? Should you be concerned? No. Vinegar is a quick way to remove any algae and mineral deposits stuck to aquarium plants (and also decorations). Just remove your aquarium plants from the tank and give them a five minute-long soak in a 1:1 water/vinegar solution.

Once they have soaked long enough, wipe the plants down, rinse them off under clean water, and put them back in the tank.

If algae continues to cling, don’t just soak your plants. Grab a soft toothbrush dipped in the water/vinegar mix and scrub them down gently. Delicate plants will need to be handled with extreme care.

Rinse Out Your Quarantine Tank Between Uses

Did you recently have a fish or two get sick? Want to get your quarantine tank as clean as possible before the next outbreak? Then you need to grab that gallon of distilled white vinegar and get to work. Remember, vinegar can blast away nitrates, sanitize glass surfaces, and leave things cleaner than ever. This also ensures sick fish are being introduced to a completely sterile environment, greatly increasing their chances of survival.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, vinegar is not solely for cooking and salads. You can use distilled vinegar in both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. Cleaning fish tank with vinegar is quick, simple, and ensures the tank will be clean. After all, since other household cleaning items can be perilous for fish, you should choose more natural cleaning solutions, like vinegar, to do the job right.

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