How To Clean A Betta Fish Tank (FULL GUIDE)

For a beginner betta owner cleaning your fish tank for the first time can be frightening. Especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. And if you don’t have a complete understanding of what to do, you may end up killing your betta. But don’t worry, this guide is going to take you through the necessary steps. After reading up on how to clean a betta fish tank you’re going to be an expert! And you’ll never have to worry about cleaning your tank again!

The Complete Guide On How To Clean A Betta Fish Tank

The two most important things to cleaning a betta fish tank effectively are preparation and knowledge. Before you learn the knowledge, here’s what you’ll need to prepare beforehand.

Preparing To Clean Your Betta Tank

There are a few steps you’ll need to take when preparing to clean your tank. And if you do these beforehand it’s going to make cleaning your tank a lot easier.

Step 1 – Gather Everything You Need

Of course, the first thing you’re going to want to do is to gather all the tools you require. The last thing you want when you’re in the middle of cleaning is a piece of equipment that you’ve forgotten.

The main things you’re going to need are:

Once you’ve gathered all the things you’re going to need, it’s time for step 2.

Step 2 – Washing Hands And Putting On Gloves

Next, it’s time to make sure your hands aren’t going to contaminate your aquarium (and vice versa). The first thing you should do is wash your hands thoroughly. And if you’re using soap make sure that you’re scrubbing it off afterward. You may think washing your hands isn’t necessary if you’re wearing gloves as well. However, it’s just an extra precaution and it doesn’t do any harm.

Once your hands have been washed then add your gloves. Remember, you may think you don’t need gloves, but anything on your hands could do a lot of damage to your betta. In fact, here are some of the reasons you should wear gloves when cleaning your bettas tank.

Bacteria Is Rampant In Your Aquarium

Your bettas tank doesn’t just hold him. It’s a whole ecosystem that is designed to sustain itself. And in that ecosystem, there are millions of bacteria, some of which can cause nasty problems for you. If you have any open cuts or sores on your hand this is especially important. While a lot of people do risk putting their hands in their tank without gloves it’s definitely not recommended.

To Stop The Water Becoming Contaminated

Another big reason to wear gloves is to stop the water from becoming contaminated. If you have any residue on your hands from ANYTHING, it’s likely to come off in your tank. Even if you can’t see it on your hands. This alone could introduce dangerous bacteria to your betta that might end up killing him. If not, it could result in other bacteria breeding and infecting your betta as well.

As well as this some liquids that linger on your hands are just going to outright kill your betta. Even in tiny amounts. For example, if you’ve filled up your car and splashed a tiny bit of gasoline on your hand, that is going to be enough to cause serious damage to your betta. And that’s after you’ve wiped off what you can noticeably see.

You’re Not Going To Spread Any Bacteria Around Your House

And lastly, if you wear gloves you’re not going to be spreading bacteria around your home. If you have bacteria from your aquarium on your hands, anything you touch until you wash your hands again is going to be contaminated with the same bacteria.

A very common pair that I like to use are Coralife Aqua Gloves. They go all the way up to your elbow, so you never have to worry about getting water on your skin, or infecting your tank with bacteria from your skin!

Step 3 – Remove All Decorations 

Next, you’re going to need to remove all the decorations from your tank so you can get ready to clean them later on. You should place them in the container that you found earlier to use. And remember, when you’re taking the decorations out of the tank do it one at a time and quite slowly. Tank cleaning can often be a stressful experience for your betta, so by taking your time you’re going to make things a little bit easier for him.

Step 4 – Turning Everything Off

Lastly, before you start cleaning your tank it’s time to turn everything off. This includes the lights, heater, filter, air bubbler and anything else that is in your tank. Once that’s done make sure you move them away from your aquarium (unless they’re made to be submerged). Obviously, the main reason to do this is for your own safety. Even though they’re made for water, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.

And secondly, while some equipment is made to go into your tank other parts aren’t. You don’t want to accidentally knock something that isn’t supposed to be submerged into your tank and end up breaking it.

You won’t have to keep your equipment turned off for that long, and you’ll minimize any risk to you and your fish by leaving it turned off for a short amount of time.

How To Clean A Betta Fish Tank

Now that you’ve prepared everything it’s time to get to work on cleaning your betta tank. Once you know how to do it step by step it’s not going to be nearly as daunting, and you won’t be afraid to do it next time.

Step 1 – Removing Algae 

The first thing you should do is start removing algae from the sides of your tank. This is where you’re going to need your algae scrubber and razors (for stubborn algae).

For the least amount of intrusion you should use a magnetic algae scrubber, but failing that a long-handled one is also a great choice. Begin going over your whole tank removing as much algae and grime from your tank as you can. Normally just using a scraper alone is enough. However, if it’s not then you should use a razor to scrape off any buildup that is hard to remove.

However, it’s extremely important that you use a plastic razor on acrylic tanks. This way the sides aren’t going to be scratched. But if you’ve got a glass tank then a standard razor is going to work just fine.

Once you’ve removed as much algae as you can it’s time for the second step.

Step 2 – Cleaning The Gravel/Removing Water

The next step is to clean the gravel in your tank. Ideally, you should use a gravel vacuum to do this because it’s going to have two benefits. First of all, it’s going to help make your gravel clean and remove any debris, feces and old food waste that may be stuck in it. Secondly, it’s going to remove some water from your tank. You should aim to remove between 10-30% of the water depending on how big your tank is. The smaller the tank the more water you should remove.

To use a gravel vacuum you just need to place the siphon slightly above the gravel. Make sure the other end of the vacuum is placed in another container or bucket, otherwise you’re going to end up with water all over the floor.

The gravel will start getting sucked into the siphon along with any debris and water. However, while the water and debris will end up in your container, the gravel itself will be too heavy.

You should continue siphoning your gravel until enough water has been removed from your tank. And if you think your gravel vacuum is too strong then partially cover the end that’s in your bucket with your thumb. When you do this you’ll be able to control how fast or slow water is leaving your tank.

If you think you haven’t removed all of the debris from your gravel don’t worry too much. You can vacuum the gravel again after a week to remove the rest of it.

And lastly, if you have sand in your tank instead of gravel, then it’s still going to be a similar process. However, you’ll have to hold your siphon higher to make sure the sand isn’t being sucked up!

Step 3 – Cleaning Decorations 

One of the big parts of cleaning your aquarium is cleaning the decorations. However, you won’t have to do this every time you clean your aquarium. You only need to do it when you notice a build-up of algae and grime on them. Depending on the size of your tank, how good your filter is etc. you may only need to clean decorations every few months.

You should consider cleaning decorations when you notice the following:

  • Mineral Deposits
  • Algae Buildup
  • Bacterial Waste & Sludge

When you notice these on your decorations then it’s time to give them a clean. And here’s how to do it:

  1. Slowly remove your decorations one at a time. Doing this is going to cause less of a disturbance for your betta and won’t stress him out as much. Place them in the container that you chose earlier. Just make sure that it doesn’t have any chemicals or anything harmful in it. One way to do this is to thoroughly wash it out with warm water a few times.
  2. After you’ve removed all the decorations from your tank, it may be wise to turn your heater back on. The next step can take up to 45 minutes, so you don’t want the temperature to drop too suddenly, especially if you have a smaller aquarium.
  3. Once this is done fill the container up with water. It doesn’t have to be conditioned and you can just use tap water. At this stage, it’s important to remember not to add ANY cleaning product.
  4. Begin boiling water. Once you have enough boiling water start adding all of your decorations into the water. Once they’re in the water allow them to soak for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes not only will all the bacteria be dead, but you’ll also be able to remove the algae and any other build up a lot easier!
  5. If your decorations can’t handle the heat of the boiling water, then you’re going to have to throw them out. Definitely, don’t put them back in your tank. But if you’ve bought decorations that are sturdy and high quality they shouldn’t melt anyway.
  6. Next, you should begin scrubbing your decorations with a toothbrush or something similar. Make sure you ONLY use your toothbrush for cleaning your aquarium and that it’s never been contaminated by anything else. Once you’re certain of this begin thoroughly cleaning your decorations until all the grime has been removed.

How To Clean Aquarium Decorations With Bleach

Sometimes after following these steps, your aquarium decorations are still going to look dirty. If this is the case then you can prepare a bleach solution. But, you should avoid using bleach if you can because it does come with some risk. So only use it in the most urgent circumstances. If you don’t mind buying some new decorations for your tank, then that’s going to be the better option.

However, if you want to keep the same decorations here’s how to clean aquarium decorations with bleach:

  1. Prepare a bleach solution in a bucket. You should use 5% bleach to 95% water. (A good guide is 2 teaspoons for every gallon of water). And avoid using hot water. Hot water can neutralize bleach and make it useless.
  2. Next up drop your decorations into the bleach solution and leave them for 5 minutes. You should only do this for plastic decorations and NEVER do it for anything organic.
  3. After your decorations have been soaking you should begin scrubbing them thoroughly with a toothbrush again. You’ll notice that anything that was left over is a LOT easier to scrub off now.
  4. Once all the algae has been scrubbed off, rinse the decorations under water. You should rinse each of them for 2-3 minutes. And use your fingers to rub the surfaces to make sure all the bleach has come off.
  5. You’ll also need to clean your container or find a new uncontaminated one. When you have one, fill it up with tap water and the required amount of water conditioner. Leave your decorations in the water for the required time. (It will be different depending on the water conditioner you use. But you just need to check the guidelines on the back).
  6. Once your decorations have soaked long enough you can place them back into your tank.

And that’s how to clean aquarium decorations with bleach. Remember, you should try to avoid doing it for as long as you can.

Step 4 – Cleaning The Filter 

When you’re cleaning your tank you don’t want to clean everything in your aquarium and in your filter at the same time. Because your aquarium is delicately balanced and if it doesn’t have enough bacteria in it then your betta will suffer. The bacteria normally grow in your substrate and in your filter. If you clean both at the same time then you’re going to destroy all the bacteria.

If you decide to clean everything at once the most probable outcome is a huge ammonia spike that would be extremely dangerous for your betta.

Before cleaning your filter you should decide whether it needs cleaning or whether you’re better off replacing it. And to do this it depends on the type of filter you have, how big your tank is, how messy your fish are etc.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to only talk about cleaning the filter and not replacing the cartridges. (How often you need to replace your filter cartridges will be in the manual of your filter). And to stop this article being too long here’s a quick guide.

  1. Take some water out of your tank and place it in a bucket or container. You’ll need enough to rinse your filter cartridges in.
  2. Turn off your filter ready to remove all the filter cartridges.
  3. Once you’ve done this take your filter cartridges out of your filter and begin rinsing them in the container. You want to make sure that you’re not being too forceful with them or you could end up damaging them. And remember, all you need to do is swish them around in the water and remove any large debris from them. If you’re washing a sponge filter you should also give it a couple of squeezes.
  4. Use a clean sponge or cloth to clean the inside of your filter as well. Make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.
  5. Once the inside is clean replace all the cartridges to their original positions. And turn your filter back on.
blue betta splenden

Why Do You Need To Clean Your Betta’s Tank?

You may think you don’t need to clean your fish tank. Oftentimes you can look at it and the water appears crystal clear. While this is normally a good sign, what you can’t see is the amount of bacteria that is in your tank. So even if it looks clean, it could be an incredibly toxic environment for your betta. Here are some of the main reasons to clean your tank regularly.

To Keep Ammonia, Nitrites And Nitrates Low

If you’re not sure what the nitrogen cycle is then here’s a simple guide.

  • Any biological waste in your tank is broken down by bacteria and becomes ammonia. Ammonia is toxic and if it stays in this state it will poison your betta
  • Another type of bacteria begins breaking down the ammonia. Once it’s broken down it becomes nitrite. This is still extremely toxic to your betta.
  • And lastly, another type of bacteria breaks down the nitrites into nitrate. While nitrate is still dangerous at high levels, it is safe at low levels. And it’s normally found in low levels in a healthy aquarium.

However, it’s often the case that even the bacteria in your tank can’t quite keep on top of removing all the ammonia and nitrite from your aquarium. And that’s why frequent water changes are a part of cleaning your tank. With the old water full of ammonia being removed, clean ammonia free water can be added. Diluting the remaining ammonia and making it manageable for the bacteria to carry on the cycle.

To Replace Minerals And Nutrients

A lot of minerals and nutrients your betta need are in the water itself. However, because the water is contained and there’s no new way for water to be introduced, eventually all those minerals are going to be used up. Unless you perform a water change when you’re cleaning your tank! When you do this you top up the amount of minerals in the tank and in turn, help keep your betta healthy. To learn more about this then this article will tell you everything you need to know about choosing water for your betta!

To Remove Waste

And lastly, the most important reason you’re going to clean your tank is to remove any waste. Most fish waste and debris sinks to the bottom of your tank and just sits there. While your filter does a good job at sucking some of it in it can’t get it all. That’s why cleaning your tank regularly and vacuuming the substrate is so important. It’s going to allow you to remove most of the organic waste from your tank as well as any debris and old food that has fallen in too!

When To Clean A Betta Fish Tank?

Another common question other than how to clean a betta fish tank is how often should you clean your bettas tank?

And there’s no definitive answer. The truth is it’s all going to depend on your setup. Such as how big your tank is, how good the filter is if your housing your betta with other fish etc. But the truth is you shouldn’t need to do a full clean that often. You should be focused more on how often you’re going to need to change the water and vacuum the gravel.

The smaller your tank the more often it’s going to need to happen. For example a 5-10 gallon tank should have 10-20% of its water removed every week, however, it won’t need to have the decorations removed and cleaned nearly as often. A bigger tank won’t need to do it as often. And you shouldn’t be housing your betta in a tank smaller than 5 gallons.

You may not know this but any tank under 5 gallons is unsuitable for a betta or any fish. Here’s everything you need to know about the ideal sized tank for your betta.

Tank Maintenance

There are some things you can be doing often that will help you know when to clean a betta fish tank.

If you’re scraping the algae off your tank every week, cleaning the filter cartridges as specified (according to the manufacturer) vacuuming the gravel and performing water changes then you’re going to reduce how often you’ll need to give your tank a thorough clean.

Checking The Water Chemistry

Another way to know when to clean a betta fish tank is by checking the water chemistry

Wondering whether you can put lucky bamboo in your Betta tank? Click here! You can buy testing kits that test the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. As well as this you can normally take samples of water to an aquatic store to be tested. However, if you don’t want to do that then remember that ammonia should be at 0 ppm (parts per million), nitrites should be at 0ppm, and nitrates should be below 20ppm.

Should You Ever Remove Your Betta While Cleaning His Tank?

You should do everything in your power to avoid removing your betta from his tank. Moving him around and placing him in different tanks is going to stress him out. Not to mention it’s also going to shock his system. The only time you should move your betta out of his aquarium is to put him in a quarantine tank.

Instead of removing your betta from the tank to clean it, you should be aiming to be as non-intrusive as possible. And the real trick is to perform small water changes and gravel vacuums often, rather than removing everything from the tank.

Tank Mates That Can Keep Your Tank Clean

If your tank is big enough then you can always buy tank mates that are going to keep your tank clean. While all living animals are going to contribute to the amount of waste in your tank, some of them can reduce algae buildup and actually enjoy doing so! If you feel like you’d like another pet to help out, why not try adding some shrimp, snails or catfish such as corydora and otocinclus catfish to your tank!

Betta fish care is tricky, but with proper guidance, you can succeed! Click here to read a comprehensive guide! 

Full Recap On How To Clean A Betta Fish Tank

  • Before cleaning your tank make sure that you’ve washed your hands and put gloves on. This way you minimize the chance of transmitting bacteria to your tank and vice versa.
  • Make sure you turn everything off when you’re cleaning your tank. Do this as late as possible, and make sure that you move all electricals that can’t be submerged away from the tank.
  • When cleaning your tank you should remove the algae off everything and then vacuum it off the substrate. This will save you time.
  • Sometimes you may need to use bleach on decorations. If this is the case then use 5% bleach to 95% water.
  • You should avoid cleaning your filter and tank at the same time. Otherwise, you’re going to destroy all the beneficial bacteria in the tank.
  • Cleaning the tank is going to keep ammonia nitrite and nitrate levels low, replace minerals, and remove any excess waste.
  • You won’t have to thoroughly clean your tank very often, but you should perform a water change weekly/bi-weekly, depending on the size of the tank.

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