Help, I am trying to revive an old "dead" fish tank. - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 13 Old 02-10-2013, 04:29 PM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Help, I am trying to revive an old "dead" fish tank.

I am trying to revive my Fiance's old fish tank. He has put a lot of money into equipment and I don't want it all to go to waste. It's not just about the money he put into his tank. I've always wanted to get into the hobby. I love animals and fish fascinate me. I'm a complete amateur when it comes to aquatic life and aquariums. Any help you guys could throw my way would be greatly appreciated.

My Fiancé's old fish tank has been "dead" for more than a year. It has fuzzy white mold all over it. I asked on a different forum (which I will not name) and was told to use a 50/50 solution of bleach and water. I went ahead and removed all the accessories that were in the tank and proceeded to soak them in this solution. It worked on the rocks but the plastic plants were a loss. I had to toss them. I'm hesitant to use the same solution on the tank as I do want to safely re-use it.

The tank is filthy and the filter hasn't been run or cleaned. I opened the filter up once (out of curiosity) and a bunch of skanky smelly water poured out. How should I clean it? Should I just leave all the old crud in there? If I'm starting a new tank is it a good thing to have all that bacteria in the filter? The type of filter he has is an "Eheim Professional II" either model #2026 or #2028.

BTW... the sand that was at the bottom is still in the tank. What should I do with it? Can it be salvaged?
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post #2 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 07:52 AM
Welcome to TFK!

You can use bleach and water, it just needs to be rinsed really well after.
Soaking the filter housing in hot water and using a scotch bright pad should clean it up. Baskets can be run through a dishwasher with white vinegar.
For the tank, if you prefer, instead of chlorine, you can also use white vinegar and table salt (as an abrasive) with a scotch bright pad.

The sand 'could' be rinsed and reused, but I'd prolly start with fresh, new sand, especially not knowing what 'killed' the 'dead' tank.

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post #3 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 09:08 AM
I owuld just do a planted tank.

After rinsing out the bleach I would add 1" peat moss ($12 for a 1'x1'x3' plastic "bale"), wet level and clean, then 1" of play sand ($3/50 pound bag), wet, level, clean. Then 1" of pc select which is a red baked clay used on baseball infields ($8 for a 40 pound bag). wet level clean.

then add (10g) 4 bunches of anacharis, 4 vals, 4 small potted plants and an amazon sword. Plant them in the substate.

Then fill the tank with water poured over a dish.

let set 1 week.

add 1 male platy.

Wait one week with no food being added.

Add a couple of females and start feeding 1 flake per day.

In 6 months you will have a tankflu of platies and a more or less stable population that will last for years.

And just as a reminder. No filters, no airstones, no water changes, just replace water that evaporates with straight untreated tap water.

But that's just what I do.

And worth at most .02

maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish and marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

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post #4 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 09:42 AM
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Welcome to the board!

When you clean the glass make certain that the scrubbie does not have any abrasives in it, some of the scotch products can scratch glass... this was from years ago so I don't know if the new stuff is different... you REALLY don't want to rub scratches into the glass.

The filter, a good cleaning will fix it right up, as long at the impeller (pump) works it's fine. The hoses might need to be replaced unless you want to try to push rages through them with coats hanger wire to scrub the gunk.

New sand would be wise, if you go the play sand route it's probably the cheapest thing you will need anyway.

If you are seriously about getting it going again, check your water source parameters (hardness, pH mainly). If it is municipal , get the numbers from the utility (often online) if it is a well, get (if you don't have in your new found stash already) a liquid test kit, API master test and the GH and KH test kit. This will let you figure out what fish would be suitable given your water type, it makes quite a difference in what you can easily keep.

Definitely consider live plants, lots, like a plant per gallon. They come in bunches with up to as many as 10 per bunch for reasonable prices and you can avoid the whole cycling issue this way AND keep the water healthier for the fish. Check what the light is as it can make a difference in what you can keep and you may have to buy a new bulb or two.

The biggest thing is to plan before you buy, don't just decide to buy any fish while at the store so you don't get caught with the petshop poor advice problem (wrong fish for tank, wrong fish with wrong fish, wrong fish for water... all sorts of horror stories here about petshop advice going bad). Not all are this way but more often than not they really don't know as much as they should and are interested in selling you their wares.

Good luck, post questions and pictures

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Total years fish keeping experience: 7 months, can't start counting in years for a while yet.

The shotgun approach to a planted tank with an LED fixture

Small scale nitrogen cycle with a jar, water and fish food; no substrate, filter etc
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post #5 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 10:09 AM
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with old dirty filters, I usually run them in a container of a weak bleach soltuion, just to loosen up te gunk inside.
This way you will also know whether the filter actually works...
and you will loosen up all the gunk inside so less elbow grease is needed later.
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post #6 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 10:42 AM
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Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum, and the hobby.

I agree with what has been suggested, and will add a couple points.

Hard material such as the empty tank itself, the filter canister and baskets (with all media removed), heaters, and filter tubing can be cleaned with the bleach or vinegar solutions and very well rinsed in tap water afterwards, then left to air dry.

Filter media, meaning the pads, foam, sponges, "rock" material, ceramic disks, etc should be discarded. These can absorb not only the toxins from the tank but the bleach/vinegar and any of this could leach out later. New media is best.

Same goes for the sand, any rock or wood decor; these can absorb liquids. Play Sand is very inexpensive and makes a good substrate.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #7 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 11:28 AM
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Hello and welcome to the forum

I don't envy you the clean up that you're going to have to do but it will be worth it in the long run. Just out of curiosity - how big is this tank?

You def. want to clean all of that gunk out of the filter. Find and clean the impeller as well as where the impeller sits. You might want to use Q-tips to get in there unless you have a very small brush that will do the job.

AD gave you good advice using salt as an abrasive. You can use a "fish only" new toothbrush to get into smaller areas. If you're using a bleach solution, rinse rinse rinse rinse and if you want to be extra cautious, use a good water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramines as a final rinse.

And I would toss that old nasty sand and start over with new sand or gravel.

Once you've got it all cleaned and ready to go, check back so we can help with your cycling and stock suggestions.

Good luck!

Animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
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post #8 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 11:42 AM
Oh yea

and welcome to the board also.

maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish and marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

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post #9 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 04:12 PM Thread Starter
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Yay yay yay... You all rock! I'm so glad I found a forum full of people willing to help me. :)

I'll definitely be putting your advice to good use on the weekends when I'm off of work and have the time and patience to get down and dirty so to speak.

Will keep you updated on my progress.

Thanks again!
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post #10 of 13 Old 02-11-2013, 04:13 PM Thread Starter
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Btw.... It's a 55 gal tank.
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beginner , help me , mold , newbie , tank revive

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