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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm going to clean my fish tank out for the first time. Any precautions I should take?

These are the steps I am doing to clean it out. I am posting this first because I dont want to be wrong!

. Unplug everything and take heater and filter out
. Take fish out and put into glass fish bowls (none heated)
. Check to make sure all baby fish are in bowls and none left in the tank
. Take decor out
. dump out old water but not the rocks
. Set tank in tub and wash rocks with hot water
. Wipe Glass off with Paper towels
. Wipe Decor off with paper towels too
. Reset the tank w/out water, filter and heater(organizing rocks and decor)
.Put tank in desired spot
. Bring Clean glass Plate and set on bottom of tank
. Pour room temp water in tank with the chlorine killer
. Wait 10 minutes
. Check tank with fish water tester kit
. Put fish in tank

*I have a feeling I am doing something wrong in the end especially with putting the fish back in*
 

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hmm, may i ask why are you doing a complete strip-down? Also you might need to drip acclimate or do something similar for about 15 minutes, maybe less for the fish to get used to there new water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have had the tank with fish in it for two or three months to be truthful. I have been so scared to kill off all my expensive fish so I never did a big cleaning job before, just the usual taking 1/4 of the water out and putting more in. And I want to Change my rocks in the bottom from the tiny rocks to large glass rocks. (If you can put those in there)

I'm new to this, sorry about all my questions. I hope I'm not annoying!
 

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Hey Fuzz.

The first time you clean out your fish can be a pretty nervous time. U seem to spend twice as long checking and re-checking books and forums then actually cleaning them out, i know i did.

There's a few things i would do differently when cleaning them out tho.

The first, (depending on how many fish you have), i wouldn't remove them from the tank. As long as your gentle and don't clean to vigorously, they won't mind. (mine normally try and eat my hand as i'm cleaning them.)
This brings me onto my next suggestion. I would strongly recommend u not to remove more than 25-30% of the water in your tank at a time. U can do up to 50% change, however this is in extreme circumtances. I change 10-15% every 2 weeks, and 25% a month.

It's personal preference, but i don't scrub my rocks and wood, u may remove the algea, but u also remove any beneficial bacteria, also my loach likes to munch on the green algea.

Sorry for the long post but my final point is to leave a bucket of water overnight with water treatment in it, to neutralize any harmful chemicals and warm it up. I also put a plastic bag loosely over the top to stop hairs and dust/dirt falling in the bucket overnight.

I hope this is helpful, and i appologise if i've said anything that was obvious to yourself or that u already new.

Anymore questions, don't b shy.
 

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Slider said:
Hey Fuzz.

The first time you clean out your fish can be a pretty nervous time. U seem to spend twice as long checking and re-checking books and forums then actually cleaning them out, i know i did.

There's a few things i would do differently when cleaning them out tho.

The first, (depending on how many fish you have), i wouldn't remove them from the tank. As long as your gentle and don't clean to vigorously, they won't mind. (mine normally try and eat my hand as i'm cleaning them.)
This brings me onto my next suggestion. I would strongly recommend u not to remove more than 25-30% of the water in your tank at a time. U can do up to 50% change, however this is in extreme circumtances. I change 10-15% every 2 weeks, and 25% a month.

It's personal preference, but i don't scrub my rocks and wood, u may remove the algea, but u also remove any beneficial bacteria, also my loach likes to munch on the green algea.

Sorry for the long post but my final point is to leave a bucket of water overnight with water treatment in it, to neutralize any harmful chemicals and warm it up. I also put a plastic bag loosely over the top to stop hairs and dust/dirt falling in the bucket overnight.

I hope this is helpful, and i appologise if i've said anything that was obvious to yourself or that u already new.

Anymore questions, don't b shy.
Actually, most people, inlcuding me, prefer the oposite and im sure most fish do too. 25-30% water changes weekly is the most common with 50% weekly pretty common too.

If you dont really have any serious problems like crazy deadly algae growth or a disease that has been leeched into the gravel and stuff, i would suggest againts the tank cleaning, why, because it upsets the beneficial bacteria living there, actually more than upsets, it kills them. Once there all dead then you will probably have to re-cycle your tank, and since you said you have sensitive fish then i guess you shouldnt at all. If you dont like the algae growing or want to change the rocks, then do it slowly and calmly with the fish in there, taking fish in and out of the tank to clean it is very stressfull, maybe even more stressful than cleaning it with them in there. Also, the rocks at the bottom, i think you are reffering to the gravel, if it is the gravel dont change it to glass, it is very hard for bacteria to grow on glass which means the gravel bed will lose its bio-filtration capacity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
hmmm, okay, I see what you mean- another reason I am trying to clean it is because I have had 3 fish die on me in two months. Two Plecos and 1 Neon. I don't know whats causing it. The neon was eating its reflection at the top of the tank and the plecos just died at the bottom.

I wont do that then, I was just thinking of some spring cleaning!

Basically by taking out lots of water and putting more in, its as good as cleaning out the tank?

Also, when I change the filter pad, does the tank get cloudy because I messed with all the bacteria?
 

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i see exactly what is wrong, you didnt cycle the tank or you added fish too fast. The neon wasnt eating his reflection, he/she was deprived of oxygen whether it was ammonia or nitrite and needed to go to the top of the tank to get the best oxygen, the ammonia or nitrite probably ended up killing him.

What are your water params?

Even if those fish died you wont need to do a complete clean-out, those arent even nessicary unless some chemical or toxin is in the tank. Water changes and gravel vaccuming is all that is needed
 

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In my experience i don't change the filter pads. The manufacture recommend once a month, or something like that, however i think this is just a way for them to sell more consumables.

I rince my filter pads in the water you've removed from the tank, this way u retain the beneficial bacteria. U should never rince them under water from the tap, otherwise the bacteria has to start from scratch.

If you think the pads do need to be replaced, if they've become damaged etc, rince the new ones in water from the tank and squeeze some of the water from the old pads onto the new ones.
 

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I understand why you want to do a complete water change and scrub everything down. But I must caution you, your fish may not enjoy their clean home as much as you might. I've written an article on cleaning out fish tanks that you might find useful: http://www.helium.com/tm/174139/after-approximately-month-month.
Most don't even feel comfortable doing that. You do not and should not completely clean your plants or gravel. Note--I do mention throwing your plastic decor through a dishwasher cycle, but that's only if you have snails or a really bad algae problem. I would recommend just taking the decor out and setting it aside, they usually harbor tons of good bacteria that you will need and it would be counter-productive to wash them anyway. If it's the gravel that looks dirty to you and is bothering you, then you might want to consider getting a gravel vacuum to suck up all the debris that your tank cannot handle, and perform a small water change. I would strong suggest not to take any action past a 40% water change. Anything more could be quite counter-productive and you will have to cycle your tank for a couple months to restock your bacteria levels before it's truly safe to reintroduce your fish. Vacuum the gravel a little and in the process make a 40% water change. That's it.
 

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It seems to me that you guys are overcomplicating everything here.

Fuzz: They are both correct that you would do more damage than harm by removing fish and cleaning the tank as you suggested. As Slider said, do a 10-15% water change every week or other week (I do once a week). Then do about a 25-30% once a month or so and disturb the gravel and suck up some of the poo and uneaten food at the bottom.

You don't need to remove and/or turn off your filter or heater. Make sure the level of water stays above the intake of the filter, and don't let it go below the "Don't go below this line" line on your heater.

When you place water into your tank simply run it from the tap to a bucket. Do your best to match the temp in your tank to the water in the bucket (after several water changes you can differentiate a few degrees with your hand). Treat it and let it sit for a few minutes. Slowly put the water into the tank so that any temp difference doesn't shock your fish. Stress coat is always nice to keep handy, helps your fish recover from the stress (theres always bound to be some).

As for your filter. Looking at your pic it looks like you have a Hang on the Back filter. I change these once the flow of water starts to flow over the suction portion... meaning the filter has too much poo and is blocking the flow of water. Try not to vaccuum the gravel and change the filter at the same time... you'll lose too much bacteria this way.

Musho is right that you probably lost the tetra because the tank hadn't cycled yet. I suspect you lost the plecos because they didn't have any algae to eat? Being set up for 2 months now you should be pretty well cycled.

Hope that helps. Don't try to overcomplicate things. You're concerned, which means you're probably doing ok.
 

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Maybe I'm a complete idiot (but I doubt it). But you should NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER use soap to clean your tank. You will never remove all of the soap from the tank and/or gravel.

If you are to the point where you need to physically clean your tank, you will need to remove all water, gravel, and decor and wash the tank glass with vinegar. You need to rinse the tank very well after this. The vinegar doesn't "cling" to the tank, but is acidic enough to break down the bacteria.

Vinegar should be used on your decor as well. I've never cleaned gravel, but you're probably best off rinsing very well with water, and then soaking in vinegar for a few minutes, and rinsing again.

But like I said in my last post, you should not need to do this unless you have a dramatic problem with your tank... like a drunk roomate vomiting in the tank :x
 

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Heh, has that happened to you in the past?

I was just thinking, soap is just as harmful as vinegar, even to the bacteria. I've learned though many chemistry labs that bases can be just as harmful as acids (and they both itch). And both acids and bases can be equally harmful to the fish. So soap would work just as effective as vinegar, and either one is probably somehow going to raise or lower the pH of the new water.
 

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Do yourself a favor and go to your kitchen. Read the ingredients on your dish soap and your vinegar. Odds are very good that the dish soap won't list the ingredients as theres probably too many. The vinegar will have Vinegar, and water. It will also say that your vinegar is diluted to x% acidity (5% on both bottles of vinegar I have). From there I'll let you decide which will be better for your fish.

Odds are good that if you use soap to clean your tank, pH will be the least of your worries.

Just want to stress again though that you should not have a need to clean your tank using either.
 

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Well here are my two cents--do unplug the heater and filter, I don't see how you can take water out of a tank w/out doing that, but don't take any of the fish out of the tank. I do a 30% water change once a week, and that seems to work well. I agree with Musho--tank was not cycled when you added fish and that was what caused the die-off. Don't soap anything or even rinse off your rocks or decorations--there is no need to and you will go through a mini-cycle. Hope this helps and feel free to ask more questions. :D
 

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Weekly partial water changes are good for your aquarium and the fish living in it. Many good suggestions have been made here. Just use your common sense and take the advice that makes the most sense to you.

-never use soap
-leave the fish in the tank
-check your water parameters, if you don't know how, take a sample of your aquarium water to your LFS and ask them to test it, they usually will.

Your fish died because the tank had not completely cycled and there was too much of a bio-load on the tank. It's a common mistake to put plecos in a new tank. You can't, trust me, I found out the hard way years ago. Plecos will die in an uncycled tank every time. Good luck.
 

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i am worried about all the people here that are saying that the weekly water changes should be 10-15%. It was back in the old days of freshwater keeping where the water chages were that low per month. That was before we learned that high levels of nitrate were toxic. Now the most reccomended is 25% weekly or 15% TWICE weekly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
hmm, This is all way too much, a lot of different points of views and ideas- The only thing wrong with my water is hardness and I don't know what that means- my guess would be density- I don't know why the neon would need more oxygen and the other fish didn't, I won't clean out my tank with vinegar or soap- I had never used soap on any of my fish tanks in my life! :D I will just do the taking 40% water out twice a week and putting new in!
 

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Fuzz said:
hmm, This is all way too much, a lot of different points of views and ideas- The only thing wrong with my water is hardness and I don't know what that means- my guess would be density- I don't know why the neon would need more oxygen and the other fish didn't, I won't clean out my tank with vinegar or soap- I had never used soap on any of my fish tanks in my life! :D I will just do the taking 40% water out twice a week and putting new in!
its not that the neons need more oxygen, its that they arent getting enough

When there is ammonia poisoning, the fishes body naturally creates slime that protects the body from the ammonia, but when the ammonia gets higher they need to create more slime. Pretty soom it reaches the point where the slime gets into there gills and suffocates them. thats when they need more oxygen since the slime is preventing the gills to take it in, and thats why the take it from the top of the tank where there is the most oxygen.

Nitrite enters the fishes blood stream. If you know what human carbon monoxide poisoning is, you should know how nitrite poisoning is. It prevents the red blood cells from carrying oxygen around the fishes body which in the end kills it, it will also go to the top of the tank to get as much oxygen as possible.
 

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Hm, I always thought that the fish died of suffocation because there wasn't enough oxygen entering their bloodstream, not because this slime covered their gills. Naturally, the nitrogens in ammonia, nitrates and nitrites would rather bond with the oxygen than the hydrogens thus limiting the amount of oxygen in the blood and in the end, suffocating the fish.
 
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