As a fish owner, the well-being of your fish should be of prime importance to you. If your fish is to remain happy and healthy, you must ensure that their aquarium is kept as clean as possible. Cleaning the aquarium substrate at regular intervals helps to get rid of dangerous microorganisms that can be harmful to your fish. Aside from this, a clean substrate adds to the beauty of your aquarium. There are different forms of substrates, but the most common ones are sand and gravel.
When looking for the best way to clean aquarium sand, you should understand that it is more challenging than cleaning gravel because sand is made up of very tiny particles. For this reason, if you decide to use a gravel filter to clean your sand substrate, you will find that the particles of the sand will be sucked up by the filter.
Before you decide to start cleaning your sand substrate, you will need to know the type of sand you have.
This is necessary because there are different types of sand, and each one has to be cleaned differently from the other. Specialty planting sand, especially, has to be cleaned carefully so that it does not release ammonia. Once you have determined the type of sand you have, you can take the following steps to clean it.
- Turn off the electrical aspects of your aquarium such as heaters, filters, and pumps: Before you begin cleaning the aquarium, ensure that you turn off all the electrical elements of the aquarium as it is not wise to have electricity running in the tank when you handle the water.
- Remove all the decorations from the aquarium: The next step you are to carry out is to remove any decorations that are in the aquarium. If you want to clean these decorations, you should do so using your hand or a soft brush with warm water to clean them. If you have live plants in the aquarium, do not remove them as you are likely to damage their roots if you do so.
- Clean a container that is big enough to allow your fish to swim comfortably in it: You should do this so that you would have a place to keep your fish while you clean the sand. The container should also be high enough so that your fish cannot jump out of it. Do not use soap or detergent to clean the container because they contain chemicals that may be harmful to your fish. Once you have cleaned the container, fill it halfway with water from the tank. Do not use tap water as the differences in temperature and pH would shock your fish. Gently scoop your fish out of the aquarium and into the container one at a time. Use a net to do this and cover the top of the net with your hand so that the fish would not jump out of it.
- Clean the aquarium and the aquarium sand: Clean the glass of the aquarium thoroughly by scrubbing it to remove any algae growth. To clean the sand, rake it up and turn it over while making sure that any debris is dislodged from it. Once you do that, you would see some debris floating around on the water. Scoop the larger ones up with a net, the smaller bits can then be removed using a highly-rated siphon (link to Amazon).
- Remove some of the tank water using a siphon: Put a siphon into the water and begin draining it into a bucket or your sink. The siphon’s end should be placed at about half an inch above the sand so that you can suck up as much debris as possible. To suck up the debris, move the siphon back and forth so that the debris and dirt can be picked up. Some sand particles will be picked up with the debris and dirt. You can decide to clean those particles again and add them back to the tank, or you can discard them and introduce new sand into the tank to top up the one that was lost. The amount of water you remove shouldn’t be too much; it should just be about 10% to 25% depending on the dirtiness of the tank. It is best not to leave the tank to get too dirty before you clean it. You can also clean your foam filter while the water is draining. Ensure you never use chemicals or soap to clean any of the aquarium’s elements.
- Replace the water you took out of the tank: You would need to replace the dirty water that you removed from the tank. If you are using tap water to replace it, add some drops of water conditioner to tap water in a clean bucket and wait for a while so the conditioner can remove any impurities in the water and neutralise chlorine in it. This step is necessary for the safety of your fish. You can use the instructions on the conditioner’s bottle to know how long you should wait before you add the water to the tank. Make sure that the temperature of the replacement water and the temperature of the water that was in the tank before is close so that you do not shock your fish too much. You can then put your fish back in the tank with the fish tank gently one at a time.
- Replace all the decorations and turn on the electrical elements of your tank: Once you are done with the processes above, you can replace all the decorations and ornaments that you have taken out of the tank. After replacing them, you can turn on your heater, lighting, and filter back.
How Frequently Should You Clean Aquarium Sand?
If you clean your aquarium on a regular basis, you will find it easier to maintain its substrate. You can carry out daily maintenance, weekly or bi-weekly maintenance, and a thorough cleanup once in every six months. For daily maintenance, remove debris from the tank often. This could be plant parts if you keep a planted tank or it could be dead fish. It is essential to remove them on time so that they do not begin to decompose and release toxins into the water.
There are different types of sand, and so, if you are going to choose one for your aquarium, you’ll be better off using one that is labelled as aquarium sand. You should not make use of builders sand, especially as it is filthy and adversely affects pH. Once you have chosen the sand for your aquarium, ensure that you wash it very well before you place it in the aquarium.
This is necessary because new sand tends to turn aquarium water cloudy. If possible, add substrate dwelling fish to your tank as they help to turn over the sand and keep it clean. Also, remember not to overfeed your fish. Overfeeding fish is one of the primary reasons for a dirty aquarium and, subsequently, a dirty substrate.
While it may be tempting to keep on feeding your fish because they would come up to the surface of the water to beg for food, you should not do so. This is because they would release more wastes than usual, or the food they cannot finish will sink to the bottom of the tank. Either way, you’ll be left with a dirty substrate.
If you take the necessary precautions to keep your aquarium as clean as possible, then your fish will be healthy and thrive.