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How Often Should You Clean a Smaller Aquarium?

How Frequently Should You Clean Small Aquariums San Diego, CA

Aquariums come in various sizes. While there are quite a few standard sizes for both freshwater and saltwater tanks, they can also be made to custom dimensions based on the species and how much space is available for placement. For example, a few guppies and neons can be kept in 3 to 5-gallon tanks with dimensions smaller than 12 inches. The small bowl keeping a single goldfish is a common sight in many films and television series, but it isn’t recommended for fish period. It’s not a very humane way of keeping fish, as they’re always stressed in these inadequate environments.

Most beginner aquarists start off with smaller tanks, and this is ideal because a rule of thumb in this regard is that smaller aquariums require smaller water changes than larger aquariums and thus a bit less time spent. The staff at Aquatic Warehouse, a trusted provider of freshwater and saltwater aquarium supplies, explains what you need to do when it comes to cleaning a smaller fish tank.

Frequent Cleanings

Cleaning your tank doesn’t mean changing all the water. Only a 20 percent water change is typical, depending on many factors—like the quantity of fish and the quality of your filter. It’s a process that involves removing solid waste as well as any fish that may have perished because of non-adjustment or simply because their life cycle came to an end. You should be able to catch some solid waste with a net, but a better cleaning tool would be a gravel vacuum. Don’t assume uneaten fish food will be eventually consumed. Fish can sometimes be picky eaters, and they’ll ignore brine or flakes for their own reasons, but you don’t want this matter to fully decompose in the tank.

Additional Cleaning Sessions

This is a more detailed cleaning that should include introducing freshly treated water, up to a quarter of the tank. Start off by removing debris with a vacuum tool plus nets, but you should also use an aquarium sponge to wipe away algae colonies that form on decorations, plants, and even tank walls. You can also minimize algae cleanup, which can be tedious, by introducing species such as the friendly otocinclus catfish or the more voracious plecostomus. Make sure to test the water a few hours after the cleanup and once again the next day. Remember to use the discarded aquarium water to clean your filter media because tap water that has chlorine or chloramines in it will kill the good bacteria off.

Water Changes

Tanks that hold 10 gallons or less require a larger water change if your cleaning cycle is every two to three weeks, and it’s harder on your fish than increasing the frequency of your weekly cleaning sessions.

Deep Cleaning

This is the time to replace filter media and inspect all the tubing, lines, hoods, and lamps. Wipe off all dust and debris, scrub decorations, rinse off the plants, and consider transferring sick and aging fish to another tank so they don’t interfere with the overall health of the ecosystem. This is a great time to think about upsizing your aquarium now that your fish have grown in size and you want to increase your livestock to larger schools.

Reach out to the aquarium experts at Aquatic Warehouse if you need tips on how to approach cleaning your specific tank. We carry a wide array of aquariums and all of the necessary supplies, as well as products for koi ponds, including filtration, lighting, and submersible pond pumps. Give us a call today at 858-467-9297 to learn more.


Contact Information

  • Address: 5466 Complex Street Suite 204
    San Diego, CA 92123
  • Phone: (858) 467-9297
  • Email: sales@aquaticwarehouse.com
  • Working Days/Hours: Mon - Fri / 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
    Saturday / 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Sunday / 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM


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