How To Clean a Betta Fish Tank: 11 Easy Step By Step Guide

  • by
How To Clean a Betta Fish Tank: 11 Easy Step By Step Guide

Bettas are extremely lovable and intelligent pets that are extremely easy to care for. They do, however, eat and excrete like any other living creature. That is why it is critical to clean out their tank. While a betta does not need to be walked or taken to the veterinarian on a regular basis, it does require that you keep its tank and water clean in order for it to be happy and healthy.

It’s a good idea to keep your betta tank clean on a regular basis. Waste products can sometimes accumulate in aquarium gravel. A thorough cleaning will reduce the likelihood of the water quality deteriorating and, as a result, the likelihood of your betta becoming ill. Algae can also grow in an aquarium. It isn’t harmful, but it can be unsightly, so giving everything a quick scrub will keep things looking spick and span and ensure that you keep your betta tank clean.

Here are the steps to clean a Betta Fish Tank:

  1. Wash your hands!
    Take the time to check that you don’t have any dirty hands. You want to avoid accidentally introducing germs or dirt into the tank while cleaning it. If you use soap, make sure to thoroughly rinse it off. Soap residue has the potential to kill fish.
  2. Unplug any heaters, filters, lights, and other equipment before you start.
    While cleaning the tank, it is critical to keep all electrical appliances unplugged and away from it. While these appliances should be designed for use in a fish tank, you don’t want them to fall into the tank or become submerged in water by accident.
  3. Gather the tools and materials you will need.
    To begin cleaning the tank, you must first create a safe and clean storage area for your fish. Find a clean cup or bowl to place the fish in. Fill the glass or bowl halfway with water from the Betta’s existing tank; you only need enough water to give the fish enough room to swim around.

    You’ll also need the tools to clean and refresh the tank’s water. A sink, a plastic cup or net to scoop the fish and water, paper towels and a scrubber to clean the inside of the tank, water conditioner (available at most pet or aquarium stores), a sieve for cleaning tank gravel, and a plastic spoon are also required.
  4. Scoop water out of the tank.
    Scoop out 50 to 80 percent of the water in the tank with a small cup. Set it aside so it can be used in the tank later. This must be done because it is not possible to change the water completely without putting the betta into shock. Instead, after cleaning the tank, you will reintroduce the water you saved. 

    If you are a new owner, you can begin with 50% water changes and gradually increase it until you reach 80%. 

    The gravel at the bottom of a betta’s tank contains the majority of the filth. If you remove the water from the top, you will still be removing the majority of the dirt and grime when you clean the gravel.
  5. Remove the fish from the tank.
    Scoop your fish with the same cup you used to remove some of the water from the tank. Take your time and watch out for the fish’s fins. If you move slowly enough, you might be able to get the fish to settle into the cup while it’s underwater, and then you can just lift it straight up. 

    Put the fish in the glass or bowl that has already been filled with tank water.

    Keep in mind that you must ensure that the fish does not jump out while doing this. Bettas are known jumpers, so keep the fish in a container that has a lid.
  6. Empty the tank.
    Drain the remaining water from the tank into the sink using a sieve. This will keep gravel from falling into the drain. Remove any decorations from the tank as well. Simply place it on top of the gravel in the sieve.
  7. Run the gravel under warm water.
    Fold the gravel in half and shake it side to side to get rid of the dirt, poo, and leftover food. Use your hands to thoroughly complete the task.
  8. Rinse the tank and decor with warm water.
    Scrub the glass with a soft scrubber. Set the decor aside after thoroughly drying it with a paper towel. Soap should never be used on anything in a fish tank, including the tank itself. The residue will most likely remain and harm your betta.
  9. Refill the tank.
    Before refilling the tank, replace the gravel and plants. Then, fill the tank with fresh water and condition it. Follow the instructions on the conditioner package to determine how much conditioner to put in your fish’s tank.

    Stir the water with a plastic spoon to ensure that the conditioner is thoroughly mixed into the new water.

    Remember to leave enough space in the tank for the original water that you removed. Once the new water has been conditioned, pour the old water you saved back into the tank. Stir everything together thoroughly.
  10. Wait 24 to 48 hours for the water to settle and come to room temperature.
    The tank water must be the same temperature as the previous water, which should be between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 27 degrees Celsius). If you change the temperature too quickly, your fish will die from stress. It may take some time for the water to reach room temperature. After 24 hours, use a thermometer to ensure that the water temperature matches the ambient temperature in the room. If it is not at room temperature, wait a few more hours before checking it.
  11. Reintroduce the betta to its tank.
    Slowly place the cup (in which you kept your betta) into the tank and tilt it slightly. Your betta will slowly emerge from the cup on its own. Be careful not to injure its fins while doing this. Maintain vigilance over the betta. When you let it go, it will soon begin exploring the tank. Return your tank to its original location and watch as it swims around, observing everything!

Why should you clean your betta fish tank?

Fish tanks, for the most part, are self-sustaining ecosystems that run on nitrifying bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrates. To understand why you should clean your tank, consider your small enclosed ecosystem in relation to your betta’s natural environment in the wild.

Because of flowing water, sediments, evaporation, weather, and other flora and fauna, there is a constant importation and exportation of nutrients/minerals, wastes, and gasses in wild aquatic habitats. There is no input other than what we introduce into the system in our small little fish tanks, and export is typically handled by filter media and/or plants and corals. This problem has been solved by hobbyists performing weekly or biweekly water changes.

Water changes allow new nutrients and minerals to enter the system while flushing out those that have accumulated over time. Nitrates, for example. Nitrates are constantly produced as a result of the nitrogen cycle, which converts ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. Because nitrifying bacteria do not process nitrate, it accumulates in the tank and can become toxic at high concentrations. While plants and corals absorb nitrates, hobbyists will usually need to perform water changes to keep nitrates from building up in their tanks.

Similarly, water changes aid in the replenishment of oxygen levels within the tank. To increase gas exchange, surface water agitation via a filter, air stone, or powerhead is typically used. Water changes aid in the movement of the tank and the introduction of new gases via the new water. Water changes can also help stabilize pH and/or increase pH if needed, as pH is related to the amount of carbon dioxide in the tank water.

How frequently should you clean your betta fish tank?

The frequency with which you should clean your betta tank is determined by a number of factors, including: Is there a filter in your aquarium? What is the size of your aquarium? Do you have more than one betta fish in your aquarium?

If you’ve read any of our other articles on betta care, you’ll know how important it is to have a filter. It not only controls the water quality, but it also reduces time-consuming tasks like changing the water or cleaning the aquarium.

You only need to clean out a 15-litre betta aquarium with a betta fish and a filter once every 6 to 8 months.

Some planted aquariums with a good filter and a balanced ecosystem of ‘clean up’ tank mates can go for years without being cleaned.

If you keep your betta in a 15-litre aquarium without a filter, you should clean it every 4 to 5 weeks because fish poop and waste products can accumulate quickly in that amount of time.

What is the average time it takes to clean a betta aquarium?

It all depends on how thoroughly you want to clean. It won’t take long if you have a betta aquarium with some gravel, a few ornaments, and a few fake plants. The tanks recommended in our ‘best betta tanks’ article are simple to clean and will not take long to complete.

When you change the water in your aquarium, it’s a good time to clean it. This could be a small, weekly water change or a large, bi-monthly water change. This means that once the aquarium has been cleaned, you can refill it with fresh water.

Why is your betta fish tank so dirty?

There are a few reasons why your betta fish tank may be particularly filthy. Overfeeding, poor aquarium maintenance, and poor source water are some of the possible causes.

Overfeeding

Betta fish are easy to overfeed because they are always eager to accept food. To avoid overlapping feedings, it is critical to have a set routine with a set amount of food ready to go. Food rationing should be reconsidered after all uneaten food is removed from the tank within a few minutes of feeding.

If left untreated, overfeeding can quickly lead to algae problems. It is best to clean the substrate and filter sponge/pad on a regular basis to avoid food becoming stuck and leaking nutrients.

Poor aquarium maintenance

Perhaps you are feeding your betta fish the recommended amount and there are few to no leftovers, but you do not clean your fish tank on a regular basis. As previously discussed, a lack of water changes causes nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates to quickly build up, resulting in cloudy aquarium water, algae, or both.

Cloudy water can usually be cleared up quickly with water changes and a thorough cleaning, but for larger tanks, a UV sterilizer may be necessary. Algae is more of a pain and will take weeks to months to clear up; especially in a betta tank, natural algae removal solutions can be difficult due to aggression.

Poor source of water

Maybe your problem isn’t caused by overfeeding or poor aquarium maintenance; maybe it’s caused by something else entirely.

Tap water may be convenient and readily available for use in a betta fish tank, but it is not the best choice for tank longevity. Tap water is typically contaminated with a variety of unknowns, ranging from nitrates to heavy metals; the only way to know for certain what is in your tap water is to undergo a laboratory test, which can be quite costly.

Reverse osmosis (RO) or distilled water removes the majority of impurities from water, reducing the risk of future complications with parameters and possibly algae. So, while your tank may not be cloudy due to your betta fish, the source water is giving the impression that it is.

Complex Betta Aquarium Cleaning

If you have a large aquarium, you will need to prepare water for topping off the aquarium after cleaning. The water lost during the clean (removed by the vacuum) will be contaminated, and we recommend that you do not reuse it.

Some aquariums can be more than just gravel and decorations. They can be densely planted, carefully arranged, and contain more than just a betta, making it difficult to move everything for cleaning. Cleaning the aquarium without removing everything, on the other hand, is simple; here’s how.

To begin, you’ll need two basic items: an aquarium gravel cleaner / vacuum (view one here on Amazon), also known as an aquarium syphon, and an aquarium scrub (magnetic, if possible). When you have those, you can do the following:

  1. Depending on how much water you plan to remove from the aquarium when using the method outlined below, you may or may not want to remove your betta. If you want to, use a net or cup to remove the betta from the aquarium. It’s fine to keep the betta in a large mug (or something similar) with some aquarium water while you clean. Cover the temporary container so your betta can’t escape.
  2. A gravel cleaner vacuums up any waste or debris from the gravel. Gravel cleaners can be powered or motorized, or they can function like a siphon. They are a long tube-like structure with two ends: the vacuuming end (which is placed in the gravel) and the output end (which is where the water carrying debris exits and should be placed in a bucket). Simply set the vacuum column down in the gravel. If your cleaner is not motorized, you may need to shake the column slightly to start suction (this is to do with the science of syphoning). The instructions that come with the cleaner will explain how this works.
  3. When the cleaner begins to suck, move the column around the gravel. The cleaner will not carry the gravel away, but it will vacuum up any light debris and waste that is present in the gravel. However, it will remove water from the aquarium. Vacuum the gravel around any plants or ornaments, and try to clean the gravel as thoroughly as possible without disrupting the aquarium layout. The movement of the gravel will bring debris into the water, but if you have a filter, the debris will be caught.
  4. Consider the aquarium’s walls after the gravel has been thoroughly cleaned. If they need a good scrub, use a magnetic aquarium scrub to get rid of any dirt or algae. If you have a non-magnetic aquarium scrub, you can scrub it off.
  5. The water in your aquarium may appear filthy at this point. Sometimes when you push the syphon through the gravel, not all of the waste is vacuumed up. This is fine; a good time to clean your aquarium is when you’re about to change the water. The cleaner will remove a portion of the water while cleaning the gravel. Keep in mind that the cleaner will remove more water the longer it is in the aquarium. Because the water removed by the cleaner contains a lot of waste, you won’t be able to replenish the aquarium with it. If you’re going to do a large percentage water change, keep in mind that you must prepare the water ahead of time. Water must be prepared in advance for any water change greater than 50%.
  6. Allow the aquarium to sit for 10 minutes to allow the filter to clear any debris. Recalculate the percentage of fresh water required. It’s also a good idea to replace the filter cartridge at this point, as this will aid in the removal of extra debris.

It should be noted that depending on the strength and size of the vacuum, removing the betta from the aquarium may be a good idea. We’ve never heard of anyone’s betta being sucked up by a gravel vacuum while cleaning, but it’s best to be cautious. Most aquarium vacuums’ piping isn’t large enough to suck up a betta anyway. Just be cautious when cleaning the aquarium with your fish.

How to do a thorough aquarium clean

  1. Begin by preparing any water that will be used for a water change. If you’re going to do a large water change after cleaning (say, 80 percent), you’ll need to plan ahead of time to ensure that the water condition and temperature are appropriate for your betta when it’s returned to the aquarium. More information on water preparation can be found here.
  2. This brings us to the next step, which is to remove the fish. Using a net or cup, remove the betta from the aquarium. While you clean, you can keep the little guy in a large mug (or something similar) with some aquarium water. Cover the temporary container so your betta can’t escape.
  3. Next, collect the percentage of aquarium water that will need to be added back to the aquarium (if any water was replaced after cleaning) and store it in a clean container. For example, if you’re doing an 80 percent water change, collect 20 percent; if you’re doing a 20 percent water change, collect 80 percent; and so on. If your aquarium has a filter, the filtration output nozzle is a good place to collect water. The remaining water can then be discarded so that the aquarium can be cleaned.
  4. Remove any ornaments, rocks, or artificial plants, and so on. Place the gravel in a bucket by scooping it out with a small spade or your hands. After you’ve removed everything from the aquarium, you can begin washing and scrubbing it. It’s fine to wash out the aquarium with tap water, but make sure to scrub it with something appropriate, as some cloths and towels contain cleaning chemicals that can harm the aquarium. It is best to use an aquarium scrub or a natural sea sponge. A small hose or a tap tail can be used to spray the sides of the aquarium. You can begin cleaning the other items once the inside appears clean, with no remnants of waste or debris.
  5. To clean the gravel, thoroughly wash and sieve it until all debris and waste is removed. Simply wash and scrub the aquarium ornaments / artificial plants under running water to clean them.
  6. Now that everything is clean, you can replace the gravel, replace any ornaments and artificial plants, and begin adding water. Add the percentage of aquarium water you originally removed, followed by the batch of freshly prepared water. Allow the system to filter for 10 minutes. Check that the temperature is correct — if everything is in order, reintroduce your betta to the aquarium. If the filter cartridge needs to be replaced, now is a good time to do so.

One thing to keep in mind: this is a very thorough method of cleaning the aquarium. This method isn’t always necessary; there are less thorough methods of cleaning an aquarium, which we discuss below in relation to cleaning a complex aquarium. When performing a thorough clean, keep in mind that you do not want to remove any of the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium. So, as suggested, keep a percentage of the original aquarium water.

Furthermore, many of the beneficial bacteria live in the filter media (unless it’s replaceable media like carbon or charcoal). To prevent the media from drying out while cleaning, either fill the filtration media compartment with water (if it retains water after the water level has been reduced) or remove the media and submerge it in a container of aquarium water.

Should you remove your fish from the tank while cleaning it?

Ideally, you should keep your betta fish in the aquarium while cleaning it because removing them can stress them out; however, you should only remove them if you’re changing 80 percent or more of the water in their tank. In this case, carefully remove them with an aquarium net and place them in a bowl or large mug filled with plenty of water from their aquarium, covering it with something breathable.

Should you clean the filter along with the aquarium?

Your betta tank requires an aquarium filter, such as the Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter, but you should not clean or change the media while cleaning and changing the water in your tank. Filters contain beneficial bacteria colonies that contribute to the creation of a healthy tank ecosystem, so changing them at the same time as the water can cause havoc.

When cleaning your betta fish tank, avoid the following products.

All that is required for water changes is a method to remove and add water as well as de-chlorinate; no other chemicals are required. Most beginners, however, want to clean their tank before filling it with water when setting up a tank. They use soap far too often to clean the tank. Soap and detergent will always result in a dead betta fish.

Even trace amounts of soap or detergent can harm your betta fish. Soap, in short, interferes with gill function, causing your fish to drown. This can happen quickly, but it is easily avoidable. If you have an aquarium or other aquarium equipment or accessories that you know has come into contact with soap, quickly remove up to 80% of the water and refill the tank; you want to dilute the soap as quickly as possible. Repeat this process several times more; adding activated carbon may also aid in the removal of the soap.

When cleaning an established tank, always rinse as much as possible with spent aquarium water. However, when starting a new tank, you may feel compelled to clean it before filling it with water. Fortunately, there are a few alternatives to soap that are much less harmful and just as easy to obtain.

Most aquarium accessories and decorations can be cleaned with diluted white vinegar. Simply combine water and white vinegar in a 1:1 ratio and rinse or soak. Make sure to rinse the cleaned objects several times to ensure that there is no vinegar residue; while unlikely if thoroughly rinsed, vinegar can also affect pH levels.

If in doubt, simply use warm water. This is especially true for new setups where you can still dry off surfaces to prevent tap water from entering your system.

Conclusion

Betta fish are relatively simple to care for, but that doesn’t mean they require any less care than other tropical species. Before you go out and buy your first fish, make sure you understand how to clean a betta fish tank and all of the maintenance that goes into keeping your tank in top condition.

If you have any questions about why you should clean a betta fish tank, how to clean a betta fish tank, or if you’ve had a particularly dirty betta, please leave a comment below!

Caring is demonstrated by sharing!

Leave a Reply