How to Clean a Betta Fish Tank

Cleaning a Betta fish tank is a step by step process that cannot be completed in haste. As a beginner, you may feel overwhelmed at first.

The good news is that the procedure outlined in this guide is easy to follow. However, make sure that you follow it accurately.

Betta fish are fragile and yours may get stressed during the cleanup. Once you get the hang of it, cleaning the tank will be easy.

However, before starting, there are some things you should know.

How Often You Should Clean the Tank

To answer this question, answer these first:

  • How large is the tank?
  • Does it have a filter?
  • Is there more than one betta fish in there?

If the tank is large and doesn’t have a filter, cleanup should be once a month.

Fish poop and algae can build up quite fast in this environment. If you have a filter, give the tank a thorough cleaning every six to eight months.

Some plant-based aquariums can go years without a cleanup. That’s because those have a balanced ecosystem that cleans itself.

Note: Your Betta fish tank likely has a lot of good bacteria that you want to keep. So don’t rinse everything trying to make it squeaky clean. For example, avoid cleaning the filter and decorations too aggressively. These most likely have a beneficial bacteria buildup.

How to Clean the Betta Tank

Just follow these steps to make your betta tank sparkle without killing your beautiful fish:

Step 1 – Gather Cleanup Tools and Do Due Diligence

A cloth and some soapy water won’t do the trick.

Betta tanks can get really dirty especially if they don’t have filters. Here are some essential tools you will need to do a good job:

  • Rubber gloves that come right up to your elbows.
  • A gravel vacuum to collect all of those tiny stones.
  • Large, separate bowls for the gravel and decorations.
  • A toothbrush to get into those nooks and crannies.
  • An algae scrubber to remove stubborn buildup.
  • A small net to scoop up the fish.
  • A fishbowl where the betta fish can chill as you clean.
  • A small cup to remove water from the tank.

A Note on the Importance of Gloves

Your betta fish tank is home to more than just your fish. It houses millions of harmful bacteria that thrive in that wet ecosystem. Some can cause nasty health problems for your fish. In fact, they can also make you ill. So make sure your hands are covered by gloves during the cleanup stage.

Avoid cleaning the tank if your hands have open sores or cuts. The latex may not be able to prevent bacteria from getting in.

Gloves will also prevent bacteria from your hands from contaminating the water. So when you are replacing the water, make sure there is no residue on your hands.

Anything can introduce dangerous bacteria in the water and make it lethal for your fish. These can multiply quickly so you may not be able to save your fish in time.

Besides this, even a tiny amount of some liquids can kill off the betta fish. This includes gasoline or lighter fluid.

So wipe your hands thoroughly beforehand. This will also prevent you from spreading bacteria around your home. Just make sure that you dispose of the gloves later.

Step 2 – Turn off All Electrical Appliances in the Tank

Turn off the lights, filter, air bubbler, filter, and anything else that is powering the tank. Place each item on a dry surface away from the tank.

This is for your own safety. Just because they are waterproof, doesn’t mean you cannot get electrocuted.

Step 3 – Remove the Decorations

Next, slip on the gloves and remove the decorations from the tank one by one.

Place them in the large bowl, not on the floor. Do this slowly or they may slip from your hands and get damaged.

Plus, your betta fish will not get stressed out. By taking your time, you will make him used to the invasion.

Step 4 – Remove Some Water from the Tank

Betta fish are fragile. A sudden change in the environment can put them in shock.

So don’t upend the tank! Use a small cup to scoop out 70% to 80% of the water only and set it aside. This is important because the fish may die in 100% freshwater.

The water you set aside should be placed in the tank post-cleanup (to make sure you don’t end up changing the environment for betta too much).

Step 5 – Remove the Betta Fish from the Tank

Fill the fishbowl with some water from the tank and some freshwater. Then, use the small net to scoop the fish out gently.

Submerge the net with the fish in the fishbowl. Don’t tilt it above the bowl. You may miss and your fish may die as it falls to the ground.

Place a cover on top of the fishbowl to prevent the fish from jumping out. Just make sure you leave enough space for oxygen to get in.

Step 6 – Clean the Decorations (Only if it’s too dirty)

Since the decorations in the tank often have a beneficial bacteria build-up, don’t scrub clean them.

While I would recommend leaving them as is, but in case you feel these are too dirty, just clean a little bit with water. Maybe only clean half the decorations and leave the half as is.

Step 7 – Clean the Gravel

The gravel is the dirtiest component in the tank. All of the fish poop and debris settle down there so this isn’t surprising.

Take out all of the gravel using a gravel vacuum and place it in a sieve. Then, run warm water over it and use your hands to loosen slime and dirt.

Rinse repeatedly till you cannot feel any dirt or slime. Once that’s done, place the clean gravel aside to drain completely.

Gravel also contains a lot of good bacteria, but it also has a tendency to accumulate leftover food and dirt. A lot of experts advise against vacuuming the gravel (as it also removes the good bacteria), I tend to do it.

Step 8 – Clean And Scrub the Tank

Once that is done, clean and scrub the tank itself.

First, drain the remaining water in the tank and place it in your bathtub. Scrub the bottom and sides with a soft brush or algae scrubber.

You can also use a bottle brush if you can’t find one for fish tanks. Make sure you scour nooks and crannies as well.

Dirt, algae, and slime can accumulate there. Do not use soap. Once the tank is clean, give it a rinse.

Step 9 – Place Everything Back In

Pour the clean gravel back into the tank. Use your hands to spread it evenly over the bottom.

Make sure the glass doesn’t show through. Then, place the clean decorations back in their original positions in the tank.

Make sure they are spread out evenly. Here are some great ideas you can use as inspiration. Finally, place the electrical appliances back in.

Step 10 – Refill the Tank

Pour the old water you set aside in the beginning back in the tank first. Make sure you do this slowly. Otherwise, you may agitate the gravel and destroy the setup.

Once the water settles, fill up the rest of the tank with freshwater. Give the water a stir gently and adjust the décor if it moves.

Plus, make sure the temperature and pH are close to what your fish is used to. Your fish won’t die in that bowl. Allow 24 to 48 hours for the water to settle and come to room temperature.

It should be between 72 to 80 °F. If you place the fish back as soon as the water is in, it may die from shock. The drastic temperature change will be too much for it to handle.

Step 11 – Put the Fish Back In

Once the temperature is just right, reintroduce your betta fish to the tank. Don’t upend the fishbowl in there. Scoop out the fish in a cup with water.

Then, submerge the cup in the tank. Your fish will swim out on its own.

Be careful when you are handling the fish. Those gorgeous fins are delicate and can tear easily.

Final Thoughts

Consider installing a filter in the clean tank if it doesn’t have one. Your fish will remain healthy for weeks rather than days.

Plus, change 20% to 30% of the water every couple of weeks or so. That way, you won’t have to do a deep clean for a year. The cleaning process can be taxing so this is a good idea to consider.

A betta fish can be a lifelong companion if it is treated well. A clean tank should be a priority. The aforementioned cleaning guide will prove useful when the tank gets scummy.

It will come in particularly handy if you want to expand your fish family. The more fish there are in the tank, the more often it needs to be cleaned.

Consider getting your fish some companions to stimulate it. Just make sure you get species that it can live amicably with. Some may turn on the betta fish or vice versa.

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