How To Clean An Empty Fish Tank

Last Updated on January 23, 2022 by Fabiola L.

How to clean an empty fish tank for an aquaponics system can simply be done with household detergent. It is important to avoid leaving residue of the cleaning product and the algae, dirt, or contaminants in the system. If your fish population gets infected or when you are using a new tank, cleaning an empty fish tank should be the first priority. Some products could cause nutrient imbalances and changes in ph from the residue of cleaning. Rinsing and letting the products dissolve back in clean water helps remove most of the residue from cleaning products. We will be discussing how to clean an empty fish tank based on the common containers used as fish tanks.

How To Clean An Empty Fish Tank Based On Their Material?

Fish tank maintenance in aquaponics does not require you to clean regularly if your nutrient balance and solids removal is enough. However, most systems will require regular emptying and cleaning of their fish tank to remove algae, solid fish waste, and precipitates. Some systems also need decontamination and cleaning if your fish got sick or infected. You will clean more often in high fish stacking density due to the amount of input and waste from the fishes. New fish tanks will also need to be prepared by cleaning thoroughly. Cleaning will make sure there are no harmful chemicals or residue from previous storage or manufacturing.

 cleaning an empty fish tank

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When Cleaning A Glass Or Plastic Fish Tank, Avoid Using Strong Pressurized Water That Could Break Your Fish Tank

Cleaning new glass and plastic fish tanks do not require deep cleaning as these materials are inert. If the container has been stored for long periods of time with dust, simply rinsing with water and a wet towel will work. You can then dry the container with a clean cloth or air dry in a clean open environment.

There will be instances when you will have to clean your fish tank due to algal growth or contamination from previous fish stock. Other times, recycled materials may have been used for products and could leave residue from previous use. Personally, I have used recycled food-grade IBC containers as fish tanks which were used for bulk transportation of shampoo or chocolate products. These containers can be cleaned for use in aquaponics if you prefer to use recycled materials. To clean your used IBC container, you can follow these three steps:

  1. Use detergent with a scrub to do a deep clean of the container.
  2. After which, wash and rinse off the detergent then drain the water out of the container.
  3. Repeat the process three times to remove most of the residue.
  4. Fill the container with dechlorinated water with pH between 6.0 to 7.0.
  5.  Leave overnight to remove residual detergent.
  6. Drain the water and fill with water from a healthy aquaponics system or with dechlorinated water with a pH between 6.0 to 7.0

The process for cleaning your glass or plastic fish tanks for maintenance or decontamination will be similar. However, avoid using strong pressurized washers for glass tanks and thin plastic pond liners as it might cause tears or cracks.

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How To Clean An Empty Concrete Fish Tank

Concrete fish tanks commonly get dirty and accumulate algal growth especially if exposed to sun. Surfaces will need to be scrubbed to remove the residue and algae. Otherwise, a pressure washer will make it easier. If your fish population was previously contaminated with disease or sickness, use detergent to kill the bacteria and viruses that could have stayed in the system. Rinse off the detergent using your pressure washer or through a hose. Repeat washing and rinsing off three times for good measure. Before drying, fill with dechlorinated and slightly acidic water to let the residue from washing dissolve. Drain the water again then fill with similarly prepared water or water from a healthy aquaponics system. The cleaning process can be done manually or with a pressure washer.

Do Not Use Recycled Containers That Are Not Food Grade Or Has Been Used For Strong Chemicals and Products

Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) used for products that are not food safe or strong chemicals should be avoided. Some chemicals and ingredients containing sodium or other metals will leave residue that is hard to remove without using diluted acid. Avoid using containers whose source or previous use is not known. Glass surfaces in general are easy to clean since most chemicals and products do not stick on the smooth surface. Detergents work well in removing most of the chemicals and solids on surfaces. However, there may be residue if the container is not rinsed properly.

Avoid Using Regular Bar Soap For Cleaning Your Fish Tank As This May React With Hard Water and Leave Residue

According to Nyco, soap reacts with hard water to form scum while detergents leave less residue even when used with hard water. Some soaps may contain sodium which will harm your fish and plants in the system in large concentrations of residue left. To make sure that there is no residue, choose detergents ideally made with potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide. Otherwise, rinsing well and leaving water in the fish tank overnight will allow most of the residue to dissolve and drain out. Detergents made with sodium hydroxide don’t leave residue due to the builders present in the detergent.

Cleaning an empty fish tank regularly for maintenance is a common practice in cases of contamination or new use. Practitioners will fail and encounter fish kills often when starting out. If your fish population was infected, it would be best to empty the fish tank of the contaminated water. After emptying the fish tank, it will be easier to clean the surfaces. Using detergent for any fish tank is safe. However strong pressure washers can break glass or plastic fish tanks. Washing three times is common laboratory practice to ensure the container is free of contaminants. Ensuring that the fish tank is free of chemicals that may affect your fish and plant population is the priority for cleaning.

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