How to Clean Your Fish Tank with Vinegar

Cleaning a fish tank with vinegar is super simple and a great way to spruce things up in and around your aquarium.

Vinegar is acidic, so it breaks down gunk and algae (most kinds at least), making them easier to scrub and rinse away.

Since it’s nontoxic, you can use vinegar on a large variety of aquarium related things:

  • Outside glass
  • Lids
  • Rocks
  • Resin decor
  • Heaters
  • Filter pipes and tubes

Just don’t use vinegar directly in the tank. Remove items from the aquarium and be sure to rinse them really well before you put them back in.

Equipment Needed

  • Vinegar – I use either white or apple cider vinegar, whichever one I have in the cabinet.
  • Clean empty spray bottle
  • Tap water
  • Plastic bristle scrub brush 
  • Paper towels (optional)
  • Squeegee (optional, but also really awesome)

Don’t ever use cleaning equipment (brushes, buckets, spray bottles, etc.) that has been used for household cleaning. The residues left behind, even if something has been rinsed, can be deadly to fish. I recommend labeling your aquarium cleaning equipment with a permanent marker to prevent it from being used for household messes accidentally.

Mixing Your Solution

Mix together a 50/50 solution of vinegar and plain tap water in an empty spray bottle.

Cleaning your Tank with Vinegar

  • Outside glass – spray down liberally with vinegar. Wipe with paper towels. Use a squeegee for extra shine.
  • Lids – remove lids from the tank. Place them outside or in your shower or tub. Spray down heavily with vinegar mix, especially any areas with white residue. Let sit for several minutes. Use a scrub brush for stubborn buildup. Rinse well and repeat if needed.
  • Decor/rocks – remove items that need cleaning from the tank and place them outside or in your bathtub. Spray with vinegar mix and give a light scrub. Spray with vinegar again and allow items to sit for several minutes. Rinse well with tap water and repeat if needed.
  • Filter pipes and hoses – while the tank is partially drained during a water change, spray paper towels with vinegar until they are damp. Wipe down filter hoses, pipes and lift tubes to remove algae and mineral deposits.

Conclusions on Cleaning Tank with Vinegar

I really like to use vinegar as a cleaning solution for my aquariums. It’s safe for fish and invertebrates and doesn’t leave behind any kind of harmful residue.

Because vinegar is acidic, it will eat away calcium deposits that build up on equipment and lids. This is great, because otherwise, you can scrub on that stuff all day and not get it off.

Just make sure that you let it sit so it has time to work.

And vinegar is even cheap and plentiful, available in every grocery store. It’s so simple.

I hope you find this article helpful.

I wish you and your fish the very best!

Katherine Morgan
Katherine Morgan

Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. An aquarium specialist, I've kept tanks for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast.

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