Everything you ever wanted to know about cleaning!

How do you clean new substrate?
•    The best way is to place a bit at a time in a bucket.
•    Fill the bucket with water and stir the substrate with your hand.
•    Tip out the empty water leaving the substrate in the bottom. This will need to be repeated until the water that you are pouring out is crystal clear (when you think it is clean rinse it a few more times to be sure, because dirty substrate isn’t a good way to start the tank). 

How do you clean substrate in the tank?
•    There is a device called a vacuum siphon, which is a thick clear tube connected to a hose. The way it works is you siphon water through the hose, so when you force the thick tube into the substrate the siphoning water pulls the substrate into the thick tube, allowing the substrate to bounce around in the thick tube then fall to the bottom again. As the substrate is bouncing around in the tube the debris (which is lighter than the substrate) gets sucked out the siphon hose.
•    Stirring the gravel will help clean it.
•    Remove any food that is left uneaten straight away.
•    Keeping fish that stir the bottom will keep the substrate cleaner. 

How do you clean the glass?
•    An aquarium sponge is the most common tool to clean the glass (don’t use a household sponge because many contain chemicals that will kill the fish).
•    Stubborn spots may need to be removed with a razor blade.
•    There are magnetic glass cleaners that enable you to clean the glass without wetting your hands.   
•    If you wish to clean an empty tank or the front glass you can use methylated spirits and a rag.

How do you bleach dead coral?
•     Add 2 cups of bleach per bucket and allow it to soak for 2 weeks.
•    After bleaching lightly hose then soak in fresh water till the smell has totally gone.
•    Be careful where you leave the bucket of bleach because it is toxic to animals and kids. Ensure all bleach has been removed before you return it to the tank as bleach is harmful to the tank’s inhabitants.

How do you clean decorations if you fear disease contamination?
•    Boiling them.
•    Bleaching them.
•    Hosing them.
•    Scrubbing them.
•    Drying them.
•    If in doubt do without.

How do you clean a Protein skimmer?
•    Lift off the collection cup and pour out the liquid adsorbate (which is great for plant fertilizer or practical jokes).
•    Wipe the whole cup with a wet sponge or brush, concentrating on the stem to remove accumulated fatty acids.
•    A few times a year the skimmer and pump must be taken apart and totally cleaned.
•    With the protein skimmer don’t use an adsorbate drain if it means you may not clean out the skimmer as regularly. It is not just emptying the collected liquid that is important, it is wiping off the fatty acids that accumulate in the neck of the skimmer which reduce the effectiveness of its operation. 

How do you clean out an external canister filter that is set up biologically?
•    You should have water prepared ready for a water change before you start to clean out a biological canister filter.
•    Switch off the power.
•    Remove the filter from the tank and take it outside or to the sink (if the filter has a shut off tap system this is an easy job).
•    Empty the separate media into separate buckets.
•    Drain water from your tank into the bucket (don’t take out more water than you are prepared to replace) and swirl the media in the water with your hand. The media doesn’t need to get really clean - all you have to do is try to remove some debris off the media, to stop it from clogging.
•    Put the media back in the filter in the same order with replaced wool.
•    Fill the tank up with water that you have prepared first (so you have not only cleaned the filter you have done a water change too).
•    Put the filter back into position and connect it up.
•    Fill it with water from the tank (by allowing the water to siphon through the inlet tube).
•    Turn it on.
•    Ensure that when you wash out the main biological medium do so in water from the tank not from the tap so you don’t kill the bacteria on it. 
•    It is also a good idea to add a chemical bacteria enhancer to the water so if any bacterial capacity was lost it will be rebuilt quickly.

How do you clean out an external canister filter that is set up mechanically?
•    Switch off the power.
•    Remove the filter from the tank and take it outside or to the sink (if the filter has a shut off tap system this is an easy job).
•    Empty the separate media into separate buckets.
•    Wash the media under the tap so it is clean and replace the wool.
•    Put the filter back into position and connect it up.
•    Fill it with water from the tank (by allowing the water to siphon through the inlet tube).
•    Turn it on.

How do you clean a trickle filter?
•    The trickle filter should have a decent pre-filter that is cleaned regularly
•    The biological media in the trickle filter should never need cleaning, because this will only cause bacteria loss.

How do you clean an algae bed filter?
•    Just scrape out the established algae. 
•    A plastic knife can be used to scrape out the algae.
•    Ensure the post-filter is cleaned after you clean the filter to stop algae spurs getting into the tank. 

How do you clean a settling filter?
•    The best way is to siphon the debris out of the bottom of the filter.
•    You can use a fine net to scoop out the waste if you aren’t due for a water change.

How do you clean live rock?
•    It is advisable to shake any new rock in a bucket of salt water before you place it in to the tank to remove any free debris.
•    Every few weeks a powerhead can be aimed at your live rock and corals to disturb any debris that may settle on them (or even just swipe your hand over them to blow away settled debris).

How do you clean a pump?
•    Pull it apart and scrub the impeller with a toothbrush and free the internal chamber of any debris or calcium settlements.
•    Some water pumps have pre-filters so it is important to clean them as regularly as possible to reduce the chance of them hampering flow.
•    With air pumps you must ensure that the air filter is always clean or the flow will slow and air quality will lower.  

How do you clean filter pipes?
•    Wire or string can be tied to a piece of cloth and fed through the pipe. When you pull on the wire that is hanging out of the tube the cloth is pulled through the pipe wiping the inside of the pipe as it goes through it. The size of the cloth you use will be determined by the size of the hose.
•    There are many pipe cleaners available on the market.
•    Flushing or soaking the pipe with fresh water can be a good idea.

How do you rid a surface of calcium build-up?
Wipe or soak it in vinegar.

How do you clean the lids?
•    The lids on the tank can be cleaned with a razor blade to scrape off  algae and salt creep, then wiped over with a sponge. 
•    Do this as regularly as possible to ensure that they are always clean, to allow full light penetration.

How do you clean the lights?
Wipe over the tubes and reflectors with a dry cloth or sponge to remove any dust build-up.

How often should you clean pipes?
•    Clean clear pipes at least every 2 months.
•    PVC every year.

By Paul Talbot