How to Sterilize Fish Tank and Equipment

How to Sterilize Fish Tank and Equipment

Learning how to sterilize fish tank and equipment required for fishkeeping is a fundamental skill every aquarist needs to have. Safely disinfecting a used or brand-new aquarium is the first vital step you take when getting into the fishkeeping hobby.

So, how do you sterilize aquarium and fishkeeping equipment, and what sterilizing solutions can you use to sanitize a tank without endangering the life of your fish?

Depending on the reason for sterilizing your fish tank, there are several methods you can use. However, the two commonly known solutions are bleach soaks, and vinegar soaks.

Fish keepers, especially beginners, are often afraid to use bleach as a disinfectant, but if done right, it is the most effective way to sanitize a fish tank after a disease outbreak.

On the other hand, vinegar soaks are less aggressive disinfecting solutions, but they can be safe in removing mineral build-ups and preparing a tank for its first set-up.

Note: Regardless of the sterilizing method you choose, you should never use disinfectants while your fish are in the tank. Empty your tank before starting to sterilize it.

How to Sterilize Fish Tank and Equipment

green plant with water droplets
Fish tank

1. Bleach Solution

To prepare bleach solution to disinfect your tank, mix one part of bleach with eight parts of water, and create an 8:1 ratio (8 cups of water for every 1 cup of bleach).

Depending on the fishkeeping equipment you want to disinfect along with your fish tank, ensure you have enough bleach solution to completely submerge the gear you want to sterilize.

The bleach should be a typical household bleach. Don’t use bleach mixed with other detergents.


  1. Fill out a spray bottle with the bleach solution and spray the inside and outside parts of the fish tank.
  2. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let it sit longer since bleach is a corrosive chemical and may cause damage to your aquarium.
  3. Rinse your tank thoroughly using clean water (this is the essential step of the process).
  4. Allow your tank to air dry for 24 hours before you can use it. This will help to ensure that bleach solution is broken down into safe byproducts.
  5. Once you set up your aquarium, fill your tank with water, and add an aquarium water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine residue.
  6. Let it sit for 1-2 hours. Your fish tank is now ready for use.

See also: How do I remove scratches from my acrylic aquarium?

blue and gray fish near corrals
Fish tank

2. Vinegar Solution

To clean your fish tank, heater, filter, and all decorations using vinegar solution, mix clean water and regular vinegar in a ratio of 1:1. If you have particularly hard water, try using a 2:1 vinegar solution (2 parts vinegar to 1 part water) to eliminate limescale accumulation effectively.


  1. Fill out a spray bottle with the vinegar solution and generously spray all the tank surfaces. Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the state of your fish tank.
  2. Soak your fishkeeping gears in the vinegar solution for at least 10 minutes. To remove stubborn mineral deposits, you can let your equipment soak for up to 3-4 hours.
  3. Rinse your tank and equipment thoroughly with clean water.
  4. Allow both the tank and equipment to air dry for 24 hours.
  5. Fill up your tank, and add an aquarium water conditioner before reintroducing your fish.

Read: How long to dechlorinate water for fish?

FAQs on How to Sterilize Fish Tank and Equipment

Is Bleach Harmful to My Aquarium or Fish?

When used in the right concentration, bleach is a harmless disinfectant to sterilize a fish tank and fish-keeping equipment. Bleach is mainly recommended when entirely cleaning out the fish tank. This can be when you have had a fish die in your aquarium, or it has been in storage for some time.

If rinsed thoroughly with clean water and air-dried for at least 24 hours, an aquarium disinfected with a bleach solution is safe for your fish as well.

Here are some critical safety measures to be aware of when using bleach:

– Don’t mix bleach with any other chemicals, including soap, fish tank chemicals, or other cleaning products.
– Don’t bleach in concertation higher than 10%
– Don’t soak anything in bleach for more than 15 minutes.

How Do I Sterilize My Fish Tank Nets?

It is recommended that you disinfect fish tank nets after every use using a maximum of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Hydrogen peroxide in this concentration is harmless to fish since it decomposes into only oxygen and water without any toxic residue.

Start by generously spraying your entire aquarium net with hydrogen peroxide. Leave it to sit for about 15-30 minutes (you may notice the peroxide turn white on the net as it kills bacteria).

Rinse off the whole fish tank net by carefully running on hot water. Allow the net to air-dry overnight.

Note: If by any chance your fish tank net happens to be covered in dirt, then you may need to wash the net first with an unscented antibacterial foaming soap before using this method.

See also: How do I get air bubbles out of my fish tank?

What Equipment Do I Need to Sterilize Fish Tank and Equipment?

Besides plenty of clean water and a designated container that you use when disinfecting aquarium and fishkeeping equipment, there are other essential items you need to have on hand. These include:

– Disinfecting solution of choice (vinegar, bleach, hydrogen peroxide)
– Replacement filter media for your tank’s filtration unit
– No-toxic fish tank cleaner for your stand, lid, and frame
– Magnetic algae pads to eliminate the algae build-up
– Water conditioner to eliminate chlorine and prepare your tank for a new start
– Acrylic fish tank cleaner and microfiber cloths
– Elbow-length gloves and safety goggles
– Glass scraper to eliminate stubborn algae build-ups

As you can see, you can safely disinfect a fish tank and fishkeeping equipment with the most basic solutions that you probably already have in your household.

Ensure you mix the sterilizing solutions in the correct concentrations and follow the rinsing and air-drying instructions before reintroducing your fish to the disinfected tank.

It’s important to note that disinfecting a fish tank should only be done in unusual situations, not as a regular tank cleaning routine.

Read: Best 30-gallon fish tank


Life with Pets: How to Disinfect Your Aquarium

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