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How To Clean A Betta Fish Tank? 11 Easy Steps & FAQs

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

betta fish in bowl

You may be wondering how to clean a betta fish tank, something we are here to go over today. Right now, let’s go over a short and simple guide on how to clean a betta fish tank the best way possible.

It can all be done with just a few tools and items, and a few minutes of time each week. Here is a complete guide of what you will need, and a simple step-by-step guide on how to do the job properly.

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Tools Needed To Clean Your Betta Aquarium

There are a few things that you’ll need to clean the aquarium of your betta fish. Here is a complete list of the things you’ll need to get that aquarium back into pristine condition.

1. A Gravel Vacuum

gravel vacuum
Image credit: Dmitri Ma, Shutterstock

You will need a decent gravel vacuum to clean your fish tank for a betta. Most of the filth, waste, and uneaten food will be located at the bottom of the tank, in the gravel, Therefore, you’ll need a gravel vacuum to suck it all out.

Cleaning the gravel is by far one of the most important aspects of this whole exercise, so always make sure to do it.

2. Algae Scrubber

Algae is always a threat in any fish tank, whether a betta fishes tank or otherwise. Algae often build up on the aquarium glass, and if left unchecked, can multiply very quickly, particularly if you do not have any algae-eating aquarium inhabitants in the tank.

3. Bowl & Bucket

When you go to clean the betta fish tank, you have to take the betta fish out of the aquarium, which is why you will need a small bowl to house it in while you do the cleaning.

At the same time, you will also need a container or large bowl to put all of the tank decorations in while you clean the tank.

4. Tap Water & Water Conditioner

A big part of cleaning any betta tank is performing a water change, anywhere from 30% to 50% of the water. Therefore, you will need some tap water to refill the aquarium with, and you will also need some water conditioner to treat the water so it is safe for the fish.

Image Credit: MARVIK, Shutterstock

5. Razor Blade

A razor blade can come in handy to scrape off any stuck-on debris, whether in the tank or on the decorations.

6. Fish Net

You will need to remove the betta fish from the aquarium to clean the tank, and this is done using a fishnet.

7. Toothbrush

You will need a toothbrush, or some other small and medium-stiff bristled brush. You will use this to clean off the aquarium decorations.

Image Credit: Kadisha, Pixabay

How often does a betta fish tank need to be cleaned?

Adam from Pango Pets says you should clean the tank and perform a water change every week if you want to keep the aquarium for your betta fish in prime condition, with awesome water quality.

If you manage to clean the tank every single week, the water quality should remain very high, the tank will be clean always, and filth will never build up to the point where it negatively impacts the fish or the look of the aquarium.

If you wait any more than a full week to clean the betta fish tank and to perform a water change, you will end up with a mass of filth that will be difficult to clean.

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The 11-Step Guide To Cleaning Your Fish Tank

Let’s go through an in-depth step by step guide on how to clean your betta fish tank, to get it looking brand new.

1. Wash Up

The first thing that you should do before you get started is to wash your hands with warm water and gentle soap.

Remember that if you use soap, make sure to rinse off very well afterward, as soap residue can make fish very ill and even kill them too. You want your own hands to be clean before you begin this project.

Liquid soap
Image Credit: kboyd, Pixabay

2. Unplug Everything

Before you start doing anything at all, you need to unplug anything electrical in or around the aquarium. This means unplugging all air pumps, filters, lights, heaters, UV sterilizers, and everything else too.

Unless specifically intended to be submerged, you don’t want any active electrical units, such as lights, falling into the tank water. This could cause electrocution to both you and the fish in the aquarium, or just a serious injury at the very least.

3. Scoop Out Water

This is related to performing a water change in the aquarium. Remember that every week, you want to do a water change in the aquarium, changing anywhere from 30% to 50% of the water. Therefore, use some kind of scoop or bowl to take out about 50% of the water, and put this in a bucket for later use.

You will be putting this water back in the tank when you are done cleaning it. Remember, changing more than 50% of the water at a time can be dangerous, plus most of the waste will be contained in the gravel, so as long as you clean the gravel, you should be fine.

4. Scoop out the Fish

When you go to clean the tank, you also need to remove the betta fish. So, using either a fishnet or the same cup used to remove the water, as gently and slowly as possible, remove the betta fish from the aquarium.

Take the betta fish and put it in the bucket with the water that you removed from the tank in the previous step. If need be, put some kind of screen over the bucket so the betta fish does not jump out. They are known jumpers, so you do need to be careful about this.

5. Remove Decorations

For a really thorough betta tank cleaning, you will also want to remove any and all decorations from the tank. You will wash these in the following steps. Remember, the aquarium decorations do get dirty as well, and they need to be washed and scrubbed.

Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

6. Use That Gravel Vacuum

Now it is time to put that gravel vacuum to use. Remember that cleaning the gravel is one of the most important aspects of this whole thing, as most of the waste and debris in the tank will be contained in the gravel.

Exactly how your gravel vacuum works will depend on the exact model, but however yours works, turn it on or manually activate it. Simply vacuum up any and all debris that you can see floating around and within the gravel.

You will want to get that gravel vacuum into the depths of the gravel and really move it around to get all of the debris. At the same time, you can also use the vacuum to remove the remaining water from the tank, as you will replace the remaining water with new water.

Some people choose to simply pour out the entire contents of the aquarium, pouring the gravel into a sieve and the remaining water down the sink, and then using warm tap water to wash the gravel off. However, this is much more difficult than simply using the gravel vacuum.

7. Remove Algae from the Tank

The next step here is to remove any and all algae from the aquarium. Remember that you need to use the razor blade and the algae scrubber, preferably a magnetic one, as you need to clean the entirety of the glass or plastic aquarium walls.

Run your algae scrubber over all possible surfaces to remove any and all algae from the equation. If the algae scrubber has not gotten rid of everything, use a razor blade to scrape off the algae in tight spaces. If algae builds up on the scrubber too much, you may need to rinse it off once or twice during this process.

8. Cleaning the Decorations

When cleaning the tank, you should also clean the decorations. For all large rocks and driftwood, cleaning these is essential to remove algae and debris. To do this simply, just rinse off all decorations under running water, and use a toothbrush to scrub off any debris.

If there is debris really caked onto the decorations, you can also submerge the decorations in simmering hot water to loosen up any debris, and then brush it off with a toothbrush or a similar brush. Set the decorations aside until it is time to put them back into the aquarium.

cleaning aquarium paraphernalia_Sergiy Akhundov_shutterstock
Image Credit: Sergiy Akhundov, Shutterstock

9. Adding the Water Back Into the Aquarium

This is one of the most crucial steps to follow and to get right, putting the water back into the tank. Ok, so first off, pour as much tap water into a bucket as you will need to fill the aquarium (keeping in mind that you still have 50% of the old water to add back into the tank).

Make sure to use water conditioner to ensure that the water is ready and healthy for fish, keeping in mind that most tap water contains chlorine.

You may need to treat the water to reach the right hardness level, the right pH level, and to remove chlorine from the mix. Allow this water to reach room temperature. Room temperature water is important to use, as you don’t want it being too hot or too cold.

Gently pour the conditioned water back into the betta tank, being very gentle in the process. The betta tank should now be about 50% full, as you still have the old aquarium water to reintroduce back into the tank, the water that the betta fish is currently sitting in.

This process may be slightly difficult because now you have to put your betta fish in a small cup of the same old tank water, while taking the remaining old tank water and also putting this back into the aquarium.

Give it a bit of a stir to mix the old and the new water. Depending on the temperature of the old and new water, you may need to wait for a good few hours for that water to reach the appropriate temperature for your betta fish.

10. Put the Decorations Back & Plug in the Electronics

Now that the betta tank is clean, you can also reintroduce the cleaned aquarium decorations into the tank. Once you have placed the decorations in the tank as you see fit, you can then plug in the filter, lights, and all of the other equipment that requires electricity.

11. Put the Betta Back into the Clean Tank

The last step is to put the betta fish back into the clean tank. Simply take the cup that you have the betta sitting in and put it in the tank. Tilt the cup slightly and wait for the betta to come out on its own.

Just be gentle and slow so you don’t injure the fish. Now you should have a happy betta in a super clean tank.

pink betta fish inside the aquarium
Image Credit: Icewall42, Pixabay

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Why is my betta fish tank so dirty?

There are a number of reasons why your aquarium for your betta may not be as clean as it should be, or just downright dirty.

  1. The smaller the aquarium is, the faster debris builds up, and the more regularly it needs to be cleaned.
  2. If your filter is too small, has not been cleaned, is broken, or does not properly engage in all 3 major forms of filtration, it could explain why the tank is so dirty.
  3. Overfeeding your fish can also lead to a dirty tank. If you feed them too much, some of the food will not be eaten and just end up rotting at the bottom. Moreover, if you overfeed your fish, they will also produce much more waste.
  4. One of the biggest reasons why betta tanks get so dirty is because many people just don’t clean them nearly enough. The sad reality is that much of it boils down to pure laziness and people’s unwillingness to clean their tanks on a regular basis.
blue betta fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Lapis2380, Shutterstock

Can you use soap to clean a betta fish tank?

No, absolutely not. Tanks should never be cleaned with any sort of soap. Fish are very sensitive and even the smallest amount of soap residue can make fish very ill and even kill them.

Even if you rinse the tank out very well, you still may not be able to remove all soap residue, so this is best avoided.

How often should you clean a 3-gallon betta fish tank?

How large the tank is doesn’t really matter that much. The rule of thumb is that any and all aquariums should be cleaned on a weekly basis.


There you have it folks, a step-by-step guide on cleaning your betta tank. If you do this on a weekly basis, the tank will always look and be clean, and you won’t ever have to deal with a huge cleanup job due to neglect.

Featured Image Credit: Expressionsbydesign, Pixabay

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