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How To Clean Plexiglass Fish Tanks? Tips & FAQs

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

washing cleaning fish tank

Plexiglass aquariums are quite popular nowadays, which is true for various reasons. If you did not already know, Plexiglass looks like glass from the outside, but it is very different. Plexiglass is a type of plastic more commonly known as acrylic. You have probably heard of acrylic before, especially if you are into fish and have debated between getting a glass and acrylic aquarium.

Well, many people love acrylic aquariums, but they can be a little troublesome to clean compared to their glass counterparts. So, how to clean a plexiglass fish tank seems to be a question that many need an answer to. Let’s get right to it and help you folks clean your plexiglass, AKA acrylic aquariums.

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Plexiglass AKA Acrylic Aquariums

Now, as we said, many people love acrylic aquariums compared to their glass counterparts. Acrylic aquariums, first of all, tend to be cheaper than glass aquariums (we have done a detailed comparison here), which is important for anyone who has a budget to follow. Next, plexiglass aquariums are much lighter than glass aquariums, thus reducing the weight load on anything supporting the aquarium.

Moreover, plexiglass aquariums are much harder to shatter than glass ones due to their higher level of impact resistance. There is also the fact that they can hold more water weight than glass. At the same time, plexiglass tends to not distort the image on the other side as much as glass does.

Also, plexiglass tends to have much stronger seams as they are welded together. Finally, plexiglass is much easier to manipulate into shapes and drill into, making it more versatile than glass for various uses and aquarium setups. However, plexiglass aquariums do have some major drawbacks.

One of the biggest drawbacks of these acrylic aquariums is that they are easy to scratch. Seriously, you could probably sneeze the wrong way and end up scratching a plexiglass fish tank. The issue this creates is in terms of cleaning. Cleaning a plexiglass aquarium without scratching it can be somewhat difficult. That being said, cleaning it without scratching it is possible, but you do need to take some precautions.

colorful fish in tank with bubbles
Image Credit: xzgorik, Shutterstock

How To Clean Plexiglass Fish Tanks

When it comes to cleaning your plexiglass fish tank, it is not like the process is completely different from cleaning a glass tank. You are more or less doing the same things in terms of cleaning the gravel or substrate, cleaning decorations, removing fish waste, and cleaning the tank walls.

However, you do need to be more careful when doing so with an acrylic or plexiglass tank as opposed to a glass tank. You need to be careful not to scratch it. As you will see from the points below, being careful not to scratch the tank is the moral of the story when it comes to cleaning plexiglass fish tanks.

So, let’s go over some of the best tips for you to follow so you can clean your plexiglass fish tank without scratching it up or degrading it in any other way.

  • When it comes to the exterior of the plexiglass tank, never use things like ammonia, alcohol, abrasive materials, or chemicals like Windex. All of these substances will in one way or another damage the plexiglass, whether the result is scratching, melting, or something else.
  • You need to use a cleaning substance specially designed for cleaning acrylic when cleaning the exterior of your plexiglass fish tank. Also, use something soft like a microfiber cloth to get the job done. Never use a hard sponge or scouring pad because the scratching that will occur will be severe.
  • To clean the interior walls of the plexiglass tank, you should use a magnetic cloth cleaning tool or just a soft cotton cloth. Yes, algae and grime do build upon interior aquarium walls, but you need to make sure that you clean it off without damaging the wall surface of the tank.
  • Make sure to do the wiping or magnetic cleaning steadily and slowly, preferably without any fish present in the tank and with all running air and water supply being turned off.
  • You need the water to be calm so that no loose sand or grit will float up and get between the cleaning tool and the plexiglass walls. This will cause scratching. Other than that, use the mag-float to clean the tank just as you would with a glass tank.
  • To get algae on tank walls that are near the substrate, use a plastic card or special plastic scraper to remove the algae while stirring up a little sand and substrate as possible.
  • If you are ever going to be changing the substrate for whatever reason, never simply dump it out as that will wreak havoc on the plexiglass walls. Always use some kind of convenient scoop or net to remove substrate, being extra careful not to rub against the plexiglass walls, especially with the substrate.
  • The same goes for adding new substrate into the tank. You can always try putting a soft cloth up against the glass in the area where you are working to stop the scratching from occurring.
  • Also, if you are going to be using a gravel vacuum to get rid of fish waste and other debris, make sure that you don’t come into contact with the plexiglass walls as scratching is bound to occur.
dirty aquarium tank
Image Credit: Maverick Ace, Shutterstock

What If Scratching Occurs?

Scratches can and do happen no matter how careful you are being with your acrylic or plexiglass aquarium. However, most scratches can be removed if they are not too deep. There are special acrylic buffing and repair kits that can be used. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging to remove the scratches.

There are some acrylic aquarium repair kits that can be used with water and animals in the tank, which of course helps make things a lot easier. Keep in mind that really deep, big, and severe scratches are going to be harder to buff out with a repair kit.

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In terms of cleaning a plexiglass fish tank, as long as you are careful, patient, and follow our tips, you really should not have a problem keeping it in prime condition. Plexiglass fish tanks get dirty just like glass ones, so if you have a plexiglass tank, you will need to clean it no doubt.

Feature Image Credit: MARVIK, Shutterstock

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