The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Acrylic Fish Tank for a Crystal Clear Aquarium - From Boredom to Bliss

The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Acrylic Fish Tank for a Crystal Clear Aquarium

Keeping fish can be an incredibly rewarding hobby. Watching your aquatic pets swim gracefully through a pristine aquarium provides relaxation and joy. However, without proper maintenance, algae and debris can accumulate and make the water cloudy or dirty. This not only detracts from the aquarium’s beauty, but can be dangerous for your fish. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to properly clean an acrylic fish tank.

Acrylic aquariums have many advantages over traditional glass tanks. Acrylic is lightweight, durable, and allows for curved shapes and seamless designs. However, acrylic can easily be scratched if cleaned incorrectly. Follow this guide to get sparkling results each time you clean your acrylic tank, without damaging the material.

You’ll learn the best methods and products for cleaning inside the tank, outside surfaces, gravel and decorations. Pro tips for removing stubborn algae buildup are also included. By following these easy steps, you can achieve a crystal clear aquarium that both you and your fish will enjoy.

Understanding a Fish Tank

What is an acrylic fish tank?

Acrylic aquariums are made from acrylic plastic rather than glass. Acrylic is a transparent thermoplastic material that is lightweight, strong, and shatter-resistant. It became a popular alternative to glass for fish tanks in the 1950s.

Acrylic aquariums are molded into shape using heat, allowing for curved corners and creative designs. They are much lighter than traditional glass tanks, making them easier to move and install. Acrylic tanks are impact-resistant and less prone to cracking or chipping. However, acrylic can be scratched more easily than glass.

Advantages of using acrylic tanks

There are several key advantages to acrylic fish tanks:

  • Lightweight – Acrylic weighs about half as much as glass.
  • Strength – Acrylic is 10 times stronger than glass and less prone to cracking or breaking.
  • Visibility – Acrylic has excellent optical clarity and light transmission.
  • Insulation – Acrylic is an efficient insulator, keeping water temperature stable.
  • Design – Acrylic allows for curved corners, rimless designs, and custom shapes.
  • Affordability – Acrylic is an affordable alternative to expensive glass tanks.

Common issues with acrylic tanks

While acrylic has many benefits, there are some potential drawbacks:

  • Scratching – Acrylic scratches more easily than glass.
  • Plasticity – Over time, acrylic can warp or bend under pressure.
  • Chemical damage – Some chemicals can cause acrylic to crack or cloud.
  • Static – Static electricity can cause dust to cling to acrylic surfaces.

Proper care and cleaning is important to prevent scratching and extend the life of your acrylic aquarium. The following tips will help you keep your tank looking pristine.

Cleaning the Inside of Your Acrylic Fish Tank

The importance of regular cleaning

Regular cleaning keeps your fish healthy by:

  • Removing waste and uneaten food that pollutes the water
  • Eliminating toxins from fish waste, plants, and chemicals
  • Preventing algae overgrowth that blocks light and oxygen
  • Stopping the spread of disease-causing bacteria and parasites
  • Improving water clarity so fish can thrive

Ideally, partial water changes should be done weekly. The entire tank should be deep cleaned every 1-2 months.

Tools needed for cleaning

Gather the following supplies before cleaning your acrylic aquarium:

  • Gravel vacuum to siphon water and remove debris
  • Algae scraper with soft pad to clean walls and decor
  • Old toothbrush to scrub tough algae spots
  • Microfiber cloths or sponge for rinsing and wiping
  • Mild soap like dish soap (no abrasives)
  • Clean water bucket for rinsing tools

Step-by-step guide: Cleaning the inside of your acrylic fish tank

Follow these steps for cleaning the inside of your acrylic aquarium:

  1. Unplug equipment like filters and heaters.
  2. Use the gravel vacuum to remove 25-50% of the water.
  3. Vacuum debris from gravel, using gentle motions.
  4. Scrape algae off walls with algae scraper.
  5. Scrub tough algae off decorations with toothbrush.
  6. Rinse tools in clean bucket to avoid contaminating tank.
  7. Wipe down interior with microfiber cloth to remove residue.
  8. Refill tank slowly with dechlorinated water.
  9. Replace equipment and let tank run for an hour before adding fish.

Take care not to let tools scratch the acrylic surfaces. Wipe gently and avoid abrasive scrubbers.

Cleaning the Outside of Your Acrylic Fish Tank

Why clean the outside of your tank?

Cleaning the exterior of your acrylic aquarium is important for several reasons:

  • Removes dried water spots and residue
  • Eliminates mineral deposits from tap water
  • Gets rid of dust, dirt and debris
  • Keeps acrylic clear for better visibility
  • Maintains professional, polished appearance

A clean exterior also lets more light into the tank, benefiting fish and live plants.

Choosing the right cleaning products

Use only acrylic-safe cleaners on external surfaces:

  • Distilled white vinegar to dissolve hard water deposits
  • Mild dish soap like Dawn to cut through grease and grime
  • Acrylic polish to remove fine scratches and make surfaces shine
  • Microfiber cloths that won’t scratch acrylic

Avoid glass cleaners, alcohol, ammonia, bleach or abrasive pads that can damage acrylic.

Step-by-step guide: Cleaning the outside of your acrylic fish tank

  1. Unplug tank equipment to keep electrical components dry.
  2. Spray acrylic surfaces with distilled white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Wipe off vinegar and mineral deposits with a clean microfiber cloth.
  4. Apply a mild soap like Dawn directly onto a damp microfiber cloth.
  5. Gently clean entire exterior surface to remove grime and residue.
  6. Rinse tank exterior with clean water to remove soap.
  7. Dry surfaces thoroughly with a lint-free cloth to prevent water spots.
  8. Use acrylic polish sparingly to restore clarity and remove fine scratches.
  9. Buff polished surfaces with a microfiber cloth to create a brilliant shine.
  10. Take care not to let cleaning tools scratch the acrylic. Use minimal pressure and wipe in straight lines along the length of the tank.

Removing Algae from Your Acrylic Fish Tank

Types of algae commonly found in fish tanks

Several types of algae can grow in aquariums:

  • Green algae – Small green spots on decor and walls
  • Brown algae – Diatom algae form a brown film on surfaces
  • Black beard algae – Tough black bristly tufts on plants and ornaments
  • Red algae – Red sheets of algae spreading over substrate
  • Blue-green algae – Blue-green slimy patches, very hard to remove

Preventing algae growth

To discourage algae:

  • Don’t overfeed fish – excess food causes waste buildup
  • Introduce algae eaters like plecos and shrimp
  • Limit light duration to 6-8 hours daily
  • Clean tank and do water changes regularly
  • Use a UV sterilizer to kill algae spores

Methods for removing algae from acrylic tanks

To clean algae from an acrylic aquarium:

  • Scrape walls gently with an acrylic-safe algae pad
  • Use a toothbrush or cotton swab for tough spots
  • Apply an acrylic-safe magnet scrubber for cleaning inside the tank
  • Spray water to rinse algae after scrubbing
  • Wipe clean with a soft microfiber cloth
  • Use an airline tubing to siphon algae off surfaces

Take care when scrubbing to avoid scratching the acrylic. Rinse thoroughly after cleaning.

Cleaning the Gravel and Interior Decorations

Why clean the gravel and decorations?

It’s important to clean aquarium gravel and ornaments to:

  • Remove trapped debris and rotting food
  • Eliminate nitrates and phosphates from waste
  • Discourage growth of harmful bacteria
  • Improve water circulation through the substrate
  • Prevent toxic gas pockets from building up
  • Stop debris from decomposing and fouling water

Tools needed for cleaning the gravel

Use these supplies to clean gravel and decorations:

  • Gravel vacuum to siphon debris from substrate
  • Old toothbrush or pipe cleaner to scrub ornaments
  • Bucket for transferring decorations and gravel
  • Dechlorinator to make tap water safe for rinsing

Step-by-step guide: Clean

Step-by-step guide: Cleaning the gravel and interior decorations

Follow these steps to clean the gravel and ornaments:

  1. Use the gravel vacuum to remove waste and debris from the substrate.
  2. Place decorations and gravel into a bucket.
  3. Fill bucket with dechlorinated water and swish gravel around.
  4. Drain dirty water and repeat rinsing until water runs clear.
  5. Scrub ornaments individually with a toothbrush.
  6. Rinse decorations thoroughly before returning to the tank.
  7. Add cleaned gravel back to the aquarium.
  8. Wipe down decorations and perform a partial water change.
  9. Allow fresh dechlorinated water to circulate before adding fish.

Take care not to over-rinse the gravel, as this can remove beneficial bacteria. Moderation is key for a healthy tank environment.

Tips for Safely Cleaning Your Acrylic Fish Tank

Using the right cleaning products

Only use acrylic-safe cleaners and tools:

  • Mild liquid dish soaps like Dawn
  • Distilled white vinegar to dissolve hard water deposits
  • Acrylic-safe algae scrapers and scrubbing pads
  • Microfiber cloths that won’t scratch
  • Avoid glass cleaners, ammonia, bleach, and abrasives

Avoiding scratches on the acrylic

To prevent scratching:

  • Wipe gently in straight lines along the length of the tank
  • Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels
  • Rinse debris before wiping to avoid grinding it into acrylic
  • Handle algae scrapers and decorations carefully
  • Don’t let gravel get under cleaning tools

Regular maintenance and water changes

Prevent buildup of waste, algae and debris with:

  • 25% weekly water changes
  • Filter cleaning or replacement monthly
  • Thorough deep cleaning every 1-2 months
  • Prompt removal of decaying plant matter
  • Testing water parameters like pH regularly

Establishing a routine maintenance schedule is key to a healthy, crystal clear acrylic aquarium.


Cleaning an acrylic aquarium properly doesn’t need to be difficult. Follow these tips to get sparkling results:

  • Use only acrylic-safe cleaners and tools
  • Clean inside and outside surfaces regularly
  • Remove algae carefully to avoid scratching
  • Clean gravel and decorations during deep cleans
  • Change water weekly and clean equipment monthly

With the right supplies and techniques, you can easily keep your acrylic fish tank looking pristine. Your fish will enjoy a healthy, crystal clear home while you get to relax and enjoy the view.

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