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Thread: Tank Cleanup Procedures

  1. #1
    Brittle Starfish

    Join Date
    May 2006
    So CA
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    Tank Cleanup Procedures

    I am asked many times how to clean a tank after a disease or treatment. I should put it all into one post so I can just point to it, rather than repeating myself. Also please note: At the end of this post I have included the process for new equipment cleaning which is also important. So this is the post!


    NOTE: If you need to clean a large tank, then wherever you read 'rinse' or 'wash' use a dampened cloth or sponge and wipe the entire surface of the tank with the liquid/solution indicated. Rinsing may require many rinse-outs of the sponge/cloth to effect a good rinse.

    Routine QT Clean Up -- Healthy Fish

    After a QT use where the fish turned out healthy, the clean up really doesn't have to be that extensive. In fact, if the fish turned out to be totally healthy before it went to the display, the QT isn't contaminated. A simple tap water rinse of the tank and equipment followed by multiple RO/DI or distilled water rinses is good enough (or not needed at all if the QT will be kept up and running). The bio filter can be returned to the display system to keep it active/alive.

    QT Clean Up After Medication Was Used
    If a fish was successfully treated in the QT, then the QT is free of the disease, right? This clean up procedure is only used when there is no disease in the QT.

    Toss the bio filter and put a new one in the display system. Or, if you were ahead of yourself and you had to begin the use of medication in the QT, then you put a new QT bio filter into the display to get it ready.

    Most medications are water soluble and don't attach themselves to the surfaces of a 'normal' QT. If there is more things in the QT that aren't plastic or glass, then there may be remnants of medication. Assuming no copper medications (see below) were used, this is a fine process to use to clean the QT:
    1. Rinse in tap water
    2. Wash with vinegar, diluted about 1:10 in tap water
    3. Rinse a few times with fresh tap water
    4. Rinse a few times with RO/DI or distilled water
    5. Let aquarium/equipment go bone dry.

    QT Clean Up With Disease
    If the QT was used and the fish died during the cure or treatment, there is a very real chance that the disease is present in the QT. In this situation, the QT must be cleaned before its next use. So this situation is a disease in the QT, but no copper was used.

    It is best to dispose of as much equipment as you can. The original setup for the QT is so inexpensive, and I have recommended that no sophisticated equipment be used (see: A Quarantine Procedure) so its loss should not be a financial burden. For sure, dispose of the bio filter. However, for the tank itself, nets and some equipment that can handle the chemicals:
    1. As above
    2. As above
    3. As above
    4. Wash with bleach, diluted about 1:10 of household bleach
    5. Rinse several times in fresh tap water
    6. Rinse a few times with RO/DI or distilled water
    7. Let aquarium/equipment go bone dry.

    QT/Hospital Tank Clean Up With Copper
    About the most frequently used medication that presents a cleaning problem to the aquarist is the use of copper to treat a disease. Copper will attach itself to plastics and glass. Even though the copper is so little that it can't be detected by a regular copper test kit, it is in high enough concentration to kill invertebrates that the aquarist may attempt to quarantine. Thus a quarantine tank turns into a hospital tank for copper treatments. The hospital tank can't be used for a QT for invertebrates, until it has been cleaned enough to remove the copper 'stuck' in the system.

    If the copper treatment was successful and the fish is disease-free AND the tank will only be used to quarantine fish, then like the first case, there is no need to do any cleaning. The bio filter should be kept in the hospital tank or replaced, but NOT returned to the display tank.

    If the hospital tank needs to be copper-free then there is a complex cleaning process to follow. However after experiments with snails, crabs, and Xenia, the following cleaning is good enough to put the copper in low enough concentration in the water to support these marine lifeforms. The bio filter must be thrown away. Toss away equipment including tubing, and anything that can't handle the cleaning process or is too difficult to make sure is properly cleaned.

    1. A few hot tap water rinses (as hot as can be stood by the tank/equipment, and aquarist!)
    2. Let tank/equipment cool off
    3. Wash with Vinegar; 1:10 dilution of household/salad vinegar
    4. Several tap water rinses
    5. Wash with a mild liquid soap solution
    6. Several tap water rinses
    7. Wash with bleach; 1:10 dilution of household bleach
    8. Several tap water rinses
    9. Several RO/DI or distilled water rinses
    10. Let go bone dry for a few days before use

    New Equipment Cleaning
    I always clean new equipment. Manufacturers often (unintentionally) leave chemical residues on and in equipment. I circulate pumps with different kinds of water before installing them. I similarly clean out filters and filter pumps, skimmers, tubing, all canisters (holding mechanical and/or chemical filter materials), etc., etc. I also clean out NEW aquariums like this, too. This cleaning process goes like this:
    1. Rinse in tap water several times;
    2. Wash/rinse/run pumps and equipment with soapy water (1 Tablespoonful of unscented mild liquid soap (e.g., Ivory liquid hand soap) in a gallon of water [if you have a sump and a more elaborate system, this rinsing is VERY important to run the equipment through with the soapy water -- especially through all pipes/plumbing];
    3. Rinse in tape water at least 5 times (using fresh tap water each time);
    4. Rinse in RO/DI water at least twice; and
    5. Rinse in used or spent (or if none is available - new) saltwater twice, using new water for each rinse.
    (NOTE: When I'm cleaning out a new tank or sump, the 'rinses' are wiping down the inside walls with the indicated liquids. I don't 'fill up' the entire container, but I wipe it all down.)

    If you buy and use artificial decorations, I suggest not only cleaning them, but letting them soak one week in DI water, then another one week in salt water. These things often leach organics into the water over time. The initial two weeks is usually good enough to get most of what they'll leach fast. This cleaning will follow 1. to 4. in this section above, plus the soaks.

    Hope this helps and is clear. If you have any questions, please post.

    Hope this helps and is clear. If you have any questions, please post.
    Last edited by leebca; 04-21-2010 at 12:09 PM. Reason: Added New Equipment Cleaning Process

  2. #2
    Emerald Crab
    logiktest's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    St.Louis, MO
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    Thank you. Exelent thread as usual.

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