How To Clean Fish Tank With Vinegar – Why You Should Use It

When it comes to cleaning, most people will start reaching for their brushes and cleaning solutions such as soap and detergent.  While these are effective for cleaning, it can be catastrophic for cleaning the fish tank.  Instead, you’ll need something that is safe for the fish, but strong enough to clean the fish tank.  There is one solution that you can use to clean and safe for fish tank cleaning.  It’s is typically found in the kitchen and used for cooking.  It’s called vinegar.  Vinegar is not only great for cooking food, but it’s also great for cleaning the fish tanks as well.  In this article, it will go into detail on how to clean fish tank with vinegar.

What Is Vinegar?

Vinegar is a liquid that is sour-tasting that contains acetic acid. It is a result of fermentation and oxidation of an alcoholic or sugary liquid. This liquid is typically from beer, cider, or wine.

There are many different types of vinegar available to purchase. The most popular ones are apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, and distilled vinegar.

Vinegar is commonly used for cooking and foods that need flavoring.  Food that needs more of a sour taste can benefit from the vinegar.

Besides used for food, vinegar has been shown it’s a good product used for cleaning as well.  For the fish tanks, vinegar is an excellent cleaning solution to clean heavy calcium deposits and algae from the fish tank safely without harming the fish or changing the water parameters.  Also, it can be used to aquarium decorations and aquarium substrate.

Types Of Vinegar To Clean Fish Tank

There are about a dozen different types of vinegar available on the market.  Out of the 10 types of vinegar, only 3 types of vinegar could be used for cleaning the aquarium.  This is due to the substances in the vinegar called acetic acid.  For that reason, each type of vinegar should be used depending on much buildup of algae and calcium deposit is on the glass of the fish tank.  Below are the 3 types of vinegar that are popular for cooking and can be found easily in most supermarkets.

Using Distilled Vinegar Clean Fish Tank

Distilled vinegar is effective and safe for cleaning the fish tank. Distilled vinegar has 5-8% acetic acid, which is great for cleaning the fish tank. It will help remove algae, stains, and hard water deposits from the aquarium glass.

Due to the low amount of acetic acid in distilled vinegar, it’s best used for a fish tank that has a low to moderate amount of algae and calcium deposit on the glass.

Using Apple Cider Vinegar To Clean Fish Tank

When it comes to apple cider vinegar, it’s main use is for cooking to give food that apple flavors.  Apple cider vinegar is made from apples that have been crushed and the liquid extracted. Then yeast is added to the liquid and lets it sit to start the fermentation process. Bacteria is added later to turn the alcohol into acetic acid. Basically, apple cider vinegar is the same substance as distilled vinegar, except it’s distilled from a different source.

Besides being used for food, it has become very popular for weight loss and many other health benefits.

Another good use for apple cider vinegar is cleaning. This vinegar makes a good cleaning agent for cleaning the fish tank, especially fishbowl.

Apple cider vinegar has 5–6% acetic acid.  This concentration is classified as “weak acid”.  Apple cider vinegar should be used to clean a fish tank that has little algae and calcium deposits on the glass of the fish tank.  In addition, this type of vinegar is great to used to clean the tank while the fish is in the tank.

Cleaning A Fish Tank With White Vinegar?

This type of vinegar is the best vinegar used for cleaning the fish tank. White vinegar has 5-20% acetic acid. That is the by far the highest concentration of acetic acid out of all the vinegar. It can dissolve away brine left by hard water, calcium deposit, and stains left on the aquarium glass.

With white vinegar, it is not recommended to clean the fish tank while you have fish in there.  This type of vinegar is best to use in an empty fish tank or a fish tank that you’ve just bought.

How Much Vinegar To Clean Fish Tank?

How much vinegar to use to clean the fish tank will depend on your smell preferences. If you’re fine with the smell of vinegar, you can use straight vinegar to clean the fish tank. Using straight vinegar will help clean the tank much faster.

On the other hand, if you’re not into the smell of vinegar, you’ll probably want to mix it with water. Use 1 part water to 1 part vinegar. Mix up about a half gallon for a small tank and 1 gallon for a large tank.

When mixing the water and vinegar, do not try to add another cleaning solution such as soap or detergent. Some of the residues from soaps and detergent will stick on the fish tank, even after washing the tank with water thoroughly.

How to Clean an Empty Fish Tank With Vinegar

There are times when you will need to empty the fish tank and do a thorough cleaning. Over time, hard calcium deposits and algae might make it very difficult to clean the tank with the fish inside. So the only viable option is to clean the tank when it’s empty.

Tips: Don’t use soaps or detergents!  These cleaning solutions will affect the water parameters and could ultimately kill the fish!

To clean an empty fish tank, you will need the following:

  • A couple of clean sponges
  • Tap water
  • Table Salt
  • Razor
  • Vinegar (White vinegar preferred)
  • Water Hose

First, wipe down the entire tank with a moist sponge. All you’re trying to do is get the aquarium glass wet to loosen the calcium deposits and algae. When scrubbing the tank with the sponge, scrub gently as to not scratch the aquarium glass. After wiping the entire tank, wait a couple of minutes.

After a couple of minutes, with the same sponge, dip it into tap water and add some table salt to the sponge. Wipe the entire fish tank again. At this point, the calcium deposits and algae should start to come off. Again, try to scrub the tank gently.

After scrubbing the tank with salt, take a hose and rinse out the tank with clean water. If you have a small tank, you can place it on its side and hose it down.  For larger tanks, it’s better to just leave it in its upward position and spray water into it.  After hosing down the tank, you can use a wet vacuum to pump water out of the tank.  If no wet vacuum is available, use a bucket and scoop the water out of the tank.

By now, the tank should be somewhat clean of calcium deposits and algae.  If there is still debris on the glass, use a razor blade and scrape them off.  When using a razor blade, be gentle with it as to not scratch the glass.

Next, with a clean sponge, pour some vinegar onto the sponge.   If the smell of the vinegar is too strong for you, in a bowl, add 1 part water and 1 part vinegar to it.  Mix it together and pour the solution onto the sponge.  Scrub the entire tank with the vinegar solution until the glass is clean of any calcium deposit or algae.  You can clean both inside and outside the aquarium tank with vinegar.

Finally, use a hose to water the entire tank down.  Then empty the water out of the tank and let it sit until it’s dry.

How Do You Clean An Acrylic Tank With Vinegar?

An acrylic fish tank is different from a regular fish tank. The acrylic tank scratch easily and you can do a lot of damage if you don’t know what you’re doing.

For an acrylic fish tank, you can’t use a scrubber or razor blade. These cleaning tools will scratch the tank. Instead, use this acrylic glass scraper, which is from Amazon. It’s one of the best cleaning tools available for getting stains and algae off acrylic fish tanks.

Once you’re ready to clean the fish tank, take a soft towel and pour vinegar on it.  Slowly and lightly scrub the towel against the glass.  Doing so will loosen the stain and other debris on the glass.  Once you have wiped the entire fish tank, take the acrylic glass scraper and slowly scrape the glass of the tank.  For stubborn debris, wipe extra vinegar on the area to loosen it a bit.

After cleaning the fish tank thoroughly, spray the tank down with water.  After doing so, let it sit until it’s dry.  Do not use a paper towel to dry the acrylic tank.  A paper towel is a bit too abrasive and doing so could scratch the glass of the fish tank.

How Do You Clean The Fish Tank With Fish In It?

The great thing about using vinegar to clean a fish tank is that you can clean it while the fish is still in the tank!

However, use only distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar to clean a fish tank when you have fish in it.  White vinegar is too acidity and could harm the fish by lowering the pH balance of the water to an unacceptable level.

To clean a fish tank will fish in it, you’ll need to use a magnetic algae scraper, which can be found at Amazon.  What this cleaning tool does is clean the inside of the fish tank without putting your hand into the water.  One half goes on the inside of the fish tank and the other half goes on the outside of the fish tank. The two halves are held together by a magnet. You slowly move the scraper around and it will remove the algae and other debris from inside the fish tank.

To help get the algae and other debris off the glass quicker, use a small amount of vinegar on the magnetic algae scraper.  Pour a small amount of vinegar on the inside of the scraper that’s going into the aquarium water.  This should help remove all the algae off the glass.  Do this for the entire fish tank and you’ll have a clean fish tank without having to get your hand in the water.


As you can see, vinegar not only makes food tastier, it can help clean your fish tank.  Since most household cleaning products are too dangerous for cleaning the fish tanks, vinegar is the best alternative cleaning product to use.  I hope this article on how to clean fish tank with vinegar was helpful to you.

1 thought on “How To Clean Fish Tank With Vinegar – Why You Should Use It”

  1. PLEASE NEVER clean your tank with apple cider or any vinegar when the fish are in it. It is not good for them and will mess with their slime may then stress then til they die. Please never do that. I have had fish live for 16yrs,15 yrs,13yrs 12 yrs. So please know I know what I am talking about as well.


Leave a Comment