How to Clean an Old Dirty Fish Tank Safely

The salt water aquarium hobby can be very expensive. Especially when you are trying to start a new set up. We all try to cut corners to save a few bucks. Sometimes the most inexpensive route to find a used set up.

Here are some ways to find a used set up or used aquarium equipment:

How to Find Used Aquarium Equipment

Most of the time when you come across a used set up, it has been sitting in someone’s garage or storage unit for sometime. It more than likely has accumulated dirt, dust and other nasty yucky stuff. If the tank was not cleaned out properly before being stored, it can be an even greater hassle to get the tank ready for new live stock. So what is the most efficient and safest way to clean out an old aquarium?


I swear by it. You can consume it yourself (though I wouldn’t recommend it) and it is not harsh to your aquarium. It is also easy to rinse.

I recently picked up a used 37 gallon all in one cube tank. I purchased this tank to be set up as a frag tank next to my 90 gallon display tank. It’s hard trying to control the whereabouts of your smaller corals when you have huge hermits that may knock them down or in my case, a pesky sand sifting goby who likes to bury them.


When purchasing a used tank, I always fill it with tap water and let the equipment run for a few days to make sure the tank does leak or have any other problems. Trust me, save yourself the time and headache by doing this FIRST. I know when we all get new tanks, we are so excited to set them up and get them going right away. Always, Always, Always give used equipment a test run before setting up permanently.

After I determine that the tank is ready for setup, I put a couple of cups of white vinegar in the tap water already running in the tank. I allowed the tank to run with the vinegar and water solution for about a week. On the 7th day, the crystal clear water that was in the tank turned to a dark, black cloudy looking water. I had no idea what was happening. Quite frankly, I started to worry. After speaking to some trusted experienced reefers, we determined that the vinegar was pulling all of the nasty stuff that had been sitting in the equipment and in the tank itself. It just amazed me that it took a week to do it.

I emptied the water out of the tank, scrubbed the sticky black stuff junk off of the glass and all my equipment and rinsed everything very well. I actually used one of the pads that is normally used for filtration. Since I will replace all pads that were previously running in the tank, why not put it to good use by cleaning with it.


After rinsing, I filled the tank back up with tap water and ran all the equipment to make sure that all of the debris as well as the vinegar was completely rinsed. Running the tank on this “rinse cycle” for a few days will give me the peace of mind that I need to know my tank is as good as new.


After a few days, I will add sand, old salt water from my 90 gallon display tank (water change time), along with some new salt water and a few pieces of live rock from my 90 gallon display tank.

Stay tuned…A link will be added to this post in a week or so.

Happy Reefing!

Comment below: How do you clean your tank?


Best Ways to STOP Hair Algae

So you have always had a crystal clear tank. Now all of a sudden, you have a bit of hair algae. You pay it no mind thinking its just a small amount. What harm can it do?

Over the course of a few weeks, the small hairy problem gets worse. It gets to a point where you don’t know what to do to get rid of it and keep it out of your tank.

Algae Take Over

Algae Take Over

More than half of new aquarium keepers (and some experienced ones) get out of the salt water hobby because algae takes over their tanks and they go through the frustration of trying to get it under control before eventually giving up and tearing their tanks apart.

So what causes hair algae? What makes it grow?

Green Hair Algae begins to grow when the Nitrates and Phosphates in your system get too high. Add a light source and hair algae has everything it needs to live a long and prosperous life.


Both phosphates and nitrates can be introduced into an aquarium by using a poor quality water source in addition to other things.

So let’s get down to it…


Remove it manually

  • It’s the good ole tug and pull method. Although this is time consuming (not to mention your arm gets exhausted fairly quickly), it is the most fastest and most effective way to rid yourself of hair algae.

Change your water source

  • If you can afford to do so, purchase an RO/DI system to make your own water. It will pay for itself within a year. It also gives you the convenience of not having to leave the house to go to your local LFS and having to drag water containers back and forth from home.
  • We currently use a RO/DI 5 stage system from Bulk Reef Supply that can make around 75 gallons of water a day.
  • You can also use this system for drinking water as well as your top off water for your tanks.

Perform frequent water changes

  • Many aquarium keepers swear by weekly water changes. Some say they are unnecessary. But, if it makes sense, why not try it.
  • Water changes allow you to remove nutrients from your tank and replace the nutrient filled water with fresh salt water for your ocean living dwellers. If you are having high phosphate or nitrate problems, frequent water changes will assist with bringing those levels to a more suitable level for your tank.
  • Remember to use RO/DI water when doing water changes to your tank to make sure you are not adding any additional nutrients in your system that are normally found in tap and well water.

Cut down on Feedings

  • Feeding your tank inhabitants is a common way to add nutrients to your tank.
  • The quality and quantity of food you are feeding your tank will also determine what type of nutrients you are adding into your tank. Know what you are feeding your fish. Check out the ingredients.
  • Rinsing frozen foods before introducing them to your tank will help.
  • Make sure you feed your fish no more than what they will consume in a few minutes. I normally feed very small amounts until my fish seems no longer interested in eating. Your corals and other reef inhabitants will eat what ever left overs your fish leave behind.

Invest in a Protein Skimmer

  • Protein Skimmers can be very expensive, but they are very effective with removing nutrients from your aquarium.
  • You want to make sure you purchase a protein skimmer that can handle twice the volume of water that you have in your system. For instance, if you have a 75 gallon aquarium, you will ideally want to purchase a protein skimmer that can handle 150 gallons.
  • You will be amazed what a protein skimmer pulls out of your water. The collection cup accumulates “skim-mate” which is also known as fish poop. LOL. It smells something horrible!

Add a Tang or a Seahare

  • This won’t remove the problem, but will merely cover it up.
  • Tangs will graze daily on green hair algae.
  • Seahares are known as cows of the sea. Be very careful when purchasing this algae eating beast. Once there is no more algae in your tank for your sea hare to munch on, it will starve to death if you don’t provide it with something to graze on.


Increase your Clean up Crew

  • Sometimes the increase in nutrients in your tank is because you don’t have a large enough CUC. Snails, shrimp, sea stars, urchins and hermit crabs are some of the many members of a good clean up crew. They eat all of the left overs that your fish and coral leave behind so that food doesn’t decay in your tank causing phosphate, nitrate and ammonia problems.
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  • Your clean up crew will also pick at some of the hair algae growing in your tank keeping it to a minimum. Don’t know how much to add? You can find cleaner packages all over the internet. Just make sure you choose a reputable one.

Add a Refugium 

  • A refugium will grow plants that will pull phosphates, nitrates and certain nutrients out of your water.
  • Chaeto and Mangroves are my personal favorites.

Any other ideas about how to get rid of hair algae? Let us know…Comment below!