Fish are surprisingly great pets. One can get lost in staring at the beautiful interplay of swimming fish for hours. They can even help you relax. However, not all new aquarium owners know how to clean a fish tank and what to do with the discarded water.

In this excerpt from the book Household Magic by Joan and Lydia Wilen the authors provide some basic tips on how to clean a fish tank and what to do with the water.


Keeping fish in an aquarium can be a wonderful, relaxing hobby. Fish tanks also make great conversation pieces! And it may surprise you to know that they don’t take as much work to maintain as you might think. Actually, the bigger the fish tank, the easier it is to maintain. You won’t have to change the water as often because the waste from the fish will stay stable longer.

When you buy a fish tank, look for the safety sticker on the glass (or ask someone at the fish and aquarium store). The sticker means that the tank has been tested for safety and has been caulked with a special silicon that will last for many years.


The dirty water from a fish tank makes a wonderful organic fertilizer for houseplants.

Also—does your aquarium have a cover? A cover is a good thing. It helps prevent water from evaporating, and keeps your fish from leaping out.

Once you’re squared away with a safe, covered tank, here’s how to clean it…

Cleaning a Fish Tank

Put your fish in a temporary holding tank…put the tank’s furnishings in a plastic shoebox…fertilize your plants (see above)…and you’re ready to clean the tank. Soap or detergents of any kind may leave a residue that could be harmful to your fish, so get out the table salt instead.

Pour table salt on a sponge and pretend it’s scouring powder. Once the tank is scrubbed clean, rinse it thoroughly and you’re ready to set up the tank and move your fish back home.

For additional tips and other advice for you and your home, purchase Household Magic from

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