How to clean an old aquarium and apply background

How to clean a used aquarium and apply aquarium background:

A used aquarium is a good choice for both new and old hobbyists as long as there are no leaks in the fish tank. And the main reason behind this is they are cheap and most of the time very affordable as the previous owner just wants to get rid of the tank. I understand that different hobbyists would have different opinions about using an old aquarium but in this article I would share my own opinion and would demonstrate how easy it is to clean a used tank and turn it into an almost brand new aquarium.

Many hobbyists buy used tanks and they don’t know how to renew them. Used tanks don’t offer instructions, and may need some study in order to use them again. So we have made a tutorial about how to clean a used aquarium.

How to clean used aquarium

After purchasing a used aquarium move it to a new home which is a challenging task because aquariums are made up of glass or acrylic, and they are breakable and heavy. Also big tanks need 2 people to move it to destination.

I have written a step by step tutorial about how to clean an old aquarium & apply aquarium background. Find all the instructions about cleaning a used tank & applying background in a video shared below:

How to clean an old aquarium and apply background

There are 2 steps in bringing an old aquarium back to life and based on that, this article has been divided into two parts. Such as safely cleaning the used fish tank and applying a background to the tank. The only requirement from the new owner of the used fish tank is time and commitment.

1. How to clean the aquarium:

Washing Aquarium

Inside of the tank needs to be damp prior to cleaning as moisture and water is the best tool to clean all the hard stains, calcium builds up and all the dried dead algae and other debris stuck to the glass. A soft scrubber such as sponge or replacement head for the dish washing brush can be used to remove all the soften stains and debris. It is very important to use a brand new or clean sponge as used sponge might add soap residue to the tank and might contaminate the aquarium when water is added. After scrubbing the glass, it can be rinsed with water using a garden hose. It is advisable to move the tank outdoor so water can flow through the drain. Cleaning the tank inside would be challenging as all the water would need to be collected in bucket or tubs and drained outside.

Scrub aquarium and wash it

Pour some salt on the sponge and scrub the tank again. This time the focus would be all the hard stains and debris that couldn't be removed in the first attempt. Salt would get dissolved when it gets in contact with water and won't scratch the glass so don't be shy and use whatever amount is required to clean the tank. Apart from cleaning the glass, Salt also remove fishy odour, kill germs and can be easily rinsed with water. Vigorously scrub the inside of the tank with salt and thoroughly rinse the tank.

The above procedure has never failed me but if the tank doesn't look clean then scrubbing the glass with vinegar can be another cheap way to give it a good clean finish. Once the inside of the tank is clean then outside surface is usually lot easier to clean. Repeat the above procedure and most of the time scrubbing with a sponge would do the job.

Test the aquarium for leaks while keeping the aquarium outside for 1 week. Do not put your aquarium inside while you are testing it because in case of leaks the water would flood your house. If you find leaks then use silicone to fill the gap or it is time to shift your aquarium. 

Depending on the space you have in your room you can prepare a stand for your aquarium. If you want to know how to build an aquarium stand then watch another video. Link is mentioned below:

2. Apply background to the aquarium:

Dry the aquarium

Wait for the aquarium to dry or to speed up the process by wiping the tank with a microfiber cloth which will absorb the water fast. Wipe the outside of the tank with paper towel to remove any dust. It is very important to avoid circular motion, always wipe the tank from one end to the other as paper towel might leave its residue on the glass. If there is any glass cleaner available at home, then it would be wise to spray small amount on the glass. Glass cleaner is not a requirement but would give peace of mind before applying the background.

Once you purchase the fish, and successfully setup the filter then you can think about setting the best environment for your fish, and installing the right background that enhances the beauty of your aquarium and your room.

A background in your aquarium can make a big difference in the appearance of your aquarium and it increases the beauty of your room. It creates a theme for your aquarium and your fish will like their new home. You can also change background to offer a different look to your aquarium.

Apply Aquarium Background

There are various types of backgrounds available in the market for the aquariums. One of such item is Vinyl background which is not always cheap but tank does look very nice after the application. Backgrounds come in various different colors but in my opinion blue and black are the safest colors as the fish and aquascape stands out more. To offer more natural look to the aquarium, darker shade of blue could be a good option as it is brighter than black. Inorder to cut the vinyl cleanly, a sharp blade and hand and eye coordination is very important. Once the background is cut to the required size then it can be affixed to the outside of the glass with common clear tape which can be found in stationary section of grocessary stores.

Also you can decorate your fish tank by adding objects & plants. Put colored pebbles, rocks and plants in your aquarium because it will make a big difference in the overall display of your fish tank.

Pros and Cons of cleaning used aquarium:

Pros and cons of cleaning old aquarium are added below:

Pros of cleaning used aquarium:



  1. You can see your fish clearly if your aquarium is clean and your overall room will look beautiful
  2. You can revive a used aquarium by cleaning it properly
  3. It is very easy to clean aquarium
  4. Tools required to clean aquarium are inexpensive
  5. Cleaning your aquarium is necessary because it removes everything that you can’t see and can be toxic to the inhabitants.

Cons of cleaning used aquarium:

Cons of cleaning used aquarium
  1. Due to sensitivity acrylic aquarium may scratch more easily than glass during cleaning process.
  2. Putting fish, decoration, plants, and filter into the aquarium disturbs the bacteria colonies so it is advisable to add live bacteria.
  3. Using a used sponge and detergents to clean the aquarium can be toxic to fish.
  4. Mostly aquariums are fragile, and moving aquarium is risky and can get damaged if you do not handle it with extra care.
  5. Used aquariums may have leaks.

Pros and Cons of aquarium background:

Pros and cons of aquarium background are added below:

Pros of aquarium background:


Pros of aquarium background
  1. You can easily replace your aquarium background and add a new one.
  2. It hides the hoses, tubes, and cords that are located at the rear of your aquarium.
  3. Aquarium background increases your tank’s natural beauty.
  4. A background affects the behavior and color of your fish.
  5. It is suggested to setup background on 2 or 3 sides of your aquarium to decrease the chance of your fish seeing their reflection in the glass and becoming anxious.

Cons of aquarium background:


Cons of aquarium background
  1. Adding a background will cost you extra bucks.
  2. You can clearly look at your fish, plants and other decorative objects if aquarium has no background.
  3. Adding fresh background looks beautiful but after watching it for several days you might not like it anymore.
  4. Putting a background can put stress on some fish.
  5. The background makes the aquarium look darker and you will need aquarium lights in order to see your fish.
How to clean an old aquarium and apply background How to clean an old aquarium and apply background Reviewed by Fishaholic on June 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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