How often should you clean a fish tank with a filter? Tank Filter Maintenance Tips

Your tank filter is the most important piece of equipment in your aquarium – so much so that not having one could be catastrophic for your fish. It is responsible for removing dirt, debris, and fish waste, ensuring a habitable environment for fish. It also oxygenates your tank water and supports the nitrogen cycle, making it an essential component to the survival of all aquatic life.

However, installing a tank filter is not the be-all and end-all of a healthy aquarium, as improper filter maintenance can be as detrimental to fish as not having a filter at all. With this in mind, cleaning your tank filter regularly is essential to preventing water chemistry problems that can be deadly to aquarium life.

Learn more about tank filter maintenance below, including how often you should clean a fish tank with a filter and the best filter cleaning tips for a healthy, thriving aquarium!

Table of contents

  1. What happens if you don’t clean your tank filter?
  2. How often should you clean a fish tank with a filter?
  3. How to clean your aquarium filter
  4. Create the perfect tank maintenance routine with Pond Planet

What happens if you don’t clean your tank filter?

While cleaning your fish tank filter can be a boring task, it is essential to maintaining a healthy environment for aquatic life.

Tank water naturally becomes dirty through fish waste and debris breaking down. If left untreated, these toxins can create unsafe aquarium conditions, which can be deadly to aquatic life.

Moreover, neglecting filter maintenance can stop your filter from functioning properly, meaning you may have to replace it more regularly.

How often should you clean a fish tank with a filter?

Fish tank maintenance includes various tasks, from regular water changes to replacing your filter media. However, it’s important not to forget filter maintenance from your aquarium cleaning schedule, as doing so could harm your tank.

One of the most asked questions regarding aquarium maintenance is, how often should you clean a fish tank with a filter? It’s important not to do it too thoroughly or often – which may sound confusing to beginner fish keepers. However, keeping it clean is easy once you have discovered a suitable balance for your tank filter!

Below, we look at the best cleaning tips for different types of filters to help you create the perfect routine for your aquarium.

How often should you clean a hang-on filter?

Hang-on filters are one of the most commonly used types of aquarium filters, and if you have one, you should aim to clean it every few weeks or at least once a month. We recommend cleaning your filter while replacing your filter media to achieve a thorough and effective cleaning that won’t slip your mind to upkeep.

Oase BioStyle 75 Hang-On Filter

How often should you clean a sponge filter?

Sponge filters draw water through the sponge to achieve mechanical and biological filtration. To ensure this process is effective, clean your sponge every two weeks to maintain efficient filtration.

Aqua One Filter Air 15 Sponge Air Filter

How often should you clean a canister filter?

Canister filters are enclosed, so they can go the longest between cleaning than any other filter type. This makes it a perfect option for those who struggle to set aside the time for a deep and thorough tank cleaning and maintenance routine. Canister filters only require cleaning around every 4-6 weeks.

Aqua One Aquis Advance 750 Pro External Canister Filter

How often should you clean an undergravel filter?

If you have an under gravel filter, you should clean it regularly, including the overlying substrate. We recommend performing this maintenance using a suitably sized gravel vacuum every two weeks.

How often should you clean an in-tank filter?

In-tank filters are very similar to hang-on filters and need to be cleaned a minimum of once a month. However, you should aim to clean it every couple of weeks.

Oase BioPlus 200 Internal Aquarium Filter

At Pond Planet, we stock an extensive range of filter types to suit every fish tank, including internal and external filters by industry-leading brands. Not sure which filter to choose? Our recent blog discusses choosing the best filter for your fish tank!

How to clean your aquarium filter

Now you know how often to clean your tank filter; it’s important to know how to do so properly. 

Cleaning your filter means removing any debris or rotting organic matter that may have built up. However, it’s essential to do it in a way that doesn’t remove too much beneficial bacteria. As a general rule, you should avoid using tap water and never use any soap or bleach. For more detailed tank filter cleaning advice for different types of filters, keep reading our breakdown below.

Canister filter cleaning tips

Learn how to clean your canister filter quickly and easily with these four simple steps:

  1. First, unplug the filter and remove any other equipment that may be attached, such as an inline heater. We recommend unplugging the heater several minutes before the filter so that it has a chance to cool down.
  2. Next, fill a bucket with water from the tank and empty the filter media for cleaning. It’s important to keep the filter media wet to not dry out and kill the beneficial bacteria. 
  3. Use a soft brush to scrub the impeller, hoses, and any other small parts.
  4. Once it is completely clean, reassemble the canister and fill it with tank water before reassembling it and turning it back on.

Sponge filters

Different sponge filters require different maintenance. However, the most popular type of sponge filters are powerhead or pump filters. 

  1. First, disconnect the filter and clean the impeller using a soft brush. 
  2. Rinse out the service lines to remove any debris build-up. 
  3. To clean the sponge, rinse it in a bucket of tank water to remove any solid debris. Never let the sponge dry out, as this can remove good bacteria and cause more harm than good.

Hang-on filters

The process for cleaning hang-on filters is generally similar to the processes for canister and sponge filters. First, disassemble the filter and scrub the impeller, intake tubes and other small parts using a soft brush. Rinse and clean sponges and biological media in a bucket of tank water, making sure to replace them back to the aquarium or filter after cleaning, to prevent them from drying out.

In-tank filters

In-tank filters are generally the easiest filters to clean. Simply remove the filter from the tank and clean the sponges in a bucket of aquarium water. Make sure to replace the chemical filter media every 3-4 weeks, and give the filter housing a quick rinse at the same time. Make sure to clean any build-up of algae or debris that may have accumulated in the impeller housing, to ensure optimal performance.

Under gravel filter

You should coordinate cleaning your under-gravel filter with your routine water changes, as vacuuming the gravel on the filter is the most effective way to clean it. During the water change, vacuum the gravel to remove debris and refill the tank with freshwater using a suitable de-chlorinator.

Create the perfect tank maintenance routine with Pond Planet

Cleaning your tank filter is essential to fish health, so creating a consistent cleaning schedule that aligns with your tank’s needs is important.

It’s also important to take care of your cleaning routines, especially if you have multiple filtration systems. Alternate your cleaning routines so that you do not clean both filters in the same week, and once you have found a routine that works for you, try to stick to it closely!

Pond Planet is proud to offer a fantastic selection of industry-leading brands, ensuring the best aquarium equipment. Explore our aquarium cleaning collection for everything you need to keep your tank in tip-top condition. Or, for more aquarium essentials, shop the full Aquarium range at Pond Planet.

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