Fishbowl Adviser

How to Properly Clean a Fishbowl

Fishbowls are a picturesque addition to any space, but keeping them clean takes loads of work, especially if they are large. Also, much depends on the actual genus you keep. Some fishbowl inhabitants may require an aerated and other unaerated living space (e.g., tropical fish fall in the former category and the paradise fish – in the latter).

If you don’t use an air pump, contamination will be more concentrated, which is to say that cleaning the fishbowl must be performed more frequently. Some general recommendation is to perform the cleaning weekly, but by all means, do use your eyes. If you think it should be done more often, that’s absolutely fine.

In this article, we will show you how to properly clean a fishbowl. So, continue reading to find out everything you need to know.

Dirty fishbowl

Cleaning Fish Bowl: Materials

First, assemble all the materials and tools you’ll need, as follows:

  • A bucket
  • A container
  • A fishnet
  • Paper towels
  • A toothbrush or some other small brush
  • A half teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide
  • A strainer (optional)
  • Water conditioner (optional)
  • Water test strips (optional)

How to Change Fishbowl Water

How to change fishbowl water? Quite easily, as it were, but there are several other steps you need to undertake first. Let’s go step by step.

First, use a bucket or a container to determine how much water you need. The easiest way to do this is by pouring the water from the bowl into the bucket and marking the water level (if you didn’t do that when you bought it, that is). Some fishbowls can be tricky, especially round ones. On the other hand, around a fish tank is easier to clean.

Cleaning a bowl portends either replacing ca. 50% of the water volume (for large bowls) or replacing the entire volume (for small bowls). The water must be treated beforehand to avoid shocking the fish. Normally, tap water contains multiple harmful substances such as are heavy metals and chlorine, among others.

There are two ways to go about treating the water. The easiest (and fastest) one is with the help of a water conditioner, as follows:

  1. Clean the bucket
  2. Fill the bucket with tap water
  3. Add the water conditioner
  4. Use the water test strips to check out the results. Clean water should not contain chlorine, nitrite, or ammonia. The ideal pH is between 7 and 7.8
  5. Let the bucket sit while you’re cleaning the bowl

The usual (slower) way to treat the water is by letting it “age”. Fill the bucket with tap water and cover it with a lid, then let it sit overnight.

Cleaning a Bowl

If you choose the first method to treat the water, you may safely proceed to the cleaning immediately afterward. For the second method, the cleaning comes the following day. Either way, moving the fish comes first:

  • Take some fishbowl water and pour it in a clean container
  • Use a net to catch the fish and place them in the container
  • Place the plants with the fish
  • Cover the container if needed

Huh! Being a fish in a bowl isn’t easy, is it?

Once the fish have been safely moved, proceed to the actual cleaning, using the checklist below:

  • Remove the decorations
  • Remove the water from the bowl (if it contains gravel, pour the water out through a strainer)
  • Add half a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to 1 liter of water and soak the decorations and the gravel. Let them sit there until you’ve finished cleaning the bowl, then rinse them with warm water
  • Use paper towels and a toothbrush (or some other small brush) to scrub any potential stains in the fishbowl. Don’t use detergents or soap
  • Rinse the bowl with warm water

If the bowl is dirty, you’ll need to go the extra mile to clean it properly, as follows:

  • Empty the bowl
  • Suck up all dirt and waste with a vacuum cleaner
  • Dip a paper towel (a clean cloth can also be used) in vinegar and scrub the bowl
  • Dip another paper towel (or a cloth) in water and rinse and dry the bowl (use your nose!)
  • Wash the bowl with warm water (you may put it under the sink faucet or do it manually)
  • Wipe the bowl dry

Reassembling the Fish Bowl

Now that everything is clean, it’s time to reassemble the bowl and let the fish enjoy the new, improved environment. Here’s the checklist:

  1. Place the gravel at the bottom of the bowl, distributing it evenly
  2. Arrange the decorations
  3. Add the new water
  4. Transport the plants first, then the fish
  5. Use a paper towel to wipe away any excess water on the outside

Gold fish

In a Nutshell

As you can see, fishbowl cleaning is an adventure in its own right. Thankfully, there are a couple of shortcuts you can resort to in order to make the whole process more fun and less time-consuming. One of them is to keep a couple of water jugs (or bottles) around, so that you can always have “aged” water prepared. The undying question of how to change fishbowl water thus becomes even less complicated.

Another tip is: feed your fish sparingly. We’re not saying to starve them, but you might be surprised to learn how many people tend to overfeed the fish. Fish normally need only as much food as they can eat in ca. 3 minutes, twice per day. Try it and you’ll notice the difference immediately. Say goodbye to the uneaten food nesting itself on the fish bowls’ bottom.

Last but not least, there are simple solutions for persistent stains. Firstly, vinegar is your friend. Any time you notice a stain, it’s safe to soak the bowl in vinegar and let it sit for ca. half an hour. For persistent algae stains, you may use a 10% bleach solution. Soak the bowl in the solution and let it sit (the same timeframe as above). It goes without saying that for both processes you’ll need to transfer the fish in the same way as when cleaning the bowl.

If you stick to these tips, you’ll make the bowl cleaning process a piece of cake. After all, the best fishbowls are those that make both the fish and their owner as happy as it gets.


  1. How to Clean a Fish Bowl – wikiHow
  2. How to Clean a Goldfish Bowl – Caring Pets


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