How To Clean Aquarium Rocks (Cleaning Made Easy)

Cleaning your aquarium is an important part of fishkeeping; one you cannot neglect because it can lead to a disaster in your fish tank, worse enough to kill your fish. 

As a good aquarist, you need to prevent that from happening. And one of the things you need to do is know how to clean aquarium rocks.

How To Clean Aquarium Rocks 

Some people pay attention to cleaning the aquarium walls and almost neglect cleaning the rock, but it’s very important. Cleaning aquarium rocks vary depending on the kind of rock in your fish tank.

But don’t worry, you can get all the information you need on any of the types in this article. 

Let’s get right into it!

Why Do Aquarium Rocks Get Dirty?

A few factors contribute to dirty aquarium rocks. And while you may not see the dirt sometimes, you need to pay attention to it, so you don’t miss it.

Generally, you should clean your aquarium rocks once or twice monthly. But if you neglect doing so, they can get dirty more than you can imagine.

So, why do aquarium rocks get dirty?

1. Lack of water change

Leaving the same water in your aquarium for too long can make your aquarium rocks dirty. A lot goes on in the tank, and changing water can help protect your fish’s health.

2. Food and fish waste

Fish and food waste build-up in the tank can make your aquarium and the rocks dirty. Therefore, you need to carry out routine cleaning and maintenance in your tank.

3. Poor water quality

When the water quality is bad due to situations like high ammonia, algae, bacteria, and fungi, you can expect that your aquarium rocks will get dirty.

Importance of Cleaning Aquarium Rocks

Cleaning your aquarium rocks is important in every way. It provides a lot of benefits for your fish. Moreover, it makes the tank more habitable for them. 

Additionally, it’s important because:

1. Good for fish health

Clean aquarium rocks are good for your fish’s health. It means there is no unhealthy matter, which can be problematic for your fish hanging on to them. 

2. Prevents aquarium rocks from becoming grimy

When aquarium rocks are dirty, they become grimy and slimy, and you can imagine how that feels. Apart from how it feels, it indicates that some components bad for your fish are hanging on them. However, cleaning them makes sure that doesn’t happen.

3. To remove decaying matter 

It is important that you clean your aquarium rocks to remove decaying matter from food, waste, and plant on them. This prevents ammonia, bacteria, and fungi growth in the tank. 

4. Keep tank clean

Keeping clean aquarium rocks in the glass helps contribute to a clean and healthy fish tank. This makes the aquarium more habitable and healthy for your fish.

Tools You Need To Clean Aquarium Rocks

You don’t really need anything special to clean your aquarium rocks. In fact, you could use some of your household items to clean the rocks.

Now, you may want to use a sponge and soap, but it may not be as effective because you may still have some particles lingering on it. But thankfully, you can use other effective tools like:

1. Algae remover or scraper

One of the tools you can use to clean aquarium rocks is an algae remover or scraper. This helps scrub the rock’s surface, removing algae and other dirt particles on them.

The good thing is you can also use them to clean the aquarium glass. You only need to use them to scrape the rocks, rinse and place them back in the tank.

Some good ones are:

2. Aquarium vacuum

Aquarium vacuums are pretty useful; they suck out the algae and dirt hanging on the rocks. This tool is very effective in cleaning and will come in handy in cleaning your tank, especially gravel.

You should vacuum the rocks once a week. Some examples of aquarium vacuums are:

3. Vinegar

You can also use a vinegar solution to clean your aquarium rock. You need to soak the rock in the solution for 24 hours, scrub with a brush, rinse, dry, and return it to the water.

4. Bleach

A 10% bleach solution can help clean your aquarium rocks and make them safe for your fish tank again, especially for getting rid of algae. Soak the rocks in the solution for about 15 minutes, brush, rinse with warm water, dry and place it back in the tank.

How To Clean Aquarium Gravel

Sometimes debris and algae can hang on your aquarium gravel. You don’t leave them there without doing anything. However, how you clean your aquarium gravel depends on the size of the tank.

1. How to clean gravel in small tanks

Follow these steps: 

  1. Remove and transfer your fish into a spare fish tank or container with the same water parameters.
  2. Remove all the decor and accessories in your fish tank.
  3. Unplug the filter and other electronics and set them aside.
  4. Soak the gravel with treated water or a cleaning solution. 
  5. Sieve the gravel and drain out the water.
  6. Rinse with lukewarm water and stir to remove grime and debris.
  7. Rinse under running water to completely remove dirt.
  8. Return the gravel into the tank, and the decors, filter, and other decorative items.
  9. Refill the aquarium with dechlorinated water.

2. How to clean gravel in large tanks

Follow these steps:

  1. You don’t need to move your fish around and stress them; you only need to use an aquarium vacuum.
  2. Place the siphon into the tank and the other end into a bucket close to your aquarium so the dirt can go in there.
  3. Suck on the vacuum to generate pressure and when it starts sucking, move it around in the tank in a circular motion.
  4. Refill the tank to the normal level with dechlorinated water.

How To Clean Live Aquarium Rocks

You don’t necessarily need to clean live aquarium rocks unless the situation in your saltwater tank is serious. In that case, you can scrub them off, especially in an algae situation, and you must remove them from the tank when you clean them.

Soak it in salt water for about two days after cleaning before returning it to the tank. But most importantly, you only need to create a sustainable clean environment for them with appropriate lighting, a clean tank, filtration, and steady pH. 

How To Clean Decorative Aquarium Rocks

Cleaning decorative aquarium rocks are pretty simple; you only need to scrub them. The following are what you need to do:

  1. Gently scrub the surface with an algae scraper.
  2. Rinse them in a water solution. Ensure you avoid tap water as it can remove good bacteria hanging on them.
  3. Return it into the tank.


Aquarium rocks need to be clean for a more healthy home for your fish. Hence, you must know how to clean aquarium rocks as an aquarist.

Cleaning the rocks differs, so you need to identify the ones you have in your aquarium and clean them accordingly. You can choose whichever tool or method you want. 

Most importantly, ensure that the water parameters are correct and you maintain routine water changes and maintenance in the tank.

Additional Contents:

  1. How To Lower PH In Aquarium
  2. Best Food For Clownfish | 5 food options
  3. Breeding Healthy Platys | How Many Platys In A 10 Gallon Tank?
  4. Best Aquarium Air Pump For Multiple Tanks | Top picks
  5. Guppy Grass For Sale | What to know before buying