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How to Clean Aquarium Decorations (Vinegar, Bleach)

If you’re like most fish enthusiasts, you spend a lot of time and money stocking your aquarium with beautiful decorations. But what happens when they get dirty? Aquarium decorations can quickly become covered in algae and other gunk if not cleaned regularly.

In this blog post, we will show you how to clean aquarium decorations using common household items. We will also provide tips for keeping your aquarium looking its best.

There are a few different ways you can clean your aquarium decorations. We will go over two of the most common methods below. Keep reading to learn more!

Method 1: Cleaning Aquarium decorations with Vinegar

One of the easiest ways to clean aquarium decorations is to use vinegar. White vinegar is cheap and effective at removing algae and other gunk from your decorations.

You can prepare the following items to get ready for cleaning:

  • White vinegar
  • A clean cloth
  • A soft brush


  1. Remove the decorations from your aquarium and place them in a bowl or sink.
  2. Fill the bowl or sink with water and add enough vinegar to create a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar.
  3. Soak the decorations in the mixture for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, use a soft brush to remove any extra gunk or stubborn stains on the decoration after bringing them out of the mixture.
  5. Rinse them off with clean water and dry the decorations with a clean cloth.
  6. Return the decorations to your aquarium.

Method 2: Clean Aquarium decorations with Bleach

If you have really tough stains or algae build-up, you may need to resort to using bleach. This method should only be used as a last resort, as bleach can be harmful to fish if not used properly.

What you need

  • Plain bleach without additives
  • Water
  • Buckets
  • A powerhead
  • A pair of gloves and a mask
  • An old toothbrush


  1. Put on your protective pieces first, including a chemical-resistant glove and a mask. They will keep the bleach from attacking your skin and respiratory system.
  2. Then, start by removing the decoration from the aquarium. If the decoration is too large to fit in your sink, you can clean it in a water-filled bucket. Also, you can always place it in the bath.
  3. Fill a bucket with 1 part bleach and 10 parts water to create a diluted bleaching solution. Then, submerge the decoration in the mixture and let it soak for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, rinse the decoration off with clean water. In the process, use a soft toothbrush to remove the rest of the algae and dirt stuck in small corners or tiny cracks. This task will be easy since the bleach breaks down the dirt.
  5. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly to remove all traces of bleach. Once the decoration is rinsed, you can put it back in the aquarium.

Method 3: Using Muriatic acid and baking soda

tips for cleaning aquarium decorations

If your aquarium decorations, especially rock pieces, are starting to look dull, you can use Muriatic and baking soda to clean them.

Baking soda is a mild abrasive that will help to neutralize the acid when it removes any build-up on your aquarium decorations.

What you need

  • Muriatic acid
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Soft cloth
  • Bucket
  • Dechlorinator (optional)
  • A pair of latex gloves, a face mask, and a pair of protective glasses


  1. Make sure to wear all the protective pieces before you start using this acid for the decorations. A pair of protective glasses is required to prevent any accidental splash of the acid from hurting your eyes.
  2. Now, start by removing the decoration from the aquarium.
    2. We want to make a 5% cleaner, so it’s 2 teaspoons of acid for every gallon of water. Depending on the size of your decorations, as you want to submerge everything, you can make the solution in a bucket/sink/or the bathtub.
  3. Then, soak the decoration in the mixture for 20 – 25 minutes, and a tad longer if there are stubborn algae on the stones.
  4. After 2/3 of the soaking time, do not forget to add 3 tablespoons of baking soda. It is to neutralize the strong acid.
  5. After that, remove the decoration and rinse it off with clean water.
  6. (Optional) You can soak the decorations in the mixture of water and dechlorinator for 20-30 minutes more to neutralize in case of any acid solution left.
  7. Dry the decoration off with a clean cloth, then return the decoration to your aquarium.

Tips for Cleaning Aquarium Decorations

how to clean aquarium decorations

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There are a few things to keep in mind when cleaning aquarium decorations.

  • It is best to clean aquarium decorations with hot water.
  • Be sure to rinse the decoration thoroughly before returning it to the tank.
  • Cleaning frequency will depend on the type of decoration and how often it is used. Heavy use decorations may need to be cleaned weekly, while light use decorations can be cleaned monthly.
  • If you have a lot of decorations, it may be helpful to soak them in a vinegar or baking soda solution overnight. This will help loosen any build-up so that it’s easier to clean off.
  • If you’re using bleach to clean your aquarium decorations, be sure to use a well-ventilated area and rubber gloves. Bleach can be harmful if inhaled or comes into contact with your skin.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Can you clean fish tank decorations with Dawn?

While Dawn and other dish soaps can effectively clean many items, they should not be used to clean fish tank decorations. The soap can leave a residue that is harmful to your fish. Instead, use one of the methods outlined above.

Can you clean fish tank decorations with soap?

As with Dawn, it is generally not recommended to clean fish tank decorations with soap. This is because soap can leave a residue on the decorations that may harm your fish. 

Is bleach or vinegar better for a fish tank?

Both bleach and vinegar can be effective at cleaning fish tank decorations. However, vinegar is often a safer choice, as it is less harmful to fish if any residue remains. Bleach should only be used for really stubborn algae and stains and should be rinsed thoroughly afterwards to prevent harm to your fish.

Is bleach safe for aquarium plants?

Bleach should not be used on live aquarium plants, as it can harm or kill them. If you need to clean live plants, it’s better to use a gentle cleaning solution like diluted vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, or simply use a soft brush to clean off debris under a gentle stream of water.

Can you use bleach to clean aquarium plants?

While bleach can be used on plastic or silk aquarium plants, it should not be used on live plants. The bleach can harm or even kill the plants. Use a mild cleaning solution like diluted vinegar or hydrogen peroxide for live plants instead.

How do you get brown algae off aquarium decorations?

Brown algae can be removed from aquarium decorations using the vinegar, bleach, or muriatic acid methods mentioned above. Be sure to scrub the decorations thoroughly to remove all algae and rinse well to remove all cleaning solution before returning the decorations to the tank.

How do you clean aquarium decorations with hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean aquarium decorations. Simply create a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to two parts water, and soak your decorations in it for 10-15 minutes. Then, use a soft brush to scrub away any algae or debris, and rinse thoroughly before returning the decorations to the tank.


Cleaning your aquarium decorations is vital to keep your tank looking its best. Over time, decorations can become stained or covered in algae.

By following the tips we’ve provided, you can keep your aquarium looking its best while ensuring that your fish are healthy and safe. Do you have any questions about cleaning aquarium decorations? Let us know in the comments below.

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