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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I'm a casual hobbyist getting back into it after a couple years off... Last summer, for the first time in my life, I bought a used tank from a complete stranger...some college bros. They didn't clean it really much at all (they drained the water, but that seems to be about it...I have a sinking feeling there might be dead fish buried under the gravel, who knows) and I don't know the history of their tank, why they tore down, etc. I haven't touched the tank in about a year.

That said, I'm wondering how to approach cleaning it. I know how to clean a tank (I like using vinegar)--I don't know how to effectively sanitize one. I wasn't planning on using the gravel for the tank I'm about to set up, but I'm a little loathe to just throw it out, too... Is there a good way to make sure everything's nice and safe before setting up my next tank?
 

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I would use bleach to sanitize which I have done before with a tank that house reptiles, and vinegar to get rid of calcium deposits.
 

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Definite fan of bleach as the easy, cheap way. It is what's used by pros to clean everything from bathrooms to the water we drink so it is just matter of giving it plenty. There is no real way to say how much is just right as it reacts with almost all organic stuff (like dead fish?) and so we don't know exactly how much to go with the dirt we have.
With no fish to worry about, I just set it all up and give it a couple "glugs' of the cheap stuff with no color or odor added. I let the filter and everything I want clean set and run overnight or so. Mostly it goes until I get back to it. I drain and rinse just to dilute the remaining bleach and then it depends on where I'm going with the tank right then. I may let it dry to give the chlorine time to gas off or I may just go with refilling. The nice thing about chlorine is that it takes little watching and will gas off and leave all by itself if given enough time. Some treat it with dechlor like they would for chloramine but the straight chlorine in bleach goes by itself and I don't bother.
Watch not to get it on clothing as it will eat holes but otherwise, it's easy-peasy.
It will clean up the dead fish, too if you use enough?
 

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After just finishing reading the post on some of the pros and cons of Glutaraldehyde it got me wondering, does anyone use it to clean/sterilize tanks? Seems like it would be perfect.
 

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I think if it was this is what I would do. The first question is do I want to keep the substrate thats in it it. You mentioned dead fish. If the answer is no simply empty the tank and dump it. If the answer is yes I would remove the substrate put it in a bucket, remove all debris. wash it with bleach water, and rinse it very well, let it dry completely and sit out for a day or two. While the sub is drying I would wash the tank with bleach water, rinse it very well and let it dry. Once dry I would use vinegar, clr, or whatever to remove hard water deposits. Again rinse very well and let it dry. The tank and sub are now clean and ready to use. The filters I would do the same. Disassemble, wash with bleach water, rinse, let it dry. Replace any questionable seals or o-rings, it probably wouldnt hurt to replace all seals and o-rings out of principle which is what I do with used filters.
 

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You are correct on guessing there might be a dead fish or two! I once bought houses to rehab and it was not terribly uncommon to find tanks with dead fish. Folks die and nobody claims the fish job. But then dead fish are just large lumps of decaying organic matter so while it makes sense to remove the big stuff, the bleach deals with whatever is too small to pick out--if we get enough bleach. After all, the bleach will eat your shirt so eating a fish is not much different!
Folks worry that the chlorine will some way soak in and not gas off but that needs a bit of thought.
When we take a drink of water treated with chlorine, we often smell it. So doesn't that tell us that the chlorine IS gassing off to get into our nose?
 

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I think this needs to be said here since bleach (correctly) has been suggested as a sanitizer: Not all bleaches are just bleach anymore.

Honestly, if you go to a supermarket you may be hard-pressed to find straight-up bleach. Aside from the different scents, most are now "splashless", etc. They've added surfactants to the formula to make it thicker and less prone to splashing onto clothes you don't want bleach on. They have a noticeable slimy feel to them. Basically, they've added soap. Not a dea-breaker, but takes more rinsing.

So if you decide on bleaching, go to a local hardware store and ask for straight household bleach. You could use peroxide in much the same manner, though I don't know how much to dilute it, if at all.

But I'm with thedood on this one. You'll be rinsing for a while.

I discovered Saf-T-Sorb on this forum and I'm never looking back.
 

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I talk bleach so often I do forget to throw in that it is logical to avoid any added stuff like scent or color. They are just wild cards that we don't need as well as they do add expense. That is likely to be the main reason they are added. In this day of over spending, some are silly enough to think they need lemon flavored bleach!! Not like most people want to stand around and smell the bottle!
Sine the main reason for using bleach is to make life simple, I just pick it off the shelf at Wal-mart. The Great Value brand is the one I look for. At aunder $2 a gallon, it's really kind of hard to think of anything cheaper than a half cup of bleach. What we are talking for cleaning most things like a tank is going to run somewhere around a dime.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
thanks everyone for the tips! i'll probably get around to cleaning it this weekend... maybe i'll post my findings, lol.
 

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If a tank is not so old, a good old alcohol rub is in order before bleaching...
That bio film is a tough, clever creation that can keep bacteria on the one side and your bleach on the other.

I've lost 80% of my sense of smell, I enjoy bleach, I can actually smell it.
 

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One of the nice things about bleach that does give it an advantage over some other methods is that it does react with most every organic. Things like glut, peroxide, boiling water, etc. may kill some of the things we want but they mostly all have limited value on the harder stuff. Things like snails that we want to get rid of, will take some time. There is a muscle and seal on shells and the chlorine reacts to eat through this seal and sterile /kill the snail. I would assume most bio film to be organic and the chlorine simply react with it.
There is always some form of residue left when things react together. In the case of chlorine and steel we see it as rust. It's an easy one to spot if you have a shed full of tools and forget to close the lid tight on the chlorine tablets! One of the problems With chlorine that I've dealt with is the way it does gas off so easily. We used bleach to inject into the line on a well as water was pumped and that required a barrel full of bleach water. A good ,easy way to treat the well water but it also made the pull chain on the light rust off every few years!
 
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