Cleaning your fish tank is never a fun duty. It's messy, it's wet, and depending on how long it's been since you've last cleaned your fish tank, it's gross. However, you can avoid all these unfortunate fish tank cleaning side effects, but using a shop vac to remove your old water. It's simple, but there are a few specific guidelines you'll have to follow if you want this to be successful.
First, put your fish in another container of water. Next, cut a leg off an old pair of pantyhose (or anything else that could be used as a filter) and work it onto the shop vac as a filter. This keeps the gravel in the tank from being sucked into the shop vac. When about half of the water is out, refill the rest with fresh water. With the water now in the tank, you'll need to treat it so the chemical composition of the water is up to par. The chemicals in tap water are poisonous to fish, you must use a water conditioner from your pet store to treat the new water. If the chemicals are out of balance, then that could be bad news for your fish.
After you replace up to half of the water in the tank, then use a siphon to clear out some of the muck in the gravel (some plastic mesh over the end will stop the gravel going up the pipe). If you want your fish to be as healthy as possible, you'll need to make sure everything—including the gravel and structures—is in tip top clean shape.
Something else to consider in your fish ownership is a tank filer. If you do not have a filter for your tank, get one. If not, the nitrogen cycle will happen in the gravel; if you remove all of this and totally clean the tank, then the ammonia levels in the tank will spike and seriously harm or kill your fish.
For some, keeping fish may be way more work than you deem necessary, but for those who just love their fish, it's completely worth it. If you are in the latter group, then start and continue to keep your fish tank in a good condition, so your fish are kept healthy. If you're in the former group, well then, get rid of your fish.
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