Where to Put Fish When Cleaning the Tank? – Tips for Beginners

where to put fish when cleaning the tank

Wanting what’s best for your pet fish is customary for most aquarium owners. It can mean finding the right fish food with the best health benefits, and it can also mean keeping the place they call home in tip-top shape for them to feel safe.

If you’re a beginner, cleaning the aquarium can be terrifying because of one logistical problem–⁠where to put fish when cleaning the tank?

Keeping the fish in the tank is usually fine, especially when you have installed filters. But if there is a need to get the fish out of the tank, putting them temporarily in a mug, cup, or small bowl is acceptable. However, you need to follow strict safety precautions⁠.

Where to Put Fish When Cleaning the Tank


1. Keep the fish in the tank


Minimal cleaning is ideal if you have a filter installed in the tank. In fact, filters help maintain clean aquarium water by removing harmful waste and debris naturally.

With minimal cleaning, you only change about 15% of the water weekly, so you don’t need to remove the fish when cleaning the tank. The fish are safer when kept inside the aquarium because removing them can be tedious and can be stressful for the fish.

2. Move the fish to other places


On the other hand, performing an aquarium deep clean by removing all the components and the fish is situational. Here are some reasons why you would want to remove the fish from the tank:

  • There is an overproduction of algae.
  • There are harmful chemicals causing illnesses.
  • There is a pest infestation such as snails, worms, and planaria.
  • There is excessive dirt buildup over time.

3. You have various choices as follows:


  • To an equally-sized tank

When you consider transferring the fish, the safety of your fish is the priority. Putting them in a clean small fish tank capable of replicating the same environment as your original one is ideal. The changes your fish will experience are little, avoiding stress and shock that may cause health risks.

However, this method can be costly and inefficient since most people don’t have a spare aquarium. So, only consider doing this if you have enough resources or absolutely need to ensure the fish’s safety if they have existing health conditions.

  • To a large bowl, cup, or mug

An alternative and feasible solution is to use a bowl large enough for the fish, a cup, or a mug. Before transferring the fish, wash the container thoroughly. Avoid using soap because even a smidgeon of residue may be toxic to your fish.

Use the existing water from the tank for the bowl to avoid sudden changes. Factors like changes in the pH levels and changes in the mineral content of the water can cause illnesses in your fish.

But if the water from the tank is too dirty, you can use new water as long as it’s still the same source as the existing water in the aquarium. Just be sure that it also maintains the same temperature.

  • Last resort: To a large plastic zip bag

The easiest and cheapest alternative is to use a large plastic bag as a temporary container for your fish. This method is relatively safe if you use the existing water in the tank and maintain vital conditions like temperature and oxygen supply.

But keeping the fish in a plastic bag still has fatal risks because being in a small and unstable space can cause extreme stress for the fish.

So, only use plastic bags as a container for your fish during an emergency (reasons mentioned above, like infestation) or when you want to transfer the fish to a new tank in a different place.

Ways to Remove Fish From the Fish Tank


You can take the fish out of the tank in two ways, with or without a net. Remember that the longer you try to catch them, the more stressful they can become and the more harmful it is to their health.

So here are some practical ways to capture your fish with a net:

  • Put the net inside the aquarium for five minutes. This way, your fish will become familiar with the new addition to the aquarium. When your fish starts approaching the net, move the net upwards, scooping the fish up calmly.
  • Use a large net with a wiry mesh. With this, you can freely move it around the aquarium and capture your fish fast enough. Just be cautious when trapping the fish to a corner, as it may cause injuries when they get hit.
  • Reducing the amount of water in the tank can help to catch the fish because there will be a smaller space for your fish to move in, making them easier to grab with a net.

If you don’t have a net, here are some alternative ways:

  • You can use a bowl or a jar with a large enough opening and a deep enough hole. The approach is similar to how you catch the fish using a net. Use containers with soft edges to avoid any possible injuries to the fish.
  • Use a large plastic bottle modified with an inverted top part. You can easily make this using a knife and glue. Placing food pellets inside the bottle and putting the bottle in the tank makes it an effective lure to capture the fish.

Tips When Returning the Fish to the Tank After Cleaning


The goal is to clean the fish tank without killing the fish, so when taking them back to their home, you want to maintain the same conditions as before. So, there are a few things you need to monitor before putting the fish back in the tank after cleaning it:

Tip 1. Clean the tank quickly and efficiently to avoid the fish staying for a long time in a foreign container and prevent complications.

Tip 2. Assure the water temperature is back to a livable condition (23-27 degrees Celcius) for your fish. You can use a thermometer that sticks to the tank and measure the results.

Tip 3. Assure that there are no sudden fluctuations in the pH level (maintain 6.8 to 8.0) of the water in the aquarium by dipping a digital pH meter and measuring its results.

Why Does the Fish Keep Jumping Out of the Container?


Transferring the fish to a new and foreign environment can cause shock, making them want to jump out of the container. It is a natural reaction and doesn’t automatically mean the fish is experiencing illnesses.

You can temporarily place a simple plastic cover or a lid for the container while cleaning the tank to keep them inside.


The most important thing to remember as aquarium hobbyists is to maintain a consistent environment for your fish. So, whenever you ask yourself where to put fish when cleaning the tank, you should note that the same conditions for your fish are always ideal.

The joy of owning a fish tank is to know that your fish is safe and happy, so let this article be a helpful tool for you to decide what’s best for your pet fish when cleaning the aquarium.