On (hopefully very rare) occasion, the aquarium hobbyist will find a need to “nuke” an aquarium – that is, to remove all fish, then thoroughly clean the tank and hopefully remove most of the parasites and parasites it may have contained. Such drastic measures are of course most often undertaken after a massive outbreak of disease, but may be sometimes used to prepare an aquarium for a challenging species or for breeding certain delicate egglayers.
- Potassium Permanganate – is an excellent oxidizing agent that can destroy most organic compounds, then itself breaks down into quite harmless compounds. We have used Jungle’s “Clear Water” at five to ten times the directed dose with very good results. After adding permanganate, stir the gravel, then allow to percolate through the filter system until the pink/purple color begins to turn brown. Completely drain and refill the tank, and it should be ready to go again in a few hours.
- Chlorine Bleach – is even more effective, but harder to remove, and more dangerous if not 100% neutralized. Add about one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water, and let flow through the system for one hour. Then, remove all water, refill, and add any cheap chlorine neutralizer at about 10 times its normal dose. Wait another hour, then change all water and refill again. Caution: this treatment kills everything, including beneficial bacteria, so tank will certainly cycle again once fish are added. It may also fade artificial plants and colored gravels.
- Aquarium Salt – is less effective than either of the above, but very safe and easy to remove. Perhaps the best way to utilize salt is to drain the tank first, then make a slurry of a handful of salt to scrub glasses and stir into gravel. Repeat until all surfaces have been scrubbed. This highly concentrated salt solution is very deadly to most parasites. After treatment, fill, drain completely, and refill the tank before using.
- Fresh Water – is to a salt water tank what the above salt method is to a freshwater tank. To administer, simply drain the marine aquarium, then refill with fresh water. Allow to filter for 24 hours, then drain and refill with salt water.
Any “nuked” tank might go through a “New Tank Syndrome”, so the aquarist should be prepared and restart with a few, hardy fish. Also, please read product labels for directions on how to safely handle chemicals.
By Jim Kostich