You already know that the dry rocks in your saltwater aquarium add aesthetic appeal to your tank. They also give your finned friends plenty of nooks and crannies to explore!

Yet, it’s important to keep these accessories as clean as possible. Taking the time to remove built-up grime on a regular basis is a great way to keep your fish healthy and keep your aquarium looking its best.

Before you grab any old brush and start scrubbing, it’s important to know the proper technique to follow. When you clean fish tank rocks without care, you could damage them or endanger your fish.

Today, we’re sharing the steps to make your rocks sparkle like new. Ready to learn more? Let’s go!

Bleach Bath to Tackle Algae

Noticing unsightly algae clinging to your aquarium rocks? It’s easy to take care of this issue with a bleach bath.

Fill a bucket with nine parts water and one part chlorine bleach. Then, soak your rocks and other decorations in the diluted solution for around 15 minutes.

Scrub the pieces with a soft-bristled brush or sponge. Then, transfer them to a bucket of clear water and let them soak for an additional 15 minutes.

Let them dry completely before transferring them back into your tank. The drying process can take two days or more, so plan accordingly.

Vinegar Soak for Calcium Buildup

Sometimes, to eradiate calcium buildup and crusted-on algae that forms on the rocks and decorations inside your tank, you’ll need to use an aquarium-safe cleaning product.

The easiest way to clean the rocks in your saltwater aquarium is to soak them in an appropriate-sized container full of white vinegar. It’s safe for your tank accessories and though it takes a while to work, it softens the buildup so you can scrub it away.

Let the rocks soak for a few hours, making sure to submerge every part that contains buildup fully into the solution.

Next, gently scrub each piece to remove the calcium layer. If you aren’t dealing with an especially thick crust, try mixing one part vinegar to one part water to dilute the solution a little. This also helps stretch your vinegar out so you have plenty for next time!

Before putting the rocks back into your aquarium, rinse them thoroughly with tap water and let them dry completely.

Muriatic Acid for Tough Jobs and Phosporates

Chlorine bleach tackles algae and white vinegar is a weak, natural acid that’s capable of handling everyday cleaning tasks, including calcium buildups.

For tougher jobs, consider reaching for muriatic acid, instead, available at your local pool supply store.

The acid eats away at the outer layer of the rock, which is where most of its phosphates accumulate. Found in trace amounts in natural saltwater, phosphates are a normal part most saltwater aquariums or reef tank systems.

Yet, their amounts should be untraceable. In fact, ideal levels are zero, with 0.05 ppm-mg/l being the max acceptable level. When their numbers spike, the accumulation can encourage aggressive algae blooms.

This is where muriatic acid comes in.

The Cleaning Process

More powerful and quick-acting than vinegar, this acid can remove even the most stuck-on buildup in a fraction of the time, making it a powerful foe to both calcium and phosphate deposits. However, it’s so strong that you should dilute it before soaking your rocks.

First, fill up your tote with the rocks to wash.

Then, create a mixture of nine parts water to one part acid, making sure to pour the water in first. If your buildup isn’t excessive, a weaker solution of 10 or even 15-20 parts water to acid may be enough to do the trick.

The liquid will bubble and fizz at first as the acid reacts with the water. Wait about 20 to 35 minutes for the reaction to die down.

Before dumping the water and retrieving your rocks, add baking soda to the solution. This neutralizes it so it’s safe to handle and discard. Test the water’s pH balance and ensure it’s around a 7. If so, it’s safe to dump down an outdoor drain or ditch.

Remove the rocks from the tote and rinse them with tap water. For best results, use a strong, pressurized hose nozzle to remove all rubble and granules. Let the rocks dry for two or more days before adding them to your tank.

If you go this route, make sure to handle the solution outdoors. Also, use proper eye protection and wear long gloves to avoid exposure to the pure acid.

How Often Should I Clean My Rocks?

Strive to clean your tank and all substrate, including rocks and gravel, every three to four weeks, every time you do a thorough water change. You’ll find that if you tackle this chore often, you’ll need to scrub less than if you put it off and only clean your tank once every few months.

If you notice calcium is building up sooner than that, perform the cleaning as soon as you discover it.

It’s Simple to Clean Fish Tank Rocks

Now that you know how to clean fish tank rocks, are you ready to take on this process at home? It doesn’t have to be complicated and once you perform the steps a few times, you’ll be a pro!

Looking to add some decorative flair to your aquarium? We offer a variety of dry rocks, including ancient reef rocks, frag rocks, ledges and more. We can also create custom designs built to fit your vision.

Contact us today to learn more and discover how beautiful your tank can be.