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Cleaning Coral, Plastic Plants and Other Aquarium Ornaments

Bob Fenner  

Periodic cleaning of aquarium decorations is necessary to maintain aesthetic and reduce algae proliferation. Many situations are the result of too much light coupled with high nutrient levels, too few plants and/or "scavengers", overfeeding, under filtration... For many customers, cleanliness is sterility; they want to see coral skeletons, plastic plants, et al. absolutely free of dirt and debris. For these hobbyists and Service businesses in our  interest this article presents step by step instructions on a safe and effective method of "bleaching" ornaments clean.

Keep this outline handy for instructing your crew and customers on this cleaning method.

1. Necessary equipment: 5 gallon bucket, trash can sprinkling can or sink. Hose or other source of water. Drain. Chlorine. Dechlorinating agent.

2. Remove decorations from aquarium (or in some cases of bleaching the whole system, remove livestock). Place in bucket, being careful not to drip water. Take materials to area where chlorine is to be used, preferably outside.

3. Add approximately one half cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water that covers ornaments being cleaned. Use warm water to clean ornaments in bleach if possible. An alternate method is to place the ornaments on driveway (not tiled) and "shower bleach on items with a sprinkling can.

4. Allow the decorations to soak until the dirt and algae have discolored and are falling off.

5. When the ornaments seem clean, pour off the bleach water and rinse/flush with fresh water thoroughly, until no chlorine odor exists. Treat with dechloraminator to ensure that no chlorine is returned to the aquarium. An OTO (swimming pool) chlorine test kit is a very worthwhile investment.

6. Be especially careful not to track, spill chlorine. Always carry ornaments back to the tank in a container.

7. Replace ornaments. A dose of dechloraminator in the tank is advised to neutralize any trace of chlorine.

8. Rinse all suspect gear to remove chlorine before returning to kit, truck or office and store in proper place.


I'd like to re-emphasize that this method of cleaning is intended for the most extreme cases of dirtiness to cleanliness where simple warm water, scrubbing and "elbow-grease" won't do. 

For our Service Division, maintaining older style marine systems where the owner's or their representatives desire absolutely sterile-clean ornaments. Functionally, biological systems are better served being partially "dirty".


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