Will Vinegar Kill Algae In A Fish Tank : Step By Step Guide

Every fish hobbyists’ dream is a crystal clear tank. But algae and hard water deposits are the major barriers to this dream. People worry about their unclear fish tanks and do some complicated cleaning methods to clean the dirt stuff.

This article will share the easiest and cheapest way to keep your tank clean from algae. 

Will Vinegar Kill Algae In The Fish Tank?

Vinegar Kill Algae In A Fish Tank

Yes. Vinegar is a good cleaning agent that you can easily find in your kitchen. Vinegar can kill and remove algae from your tank glasses, ornaments, rocks, and tank equipment.

Not only algae but vinegar can also clean the surface of dirt with hard water deposits.

How Does Vinegar Kill Algae?

Vinegar produced by fermentation and oxidation of sugary liquid or alcoholic liquid. The most popular vinegar types are,

  • White vinegar
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Cider vinegar

Vinegar is a liquid that contains acetic acids. Distill vinegar has 5%-8% of acetic acids. Due to the low level of acetic acid concentration is an ideal agent for fish tank cleaning.

White vinegar contains 5-20% of acetic acid. Due to the high acetic acid concentration, it can easily remove algae from the aquarium glasses.

Further, vinegar can clean calcium carbonate deposits and strains from the tank glasses and equipment.

Note: Do not recommend white vinegar to clean while fish in the aquarium. White vinegar is the best for clean empty aquariums. 

How Long Will Vinegar Take To Remove Algae?

The average time to clean the tank depends on several factors. These are;

  • Tank size
  • Vinegar type
  • Algae abundancy
  • Algae type
  • Tank type (Glass tank / Plastic tank / acrylic tank)
  • Level of calcium carbonates deposits

But vinegar helps to loosen the algae quickly from the tank surfaces. Generally,  you can remove algae within 10 minutes to 30 minutes.  Find the best vinegar here.

But time will vary with the factors mentioned above.

If not, you can add one gallon of vinegar to 200 gallons tank. Then allow that water to react for three days. 

Then you can clean the tank glasses using a sponge. Finally, drain the water and refill the tank using treated tap water.

Will Vinegar Kill Algae In A Fish Tank

How To Use Vinegar To Kill Algae?

Method 1:  How To Clean An Empty Fish Tank With Vinegar


  • Vinegar (ideal white vinegar)
  • Table salt
  • Tap water
  • Clean sponges
  • Razorblade

First, you should transfer fish, invertebrates, live plants, decorations to the separate tank.

Step 1: Wipe down the whole tank using a wet sponge to loosen the algae and calcium carbonate deposits

Step 2: wait few minutes. Dip a sponge into the tap water and add some table salt to the sponge

Step 3: Wipe the entire tank again using that sponge

Step 4: Scrub tank glass gently. At this point, algae and calcium deposits start to detach from the glasses

Step 5: Rinse out the tank using clean tap water

 Step 6: Now, your tank somewhat clean of algae and calcium deposits

Step 7: If the tank still has algae debris, use a razor blade to scrape the tank gently

 Clean An Fish Tank With Vinegar

Important:  Skip this step if you have a plastic or acrylic tank

Step 8: Take a clean sponge and pour some vinegar into it

Step 9: Scrub the inside and outside of the tank using the vinegar until algae and calcium deposits disappear

Step 10: Wash the tank using tap water and using siphon pipe or any other method to remove dirty water from the tank  


  • If vinegar smell too strong for you, use water to dilute it. Add water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio (1 cup of vinegar: 1 cup of water)
  • The acrylic tank can scratch easily. Thus, please do not use a razor blade or table salt to clean it.
  • First, Use a soft towel that pours with vinegar to loosen the algae.
  • Then use an acrylic glass scraper to clean the algae from tank glass.
  • Do not mix any detergent or soap with vinegar

How To Clean Decoration, Plants, And Equipment Using Vinegar?

 Live aquatic plants cleaning

  • Use the solution that has white vinegar and water with a 1:1 ratio
  • Soak your live plant in that solution no more than five minutes
  • Carefully rinse live plants under cool running water. It will help to loosen algae and vinegar solution
  • Place the live plant on your aquarium

Tank decorations cleaning

  • Prepare the solution that has white vinegar and water with a 1:1 ratio
  • Please put them in a bucket and sock those using a prepared vinegar solution
  • Leave 10 minutes and wash them using rinse cool running water

Aquarium covers, pipes

  • Take vinegar solution that has white vinegar and water with a 1:1 ratio to the sponge
  • Gentle scrub equipment outer cover using vinegar solution to remove algae and hard water deposits

Filter System cleaning

  • Remove filter medium and place it into a small bawl that fill with tank water
  • Dip the parts of the filter unit into the vinegar solution that has white vinegar and water with a 1:1 ratio
  • Allow filter system tools sock for 10 minutes
  • Remove it and wash under running tap water
  • Fill the filter media and assemble the filter system
  • Please place it in your tank

Method 2: How To Clean The Tank Using Vinegar While Fish In It?


  • Vinegar (ideal Distilled vinegar)
  • Magnetic Algae Scraper

Step 1: Use only distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Step 2: Add a small amount of vinegar to the inside of the magnetic Algae Scraper

Step 3: Gently move the magnetic algae scraper on the entire tank

Important: Do not use white vinegar for this method. It is too acidic and could harm the fish and living creatures of the aquarium. Further, it can reduce the pH level of water to an unacceptable level.

How To Identify Algal Overgrowth?

Algae are visible as a greenish, reddish, or brownish film or residues covering the tank glass, ornaments, gravel, equipment, and live plants. These algae create a non-transparent appearance in the fish tank.

Algae Overgrowth Tend To

  • Unclear tank glasses
  • Watercolor turns into a greenish or brownish color
  • Green, brown, or light red color pigments visible in the water
  • Disturb fish swimming behaviors
  • Disturb fish respiratory behaviors
  • Cover the aquatic plants
  • Damage the fish gills

Does Vinegar Harmful To Fish?

Vinegar is a mildly acidic liquid and will not be harmful to fish. Generally, you can use vinegar with a low level of acetic acids to clean the fish tank.

You should take a small amount of vinegar for cleaning purposes and not directly contact fish with vinegar. If fish contact directly, it will cause to hurt fish.

If you clean your tank with powerful vinegar while fish in the tank, it will badly affect the fish.

Because the vinegar contains acetic acid and it can reduce water pH levels below the preferable limits.

It is recommended to use powerful vinegar such as white vinegar after fish remove into the separate tank. If not, use a small quantity of distilled vinegar with the magnetic cleaner to clean the fish tank.

How To Clean An Empty Fish Tank With Vinegar

Can Vinegar Use To Remove Hard Water Deposits?

Yes, vinegar contains acetic acid, and it can react with calcium carbonate deposits of hard water. To quickly remove hard water deposits, use white vinegar.

Do not use white vinegar while fish are in the tank.  Distilled vinegar also can use to remove hard water deposits.

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Is It Safe To Use Vinegar To Clean A Fish Tank?

The simple answer is yes. Distilled vinegar is a widely used excellent cleaning agent, and it is a non-toxic solution.  You can use a mild vinegar solution to clean tank ornaments, rocks, plants, and tools.

But I recommend removing fish into the separate tank while cleaning your aquarium because vinegar can reduce the pH level of water.

The sensitivity and pH preferable level of the fish vary with the species. If the pH level drops below 6.5, it will adversely affect your fish.

Is White Vinegar Harmful To Fish?

White vinegar contains around 5-20% of acetic acid. If you use it while fish are living in a tank, it will harm to fish. A high level of acetic acid can drop the pH of the water.

Fish tolerance level depends on the fish’s health condition, type, variety, sensitivity, and other factors. If fish unable to tolerate this pH drop, they will immediately die.

White vinegar can drop pH levels below 6.5, and most fish cannot handle this acidic pH level, and Vinegar Kill Algae.

But white vinegar is an excellent and most effective cleaning agent to clean empty fish tanks.

The important fact is when you clean the tank, clean every piece of equipment, including ornaments, substrates, gravel, of the entire tank. If some algae do not remove from the tank, they will act as strata. It causes to grow algae immediately after you clean them.

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Gooch, C., Fortenberry, C., Martin, A., Moran, D. and Alajmi, M., 2015. The Effect of pH Levels on Density of Algae. Journal of Introductory Biology Investigations, 3(3).

About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.