How to Clean Plastic Aquarium Plants?

Aquarium accessories, such as decorations and plastic plants, require an effort to keep clean. If you don’t clean them out regularly, they run the risk of algae formation.

However, it’s not a good idea to wash and scrub off the algae and other contaminants with chemicals.

Detergent and soap are extremely toxic to fish and can prove fatal.

So, how can you clean plastic aquarium plants without harming the fish?

Let’s find out!

How to Clean Plastic Aquarium Plants?

There are a few natural or non-toxic methods to clean plastic aquarium plants. They are as follows:

  1. Boiled water
  2. Vinegar
  3. Bleach solutions

Let’s go through each method step-by-step.

Boiled water

You can get rid of algae contamination on your plastic aquarium plants with boiled water.

Hot water quickly kills all the algae. Once they are dead, you can scrub them off the plant surface.

This method is ideal because it doesn’t expose your fish to any toxic chemicals.

Step-by-step guide:

  1. Use a pot of boil clean water
  2. Once the water is thoroughly heated, transfer it to a clean container
  3. Be quick to insert your plastic plants in the boiling hot water
  4. Keep the plants in the boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes
  5. Scrub off any algae that are left on the surface
  6. Take the plants out and let them cool down
  7. Place the clean and cool plastic plants back in the aquarium


At times, plastic aquarium plants experience the buildup of calcium residue due to water evaporation.

Instead of rigorously scrubbing the surfaces for hours, you can just use a vinegar solution.

It’s a safe alternative to chemicals and doesn’t harm your fish in any way.

Step-by-step guide:

Recipe for vinegar solution: Take a half-gallon of sterilized water and mix it with a half cup of vinegar in a clean container.

  1. Transfer the vinegar solution in a clean spray bottle
  2. Spray the mixture on the plastic plant surfaces
  3. Wipe away the residue gently
  4. Rinse the plastic plants with clean water, and place them back inside the aquarium

Bleach Solution

Sometimes plastic plants get extremely contaminated and can’t be adequately cleaned with boiled water and vinegar.

This usually happens due to a lack of maintenance and cleaning routine. In such cases, you’re only left with the option of a bleach solution.

Here’s how to make and use a bleach solution safely.

Step-by-step guide:

  1. Make a solution of bleach by carefully mixing one-part bleach with nine parts of water.
  2. Keep the plastic plants in the bleach solution for 10 to 15 minutes
  3. Remove the objects from the bleach solution and soak them in clean water for at least 15 minutes
  4. Carefully rinse and scrub the surfaces with running water for a couple of minutes
  5. Place the plants back in the aquarium

Caution for bleach use

You must be mindful of the following things when using bleach:

  • Bleach can decolorize the silk aquarium plants if it’s not washed off properly
  • Bleach can harm your fish if you don’t rinse it off from the objects completely
  • Do NOT wash use bleach solution to clean porous objects
  • Do NOT mix bleach with any other chemical

Which scrubber to use for cleaning plastic aquarium plants?

You can use several household scrubbing tools to clean the plastic plants and other ornaments in your aquarium. Bottle scrubbers, toilet scrubbers, and toothbrushes can all be used for cleaning.

However, you need to make sure you don’t use any tool which has come in contact with any chemicals.

It can harm your fish and the environment of your aquarium. It would be best if you separated the scrubbing tools used for your aquarium from other household scrubbers.

A clean and healthy environment is necessary for the good health of your fish. However, it’s also equally important to not overdo it. Sometimes excessive scrubbing and cleaning kill off the good bacteria in the aquarium.

These naturally-formed bacteria are beneficial for your fish’s environment.

To minimize the risk of killing all the bacteria, consider washing only a few plastic plants at one time instead of washing all of them at once.

Things to consider while cleaning plastic plants

Here are a few things to consider when using plastic plants in your fishtanks.

Pulling out the plastic plants

Plastic aquarium plants are an excellent idea because they are easy to maintain. When you see residue building up on the surface of your plants, it’s easy to clean them up.

All you have to do is put your hand in and pull them out of the aquarium.

However, it’s important not to stir the aquarium environment too much. Always make sure that your hands are clean or wear clean gloves.

Hold the plastic plants from the bottom and gently separate them from the substrate.

If anything clings to the bottom, gently move the plant back and forth to free it. Take out the plastic plants and place them in a clean container to prevent dripping.

Use the same method to pull out the plastic plants when you have to clean the aquarium. Follow the steps of cleaning the plastic plants, as mentioned above.

The best option would be using the boiled water cleaning method. Most algae and other contaminants come off easily with hot water.

Do not use household chemicals

You may be tempted to clean the plastic plants with household washing chemicals.

However, you must resist even if the algae or other residue buildup seems a lot. It can be washed clean with boiled water.

Household chemicals like soap, sanitizers, and detergent are extremely toxic for the environment of your aquarium.

Fish are susceptible to chemicals. If you’re not careful, it can end up killing your fish within minutes of exposure.

That is why you must never use anything that is even slightly toxic.

It’s also important to use new or separate cleaning equipment for your aquarium. You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your fish from harm’s way.

Protect useful bacteria

Along with being home to your fish and plants, your aquarium also hosts friendly bacteria.

These bacteria are essential for the healthy ecosystem of your aquarium. They convert the toxic ammonia waste of your fish into non-toxic nitrates.

The useful bacteria form colonies in aquariums. They play the critical role of cleaners.

Apart from ammonia waste, some of them also eat algae. Consequently, they end up reducing your cleaning tasks and keeping your fish healthy.

Therefore, you must ensure that your cleaning endeavors do not end up killing the beneficial bacteria. Excessive cleaning and scrubbing are harmful to these bacteria.

Benefits of artificial aquarium plant

Many veteran fish keepers insist that artificial plants are much better for aquariums than real plants. Let’s look at the reasons why:

  • Artificial plants do not influence the oxygen content in the aquarium
  • They have a longer life than live plants
  • They do not outgrow the fish tank
  • They are easier to keep clean and maintain
  • They do not leave any waste

You can also consider keeping a mix of live plants and plastic plants in your aquarium.

How to clean silk aquarium plants?

Cleaning silk aquarium plants is fairly simple. Follow the step-by-step guide below:

  • First, rinse your silk plants with hot running water
  • Make a mixture of lemon juice and un-iodized salt
  • Use the mixture to scrub the silk plants with a toothbrush
  • Make sure all the algae and residue are removed
  • Rinse the plants again with hot water

How to clean new plastic aquarium plants?

When you buy new plastic aquarium plants, they may be contaminated with dust and other particles.

So, it’s best to clean them before placing them in your aquarium. The new plants don’t need to be sterilized.

You can just clean them within ten minutes. You can use running cold water to rinse the surface of your new plants.

You can also fill a clean container with cold water. Then, place your new plastic aquarium plants inside it for 10 to 15 minutes.

It will be enough to clean off any dirt particles from the plant surface.

How to prevent Algae formation in your aquarium?

Are you trying to maintain a clean environment for your fish, but somehow the algae always reappear?

Cleaning over and over again can be exhausting. It’s always best to prevent a problem rather than curing it.

There are a few ways to prevent algae outbreaks in your aquarium.

The best of all is to add a species of bacteria that eats algae.

You can also add a few algae-eating fish to your aquarium.

Otocinclus catfish, Twig catfish, guppies, platies, and a few species of shrimp and snail, are all excellent choices for keeping your aquarium algae free.

However, make sure you consult an expert before adding anything to your aquarium.

The bottom line

Maintaining a clean environment is crucial for your fish’s health.

You must prioritize the regular cleaning of the aquarium as well as the artificial plants and ornaments. Make sure not to use any toxic material for cleaning. Good luck!

Stay tuned for more tips and information on how to take care of your fish!

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