Tips for crystal clear saltwater aquarium glass ways keep it that way!

Aquarium glass gets dirty, no way around it. The only way to view your tank without obstruction is to clean it and in this episode of the 5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide Ryan shares some simple advice for cleaning your aquarium walls and shows you how to maximize the time in between cleanings.

Things that cause dirty aquarium glass

How To Reduce Algae Growth on Aquarium Walls

There are three things that fuel the algal film on your tank’s walls: light, elevated nitrate and phosphate and poor maintenance. Lighting is really not a variable we can control here because the corals need the high output lighting which also happens to be prime for fueling algae growth.

So the variable you can control is nutrient levels, meaning nitrates and phosphates. If these levels are high, algae will grow faster than if they were maintained at low levels. If you notice your levels rising via your weekly water tests, simply reduce your feeding.

Hanna Instruments Ultra Low Range Phosphate Checker

If levels are already elevated, perform a few large water changes in the amount of around 30% of your tank’s total water volume. This will bring those levels back down to a manageable range and then reduce your feeding to keep those levels low.

Nitrate Test Kit

If you really like feeding fish heavily and refuse to stop, there are other options, specifically upping your filtration effectiveness. A bigger protein skimmer, more frequent water changes, add a refugium, utilize media such as GFO or consider an algae scrubber. All of these are sufficient methods for reducing nutrient levels in your tank but our best advice is to start by reducing your feeding because it is the easiest approach.


Another option is dosing heterotrophic bacteria; these are those microscopic troops we talked about in Episode #16 that will consume algae and detritus from your tank helping to keep it clean. Vibrant and Microbacter Clean are the two most popular additives and just remember these bacteria will not reproduce in saltwater so repeated doses are required.

How To Clean Your Aquarium Glass

Regardless of how quick the algae grows on your tank walls, at some point, you will need to clean it; once per month at very minimum but oftentimes much more frequent.

Continuum Aquatics AquaBlade

For proper cleaning, you need two different tools. The first being a scraper and the Continuum Aquatics AquaBlade works awesome. Great price, strong and easily removes even the most stubborn algae. The longer 24” handle model works out great for cleaning the back walls. If you keep an acrylic tank, be mindful of the metal blade, a separate plastic blade is available for acrylic tanks.

Just about every seasoned tank owner graduates into a magnetic scraper/scrubber combo because they work the best. The simple design has a blade and scrubber pad on the wetside that is magnetically coupled to a soft felt pad on the outside that effectively cleans both inside and out at the same time.

Cleaning Glass with a Flipper Magnet

Our Favorite Magnet Cleaners

In our 40-gallon breeder tank, we chose to use the Flipper which is our most popular algae magnet. It offers great value and gets its name from the ability to flip back and forth from scraper to scrubber pad without getting your hands wet inside the tank.

Algae Free Magnet Cleaners

For the Red Sea E-170 we are sticking with our theme and going with the higher-end Algae Free Magnet, specifically the Piranha. For only $20 the magnet is much stronger making it easier to remove that sticky algae film with less elbow grease. It is also a bit more attractive with the wooden finish and best of all, it floats! If the wet side of the cleaner becomes disconnected it will float to the top for easy retrieval.

Algae Free Magnet Cleaner

Don’t forget that both the Flipper cleaner and Algae Free magnets offer replacement pads and blades so you can expect them to last through the life of your tank. Once worn, simply replace the pads and or blade for “like-new” performance.

What’s Next?

Glass is clean but when do water changes come into the mix? Well, you’re in luck because in Episode #22 Ryan shares some valuable tips for making your water changes a breeze.

5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide Episode #22

Looking for a different topic or have questions? You can binge the entire 5 Minute Saltwater Aquarium Guide playlist right here on our website. We also invite you to join the #askBRStv Facebook Group which is a free resource for you to ask questions, get advice, interact with other hobbyists and get your daily reef aquarium fix.

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