How to Make a Self-Cleaning Aquarium – Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Aquariums are beautiful and peaceful additions to any home. Regular maintenance and cleaning are necessary to keep the aquarium healthy for its inhabitants. What if I told you there is a way to have a clean and healthy aquarium without regular maintenance? That’s where a self-cleaning aquarium comes in.

A self-cleaning aquarium is an aquarium that utilizes a filtration system and automatic cleaning mechanism to keep the water clean and healthy for the fish. With a self-cleaning aquarium, you can say goodbye to the hassle of weekly water changes and filter replacements.

Creating a self-cleaning aquarium may seem daunting, but it’s not as complicated as it may seem. I will give you everything you need to know to create your self-cleaning aquarium.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Setup a Self-Cleaning Aquarium

Setting up a self-cleaning aquarium requires careful planning, equipment selection, and regular maintenance. You can enjoy a healthy and low-maintenance aquarium with minimal effort by following the steps below.

Step-1: Choose a Suitable Location

The first step is to select a suitable location for your self-cleaning aquarium. Consider a location with access to electrical outlets, away from direct sunlight, and free from drafts.

You’ll also want to make sure the location can support the aquarium’s weight when it’s filled with water.

Step-2: Gather Equipment

The next step is collecting all the necessary equipment and materials to set up your self-cleaning aquarium. Some essential equipment includes a self-cleaning filter, air pump, heater, substrate, plants, and decorations. You may also need a water test kit, de-chlorinator, and fish food.

Step-3: Rinse and Clean the Aquarium

Thoroughly rinse the aquarium with water and clean it to remove any dirt, dust, or debris. Avoid using soaps or detergents as they can harm the fish. Rinse the substrate, plants, and decorations before adding them to the aquarium.

Step-4: Add Substrate and Decorations

Add sand or gravel to the bottom of the aquarium as substrate. Then add some plants and decorations to create a natural-looking environment for your fish. Make sure to leave enough space for the fish to swim around.

Step-5: Install the Self-Cleaning Filter

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the self-cleaning filter. Place it in the aquarium and ensure it’s securely fitted. The self-cleaning filter will remove waste and debris from the water, reducing manual cleaning frequency.

Step-6: Install the Air Pump and Heater

Proper installation of the aquarium’s air pump and heater must strictly adhere to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

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The air pump will help oxygenate the water, while the heater will maintain a constant temperature. Make sure to select the correct size of equipment for your aquarium, depending on the tank size and number of fish.

Step-7: Fill the Aquarium with Water

Please ensure that the aquarium is filled with clean water up to the recommended level. Be sure to treat the water with a de-chlorinator to remove any harmful chemicals that could harm the fish. Don’t overfill the aquarium as fish produce waste that needs to be processed by the filter.

Step-8: Test the Water

Test the water using an aquarium water test kit to ensure the pH level, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels are within the safe range. This will help you understand the water quality of your aquarium and take the necessary measures to keep your fish healthy.

Step-9: Add Fish

After the water tests are safe, it’s time to add your fish. However, don’t add too many fish at once, as they can produce waste that can overload the self-cleaning filter. Start with a few hardy species and gradually add more fish as the aquarium matures.

Step-10: Regular Maintenance

In order to ensure the proper functioning of the self-cleaning aquarium, perform regular maintenance. Clean the aquarium glass, replace the filter media, and conduct water changes as the manufacturer recommends. The frequency of maintenance tasks will depend on the size of your aquarium and the number of fish.

What are Some Best Pieces of Equipment to set up a Self-Cleaning Aquarium?

Various equipment options are available when setting up a self-cleaning aquarium, and the best ones will depend on the specific needs of your aquarium and fish.

Here’s a table summarizing the essential equipment needed to set up a self-cleaning aquarium:

Self-cleaning filterRemoves waste and debris from the water, reducing manual cleaning frequency. Popular options include under-gravel filters, canister filters, and power filters.
Air pumpHelps oxygenate the water and circulate it, preventing dead spots and ensuring proper filtration.
LED lightingProvides a beautiful and vibrant look to your aquarium and can also promote plant growth and improve fish health.
HeaterMaintains a consistent water temperature suitable for your fish. Look for a reliable and accurate option with automatic shut-off for added safety.
SubstrateCovers the bottom of the aquarium and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria that aid in the breakdown of waste.
Plants and decorationsCreates a natural-looking environment for your fish, and provides hiding spots and a healthy ecosystem.
Water test kitEssential for monitoring water quality and detecting potential issues. Look for a kit that accurately measures pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.
DechlorinatorRemoves harmful chemicals such as chlorine from tap water before adding it to the aquarium. Ensure it is safe for your fish and effectively removes all toxic chemicals.

Some Suitable Fish and Plants Suggestions for a Self-Sustaining Aquarium

When choosing fish and plants for a self-cleaning aquarium, it is crucial to consider the specific needs and preferences of both. Here are some fish and plant suggestions that are well-suited for a self-cleaning aquarium:

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Fish Suggestion

Betta fishSmall, low-maintenance fish that can thrive in a small self-cleaning aquarium. Comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Corydoras catfishSmall and peaceful fish enjoy scavenging for food at the bottom of the tank. Can help keep the tank clean.
Neon tetrasColorful fish that do well in groups and are relatively easy to care for.

Plants Suggestions

AnubiasLow-maintenance plants that can be attached to rocks or driftwood. Does well in low to medium light conditions.
Java fernEasy-to-care-for plant that can be attached to rocks or driftwood. Can grow in a variety of lighting conditions.
Marimo moss ballsUnique algae balls absorb nitrates and other pollutants, helping keep the aquarium clean.
Amazon swordThe vibrant green plant can grow up to 20 inches tall. Requires medium to high light and regular fertilization.

How Can You Maintain Your Self Cleaning Aquarium?

Maintaining a self-cleaning aquarium takes some effort, but the results are worth it. Here is a Brief discussion of the topic:

Check and Adjust the Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for most fish species is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust it as needed regularly.

Test Water Quality Regularly and Adjust

Test the water in your self-cleaning aquarium regularly for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels. High ammonia and nitrite levels can be toxic to fish and cause illness or death, while high nitrate levels can cause algae growth. Adjust water quality as needed with appropriate treatments and water changes.

Replace Filter Media

The filter in your self-cleaning aquarium is crucial for maintaining good water quality. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacing filter media, usually every 2-4 weeks.

Clean the Aquarium Glass As Needed

Algae and debris can accumulate on the aquarium glass, reducing visibility and making your self-cleaning aquarium less attractive. Use an aquarium-safe glass cleaner and a soft cloth to clean the glass as needed.

Perform Water Changes on a Regular Basis

Water changes are essential to maintaining good water quality in your self-cleaning aquarium. Aim to change about 10-20% of the water in your aquarium every week.

Prune and Maintain Plants As Needed

If you have live plants in your self-cleaning aquarium, they will require maintenance and pruning to keep them healthy and looking good. Remove dead or decaying leaves and trim plants to prevent overgrowth.

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Will a Self-Cleaning Aquarium Help with Growing Low Light Plants?

Growing low light aquarium plants for beginners can be challenging, but a self-cleaning aquarium can definitely help. These innovative systems not only create optimal conditions for plants to thrive but also minimize the maintenance required. With the right combination of lighting and nutrients provided, low light aquarium plants can flourish, giving beginners a successful and enjoyable plant-growing experience.


A self-cleaning aquarium is an excellent investment for anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of fish without the hassle of frequent cleaning. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can easily create a self-cleaning aquarium that will save you time and money in the long run.

Remember to choose the right fish and plants for your setup and to maintain the system regularly to ensure the health and happiness of your aquatic pets. With a little effort and know-how, you can enjoy a thriving, low-maintenance aquarium for years to come.

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