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Old 04-01-2011, 10:34 AM   #1
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How Do I Clean an Empty Aquarium?

I'm going to set up a 30-gallon aquarium this weekend. It was my old aquarium when I was a kid, so it hasn't been used in ~14 years. I need to clean it before fish can live in there.

I know that I can't use soaps or anything antibacterial, as their residue would be harmful to fish. But, does that mean I'm limited to hot water and elbow grease? Is there any cleaning product that is safe? Rubbing alcohol or vinegar? I assume those would evaporate and be rinsed out, right?

Also, as far as leak-checking, I plan to fill it up and let it sit for an hour. Is that adequate? What are the chances that there is a very minor leak that wouldn't be an issue within an hour, but could be disastrous over a year? What are your experiences with the integrity of silicone seals that have sat in a basement for over a decade?
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Old 04-01-2011, 11:47 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JackSpadesSI
I'm going to set up a 30-gallon aquarium this weekend. It was my old aquarium when I was a kid, so it hasn't been used in ~14 years. I need to clean it before fish can live in there.

I know that I can't use soaps or anything antibacterial, as their residue would be harmful to fish. But, does that mean I'm limited to hot water and elbow grease? Is there any cleaning product that is safe? Rubbing alcohol or vinegar? I assume those would evaporate and be rinsed out, right?

Also, as far as leak-checking, I plan to fill it up and let it sit for an hour. Is that adequate? What are the chances that there is a very minor leak that wouldn't be an issue within an hour, but could be disastrous over a year? What are your experiences with the integrity of silicone seals that have sat in a basement for over a decade?
When I need to clean something out, a bleach solution of 1 part bleach/19 parts water works great and I never use any soap. It'll help clean it out and kill any bacteria/mold/etc that might be around. A good rinse is the key to any cleanup IME.

As for the test, I'd make it 24hrs myself so the pressure over time would reveal any flaws/problems. Can't say about the silicone, except to look for any damage.

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Old 04-01-2011, 12:08 PM   #3
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White vinegar, razor blades, and fine steel wool work well for cleaning aquariums.

If the silicone looks to be in good shape, I'd set the tank up overnight as a leak check. If the silicone is shrunk and pulled away from the glass, I'd reseal the tank.
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Old 04-01-2011, 12:14 PM   #4
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For what's it's worth I'd clean out with warm water, let dry fully then re seal with some aquarium safe clear silicone. Just to be safe! 14 year is a long time and silicone usually has s 10 year lifetime before needing replacing, that's dry though.

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Old 04-01-2011, 01:04 PM   #5
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I'll consider resealing the tank if it looks to be a problem.

If I do that, though, what are the steps? If there isn't a lot of peeling of the existing silicone do I need to scrape it off or can I leave it there and apply new over the old?
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Old 04-01-2011, 01:05 PM   #6
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White vinegar, razor blades, and fine steel wool work well for cleaning aquariums.
So vinegar is ok? What about rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol?
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Old 04-01-2011, 01:18 PM   #7
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I'd stay away from the alcohol. I don't know what it's going to do for you really. Vinegar is great at dissolving deposits.

To reseal your tank, cut out the old silicone with a razor blade. You'll really need to get the glass clean because new silicone will not stick to old silicone. Then run a bead of 100% silicone around all the interior edges of the tank.
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Old 04-01-2011, 05:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JackSpadesSI
I'll consider resealing the tank if it looks to be a problem.

If I do that, though, what are the steps? If there isn't a lot of peeling of the existing silicone do I need to scrape it off or can I leave it there and apply new over the old?
You can seal over old if it's still neat just shrank, if rough scrape back with a Stanley knife and then re seal

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Old 04-01-2011, 11:46 PM   #9
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rubbing alcohol is what you are supposed to use before you silicone the edges. the alcohol will clean and get rid of any oils or anything like that . and it will evapotate any water in/under any flapping silicone. cut any silicone that is baD off, after its clean and dry apply silicone at a 45* to both edges and use a 90* plASTIC card or whatever and swipe it to apply it and spread it evenly into edges.24 hrs for drying. 48 hrs should be fish ready.. i re-sealed a tank today...
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Old 04-02-2011, 12:46 AM   #10
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My tank's silicone looks good (no visible cracks, peeling, or shrinkage). I'm currently leak-testing it in my basement: it is full (to the brim) of water and I'll leave it like that until tomorrow.

If it doesn't leak by tomorrow, is there any reason to re-seal it simply because of the silicone's age?
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Old 04-02-2011, 01:10 AM   #11
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I would reseal it anyway. My 20g given to me by my uncle is older than me, seals looked perfect, but that didn't stop me. Keep in mind, this thing will be full of water, in the event that something happens to the old seals, do you really want 30g of water leaking out over night? Even a small unnoticeable drip can cause mold problems and possibly more severe issues. Hope this helps.
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Old 04-02-2011, 01:15 AM   #12
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yes... i did the same...except i left it for a couple more, cuz i was lazy.. no problems i just wanted to fix it up so i know it will stand the test of time
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Old 04-02-2011, 11:40 AM   #13
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There has been some bad advice disseminated here. Silicone has a life expectancy, even dry, of 35 years. It is meant to be used as an all weather caulk and being dry does not harm it. NEVER reseal over old silicone, even if the old fillets are neat. If you want to reseal for peace of mind, do so. Be aware that the new fillet you put down may not be as good as the original if you do not clean the old silicone off well enough. Not trying to scare you off, as I have resealed a number of tanks and believe it is worth doing for any size tank. If the tank holds water why create work for yourself? Reality is that the important silicone is between the panes; the inner fillet is just insurance.
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Old 04-02-2011, 01:20 PM   #14
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There has been some bad advice disseminated here. Silicone has a life expectancy, even dry, of 35 years. It is meant to be used as an all weather caulk and being dry does not harm it. NEVER reseal over old silicone, even if the old fillets are neat. If you want to reseal for peace of mind, do so. Be aware that the new fillet you put down may not be as good as the original if you do not clean the old silicone off well enough. Not trying to scare you off, as I have resealed a number of tanks and believe it is worth doing for any size tank. If the tank holds water why create work for yourself? Reality is that the important silicone is between the panes; the inner fillet is just insurance.
I agree with you with best is reseal but I was pointing out that I have re sealed a few tanks for friends over old and never leaked but that was just my opinion. Silicone does stick to old providing it is perfectly clean as I have had to do this not out of choice at work being a plumber. Like you say though it is the secondary barrier. If the tank is being scrubbed more than likely the old seal will get damaged with excessive scrubbing. Always make sure it's aquarium safe as some silicone contains chemicals that can harm fish and do a ph test when filled as all silicone liberates acetic acid on cure. As fore life expectancy I found on wiki this "Good quality sealants should produce joints that last in excess of 10 years." so I just said 10 as ya never wanna risk more that's all.

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Old 04-02-2011, 01:32 PM   #15
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all silicone liberates acetic acid on cure
That's not entirely true
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Old 04-02-2011, 01:41 PM   #16
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That's not entirely true
Sorry aquarium silicone lol, that's the difference in the way they cure between normal silicone and aquarium safe, from wat I remember anyway

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Old 04-02-2011, 01:48 PM   #17
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What sort of tank are you going for? You decided yet?

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Old 04-03-2011, 02:34 AM   #18
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i cut as much of the old i can OUT.. but i want it to stay together as i redo the edges... im not gonna use clamps when its not needed. did i give bad advice???
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Old 04-03-2011, 02:37 AM   #19
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vinager? rubbing alcohol, and razer blade should clean it well.new cone will not stick well to old cone.
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Old 04-03-2011, 04:12 AM   #20
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like you said the seal between the glass is the (1st- best)...last seal any water could get thru...then they spread more to make a extra seal to keep water off the main seal that seals 2 panes of glass 2gether..if it leaks you may need to reseal the panes together, and silicone the inside edges
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