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/The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

Cleaning Coral Skeletons and Other Decor

Bob Fenner Let's keep it clean

Periodic cleaning of aquarium decorations is necessary to maintain aesthetic and reduce algae proliferation. Many situations are the result of too much light coupled with high nutrient

levels, too few purposeful photosynthetic biota and/or "scavengers", overfeeding, under- filtration....For some aquarists, cleanliness is sterility; they want their coral skeletons, plastic plants, et al. absolutely free of dirt and debris.

For these hobbyists and Service businesses in our interest this brief article presents step by step instructions on a safe and effective method of "bleaching" ornaments clean.

Tools & Steps To Completion:

1. Necessary equipment:  

5 gallon bucket, trash can sprinkling can or sink. Hose or other source of water. Waste drain. Chlorine. Dechlorinating agent.

2. Remove decorations

From aquarium (or in some cases of bleaching the whole system, remove livestock). Place in bucket, being careful not to drip water. Take materials to area where chlorine is to be used, preferably outside to prevent staining floors.

3. Add approximately one half cup of chlorine bleach

Per gallon of water that covers ornaments being cleaned. Use warm water to clean ornaments in bleach if possible. An alternate method is to place the ornaments on driveway (not tiled) and "shower" bleach on items with a sprinkling can.

4. Allow the decorations to soak

Until the dirt and algae have discolored and are falling off. Usually ten to twenty minutes.

5. When the ornaments seem clean,

Pour off the bleach water to the sanitary sewer (down the sink or toilet) and rinse/flush the decor with fresh water thoroughly, until no chlorine odor exists. Treat with dechloraminator to ensure that no chlorine is returned to the aquarium. An OTO (swimming pool) chlorine test kit is a very worthwhile investment.

6. Be especially careful 

Not to track, spill chlorine. Always carry ornaments back to the tank in a container.

7. Replace ornaments

A dose of dechloraminator in the tank is advised to neutralize any trace of chlorine.

8. Rinse all

Suspect gear to remove chlorine before returning it to storage.

I'd like to restate that this "cleaning method" is only intended for the most extreme cases of dirtiness where simple warm water, scrubbing and "elbow-grease" won't do to remove adequate algae, color.

Our Service Division, maintaining older style marine systems where the owner's or their representatives desired absolutely sterile-clean ornaments (doctor's offices, restaurants).

Functionally, biological systems are better served being partially "dirty". No systems should be totally cleaned at one time.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Anon. 1978. Disease prevention and control; in order to create, to as great a degree as possible, the optimal initial environmental conditions in the fresh or marine system, it is necessary to properly prepare the substrate and all decorative and cover materials. FAMA 5/78.

Black, Tom & Alex Bielawski. 1976. Curing shells, corals and gorgonians. Marine Aquarist 7(1):76.

Dewey, Don. 1978. Decorative coral for the marine aquarium. FAMA 1/78.

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