Reusing Aquarium Equipment

It’s perfectly possible to reuse aquarium equipment. Care does need to be taken, however, to ensure that everything is properly cleaned. Cleaning should be part of aquarium maintenance anyway, but when recycling the equipment to a new tank the aquarium equipment needs a particularly thorough cleaning.


The pump is the piece of aquarium equipment that’s most likely to be recycled. In most cases you need to remove the front housing to access the impeller. You can just take out the impeller off the shaft or remove the entire assembly and inspect. Look at the magnets for cracks.

Soak in white vinegar solution (1 part vinegar to 1 part water) and leave overnight. This will eliminate all the calcium deposits on the impeller. Rinse with fresh water. Reassemble the pump, being certain that the shaft is correctly aligned. Put into the new aquarium and plug in.

Canister Filter

Make sure all the water has drained from the canister filter. Then take out the media trays in the filter and replace the filter pads. Similarly, replace the carbon media before recycling this aquarium equipment. Remember that once in use both of these things will need to be replaced regularly for the health of the aquarium.

Rinse the filter sponges in RO/DI water and replace in the filter. Rinse any bio media in water from the new aquarium-don’t use Ro/DI water or water from the faucet. Check both the filter housing and the pump head for any damage. You can access the impeller from the bottom of the pump head. Clean the impeller with white vinegar and rinse. After this, reassemble the filter and use in the new aquarium.

Hang-On Power Filter

When recycling a hang-on power filter you will need to replace the cartridge in the filter. Work over a bucket to catch any water still in the filter. Take off all the plumbing part and also remove the pump. These should be cleaned in vinegar to take off the calcium and then properly rinsed. This will ensure a good flow through the pump. Reassemble the filter. Remember, you’ll need to prime it. The exact way to do that will vary from make to make-check the manual.

Filter Socks

Don’t use dirty filter socks when recycling aquarium equipment. If you have several on hand you can change them regularly (weekly is the best idea). Waste easily builds up inside them and can cause nitrate problems. To clean the filter socks, use a capful of chlorine bleach in a washing machine and wash them adding an extra rinse cycle. They should then air dry for several days and be rinsed in RO/DI before being put in the tank.


If you’re reusing a tank, empty out all the substrate so you have a bare tank. Clean the inside of the glass with an algae pad. You might also need to use an algae scraper. Wash with cold water and clean with a fresh sponge. Empty out and allow to dry.