How to Get Rid of Aquarium Smell

Updated November 21, 2016

If fish aquariums are not cleaned regularly and properly cared for, they can give off bad odours. Aquarium odour can make an entire room smell bad. Once an aquarium smell is present, it can be difficult to get rid of until you completely clean the tank and its contents. However, with proper set-up and constant cleaning and maintenance, you can prevent bad aquarium smells from getting started, and your house will stay smelling fresh.

Clean the aquarium with an ammonia-free cleaner and water. Rinse completely. Also clean any rocks, filters and decorations before placing them in the aquarium.

Purchase a filter that is appropriate for the size of your tank. A filter releases oxygen and reduces nitrate levels and algae growth that can lead to bad odours.

Fill the clean tank with distilled water. You can purchase bottled water specifically designed for fish tanks from a pet store.

Add a water treatment that will make the water safe for fish and animals. This also can be purchased at a pet store.

Place a water filter in the tank and turn it on. Let the filter run for three to five days to prepare the water in the tank before adding the fish. Not only is this important for the health of the fish but also it will help prevent the water from getting dirty and smelly.

Do not overcrowd the tank with fish. Consult with your pet store on how many fish you should put in the size tank you have. Too many fish in a tank can cause the water to get dirty and smelly.

Place a lid on the tank, and fasten the lid securely. This will reduce algae growth, which can be a major source of odour.

Clean your tank every two weeks, or whenever slight odours or water discolouration appear. Use a gravel vacuum to clean bad smelling waste and dirt from around the gravel in the bottom of the tank.

Use a razor or algae scraper to remove any algae from the sides of the tank.

Remove half of the water from the tank. ( Some water may already have been removed by the gravel vacuum.) Replenish the tank with clean, fresh, treated water.

Change the cartridges in your water filter monthly, or whenever you see algae or dirt accumulating on the filter.


Some aquarium ornaments tend to collect dirty and algae and can create an odour problem in your tank. If this happens, remove the offending ornament.

Things You'll Need

  • Ammonia-free cleaner
  • Distilled water
  • Water treatment
  • Water filter
  • Algae scraper or razor
  • Gravel vacuum
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