Re:coral cleaning

Pete Giwojna

Dear gilraen:

The recommended procedure for cleaning artificial corals and plants is typically simply to rinse them well under warm running water. If that doesn’t do the trick, then you are usually advised to use something like a soft bristle toothbrush to gently whisk away any remaining algae or diatoms. This works best if you do it immediately after removing the decorations, before they have had a chance to dry out.

Since some of your corals still have unsightly stuff on them even after a good scrubbing, it sounds like you have already tried all of the above. In that case, you may want to resort to an old trick used by aquarium maintenance services for removing stubborn algae from artificial corals and synthetic plants — soak them in bleach. Use plain, unadulterated, ordinary household bleach for this — none of the fancy scented stuff! Just get a five-gallon plastic bucket or something similar, place the corals and plants that need cleaning in it and fill it with freshwater without allowing them to dry off. Then add a stiff dose of chlorine bleach and let them soak. (Note: the bleaching process is best performed outdoors to avoid those irritating bleach fumes.)

How much bleach to add and how long they will need to soak depends on how grungy they are and how encrusted the algae has become. Sometimes five minutes is all it takes, other times they need to soak for a few hours or even most of the day. After they are done soaking and the bleach has worked its magic, it’s imperative to rinse the decorations under running freshwater extraordinarily thoroughly before you return them to the aquarium. Change the water in the bucket several times completely, leaving the decorations to soak in the renewed freshwater with a stiff dose of chlorine neutralizer added for five minutes or so before you replace the water. After you have repeated this process several times, leave a garden hose running in the bucket so that it overflows for several minutes and thoroughly flushes out any remaining traces of chlorine. Then remove the artificial corals and plants and place them outside to air dry under the sunlight. When they are dry, give them the old reliable "sniff test" — if your nose can no longer detect any trace of the distinctive chlorine odor, they are safe to return to the aquarium.

CAUTION: even a small residue of chlorine may wreak havoc on an established aquarium, so be extremely diligent about rinsing the pieces afterwards, and make sure they pass the sniff test before you return them to the aquarium.

WARNING: bleaching the decorations has proven to be effective with most of the synthetic corals and plants I have tried it on, but that by no means guarantees that it won’t harm the particular decorations you are using. I have not tried this with all of the different artificial aquarium decorations produced by all of the various manufacturuers, so proceed with caution. It may be advisable to contact the manufacturer for their recommendations on cleaning your artificial coral before you attempt to bleach it.

If you’re hesitant to try bleaching your artificial decorations, gilraen, other hobbyists have reported good results using Oxiclean to soak their synthetic coral and plants rather than bleach. Proceed as directed above, only had Oxiclean instead of bleach. Rinse the corals well afterwards, of course, and again be sure to bear in mind I have not tried this method myself so I cannot guarantee that it will be safe for your particular decorations.

Good luck getting the grunge off your artificial decor and restoring your faux coral to its pristine state, gilraen! If you are successful, be sure to let us know what worked best for you.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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