One of the most common arguments against air stones is that they need frequent replacements. But you can actually reuse them if you know how to clean air stones properly. Some popular methods are:
- Cleaning with Bleach
- Rinsing out
Read our article to find out the rest.
Air stones lose their effectiveness over time as the inside surfaces and pores get clogged by dirt, biofilms, and other buildups. This issue worsens with “micropore” air stones, consisting of more delicate textures and tinier pores.
Cleaning the air stones will remove dirt from the surfaces, restoring their ability to dissolve air into the water tank.
Cleaning and reusing your air stones will reduce the amount of waste introduced into the environment, especially if they’re made from un-eco-friendly materials like plastic.
- Turn off and unplug the aeration and filtration system in your water tank.
- If they are located underneath gravel (a common setup for air stones), carefully push the gravel aside with your hands or a long stick before picking up the air stones. Take off any tubs connected to the air stones.
- You will also need to remove the rubber pieces on the air stones so the cleaning solution could get inside them. Take them off gently and set those pieces aside.
- If you feel stuck while getting them off, twist the rubber pieces back and forth gently so you can pull them off easier.
- Make a solution of household bleach and water with a ratio of 1:3 in a jar where you intend to soak your air stones.
- The amount of this bleach solution should be enough to cover at least all the pieces you need to clean, including the air stones, the connecting tubes, the rubber pieces themselves, and any dirty non-electrical components of your aeration system.
- Drop all of them into the bleach solution gently and wait for about 24 hours, or even 2 full days if your air stones are badly clogged.
- Before you take the air stones and other parts out of the bleach solution, gently swirl them to eliminate any loosened gunk.
- Remember to wear rubber gloves before touching the bleach solution.
- Run warm water over the pieces to remove any residual bleach.
- If you have an air pump, connect its air line to the air stones. Place them in clean water and turn on the pump for about 5 minutes. This could help dilute and push out any bleach inside the air stones.
- Place them on paper towels in a sunny spot to allow the pieces to air dry completely for about 24 hours. Don’t dry them manually with a towel because you could break the brittle pieces.
The rubber pieces should be reinstalled securely to the ends of the air stones to ensure that the air will go through them and get diffused into the water tank.
- You can squeeze some silicone into the edge of the tube where the rubber pieces are attached. If there is any extra silicone squeezing out of the tube, wipe it with a damp cloth.
- Let the silicone dry entirely on its own according to the instructions from its manufacturer.
- Reattach all the tubing into the air stones. Don’t mess up the tubing configuration, or the air stones won’t work correctly. If you can’t remember it, take a picture of fully installed air stones right after taking them out of the tank.
- Put the stones and the tubing back into your water tank.
Note: if you don’t need the air stones right away, you can store them for future use.
If your aquarium isn’t too dirty and you clean its aeration system regularly, you can get away by simply rinsing the air stones in freshwater.
- After removing the air stones from the water tank, rinse them under running water and immerse them in a freshwater container.
- Scrub them lightly with a soft toothbrush to get rid of any dirt buildup on the outside. Scrubbing them too vigorously with a rigid brush could break and damage brittle parts of the air stones.
- Rinse them out again and let the air stones air-dry entirely on paper towels or dry napkins. You can also use an air pump to speed up the process.
- Reinstall the air stones.
Like rising out in freshwater, boiling is an easy method that every aquarium owner can carry out without buying extra items.
- Remove the air stones from the tank.
- Thoroughly rinse and scrub them like the previous method.
- After the air stones dry completely, boil them for about 5 minutes on low heat.
- Take the air stones out and allow them to cool and dry again before reinstalling them back to your water tank.
Unlike bleach solution, this popular cleaning and disinfecting agent doesn’t stick to your water tank and will only break down to water and oxygen.
- Take the air stones out of your aquarium.
- Rinse them with water and gently scrub off any excess dirt and debris.
- Allow the air stones to dry for a few minutes.
- Mix one part of 3% H2O2 with 4 parts of water in a small container that can fit all the air stones.
- Gently drop the air stones and other parts of your aeration system into the container and let them soak overnight.
- Take everything out and rinse them under running water for a few minutes to eliminate any residue of hydrogen peroxide.
- Let the air stones completely dry before reattaching them to the water tank. You can also run water through the stones with an air pump to ensure the pores are unclogged.
Suppose you’re living in a complex water area without any treating equipment for your tank. In that case, the calcium lime deposits may be a massive issue for the air stones, in addition to regular bacterial biofilms and algae.
Formed by heavy mineral content in the water, they make the clogging more severe. A vinegar solution will come in handy in those scenarios.
- Remove the air stones from the tank.
- Rinse them in water and scrub gently on the outside.
- Make a 1:1 solution (similar to the vinegar to water ratio for cleaning the aquarium) and soak all the air stones and other items overnight in it to break down the buildup caused by hard water. When necessary, use a more substantial ratio such as 2:1 for more stubborn mineral deposits.
- Thoroughly rinse the air stones and other parts in freshwater before putting them back into your aquarium.
If you have some denture tablets in your house, they could be the answer to the many-days-old biofilms and dirt inside the pores of your air stones.
As a dilute form of sodium hypochlorite, denture tablets are a convenient alternative to liquid bleach with similar effects.
- Remove the air stones and rinse them in water.
- Fill up a container that can accommodate all air stone pieces. Add some denture tablets to it.
- Soak the air stones overnight, then rinse them in clear water again.
- Let the air stones sit on paper towels or blow air through them until they dry completely.
- Install the air stones back to the water tank.
Heating air stones in a microwave or an oven is a bad idea. These appliances aren’t effective at cleaning the dirty inside of the air stones, and the heat they produce can melt the plastic connections.
Watch this video to learn how to clean air stones:
Monitor the stones and the air bubbles they release to figure out whether it’s time to do a cleaning.
Dirty air stones with clogged pores will send out large bubbles from their ends. On the other hand, smaller bubbles come out of the entire length of clean air stones.
Depending on the content of your water, you may notice this difference in bubble size after about 6 weeks or more. If you decide to clean the air stones, the aquarium should go through a thorough cleaning for better results.
There are many more effective ways to clean and rejuvenate air stones than many aquarists might think.
If you can learn how to clean air stones with widely available items, they don’t just leave you with a cleaner aquarium, but the air stones will also restore their air diffusion ability to the maximum level.