6 Things Not to Throw Away if You Have an Aquarium

By Mridul Singh

6 Things Not to Throw Away if You Have a Planted Aquarium

Written by Mridul Singh


Planted tanks can sometimes be expensive, especially when you have to buy many things to maintain your tank. Here are some everyday items you should consider saving from the dustbin and adding to your maintenance arsenal, along with some things from within your aquarium that you should never throw away in your dustbin.


1. Credit/Gift Cards

After finishing your gift cards or credit cards, instead of cutting them up and throwing them away, keep them to scrape down the algae growing on the glass or acrylic. Not only is this cheaper than buying dedicated algae scrapers, it is easy to use, and I find that they are not so abrasive on acrylic tanks.


2. Plastic Takeout Containers and Deli Cups

Everyone has that collection of takeout containers stashed in one of their cupboards. Take a few of those, and put them with your fish supplies. There are many things you can do with them, such as:

  • Punch holes in them to create a cheap colander that can be used to refill your tanks without blowing the substrate all over the place. My preferred methods of making the holes are drilling the holes with a small drill bit, using a soldering iron to melt holes (be sure to stay in a well ventilated area, or do this outside), or using a wire hanger to poke holes into the plastic.
  • Fill these up with some water and put your plant trimmings into these. This way they are not drying out on whatever surface you put them, and they don’t have to stay floating around the tank while you do your maintenance.
  • Use deli cups of any size to rest your bulbs. Simply fill them with moist sand or peat, and bury your bulbs in them. Be sure to keep them in a cool and dark place, for best results.

3. Plastic Straws and Small Pieces of Airline Tubing

Floating plants not staying where you want them to? Are they growing across the whole surface of your tank, preventing gas exchange at the surface, and making it a hassle to feed your fish? Use plastic straws to make a floating ring, or use small spare pieces of airline tubing, and superglue them together into a ring. You can either keep the plants out of the ring and use the ring as a feeding ring, or make the ring large, and contain your plants within the ring.

4. Plastic Forks, and Toothbrushes

When I pull some plants out of the substrate I often find that the roots snap and stay stuck in the substrate. An easy way to remove the roots is to use a fork, and comb through the substrate. This not only removes the roots, but also fluffs the substrate, which makes it easier to plant your plants.


With toothbrushes removing hair algae is a cinch. Just twirl the brush around, and you’ve got the big pieces of algae! You can also use a toothbrush to get the algae on the glass that is close to the silicone, or clean up your rocks/driftwood.

5. Old Towels and T-Shirts

Water spillage when maintaining your tank is very common. Especially when you’re taking your hands in and out to trim and plant your cuttings, or to switch tools. Most of the water lands on the floor, or on the glass. Instead of buying dedicated aquarium towels, look around your house for old towels, and t-shirts that no one wears anymore. Cut them up into reasonable sizes, and use those to clean up the mess.

6. Plant Trimmings

This is perhaps one of the most important things not to dispose of carelessly if you have a planted tank. Everyone eventually has to trim their plants, and if you don’t have room to replant them or give them away what can you do except throw them down the sink or in the garbage? Unfortunately, both methods can allow the trimmings to find their way to the local waterways, and possibly establish themselves as an invasive alien plant (in other words, plants that are not native to the area). This is especially dangerous, since most aquarium plants are hardy, and grow under many conditions, and can choke out the natural plants, and disrupt the ecosystem. For example, Myriophyllums (Water Milfoils), Elodea (Waterweeds), and Water Hyacinth are some incredibly invasive plants, that are known to outgrow native flora, and deplete the oxygen in the water if they grow to a certain point.


It is best to dry out your trimmings fully before discarding them, seal them in a bag before putting them in the trash, or better yet compost them, and feed your garden! Some people I know also feed some of their stem plants to their chickens. Save the environment by disposing of your plants safely.


I hope this list aids you in becoming a better hobbyist, and helps your wallet as well!