How To Clean Aquarium Gravel – With And Without A Vacuum Kit

Though regular water changes may flush off the harmful waste, the uncleaned substrate will quickly contaminate the new water. So it’s vital to regularly clean your gravel, glass surfaces, and decorations.

Many fish tanks suffer from low water quality because of dirty substrates. Water polluted by food leftovers, rotting plants, and fish feces trapped between the pebbles or gravel is sometimes pungently smelled.

Your goal should be to use a vacuum siphon kit to remove as much waste as possible while completing your regular weekly or biweekly water changes.

How To Clean Aquarium Gravel with or without a vacuum cleaner is on the agenda for today’s article. To keep your aquarium clean and your fish happy, check out our easy and intriguing methods for cleaning your fish tank gravel.

Why Should You Clean Fish Tank Gravel

Keeping the water in your fish tank clean is obvious. However, numerous difficulties can arise if your fish tank’s gravel gets too dirty, so cleaning it properly is very important.

If you’ve got a fish tank, it’s good to keep the substrate clean and free of any unwanted organisms. And you need to get rid of it to establish a stable equilibrium. Ammonia poisoning and bad-smelling water can occur if too much waste is trapped in the substrate.

Cleaning the gravel in your fish tank is easy to follow a few basic steps. However, you’ll need a couple of buckets, a hose, and a gravel siphon to complete the task. 

Obviously, not everyone has access to or can utilize a gravel siphon, and in those cases, what can be employed in their place? No worry! Without using a siphon or hose, we’ll demonstrate how to clean aquarium gravel in your fish tank thoroughly.

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How To Clean Aquarium Gravel Without A Vacuum Kit

How to Clean Fish Tank Gravel Without A Vacuum

Step 1 – Prepare A Tank

A clean tank or bucket should be put up to temporarily hold all the fish. An appropriate and toxic-free container must be found for the fish before cleaning or washing your tank gravel without vacuuming.

Do not use any cleaners on this new container to protect the fish’s health, and any previously cleaned containers must be cleansed if any synthetic substances were used to clean them.

Step 2 – Transfer Water To The New Tank

A part of the aquarium water should be transferred into the new tank after the new tank has been set up. For example, moving around half of your tank water into the temporary tank can be done with a siphon or cup. Your fish should be able to adapt to their new surroundings because of this.

Step 3 – Transfer Your Fish

Once you’ve poured some used aquarium water into the new tank, use a net or other suitable item that won’t injure the fish to transport them into the new tank.

There are exceptions to this rule when dealing with fish with flowing fins, such as the betta; fins and tails with a lot of movement are more likely to get tangled in the net, which can be dangerous for fish.

Step 4 – Unplug And Remove Tank Items

Disconnect all of the tank’s electric components. Unplug electrical devices like aquarium filters, heaters, and lights. Then remove any plants or decorations you may have in the room – everything from ornaments to hoses to covers to machinery has to be taken out of the tank and dealt with appropriately. Keep them all together in a safe place.

Step 5 – Keep Gravels In A Container

Put gravel in a strainer or other container. Keep around two cups of the rocks aside while you do this. You’ll put them back again in the fish tank later. This is because gravel houses beneficial bacteria, and you don’t want to lose all of them. So this is done to preserve some of the beneficial bacteria found in the fish tank gravel.

Step 6 – Wash Gravel Thoroughly

If you’re washing the gravel in a strainer, move and agitate it as much as possible during cleaning. This must be done using pure water that hasn’t been contaminated by any cleaners or synthetic treatments.

When the dish becomes filthy, use frequent tapping to combine the pebbles. Repeat this technique as many times as you need to. When the water beneath the washed gravel is crystal clear, move on to the next stage.

Step 7 – Clean The Tank

Clean the tank from top to bottom. Before putting everything back in its original place, you can clean the fish tank from which you evacuated both the fish and the gravel. Avoid using harsh chemicals or detergents when cleaning the tank. They can harm both your fish and other aquarium microbes.

Step 8 – Put Gravel Back Into The Tank

It’s time to return the gravel to your tank once it’s been thoroughly cleaned and dried. Combine it with the pieces that were kept unclean and reintroduce them all together into your tank.

Step 9 – Put Back All Pieces Of Equipment

Prepare to put everything (decorations, motors, covers, hoses, or electrical hardware) back in its place that was removed before you started cleaning. It’s crucial to ensure that everything is in its proper position.

Step 10 – Refill The Tank With Water

Fill up the tank with water. Make sure you don’t go over the recommended amount of water in your aquarium. The water in the tank should be clean and free of any contaminants that could harm the fish. Ensure that the water in your fish tank is at the correct temperature and ph level before refilling it.

Step 11 – Put Fish Back

Finally, return the fish to its enclosure. Return your fish to the tank in the same manner, they were previously transferred.

Tank gravel that has been appropriately cleaned will have a noticeable effect on the tank’s cleanliness and freshness.

How To Clean Fish Tank Gravel With A Vacuum Kit

How to Clean Fish Tank Gravel With A Vacuum

The siphon vacuum has been designed to remove trapped wastes into aquarium gravel and help maintain your fish’s environment. It does this using gravity and hydrostatic pressure; the dirt is sucked into a container, where it can be disposed of outside.

Step 1 – Unplug Electric Devices

First, turn off and unplug all electricity-driven items in the tank. So, disconnect the filter, heater, pump, or light before starting any cleaning work. There is no need to worry about your fish, as the cleaning process is a cinch. Avoid removing any of your tank’s fish, ornaments, or plants.

Step 2 – Get Your Cleaning Tool

Aquarium hobbyists utilize two different tools to clean their gravel.

A thick, plastic pipe or “siphon” with a thin, flexible tube linked to one end is typical of aquarium siphons. A priming ball may be fitted to the end of some of them. Gravel can also be cleaned with flexible plastic tubes. In smaller tanks, these are a good fit.

Step 3 – Place A Bucket Below The Tank

You’ll need a bucket to collect the water from your tank. It is recommended that the container contains at least half of the water in the tank. The bucket needs to be lower than the tank water level in order for it to work. 

Step 4 – Submerge The Siphon Vacuum And Start Vacuuming

a) Simple Siphon Vacuum

Sluggishly and slowly lower all of the siphon’s body into the tank, ensuring that no air is left in the tube. Take one end of the tube out of the tank and cover it with your thumb; keep the other end submerged. In the previously mentioned bucket, put the end that is covered. Water will start flowing if you let go of your thumb; the water will stop if you put your thumb back on end.

Simple Siphon Vacuum

b) Priming Ball Vacuum

Rubber balls are affixed to the siphon of some aquarium vacuums. First, insert the siphon’s end into the aquarium and the tube’s other end into a bucket. Then press the priming ball and plug the end of the tube with your finger. 

Slowly let go of the ball while keeping the tube’s tip plugged. Like an eyedropper or turkey baster, water will begin to fill the siphon. Likewise, unplugging the tube will cause water to pour into the bucket.

c) Python Vacuum

If you’re using a Python or other comparable vacuum, you should know how to start it. Most other gravel vacuums are not like this one. And these vacuums don’t need a bucket to do the job. Instead, they should be connected to a water source. 

Position the Python vacuum in your fish tank by plugging the end of the vacuum into your aquarium’s water supply. Siphoning begins as soon as you turn on the tap.

Step 5 – Place The Tube-End Into The Gravel

Simply drag the gravel vac further into the substrate for a more thorough clean. A few pebbles may be sucked into the tube, but they should fall back when the tube is raised. As far as it will go, just stick it down as far as you can. 

Once the tube has been inserted, your thumb should remain positioned to prevent water from coming. Dirty water will begin to flow once you release the tube.

Cover the vacuum tube’s end to allow the gravel to settle if it gets too high up the vacuum tube. Similarly, just switch off the water supply when using a Python or a similar siphoning device. Then, open the tube and let the water run through it once more.

Tips: Vacuuming freshwater aquariums is fine, but saltwater aquariums, especially those with finer gravels, should not be vacuumed. A saltwater tank’s micro-ecosystem will be ruined if you use a vacuum cleaner to clean the substrate.

Step 6 – Cover The Tube-End Once The Clean Water Comes

Depending on how dirty your aquarium is, this process could take anywhere from a few minutes up to hours. The agitated gravel will settle when you bring the tube back to the surface.

Don’t throw away your vacuum just yet; just remove it from the gravel. So as not to disturb the nearby debris, keep it as straight as possible.

Step 7 – Move The Vacuum To The Next Patch Of Dirty Gravel

Vacuum up the next clump of filthy gravel. It’s essential to pay specific attention to any areas of your tank with pebbles, logs, or other nooks and crannies. Most garbage is generated in these locations.

Step 8 – Repeat The Vacuuming Process

To clean the dirty area again, go back to steps 4, 5, and 6. You’ll have to keep going until the entire gravel area is clean enough.

Step 9 – Drain Half Of The Tank Water

It’s preferable to accomplish the gravel cleaning work while sucking up no more than 50% of the tank’s water. The tank will be half-filled, and you will replenish it with fresh water as you would during a routine water change.

Step 10 – Fill The Aquarium Tank With Fresh Water

Fill the tank with fresh water at this stage. This procedure is similar to what you would regularly perform when changing your water. In most cases, tap water is not suitable for use in aquariums. Remove chlorine and other dangerous substances from the water by using water conditioners. Make sure that the water chemistry in your tank is not adversely affected by the addition of freshwater.

Tips: Stop filling the tank when the water level is approximately one inch (2.54 centimeters) below the rim. This area is critical. Your fish will not be able to acquire enough oxygen if you don’t leave that open space.

Step 11 – Re-Plug All Pieces Of Equipment

You can start the heaterfilter, and pump once everything is set up again. In addition, turn on the lights and any other electricity-powered decor. Finally, make a note of the last time you had your tank cleaned, and mark your calendar for the next time.

How To Clean Store-Bought Gravel

How often to vacuum gravel in fish tank

You should only put clean gravel into your tank for the first time. Clean the gravel thoroughly at this time. Once your gravel is in the tank, you should only use a vacuum to clean it up. Gravel is home to many beneficial bacteria that are good for your fish. Bacteria may be removed from your gravel by rinsing it well.

Step 1

Open the bag of gravel you received. The gravel you buy at the store needs to be disinfected before being used. It frequently contains dust and grime, which might hurt your fish. If you got your gravel somewhere else, you’d need to clean it as well.

Step 2

The next thing you need to do is get a colander or mesh strainer. With a smaller gravel size, you will require a tighter weave. This strainer or colander should only be used for gravel cleaning. Keeping the colander/strainer away from soap and detergent is also recommended. 

Step 3

Put gravel in the sieve or colander. Work in smaller batches if there is a lot of gravel to be cleaned. With ample room to move around in the colander/strainer, no pebbles should spill out the sides.

Step 4

Turn on the water supply after putting the colander/strainer in the basin. Set the temperature of the water to warm or hot. Harmful germs will be killed as a result of this. There should be no soap, detergent, or bleach added. Attempting to do so could result in your fish being killed.

Step 5

Using your hands, shake and bounce the colander/strainer. Then, sift through the pebbles with your hand. Keep repeating this process until the water is clean enough.

Step 6

Fill your aquarium with the gravel you just cleaned. Make one last shake with the colander/strainer before turning off the water. Then, float the gravel on top of the tank’s surface. Repeat the cleaning process for each batch of stone if necessary.


How Many Years Can Gravel Be Used?

Unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer, there is no expiration date for gravel. Water quality is the most crucial factor to consider regarding the aquarium’s substrate. It’s safe to use as long as you rinse it well throughout water changes and it doesn’t seem unclean.

How Often Should I Clean Aquarium Gravel?

Using an aquarium vacuum, clean the gravel in your aquarium at least once a month. The substrate materials should be removed from the tank at least once a year for thorough cleaning and rinsing with clean water.

This is where our first method of cleaning gravel without a vacuum comes in handy. Remember to leave some pebbles unwashed to preserve some beneficial microorganisms.

In An Aquarium, How Deep Should The Gravel Be?

Gravel depth is a crucial consideration in a tank. The gravel should be one to two inches deep (but not more than that) to allow you to anchor plants, cover an under-gravel filter, and keep bottom-feeder fish healthy.

What Color Gavel Looks Best For Fish Tanks?

Ideally, the color and kind of substrate in a fish tank should be as close to the natural environment of the fish and plants as feasible. Even yet, most fish are versatile, so any gravel color will do as long as the tank is well-maintained.

However, black, white, or a combination of the two are the most popular gravel colors. Pebbles in a variety of colors are also preferred by some aquarists.

Wrapping Up

The gravel in a fish tank is a critical component, and it should be cleaned appropriately. Because fish feces, dead plants, discarded food, and other garbage are often found in the substrate.

If adequate cleaning procedures are not followed, fish can be harmed by algae and germs that grow in fish tanks. Also, nitrate accumulation can be detrimental to your fish if you don’t clean it often and properly.

There are a plethora of approaches to cleaning fish tank gravel; however, the methods presented here are the quickest and most successful. We’re glad if you found the information helpful!

Sujit Modak

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