How to Clean the Gravel in Fish Tank?

The great thing about placing gravel in the aquarium is that it is going to work as a decoration and as a filter as well.

Now, filtering your fish tank also means that there is some debris and waste that is going to be accumulated in the gravel.

The best thing to do is to clean the gravel at the same time when you change the water in the tank and perform weekly cleaning.

Why Should You Clean Gravel?

The reason why it is essential to clean gravel at least once a week is because that is where a lot of the waste and debris accumulates. Although there are a lot of beneficial mucks there as well that your plants can use for nutrition, there are lots of contaminants as well.

Those contaminants need to be removed with a vacuum cleaner of some type. However, you still need to keep in mind that there is no need to go too deep. It is best to just leave those beneficial mucks there especially if you have aquatic plants that are rooted in the gravel.

How Often to Clean Fish Tank Gravel?

The recommendation for this is two weeks, although this is only true for tanks that don’t have plants in them. Aquatic plants help a lot when it comes to filtration and biological balance. If you have such plants in your tank, then it is enough to clean the gravel once a month.

Not only that, but 10 to 20 percent of the water should also be changed every week. Excess algae should be also removed from the walls using a sponge. It is good practice to keep track of the amount of nitrate, ammonia and pH levels in the tank.

It is okay to clean the gravel once a week when you perform your other cleaning tasks as well. However, the cleaning does not have to be that thorough as there is not so much waste and debris.

Cleaning with a Gravel Vacuum

First off, you need to unplug all the equipment in your tank. Then, remove the fish first and the artificial plants second. You can place your fish in a second tank that you have previously prepared. This can be a glass tank but also a plastic bucket.

It doesn’t matter as long as you can pour some used aquarium water into it from the main tank. Place the artificial plants there too so that your fish can feel more comfortable there while you are cleaning. Then, take the vacuum cleaner and remove the water and gravel with it to a separate bucket.

You only need to remove up to 40 percent of the water, no more. There are lots of useful bacteria that need to stay in the main aquarium. While you are vacuuming, you will see a lot of debris rise in the siphon. Continue doing it until all you can see is clean water coming up.

The third step is to put back everything where it was, including the plants, artificial decorations, water and fish.

The Python Pro-Clean gravel washer and siphon kit is the product we can recommend for this operation. The reason why the Python is so popular is that it makes it easier than ever to separate and remove debris. It is made of high-quality material and its parts include flexible tubing that is easy to handle.

The Python Pro-Clean is simply outstanding, especially for fish tanks that are 20 to 55 gallons large.

Cleaning Gravel Without Removing Water

Changing more than 50% of the water in a home aquarium is definitely not recommended. There are too many beneficial bacteria in the used water that would go to waste. For smaller tanks that are, let’s say, 20 gallons of size or less, you probably should not use a gravel vacuum.

There are vacuum cleaners that recycle the water instead of removing it completely. What we can recommend you to use is the Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Cleaner and Sludge Extractor, manufactured by Eheim.

With the Quick Vac Pro, you don’t need to prepare a separate bucket for cleaning at all. Using it is very easy and it guarantees that cleaning your tank won’t be an absolute mess anymore. We are talking about a fully submersible device that works with batteries.

The Quick Vac Pro allows you to clean your tank without disturbing the gravel or the biological balance in the tank. It is simple: debris and waste go in, while clean water goes out. You might notice slightly cloudy water after using it but this quickly settles after you are done.

Should You Disturb the Gravel?

Disturbing the gravel while your fish are still in the aquarium is not a good idea. If you need to put your hand in the water to remove or replace something, do it slowly and cautiously. If you disturb the gravel, all the debris and waste can get in the upper layers of the water and it won’t be healthy for your fish.

Are Bottom Feeders Good for Gravel Cleanings?

There are actually fish species that are good to keep if you want your gravel to be cleaner day by day. Many fish species can be kept with shrimp, snails or different bottom feeder fish. If you choose your fish wisely, they are going to occupy different levels in the tank while not bothering each other at all.

However, it is important to note that these aquatic pets are not going to keep the gravel crystal clean. You are still going to need to vacuum clean it every now and then, you just won’t need to clean it that often.

Wrap Up

The ultimate solution to clean the gravel in the tank is to use a vacuum cleaner. The two types of cleaners that we mentioned are great for this purpose. You can use the Python Pro-Clean for bigger tanks, whereas the Quick Vac Pro is ideal for smaller ones.

While the former actually removes used water from the tank, the latter only soaks it up and removes the waste and debris. In the end, it basically recycles the water so that you end up with a cleaner aquarium. Of course, you can include some aquatic plants or bottom feeders that will help you keep your gravel clean.

Fishkeeping   Updated: September 27, 2021
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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