Removing uneaten fish food and the build-up of waste and debris from your aquarium is an important part of cleaning and maintaining your fish tank. As you know, the key to keeping your aquarium fish happy and healthy is to keep the water quality in the tank high. If you want to get the most out of your water changes, invest in a high-quality gravel vacuum.
What is a Gravel Vacuum?
A gravel vacuum is the tool most aquarium hobbyists use to siphon waste from the substrate in the tank and to remove dirty water during water changes
. Gravel vacuums typically consist of a plastic siphon attached to a length of airline tubing. To use the vacuum you simply submerge the siphon in the water and create suction that pulls water from the tank, feeding it through the tube into a bucket or some other collection unit. Gravel vacuums can be purchased at most pet supply stores for between $8 and $20 each. Most vacuums consist of a plastic head attached to a length of plastic hose. The heads may vary in shape and size from long, cylindrical shapes to cylinders with a wide attachment at the base to cover more surface area. Some vacuums even come with a faucet attachment which can be used to carry dirty water directly to the sink for disposal.
- aquarium gravel vacuum
- plastic hose
- plastic bucket
- Check your vacuum to make sure that the plastic hose is securely attached to the vacuum head.
- Place a plastic bucket on the floor near your tank to catch the dirty water and drop the end of the plastic hose inside.
- Dip the head of your vacuum into the tank and allow it to fill with water. When it is full, lift the head out of the tank and allow the water to drain down the plastic hose and into the bucket.
- Before the head completely empties, push it back under the water. When you re-submerge the head, a pocket of air will form in the plastic hose which will draw water through the vacuum, down the hose and into the bucket.
- Sift through the gravel in your tank by driving the head of the vacuum into the substrate. The siphoning force of the vacuum may suck the gravel part-way up the cylinder and any uneaten fish food, waste and debris will travel up the hose and down into the bucket.
- Pay particular attention to the substrate at the base of items of aquarium decor. Waste and debris can collect under these items so, if possible, move them slightly or use the head of the vacuum to siphon the substrate underneath.
- When the plastic bucket is almost full, lift the head out of the water and allow all the remaining water to drain through the plastic tube. Empty the bucket in a sink or tub.
- Restart your gravel siphon by following the procedure outlined in steps three and four.
- Continue to siphon the substrate in your tank until you have sifted through as much of it as you can reach or until you have drained 25 percent of the aquarium water. Do not drain more than 25 percent of the water at one time or you may risk killing the beneficial bacteria that populate your tank.
- Rinse the vacuum well, letting fresh warm water run through the cylinder and down the hose. Store it in your aquarium cabinet or in a cool place with your other fish tank tools and supplies.
When it comes to purchasing a gravel vacuum you have many options to choose from. For the most part, it does not matter which one you choose but you may find that you have some preferences. Below you will find a list of recommended options for gravel vacuums.
Marina Easy Clean
Available in three sizes, the Marina Easy Clean aquarium vacuum is great for use in any home aquarium. All Easy Clean vacuums come with six feet of hose and the vacuum heads are available in three sizes. The small head is 2" in diameter and 10" long, the medium is 2.5" in diameter and 10" long and the large is 2.5" in diameter and 24" long. These tools come with additional features like a quick-start valve, a bucket clip, gravel guard and a nozzle designed to fit into corners. For between $15 and $20 you can purchase this product online or at your local pet supply store.
Top Fin Gravel Vacuum
Top Fin offers a line of basic vacuums that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For around $10 or less you can purchase the small, large or mini vacuum with a cylinder-shaped head or, for a few dollars more, you can purchase the large or extra-large vacuum that features an extra-wide head. All of Top Fin's vacuums offer a self-starting feature that makes it easy to just unwrap the hose and start cleaning your tank.
Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer
This gravel vacuum comes with everything you need to siphon dirty water directly from your aquarium and into the sink. Complete with an 11" vacuum head, a faucet adapter, a water flow valve and a hose, this tool makes it easy to drain and refill your tank during cleaning. Priced around $30.00, this tool is more expensive than the average vacuum but the convenience of bucket-free cleaning and filling of the tank makes the price worth it.
Lee’s Ultra Gravel Vac
This gravel vacuum comes in three different sizes so you can choose the one that is right for your tank. Select from the 5-inch mini, the 12-inch slim junior, or the 6-inch slim junior. All of Lee’s Ultra Gravel Vacs are affordable and easy to use, plus they have a self-starting feature so you don’t have to start the siphon with your mouth and risk getting a mouthful of tank water.
Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer Siphon Kit
This gravel vacuum is made with high-quality materials to ensure quality and reliable performance. These gravel vacuums come in five different sizes – 6 inch, 10 inch, 12 inch, 16 inch, and 20 inch – so they can be used in aquariums of all sizes. Each gravel vacuum comes with a 6-foot length of hose and the vacuum attachment is made from durable materials that won’t chip or crack.
If you are looking for a quick-start method for your aquarium gravel machine, simply submerge the vacuum head in your tank and suck on the end of the plastic hose until the water begins to flow through it. Before the water reaches your mouth, place the end of the hose in the bucket and begin to vacuum the gravel as you normally would. If you have a large tank or if you are not physically able to carry buckets full of dirty water back and forth from the tank to the sink, consider purchasing a faucet attachment and extension hose for your aquarium gravel vacuum.