How to Use a Gravel Vacuum to Clean Aquariums
Ever wonder if there’s an easy way to clean all the fish waste and uneaten food that’s fallen in between the aquarium’s gravel or substrate? It’s not necessary to empty out all the waste and wash it in the sink. Instead, you can vacuum up the detritus with a simple aquarium siphon – no batteries required!
Step 1: Get your Materials
Two items are required: an aquarium siphon, also known as a gravel vacuum or cleaner, and a bucket to collect the water. It might be more convenient to have a large trash container on wheels if you intend to clean multiple tanks. If your siphon’s length is sufficient to reach a nearby faucet or to water your outside plants, you can leave the bucket at home.
A siphon is basically made up of two sections: The plastic tube that goes in the aquarium and long flexible hose that goes in the bucket.
The Python Pro-Clean siphon is a favorite of ours because it has high-quality flexible tubing that doesn’t kink and twist as easily. We earn commissions from Amazon Associates purchases that qualify.
Step 2: Prepare the tank
The aquarium siphon does not require you to remove fish from the tank. It is easier than vacuuming around them. You should remove aquarium decorations from the area where you are planning to vacuum, as waste can collect under them. Some people prefer to clean the filter before cleaning the algae, so that the siphon can remove all particles.
Magnetic alga scrappers are excellent for cleaning algae, especially when you have the appropriate blade attachment. Just make sure to get the glass or acrylic version that matches your aquarium walls.
Step 3: Get the Siphon started
Aquarium siphons use gravity and water to empty your aquarium. The siphon must be connected to the bucket. To ensure that the siphon doesn’t slip from the bucket, some people use a clamp. Then completely submerge the tube inside the aquarium so that it fills with water. You can easily do this by keeping the tube at a diagonal angle with the tube opening pointed upwards.
Lift the tube from the water, and place it above the aquarium rim. Water will flow through the tube and into the bucket when you do this.
Quickly plunge the tube in the water with the same diagonal angle, so that the tube remains pointed up. The tube opening must be completely underwater in order for the water to continue draining into the bucket.
Once water is freely flowing into the bucket, point the tube opening downwards toward the substrate at the bottom of the tank.
Not all siphons can be operated using this method. The easiest method is to place the tube end in the aquarium and suck on the hose end with your mouth to get water flowing through it. Quickly place the hose end into the bucket, or else you may get a mouthful of dirty fish water.
Step 4: Vacuum the Gravel
Push the siphon into the gravel or sand, and let it start vacuuming up some of the substrate. To temporarily stop the suction, the substrate is much heavier than fish waste. You can periodically crimp your hose with the other hand. This causes the heavy substrate to fall out of the tube, while the lighter debris still floats inside the tube and gets sucked up as soon as you un-crimp the hose and start vacuuming again.
Systematically vacuum the substrate back and forth in rows, as if you’re mowing the lawn. You can clean around a third of your aquarium substrate using this method. Next time you water change the tank, vacuum the remaining third.
Step 5: Discard the Siphon
Once you’re ready to stop siphoning, cover the tube opening with your hand and lift the tube out. The tube will suction to your hand and prevent the dirty water from falling back into the aquarium. Flip the tube upwards and let the remaining water in the siphon drain into the bucket.
If you’re still not able to start the siphon, click on the video demonstration below to watch this simple process in action:
That’s all! Refill the aquarium with new water that’s roughly the same temperature as the old water, and don’t forget to add dechlorinator to remove the chlorine, chloramine, and other toxic chemicals from the water.
Bonus Tip: Fill the Tank without a Bucket
You can fill your fish tank or multiple tanks from the faucet faucet.
1. Remove the sink faucet faucet aerator. Install the faucet adaptor with a 3/4 inch male garden hose connection. (If an adaptor does not fit your faucet, you can take the sink adaptor to the hardware shop to have it fitted.
1. Attach one end to the sink adapter. Attach the Python hook to the other end.
1. The Python hook can be hung on the aquarium wall. This will ensure that your garden hose does not slip from the tank during filling. 2. Turn on the sink to the right temperature, and start the water flowing directly into your fish tank. 3. Turn off the water supply to your aquarium once it is full. Once you’re done with water changes, turn off the sink water.