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? There’s no need for you to wash everything down the sink. Instead, all you need is an aquarium siphon to vacuum up any stray bits. No batteries needed!
Step 1: Get the materials
You just need two items: an aquarium siphon (also known as a gravel vacuum, gravel cleaner, or siphon kit) and a bucket to hold the dirty water. It might be more convenient to have a large trash container on wheels if you intend to clean multiple tanks. The bucket can be used if the siphon’s hose extends far enough to reach the nearest sink or the backyard to water your plants.
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.
We personally like using the Python Pro-Clean siphon because its high-quality, flexible tubing doesn’t kink or get twisted as easily. We earn commissions from Amazon Associates purchases that qualify.
Step 2: Prepare the tank
You don’t have to remove fish while you use the aquarium siphon. The process of catching them can be more stressful than simply vacuuming around them. Aquarium decorations should be moved away from the area that you will be vacuuming, as waste tends to accumulate underneath them. People like to clean the filter and scrub the algae off before vacuuming. This will ensure that any excess water particles are removed by the siphon.
Magnetic alga scrappers are excellent for cleaning algae, especially when you have the appropriate blade attachment. Be sure to choose the acrylic or glass version that best matches your aquarium walls.
Step 3: Open the Siphon
Aquarium siphons use gravity and water to empty your aquarium. To start the siphon, make sure the hose end of the siphon is inside the bucket. To ensure that the siphon doesn’t slip from the bucket, some people use a clamp. Next, completely submerge your tube in the aquarium to fill it with water. This can be done by placing the tube diagonally with the tube’s opening facing upwards.
To get water to flow into the bucket, raise the tube above the aquarium rim.
Quickly plunge the tube in the water with the same diagonal angle, so that the tube remains pointed up. For water to continue dripping into the bucket, the tube must be completely submerged.
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. Or else, you might get a lot of 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 substrate to fall out the tube. However, the lighter debris will remain inside the tube. Once the heavy material is gone, the tube will continue vacuuming.
As if you were mowing the lawn, systematically vacuum the substrate in rows. Use this method to clean about a third of the aquarium substrate. The next time you do a water change, you can vacuum the next third of the tank.
Step 5: Discard the Siphon
When you are ready to stop siphoning water, cover the tube with your hand and then lift it out. The tube will stick to your hand and keep the dirty water from getting back into the aquarium. Flip the tube upwards and let the remaining water in the siphon drain into the bucket.
Click the video below to see the simple steps in action.
And that’s it! The aquarium should be refilled with fresh water at the same temperature as before.
Bonus tip: Fill the tank without using a bucket
You can fill your fish tank or multiple tanks from the faucet faucet.
1. The faucet aerator should be removed from the faucet opening. Install the faucet adaptor with a 3/4 inch male garden hose connection. If you are unable to find the adaptor that fits your faucet, go to the hardware store and ask for help.
1. Attach one end of the garden hose to the sink adapter. Attach the Python hook to one end of the gardenhose.
1. To ensure your garden hose doesn’t slip out of your tank when filling it, hang the Python hook on the aquarium wall. 2. Turn on the sink to the right temperature, and start the water flowing directly into your fish tank. 3. After your aquarium has filled, turn off the faucet water. After you have completed all water changes, you can raise the Python hook above the sink. Then, let any remaining water flow into the drain and then coil the hose for storage.