Have you ever watched your fish playing in beautifully clear aquarium water, and wished that your fish tank was as clean as theirs? If so, you should definitely read our overview of how to clean aquarium gravel. If you use sand, you should be reading how to clean aquarium sand.
Fish love to hide in their homes beneath rocks and plants in the aquarium gravel. But when they defecate in there, it can be a lot more than an eyesore.
Cleaning the gravel can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! The trick to cleaning the gravel is all in how you go about it. There are many methods, but here’s how I’ve done it every time without causing too much of a mess on my part and I will be sharing all my tips and tricks with you today.
All the steps in this article are tested and trusted, if done correctly they shouldn’t harm your fish in any way but would rather create a safer environment for the fish to thrive.
Table of Contents
8 Steps On How To Clean Aquarium Gravel
Great! You have made it this far. Here you’ll see all the basic details and requirements for cleaning your aquarium gravel. Before I tell you about the steps, let us first talk about the things that you will be needing.
Things You Will Need
- Gravel Vacuum: A gravel vacuum is a unique tool made solely for the purpose of cleaning the gravel in your aquarium. It is cheap and pretty much easy to use. It has an input point that would have to go into your aquarium and an output point that drains out the dirt sucked out of the aquarium.
- Trash Can/Bucket: In order not to make a mess you would also need an empty trash can or bucket. This is used to collect the dirt from the aquarium gravel. When choosing a bucket for the task, be sure to go for a large one so your floor won’t get flooded while in the cleaning process.
Note: Make Sure the trash can or bucket is lower than your aquarium
If you have gotten all the required tools for this, you can now proceed to the steps involved, trust me, it is very easy to do and you should be done in no time, depending on how large your aquarium is.
Step 1: Place The End Of The Hose In The Bucket
For the first step, you will need to place the end of the hose inside the bucket. Make sure the hose goes down the bucket and is almost touching the bottom. That way, you won’t have to deal with any accidents and have water pouring on your floor.
Step 2: Placing The Other End Inside The Aquarium
Here’s the tricky part, and you have to get this right. You need to insert the other end of the hose inside the aquarium. You can simply do this by holding the hose like you would a cup, then slowly inserting the bottom inside the aquarium, doing this would let water escape completely from the hose.
Step 3: Getting Flowing Water
After doing the step above, you might not have water flowing down into the bucket placed below. To do this you need to ensure that the head of the hose is completely filled with water then lift it up, once the water starts flowing, put the hose back in and you should now have flowing water. If you have trouble with this step, check out the full video tutorial for more explanation
Step 4: Pinch The Hose
You might drain your entire aquarium after completing the steps above and not doing this. Pinching your hose will give you complete control of the water flowing out of the aquarium. Simply use your other hand and bend the hose, this should totally stop or significantly reduce the water flow.
Step 5: Use The Hose To Take Up Dirt
For the next step, you need to place the hose at the bottom of the aquarium where you have gravel. While the head of the hose is faced down in the aquarium, you can release the pinch in STEP 4, and this should suck up dirt from your gravel.
Step 6: Pinch & Release Repetitively
If you have reached this step you would notice that some gravel is getting into the tubing and then into the bucket below, what you want to do here is pinch again and all the gravel should settle back in leaving you with dirty water in the tubing as seen in the image.
Release the pinch, and more dirt and should be sucked up from the gravel. You can easily repeat the process of pinching and releasing in one area until the dirt seems thoroughly sucked up.
Step 7: Move The Hose To Other Areas In The Aquarium
Just like mowing a lawn, you need to make sure that all areas of the aquarium are cleaned. You can do this by simply moving the hose around and using the pinch and release trick. If you have decorations in your aquarium you would have to move them away and clean the area, waste always settles beneath them.
Step 8: Removing The Hose
At this point, you probably must have cleaned 99% of the gravel in your aquarium. If you aren’t satisfied with the cleaning feel free to jump at it again until it feels as good as new.
After completion, the next thing is removing the hose. All you need to do is pinch the hose and then gently remove the other end from the aquarium. Stop halfway and then place the palm of your hand on the mouth of the hose then release the pinch, it would suction your hand.
Take it out of the aquarium while still holding your suctioned hand in place, then release all the water inside the bucket below the aquarium.
Do’s And Don'ts For Cleaning Aquarium Gravel
- Ensure that the bucket is lower than the aquarium
- Keep watch on the bucket so it doesn’t spill over.
- Do not vacuum plants too deep else you might break the roots.
- Remove decorating items and vacuum the area they were initially placed.
- Be careful not to vacuum your little fish in the process.
- Once every year, drain out the water from your fish tank and wash the stones thoroughly.
Cleaning New Aquarium Gravel
If you just got new aquarium gravel, it would be wrong to place it inside the aquarium without giving it a proper wash. While the filter does a great job of keeping your fish tank clean, you’d be doing more harm by placing dirty gravel inside your fish tank.
All you have to do is place the gravel inside a bucket and fill the bucket up with water, then use your hands to turn and roll stones, the color of the water would likely change, pour the dirty water away, fill the bucket again with water and continue the process. Rinse and repeat until the water is clean even after turning and rolling the gravel.
How Often Should I Clean Aquarium Gravel?
To keep your fish safe, you should clean your aquarium gravel at least once a month. Not doing this monthly might increase the chances of your fish dying. If you must delay the cleaning process, at least do it once in two months. Anything above this might be deadly for your fish.
Does Vacuuming Gravel Remove Beneficial Bacteria?
Not really, thorough vacuuming of your aquarium gravel will definitely take up a percentage of beneficial bacteria, however, this should not be a problem because good bacteria live deep in your substrate, even if you vacuum the gravel, a good amount of beneficial bacteria would still be left.
Should I Wash The Gravel In My Fish Tank?
It is ideal to clean the gravel in your fish tank at least once a month, however, deep cleaning might remove the beneficial bacteria. A simple vacuum cleaning is fine. For your satisfaction, you can pick a day in a year to drain out the water and do a thorough cleaning of the gravel so they look as good as new.
What Happens If You Don't Wash Aquarium Gravel?
The aquarium will look cloudy and dirty due to small particles that have ended up back in the water column. Your best bet would be to avoid having a cloudy aquarium because it can be quite difficult to clean a cloudy aquarium after the glass has been assembled. Also, not cleaning your aquarium gravel can also kill your fish.
That’s a wrap on how to clean aquarium gravel. The last tip I’ll leave you with is, Have a Good Filtration System! A good filtration system isn’t something you should neglect, this would help keep your fish tank clean and cloud-free. Although you might still need to do the vacuum technique once a month.
I hope this article has been helpful to you. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or contributions. Thanks for stopping by!