Many years back, my thought process concerning aquarium gravel was simple. Gravel was gravel, and therefore inherently dirty like the gravel on the road.
Eventually, I was led to believe that since this gravel was under water it was as clean as it could be.
Either way, I figured there was no need to clean the gravel, especially with a vacuum cleaner. Of course, I was about 11 years old at the time, so you can forgive my ignorance about these things. I certainly didn’t know much about using a proper type of aquarium gravel cleaner like a fish tank vacuum.
What Is an Aquarium Vacuum and Why Do I Need It?
There are several types of gravel cleaners, but essentially you have two types. One is by using a special fish tank siphon that helps you remove dirty water and replace it with clean water. When you remove the dirty water, you can direct the hose or tube to also siphon off the debris such as the waste products and the uneaten food.
The other type doesn’t siphon off the water at all. It just sucks in the water through a mesh that traps the organic waste and uneaten food. This one is used in between water changes.
Either way, it can reduce the amount of debris hidden along the gravel area. So why do you need this when you have a filtration system and a protein skimmer? That’s simple: it gets rid of the pollutant right away before it can do any damage to the water. This reduces the workload for your protein skimmer and your filtration system, which can also lengthen the time in between water changes.
How to Use It
It’s a bit hard to describe, but in general, you just follow the directions given in the included manual. Usually, it means sticking a hose or a tube through the gravel to get at the debris. The gravel drops back onto the tank bed, while the water is siphoned off along with the debris or the water is cycled back in while a mesh traps the organic debris. You just stick it through the gravel gently until you’ve ferreted out all the dirt and debris you can find.
The main benefit is that you can keep your aquarium clean, so your fish and plant life inside can thrive. Also, it makes everything look much better since you’re also helping clean the water.
By getting rid of the debris, you can also lengthen the time between water changes. Or you can use the water changer as a vacuum and this can also reduce the time and effort needed to change the water.
It’s not yet a perfected system, so it may require some skill on your part to do it right. In addition, there’s always a chance you’ll siphon off a small stone that can cause problems in the unit. Also, you really don’t want to siphon off the fish!
Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Reviews
So what kind of aquarium vacuum should you get? Pick among these:
This is a bestseller on Amazon, but that’s because its main use is to help you siphon off and put in water into your fish tank without having to carry buckets of water to and from the bathroom or sink.
It’s just that it’s also on this list because it’s also a pretty effective vacuum gravel cleaner. That video we showed you on YouTube earlier on this article features this Python.
The kit offers you just about everything you need, but if you need extra adapters or longer tubes or hoses then you can buy them as options too. All you need to check is that your faucet and basin are within 25 feet of the tank, and you’re good to go, as the water will then just travel through the hoses.
- It's a very effective water changer, which explains its enduring popularity.
- It also works as a vacuum gravel cleaner, so you can remove the debris along with the old water.
- It should adapt to most faucets with the available adapters you can get easily.
- It costs a lot. If you’re using it mainly as a vacuum gravel cleaner, then it’s kind of expensive. However, if you’re using it as a water changer too then the price is okay.
- It takes a bit of skill to use it as a vacuum cleaner properly.
This one exemplifies the other type of gravel cleaner, as it just acts as a vacuum cleaner and not as a water changer. If you think the Python is expensive, this one is even more so.
This is a type of electric aquarium vacuum, except that Eheim realized that adding electrical wires to gallons of water may not have a good ending all the time. So what they did was design a battery-operated unit instead.
This one uses 4 AA batteries, which can then work for up to 4 hours straight at a time.
The QuickVac is ideal when you see lots of organic waste and uneaten food along the gravel bed. Just put it under the water and it will gently suck the water along with the debris. It then passes through a fine mesh that traps the debris, while the water is returned to the tank. When you’re done, you just snap out the mesh cartridge and clean off the mess, and then put the mesh back in for use next time. It’s that simple.
It also comes with a 2-year guarantee.
- It’s fairly easy to use.
- You don’t need to do the cleaning with your water change.
- The suction power is just right.
- It’s expensive.
- What’s more, quite a lot of people complain about its build quality.
- There’s also an inherent design flaw, as the impeller has an unfortunate tendency to jam.
As you can take from the name, it’s designed for the Fluval EDGE tank, which is a nano aquarium.
This one works like the Python, except that the hose measures 5 feet long so you’ll need a bucket for the dirty water.
On the other hand, it is designed for a nano aquarium, so you’re not going to transport endless buckets of water to and from the tank.
Also while it removes water, it doesn’t do anything to fill it up.
You’ll have to use a bucket again for that. But at least it gives you a chance to treat the added water, instead of adding the conditioner directly into the aquarium.
- It’s very cheap.
- You don’t neeIt’s designed to reach debris in the gravel from an angle, and it comes with 2 cleaning heads to do the cleaning with your water change.
- There’s a gravel guard that keeps the gravel from being siphoned off to clog the hose.
- It’s expensive if you can’t figure out how to start the “easy start” valve then it’s pretty much useless.
- The diameter of the hose is only an inch, as it is designed for smaller tanks and slower water siphoning. It’s really not ideal for larger tanks.
Marina doesn’t care how big your tank is, because they’ve made their gravel cleaner in 4 sizes ranging from mini to large.
The mini model only comes with a 1-inch diameter for the tube, while the large unit features a 2.5-inch diameter.
So let’s take a look at the medium-sized model. It offers a 15-inch cleaning tube with a 2.5-inch diameter.
The hose doesn’t kink, and it takes out dirty water into a bucket. But you’ll also need to use the special “up and down” motion to get it started.
The people who had difficulty at first found the right way by using Google and YouTube, so I suggest you do the same with this one.
- The price is fairly reasonable, considering what it does.
- Its main function is to siphon water during a water change, while you direct the siphon along the gravel so you remove debris as well. If that’s’ your goal, then it works well enough.
- The suction power is at a low setting, so it’s fair to say that this is good only for the smaller tanks.
- Some people just never get the hang of starting the siphon.
This is another battery-operated unit, and it’s supposed to be a 3-in-1 cleaning option. You can use it to clean the gravel, remove algae, and siphon dirty water.
It uses 2 C batteries, and it is not supposed to be submerged full under water. That’s why it’s only for smaller nano tanks. But the tube does extend from 8 to 16 inches. It suctions off the water, and then flows through a mesh so that it traps the waste.
Then the water is either returned back to the tank (through the outside of the tube) or siphoned off though a hose into a bucket.
- It works well enough, when you know how to use it properly.
- The price is a steal.
- Assembling it is easy, but you need to take off the tiny black piece first before you put in the “sock” that traps the debris.
- You’ll need to be careful, so that you don’t end up to close to the edge of your tank that the water goes outside and on to your floor.
- You’ll also need to angle it properly for it to work.
- The sock to trap the debris doesn’t really work all that well, so others replaced it with a standard women’s nylon.
So which one is the best aquarium vacuum? Personally, I’d go for the Marina so that I can pick the right size for my aquarium. If you do pick this one, here’s a tip: watch videos on how to set it up and use it properly! If you do, you’ll get the hang of it and it’ll work well for you.