If you enjoy and manage an aquarium, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you already know that keeping it clean is one of the most important aspects of the hobby.
Keeping your aquarium clean will ensure your fish and other creatures thrive, and it will provide you with a beautiful tank you can be proud of.
Probably the most important aspect of a clean aquarium is fresh, filtered water. But even filtered, (supposedly clean looking water can contain hidden nasties if your gravel isn’t regularly cleaned.
That’s where gravel vacuums come in. These handy devices take the hassle out of keeping your aquarium clean and beautiful.
This guide to the best aquarium gravel cleaners will help you understand the benefits and importance of gravel cleaners, and we’ll share some of our top picks with you too.
- The Importance of Keeping Your Gravel Clean
- The Best Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Cleaners for Small Tanks
- Best Aquarium Gravel Vacuum for Medium Sized Tanks
- Best Aquarium Siphon for Large Tanks
- Best Electric Aquarium Vacuum
The Importance of Keeping Your Gravel Clean
- Remove debris from the bottom of your tank – Gravity is always at work in your aquarium, and everything ends up in the gravel at the bottom of your tank – food waste, fish waste, and plant waste. Gravel that isn’t properly cleaned will eventually turn into a sludgy, slimy mess, and pollutants will take over your tank.
- Improve your tank’s chemistry – When pollutants build up in your tank, there will also be a build-up of nitrites and ammonia, which will negatively affect your tank’s chemistry. Harmful bacteria and pollutants will add to the problem, leading to a decreased immunity of your marine life.
- Make your fish happy – Pollutants and toxin build-up in your gravel will contribute an unhealthy balance to the bacteria that thrive in your tank. Not all bacteria is bad for your aquarium — some bacteria will help maintain a healthy environment for your marine life.
- Improve the look of your aquarium – You probably wouldn’t even consider keeping fish if you didn’t enjoy the aesthetics of your aquarium. Keeping your gravel clean is one of the easiest things you can do for a lush, beautiful aquarium, teeming with fish.
Now that you know why keeping your aquarium gravel is so important, let’s take a look at the best gravel vacuum cleaners to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
The Best Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Cleaners for Small Tanks
KollerCraft TOM Gravel Vacuum
This is a powerful little vacuum for a great price. A 17” vacuum tube combined with a 12”, 18”, or 24” nozzle, makes it perfect for cleaning even the tallest tanks.
Adjustable flow control means you can siphon the water and crud out of your aquarium in minutes.
Although this vacuum is meant for smaller tanks, it works just as well on larger tanks if you don’t mind getting your hand wet?
- Powerful, but not strong enough to suck up gravel or little fish.
- Pump action siphon for easy water changes that are less stressful for fish.
- Extra long hose for easy water changes.
- Siphons water very quickly, even with the adjustable flow control.
- Large debris may clog the filter.
Lee’s 12-Inch Slim Jr. Ultra Gravel Vacuum Cleaner
This model is specifically designed for smaller tanks. The set up is similar to the model above, but on a smaller scale.
Comes with a hose clip to keep everything in place, it’s perfect for fish bowls and desktop aquariums.
- Small and easy to use.
- Inexpensive and no-frills.
- 1” diameter tube cleans quickly and efficiently without sucking up your substrate.
- For the size, this still sucks up water pretty quickly.
- If you have a tall tank, you may have to get your hands wet.
Python Pro Clean-Mini 1″ x 6″ Tube with 6 ft. Hose
This no frills device works well with small aquariums, up to 10 gallons.
Suction and flow are both fairly light, which makes it perfect for routine maintenance when you’re removing just a bit of water and debris.
- Light suction won’t remove fish, gravel, or sand
- Water flow is minimal, making it perfect for small tanks.
- Heavy-duty tubing won’t split or crack.
- Hose is on the short side
- Suction isn’t strong enough to clean out heavy debris
Best Aquarium Gravel Vacuum for Medium Sized Tanks
Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer and Siphon Kit for Aquarium, Large
This heavy-duty siphon kit gets the job done fast. Made of sturdy plastic tubing, it effectively removes water and debris from 20 to 55 gallon tanks without a lot of fuss.
- Easy to use.
- Fast and powerful sucking action.
- Durable tubing and plastic.
- You must start the suction yourself.
- May suck water too fast to clean the gravel in on shot.
Aqueon Medium Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner
This self-priming siphon from Aqueon is perfect for quick water changes.
Hose is 6-feet long for easy transfer of water and debris, and a clip is included to keep everything in place while you’re vacuuming up the debris.
- Self-priming – flow starts easily.
- Does not suck up gravel or fish.
- Quick and easy to use.
- May suck up sand or other fine substrates
Best Aquarium Siphon for Large Tanks
Lee’s Ultra GravelVac, Self-Start with Nozzle & Hose Clip – Large
The wide-mouth nozzle on this easy to use siphon increases surface coverage by more than 20%, which means faster clean up without taking off a lot of water.
The Ultra GravelVac features a clip to hold the hose steady and a self-start siphon. It’s perfect for your biggest aquariums.
- 6-foot long hose for easy removal of water and debris.
- High flow rate for quick clean-up.
- Solid construction.
- High flow rate won’t work with small or medium size tanks.
Best Electric Aquarium Vacuum
EHEIM Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Cleaner
Unlike the other aquarium gravel vacuums in this article, the EHEIM doesn’t require buckets or hoses. Instead of using this for water changes, use it to clean your gravel between changes.
It is battery operated and fully submersible up to three feet deep.
- Use for spot maintenance between water changes
- Very easy to use – no buckets, hoses, or siphoning required
- Picks up debris and filters water back into your aquarium
- Battery lasts up to four hours
- Aquarium must be at least 12 inches deep.
- Filter must be cleaned fairly often for proper suction
A weekly cleaning is all that’s needed for cleaning up the debris on the bottom of most tanks.
Simply run the vacuum tube along the bottom of your tank, gently stirring up the gravel as you go. Most clean-ups can be completed in minutes, whether you choose an electric model or a manual siphon.
No matter how big or small your aquarium, you will find that a gravel vacuum makes easy work of one essential task toward keeping your tank healthy and beautiful.
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