Top 6 Ways to Clean Fish Tank Gravel in Easy Methods

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Cleaning your fish tank gravel is a significant part of aquarium maintenance. All of the fish waste, uneaten food, and dirt that settles to the bottom of the substrate will not vanish on its own!

A clean tank ensures optimum health for your fish and provides them with a safe environment to swim and grow. One of the most important parts of cleaning a fish tank is cleaning out the gravel. Food and debris tend to sink to the bottom of the tank and get trapped under the gravel. Proper cleaning of your tank gravel is essential to the health of your fish and should be done approximately every two weeks.

The general rule of thumb is to clean the gravel out of the tank at every water change. When a fish keeper cleans the aquarium once a week, fish tank gravel cleaners are essential in the overall process. Hobbyists may decide to clean the tank without a vacuum, and the low-tech method is acceptable but not that easy.

How to Clean Fish Tank Gravel?

There are many types of gravel for your aquarium. Typical fish tank substrates include quartz or other non-lime minerals. Most hobbyists use a gravel vacuum to keep the substrate clean. Fish keepers need to be vigilant when learning how to clean a fish tank. Some fish farmers don’t use a vacuum and prefer a low-tech method, but gravel cleaners make the job easier. Clean gravel is an essential step in ensuring that your fish stay healthy.

Read More: How to Clean Fish

Fish Tank Gravel Cleaners: Get the Job Done

Aquarium gravel cleaners keep the substrate clean. These cleaners collect dirt and uneaten food. Rough! This debris destroys your aquarium environment if it settles to the bottom of the tank.

Fish Tank Gravel Vacuum

An automatic gravel vacuum or battery-powered gravel cleaner keeps the environment clean by maintaining consistent water chemistry. The void agitates the gravel in a moving column of water to loosen and carry debris trapped in the stone out of the tank.

Gravel Washing Equipment Checklist

How to Clean Fish Tank Gravel

Low-tech methods are also an option, and hobbyists should know there are several ways to clean old and new gravel from fish tanks. The equipment used by fish farmers is technically dependent, so the equipment may change if the farmer decides not to use a battery-powered vacuum cleaner tube. All the equipment is easy to find at a pet store.

  • Secondary tank (optional)
  • Two trash cans marked for aquarium use only
  • Siphon gravel suction tube or a battery-powered gravel cleaner
  • A hose reserved for your aquarium

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How to Clean Fish Tank Gravel in Three Easy Steps?

This portion will discuss the 3 easiest steps to clean fish tank gravel. You will use a gravel vacuum and a fish tank siphon. Schedule this task once a week.

Step One: Unplug Equipment, Remove Fish and Artificial Plants

Fill a secondary fish tank or bucket with some of your existing (used) aquarium water, and place your fish and fake plants there while you vacuum.

Step Two: Vacuum the Tank

Use your siphon gravel vac with an attached hose or battery-powered gravel cleaner to remove water and gravel into a bucket.

  • Only remove up to 40 percent of the water in the tank. The goal is to keep the beneficial bacteria in the tank.
  • The debris will go up the siphon; Continue this until the water begins to clear or you have cleaned all sections of the gravel floor.

Step Three: Reassemble

PReplace plants and decorations, and replace water. 

Video Credit: 
Aquarium Genius 

Techniques for Cleaning New Gravel

When you need to clean up new gravel, the technique is simple. Fish farmers usually buy bagged stones, which should be free of dust.

  • Turn on the garden hose and fill an empty bucket.
  • Slowly pour a few inches of gravel and let the dust settle to the bottom.
  • Stir the gravel slowly by hand, pout the water, and pour the clean gravel into a second bucket. If you are outside, pour the water on the ground.
  • Rinse and repeat this process until all the gravel is clean.

How to Clean Fish Tank Gravel Without a Vacuum?

Novice fish keepers may clean without a vacuum, but experienced hobbyists recommend gravel vacuums. If a hobbyist uses this equipment, it is a more efficient way to clean the tank. This low-tech method is similar to the previous technique for cleaning new gravel, except that the hobbyist removes the stone from the existing tank. Replace step two above, which involves the gravel vacuum, with the instructions below.

  1. Use a cup to scoop out the dirty gravel and place it in a colander to clean it.
  2. Rinse the dirty gravel in the sieve under running water or a hose.
  3. Move the gravel so that the debris settles to the bottom.
  4. Do not clean all the gravel to ensure there are still some bacteria. 

Read Also More: How to Clean Strawberries

Gravel Cleaners Make life Easier for Hobbyists

Always use a gravel vacuum before trying the low-tech method. Gravel vacuuming is easy and makes one of the gravity water change steps more efficient. Fish keepers must ensure that the tank is shined once a week, and the process must be low stress on the fish. The less time the fish spends in a bucket, the better.


  • Leave your fish in for cleaning. It’s much more stressful to take them out; unless you have a very small bowl, keep them in.
  • Live plants are an excellent way to keep your aquarium clean and healthy.
  • Do not vacuum or replace all of the gravel or water at once. You want some of that beneficial bacteria.
  • Consider cleaning the gravel in conjunction with your weekly water exchange.
  • Before cleaning your tank, make sure your hands are clean. Wearing lotions or jewelry is not permitted.


  • Never clean your aquarium, gravel, or decorations with soap, detergents, or bleach.
  • To clean your aquarium, gravel, or decorations.
  • Never use anything that has come into contact with soap, detergents, or bleach. Sterilize items instead by washing them in warm water.



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