Cleaning Gravel

  • #1
Hey everyone,
The gravel in my fish tank is really dirty and I think I should take it out and clean it. How should I do this? Where should I put the fish? Would they be ok in 1 or 2 buckets.
  • #2
No need to take your gravel out to clean it just vacuum it. You can buy a gravel vacuum/siphon at the lfs. Just vac the gravel everyother water change or do half each time.
  • #3
Yeah.. Carol is right

You do not have to take out all the gravel to clean it. It would definitely disturb the fish tank cycle.

You can vacuum the grave every time you need to change water.

P.S. Vacuum only 1 half of the gravel bed every time. The other half the other time you change water
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
I found out that I have a self-starting gravel vac but it dosent work very well. it dosent suck up any gravel when I try 2 use it. my gravel is pretty big could it be 2 big?
  • #5
It's not supposed to suck up gravel. The wastes in the gravel just rises up and goes into the bucket.
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Ok this dosnt really happen when I do water changes. the gravel is usually as dirty as when I start. do u hold it down on the gravel or what? mine came with no instructions.
  • #7
I always push my vac.thru the gravel to the bottom of tank pull up sediment then move it over seems to work fine
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Allright thamks I will try it on da weekend
  • #9
Also a neat little trick of physics to get the suction going without having to pump the vac up and down in the water and distressing the fish, is to submerge the whole thing until all the air-pockets are out, place your finger over the end of the hose while the end of the vac stays in the water,move the hose out and down into the bucket, remove finger, and voila, instant suction.
Somewhere out there is one of my old English teachers groaning at the length of that sentence!!
  • #10
I recently learned that it isn't a good idea to have gravel in your quarantine tank. Or anything else for that matter. Now, when I set up my QT, I bought some plastic plants, gravel and a piece of driftwood so my fish would feel safe. But I recently dosed the tank with Maracyn, and now I need to get it out of the gravel. I am (I think) going to just put the gravel and decor into my main tank, if that's a good idea, after I clean it. I was just going to rinse everything and maybe scrub it down, but then I remembered I'd heard people use a little bit of bleach to clean tanks. Would that be a good idea for me? And how do you think taking the gravel out of the tank would affect the cycle? I'm not planning on putting fish in there for a while, but just in case. Also, should I replace all the water? I sort of want to, not just because of the meds, but because I have an algae problem in there. If I kept the filter media in some tank water and maybe put some new media in from my main tank, would the tank cycle back pretty fast? Thanks in advance.
  • #11
I don't about others but I don't have my quarantine tank set up unless I am actually going to use it. I use it for both new fish and as a med tank. Check out this link in FishLore:

Med Tank:

As for the decor, you can use soapy warm water or vinegar and warm water to rinse out your decor for moving to another tank. For med tanks, I don't have any decor. For a straight quarantine tank I do provide hiding spaces and lights.
  • #12
I don't keep a Q tank set up all the time either.
I wouldn't suggest using soap. It can often times leave a residue.
To sterilize, I use bleach. 19 parts water to 1 part bleach. Rinse well until you can't smell it anymore then OD it with dechlorinated water and let it set for a while. Empty and refill the tank again with dechlorinated water.
Before I went through the trouble of bleaching gravel, I'd toss it. It's not that expensive.
You can filter the meds out with carbon.
  • #13
Okay. What about the decorations? Can I just rinse those? And I'm guessing the carbon wouldn't filter out the stuff in the gravel? Oh, and if I put in all fresh water and clean the gravel, will the carbon even be necessary?
  • #14
If you change out 100% of the water you wouldn't have to filter out the meds.
I've bleached plastic and silk plants, just kept them inside my tank while I sterilized, rinsed etc.
While it didn't happen to me, I imagine the bleach could take the color out of some silk plants.
  • #15
I think I am going to bleach everything then. I can put the plants towards the back, they already are a super bright green, so I don't think the color fading a bit would be a huge problem. And I would take down the QT tank when I don't need it, but the filter is such I can't put it on my tank to keep it cycled. And think I will take the time to rinse out the gravel, even though it is so cheap, I don't have anything better to do. Thanks for all the help!
  • #16
Your welcome. Keep extra filter media in your cycled tank. That way when you go to set up your Q tank you'll have a nice growth of bacteria to jump start the tank.
  • #17
Yup, that's actually what I've started doing, I've just been using the QT more than usual lately.
  • #18
Cleaning gravel? Plus new addition!!!

Ok so I won't be able to go into town until after finals in 2 1/2 weeks, but I need to do a water change and clean the gravel. I can't really afford to buy a gravel vac online, and my LFS doesn't have any since its wal-mart lol
Does anyone have any tips for cleaning gravel WITHOUT a vac?


I bought a female I couldn't resist, I saw her while shopping at wal-mart and she is so pretty!!! I'm thinking of calling her "suisai" (watercolors in Japanese)

They have a lot of females at my local w-m now, I was there yesterday and three were maybe 3 reds, and today there are as many females as males at least and a lot more colors.

And of course a bonus piccie of Louis XIV flaring at...nothing?...


And another bonus of their new setup (DIY divided! I hope this works!)
How long should I wait before I add them in? I just cleaned this thing in its entirety today with a complete water change since it was so nasty it smelled....

  • #19
My walmart carries gravel vacs. Yours may not though. I would just get a cup and try and stir up the bottom. That way some of the junk comes up. Then just scoop it out in your cup to the bucket.
  • #20
All you really need is a line of plastic tubing... and they carry those for lots of different things. Wine kit places would have the tubing for siphoning wine for instance...
  • #21
You could make a makeshift gravel cleaner by cutting the bottom off a soda bottle and then use a standard garden hose to screw on to the threaded top of the bottle.
  • #22
I'd probably stir up and cup out
  • #23
Thanks lol! I just wound up doing a complete water change, taking everything out and rinsing it I bought a girl!
  • #24
Hello CinderellaA,

For a 1.5g tank I would use a Turkey Baster to clean the gravel if a siphon isn't available.

Please be careful and don't over clean your tank. The more you clean at one time the more good bacteria you are losing and the greater the chance of the tank going into a minI cycle with increased ammonia levels. The good bacteria is attached to all surface areas of your tank with the highest concentrations of it being in your filter and your substrate.

Keep an eye on your readings. Beautiful Bettas!

Best wishes,
  • #25
Welcome to fishlore if I haven't told you already and Yes she is a very pretty girl at that.
  • #26
A couple things I noticed: the plastic plant may rip up your bettas fins... bettas like to rest on plants and their fins are very delicate. And the bamboo stalk, you have the leaves underwater. From what I hear, if the leaves are underwater the plant will die and rot and make your water toxic. If the leaves are above water they will be ok.
  • #27
aquarist48 thanks! I kept some water from before I dumped it out, maybe about a cup, and put it back in with the new. Would that be ok?

Goldwing_Don Thanks! lol that was the first pic I took of her too ;P I'm trying to figure out if she's a veiltail or a hm.

cajunfiberco Yeah, I'm a bit concerned about ripping too. But I have had that plant in with another betta without any tearing. As soon as I can go down to PetCo I'm going to upgrade to a bigger tank and more plants. I never heard about the bamboo thing before. :/ *immediately rushes to take some water out of the tank*
  • #28
Ok not sure where to put this but since I'm beginner accidental breeder I figured here was a good place.

So my dilemma today is I need to clean my tanks today and I'm scared to vacuum the substrate in the guppy/ cory tank as I have cory fry that are very small and hard to see once the water and sand get stirred up, but the bottom has feces that is visible that I feel needs to get out of there.

So question is can I sneak by 1 more week with out vaccuuming substrate? Parameters are reading 0,0,10-20

If I cannot squeak by what is another option besides the normal siphon to clean the poo?
Either way I will do a water change
  • #29
Try stirring the tank up a little then vacuuming from the water column ?
For the cories especially I believe should have clean substrate as they are susceptible to bacterial infections..
That is why most breeders go bare bottom.
  • #30
Try stirring the tank up a little then vacuuming from the water column ?
For the cories especially I believe should have clean substrate as they are susceptible to bacterial infections..
That is why most breeders go bare bottom.
Oooo good idea wow I'm stupid for not thinking of doing that lol, and if I had intentionally bred them I would agree with bare bottom this is stressful lol.
  • #31
Just a couple tips from someone who has been sucking up fry for years ;
Use a small clean white bucket so seeing fry is easy.
Have turkey baster or small shrimp net ready to re cover fry .I have used small plastic cups also .
I make my own syphons .I just use PVC pipe and hose .I have several small sizes to make target vacuuming easier and reduce the # of fry I suck up.
  • #32
Just spot clean what you can see....and change a little extra water. Coral gave yo7 good advice for recovery of your babies......check out his video.....he has huge experience in breeding.
  • #33
this by no means expert advice but what about just putting some really fine mesh over the end of the vacuum so you don't suck up the fry?
  • #34
this by no means expert advice but what about just putting some really fine mesh over the end of the vacuum so you don't suck up the fry?
I wouldn't be able to get the algae wafer leftovers and they annoy me. I can't srand things being on the bottom of the tank lol. I went up to store amd got a smaller siphon and saw a battery operated one I will use to spot clean after I dI water change. I am going to stir up the substrate and hioefukky get mist of the yuck that way. It isn't horrible just bothers me lol
  • #35
It's tedious, but you can get a lot of this matter using a piece of airline tubing with a long rigid piece of clear tubing on one end as a siphon. The airline alone will work but it's more difficult to precisely control it. This is a slow process, but allows you to control it very carefully. Water is removed very slowly so you have lots of time, but the small diameter tubing still gives you a pretty good suction to pick up poop, etc. You have to be alert while doing it and have a steady hand; save your second coffee for after the job is done.

Have two buckets ready. If...or suck up a baby, quickly pinch the line or cover the bottom end with your finger to stop but not break the siphon. Move the end from the poop bucket to the other one, release water until the baby appears, then go back to the poop bucket. When you are done you will have a bucket of poop with hopefully no fish (but check before dumping!) and a bucket of fish with hopefully very little poop.

If you have houseplants, the poop water is all the fertilizer you will ever need for them. I never dump that stuff until every houseplant has been watered; in the summer, when my world is not frozen solid, I use it for watering flowerbeds outside as well. Reduce, re-use, re-cycle!
  • #36
I have the Eheim battery operated and it really works well. It’s great for the inbetween water change cleanings.
  • #37
I have the Eheim battery operated and it really works well. It’s great for the inbetween water change cleanings.
I bought this one..had to steal from another site as my LFS doesn't have a website.Eheim Quick Vac Automatic Gravel Cleaner & Sludge Extractor - chewy
  • #38
I bought this one..had to steal from another site as my LFS doesn't have a website.Eheim Quick Vac Automatic Gravel Cleaner & Sludge Extractor - chewy

That’s the one I have......
  • #39
Hi. I have read a lot about various issues with maintaining an aquarium. On the topic of substrate vacuuming, many say you should do it, but others say it is not necessary (in a mature tank with no overfeeding). One concern is disrupting the beneficial bacteria. The advice is to do small sections each time. My substrate consists of pebbles. I am having difficulty with this issue because I have many resin caves, plastic plants..etc all over my tank, which I spent many many hours shifting around to get them in the ideal positions for controlling current and for aesthetics of the tank. So it is very annoying trying to vacuum without disrupting the whole decor and I'm worried about disrupting the beneficial bacteria. A much easier way (which I tried) is to use a spare pump to spray a jet of water on the substrate and blow up the detritus/gunk into the water column and then proceed with a partial water change (which will remove part of the suspended detritus/gunk, then just let my two canister filters suck up the remaining debris out of the water column (mechanically filter). Then after everything clears up, I could just clean my mechanical filters (my canisters). Of course while following the proper technique so as not to kill the bacteria in the mechanical filter. My question is the following: is there any problem with using this technique instead of vacuuming? (Blowing up the debris into the water column). Wouldn't this technique be less likely to disrupt the beneficial bacteria? I would appreciate any advice on this topic. Thank you.
Zigi Zig
  • #40
The bacteria are happy to grow on any surface, but they do not simply spread out evenly throughout the aquarium. Although any surface area in the tank (decor, glass, substrate, etc.) are otherwise perfectly acceptable, they do not have the same flow as the filter and therefore will not house significant colonies of bacteria. This isn’t to say they were sterile, just that if adequate filtration is provided effectively all the bacteria will be in the filter. All I could suggest here is try to setup your decorations in one place that doesn't have to be moved and just vacuum around...

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