Gravel cleaning - Shrimp/Snails


Hey gang,

I saw a few threads on this, but didn't exactly answer my question so I thought I would post it up.

With an army of shrimp, snails, baby guppies swarming the ground, how do I vacuum it? Do I even need to vacuum it if the snails are going through it? I used to vacuum my gravel every 120 days or so just to get all that settled fish poop out.

What have y'all done? Suggestions/recommendations?


Hi Spinich ,

You definitely need to change 45% of the water two or three times a week to get maximum speed with growing fry . I can 100 % say cherry shrimp can handle multiple 45% water changes in one week as can two species of Australian native shrimp. I have no experience with other species of shrimp.

Use a straight length of hose and vacuum into a white bucket. Let the bucket settle for half an hour and then net out juveniles. They can be tossed straight back into the original tank. Just be careful to toss them on the floating plants or you will find the adult fish enjoying the meal you are adding.

I know from personal experience how quickly a guppy tank can turn into fish soup when you have pregnant females. You MUST separate the male and female juveniles before they begin to breed. If you don’t have two or three tanks you will have to cull fry if the adults aren’t keeping the numbers low.

In an ideal world you would have a bare bottom grow out tank and be able to keep the tank a bit cleaner. No it’s not necessary to vacuum the substrate every week but sooner or later you need to remove mulm.

I believe the snails poop out whatever they eat ? Just like any creature they contribute to increasing the bio load.The don’t reduce the bio load by magic.

You ask what y’all have done.
I have set up fresh grow out tanks that have not had a proper clean for two months. Approximately every two months everything is removed and rinsed. A snapshot of cherry shrimp with juvenile BN plecos/ poop machine.
8FDC0F65-FBA6-4570-99A6-B6B0B61B1F75.jpegChanging the water often is more important than vacuuming the substrate but sooner or later you will have to vacuum out the mulm.


There was a thread recently where many people said they never gravel vac and have success for many years. Think it was A201 OP. Throwing it out there.


I would agree with that up to a point WRWAqurium.
Its a question of what the stocking level is for a fry tank that has shrimp snails and fry “ swarming “ If it’s a few hundred or a few thousand the situation is different?

Many times I have read shrimp have no bio load.. A bare bottom tank can have cherry shrimp poop the size of sand particles that nobody would see unless the tank is bare bottom.


I never vacuum substrate. Good water flow and clean my prefilter every week. My tank is heavily planted and i have fish and snails which dig substrate.

sponge from prefilter creates a brown bucket when squeezed weekly :). I clean the main canister filter once or twice a year.

Some tanks do require you to clean substrate depending on flow/ maintenance/ bioload and species and type of filtration.


Wow, thanks for all the replies folks! So much good information and experience, I REALLY appreciate it!

This tank is in my office, which is a solarium. Sunshine most days, all the windows are fogged from the evaporation. This tank evaporates 5 gallons of water per month. A typical cleaning so far has been to move the algae blooms from the plastic plants, wipe the front glass of growth and add a fresh 5 gallons. I haven't had to siphon as evaporation has essentially created the necessary 'water refreshing'.

Everything in the tank is flourishing and water tests are ace. As mentioned, eventually I will need to get all that brown sludge out of the rocks. Back in the day, I always used the undergravel filters (in tandem with a waterfall) and added a powerhead to help with the suck, but all that does is pull it all that poop under the gravel, at best. Still needs to be removed or its basically an outhouse tank that starts popping out the seat!

This is my first shrimp/guppy tank and frankly, i am surprised at the reproduction rates of everything in the tank. I wanted to keep numbers low so I could leverage the ecosystem of plants/snails/shrimp to reduce my maintenance requirements. The tank has been running for 5 months now, so probably next month I will try to vacuum the gravel. I guess I will try and time it with fry/younglings as best I can and then Spudsssy mentioned, retrieve the young from the bucket and return them to the tank.

Flyfisha, dang, you got a lot of Plecos!!! I am on the fence on plecos or chinese...from my experience, plecos are lazy and don't eat as much as young chinese.I have a ton of growth and need some hungry bois. :)

I don't want to have a bare bottom tank because its ultimate purpose is decoration.

I planned to let my 2 male / 2 female fancies populate the tank, but it is getting out of hand. Hard to say, there are at least 50 guppies. I put up a thread about getting a predator, not sure what I will do.

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