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Vacuuming Aquarium Gravel

Siphoning Your Aquarium Water and Cleaning Your Aquarium Gravel

(The First Tank Guide)

What is a Gravel Vacuum?

A gravel vacuum is a piece of aquarium equipment. It is a rigid, plastic tube, generally about 2" in diameter which attaches to one end of a siphon tube to allow you to clean the debris from part of the aquarium gravel with each of your weekly 10-15% water changes.

How Does an Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Work?

A gravel vacuum operates by churning the gravel around in a column of moving water to loosen and carry off any debris trapped in the gravel. The power to operate your gravel vacuum typically comes from a siphon. This same siphon will carry off the debris the gravel vacuum knocks loose.

To operate the gravel vacuum, you will need to get a siphon started in the tube.

Vacuuming the Gravel

Once you have your siphon started, you will need to place the end of the gravel vacuum into the gravel. With your finger or thumb blocking the bucket end of the siphon, gently slide the vacuum end of the gravel vacuum into the gravel. Keep the tube moving in a straight line, and do not move the vacuum back and forth or up and down (this will just make a mess).

Once the end of the gravel vacuum is in the gravel as far as it will reasonably go, release your finger or thumb from the bucket end of the tube. Water should start flowing through the tube, and the gravel in the tube should start shaking, bouncing, and churning. Debris should be flowing down the siphon and into the bucket.

Once the water coming through the gravel is mostly clear, stop the flow of the siphon by placing your finger or thumb over the bucket end of the siphon tube. This should stop the flow of water and allow the gravel to settle.

Gently extract the gravel vacuum from the gravel, keeping your motion as straight as possible. Again, shaking the vacuum around or bouncing it up and down will just release the debris from the gravel into the aquarium water, rather than into the bucket through the siphon. Your goal is to be removing this debris from the water, not loosening it up into the aquarium.

Once you have pulled the gravel vacuum out of the gravel, move it over an adjacent piece of gravel and re-insert it. Remember,smooth and straight, without any shaking or up and down motuions.

Again, release your finger from the bucket end of the siphon and allow the water to flow, carrying the debris from this section of the water along with it.

Repeat this process until you have cleaned 1/4-1/3 of the gravel. Of course, remember to stop if your bucket gets full so you can empty the bucket before making a mess.

If, at any time, the gravel gets too high in the gravel vacuum, you can easily release the gravel from the vacuum by plugging the other end of the siphon tube with your finger or thumb.

Unless you are severely over feeding your fish or providing water changes too infrequently, you should be able to vacuum between 1/4 and 1/3 of the gravel with each weekly 10-15% water change.

You will get best results if you place the end of the gravel vacuum deep into the gravel, and do not move it until it has pulled all the debris out of that section of the gravel. Moving the gravel vac excessively, or pulling it up and down while the siphon is running will lead to a less efficiently cleaned tank and can stir up a lot of debris that would otherwise be drawn through the siphon and into the bucket.

"Cool page you have Keith."
March 19, 2003
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July 22, 2007
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