Fish Tank Gravel Cleaner?

Whether youre already a fish owner or youre thinking about keeping some as pets, youll probably already know that keeping a fish tank clean can be harder than it looks! Over time, a lot of waste accumulates at the bottom of a tank, including fish waste, food waste and general dirt. But how do you get rid of all the mess at the bottom without completely dismantling your entire aquarium?

Below we have complied a buying guide with everything you need to know about gravel vacuums and have even included some of our top picks on the market today. Product ImageProduct nameFeaturesStar Rating 1) NICREW Power VAC Plus Electric Gravel Cleaner 3-in-1 unit for quick cleanups3.8 out of 5 2) NICREW Automatic Gravel Cleaner Easily removes particlesDecreases the build-up of harmful toxins

3.8 out of 5 3) Luigi’s Aquarium/Fish Tank Siophon and Gravel Cleaner No Messy dripsSturdy one way valve to improve suction 4.2 out of 5 6) Boxtech Fish Tank Siphon Vacuum Compact StructureAnti-Back Flow Valve Design 4.3 out of 5 7) Lee’s 6-Inch Slim Jr. Ultra Gravel Vacuum Cleaner Self-start cap assemblyMakes aquarium maintenance a snap

4.3 out of 5 8) UPETTOOLS Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Strong PowePowerful Cleaning Function 4.3 out of 5 10) EHEIM Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Cleaner Easy to useExtends intervals between water changes Although they are small, fish can be messy and cleaning their tanks is not the easiest job in the world.

A gravel vacuum helps you to keep their tank clean as it sucks up all the dirt, debris and waste your fish produce and leaves them with a sanitary environment. The vacuum usually consists of a plastic tube that sits in your tank and continuously drains water from it until you remove it. If you own fish, the best aquarium vacuum is going to make your life a lot easier all around!

Over time, fish waste, dirt, uneaten food and debris will begin to accumulate at the bottom of the aquarium with the substrate and trying to remove it can be tricky. Whether you use fish tank gravel or sand substrate , it doesnt matter, they will both hold onto waste. A gravel vacuum helps to quickly get rid of all the unwanted waste and leaves your tank fresh.

Fairly cheap and available in a wide range of sizes, this vacuum is easy to use because gravity does all the work. However, because it sucks up water as well as the dirt, youll need to drain your tank every time you use it. They dont drain your tank and instead pumps the water through the vacuum, trapping any dirt, debris, waste and food in the filter.

Some vacuums suction the water out very quickly and, if you have a small tank, this could pose a problem for your fish! Fortunately, most gravel vacuums come with safety features built in to stop any accidents from happening. This 3-in-1 gravel vacuum from NICREW is great for both quick cleanups and complete aquarium maintenance.

The sponge filter traps debris while remaining easy to clean and leaves your fish tank more sanitary. Key Features: 3-in-1 unit for quick cleanups Traps debris Easy to clean Key Features: Easily removes particles Decreases the build-up of harmful toxins Eco-friendly products

Key Features: No Messy drips Sturdy one way valve to improve suction Prevent sucking up small fish The compact design of the STARROAD-TIM aquarium vacuum means it is perfect for any sized fish tank. Easy to use, all you need to do is press the button to pump water out, taking dirt and debris with it.

There is a flow control so you can customize it to your preference, making water changes extremely easy. Easy to use, all you need to do is place the tube into the fish tank and squeeze the bulb to create a siphon. It also has a starter and stopper valve and a long hose with filter attachment, so cleaning can be done simply and quickly.

This best aquarium vacuum kit is made from BPA-free plastic for extra safety and there is even a minnow net so you can easily move your fish when cleaning their home! Key Features: Includes a minnow net Starter stopper valve Long hose with filter attachment. This siphon vacuum from Boxtech is a multifunctional cleaning tool that helps you to keep your fish tank sanitary.

The 72.4 inch long pipe are easy to install and operate and can be used in a range of different tank sizes. This device comes with an anti-back flow valve design that makes drainage more effective and, being made of quality flexible PVC plastic, it will not only last you a long time but it also wont collapse and block the water flow while you are draining the tank. With a filter net cover you can be sure your fish wont get hurt while you are cleaning their home and the extra long tubing allows you to get to any hard-to-reach spots without getting your hands wet.

Key Features: Compact Structure Anti-Back Flow Valve Design Safe and Easy Use Self-starting, this gravel vacuum is simple and effectively gets rid of dirt and debris from the bottom of the tank. Key Features: Self-start cap assembly 72-inch long vinyl hose Makes aquarium maintenance a snap

Also leaving your tank clean, this vacuum helps to suck up any dirt, poop and leftover food without disturbing the gravel to give your fish a sanitary place to live. Key Features: Strong Powe Powerful Cleaning Function Easy to Install and Use You simply place the tool inside the aquarium at the top of the water line and gently squeeze the pump.

Key Features: Includes the Python Squeeze Siphon Starter Removes debris from your aquarium Flexible, high quality tubing Easy to use, there are no wires, buckets or hoses required for this vacuum to work and it is fully submersible up to three feet. It easily vacuums up any dirt at the bottom of the tank, leaving the aquarium clean and extending the time between water changes.

Key Features: Easy to use Extends intervals between water changes Fully submersible up to 3 feet While the cleaner magnet can be used to remove dirt from the sides of the tank and the fish net can be used to remove any floating debris, the vacuum allows you to change the water quickly and simply while sucking up any dirt at the bottom of the tank. The vacuum wont disturb the bottom of the gravel and leaves your tank clean and sanitary.

Key Features: All-In-1 Fish Tank Cleaning Kit Includes 1x Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Cleaner Designed in America

What is the best way to clean gravel in a fish tank?

You can clean your fish tank gravel without a vacuum. Cleaning your fish tank gravel with a vacuum made specifically for the fish tank is the easiest method of cleaning. Fish tank vacuums are designed to quickly and easily remove bits of uneaten food and other waste that settles to the bottom of the tank.

Do I need a gravel cleaner for my fish tank?

When it comes to vacuuming your gravel—like so many things in fishkeeping— there are no hard and fast rules. You might have heard, “you should clean your gravel once a week!” This is a build up of detritus in a bare bottom aquarium. … Don’t panic though, you don’t need to be a wizard understand your aquarium.

Phew. Its finally done. After spending dozens of hours performing hundreds of water changes, with over 40 different gravel vacuums, we believe that we found the best gravel vac for every size of aquarium.

Easy-to-use Gravel Washer & Siphon Kit Perfect for beginner and experienced hobbyists Ideal for nano aquariums Self-start siphon Ultra Hose Clip included Wide mouth nozzle for hard to reach areas

A gravel vac is a rigid plastic tube, typically 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, attached to a hose. With the help of gravity, a gravel vacuum will continuously drain water from your tank until you remove it from your aquarium. Over time, fish poop, uneaten food, plant debris and other waste fall to the bottom of your tank, getting stuck between the gaps in your substrate and quickly forming a thick sludge.

By placing the tube end of the gravel vac over your substrate , you can vacuum all this gunk away, keeping your tank neat and tidy. Because water changes are a vital part of keeping your tank clean and healthy. Besides, your substrate isnt going to clean itself and in my opinion, a gravel vacuum is the easiest way to remove the built-up poop, uneaten fish food, plant debris and other gunk that has fallen between the cracks.

Cheap and available in a wide range of sizes, these are a favorite among beginners and experts alike. Affordable Wide range of sizes Siphon, clean your gravel or do both Doesnt need batteries because gravity does all the work Takes practice to use correctly Improper use can result in spills Cannot clean gravel without draining water

Instead, this device automatically pumps water through it, trapping any uneaten food, poop and other gunk in a filter. The advantage is that you can spend as long as you want cleaning your gravel you are not limited by the water in your tank. For example, we found that tiny pieces of waste escaped the vacuums bag and clouded up the tank.

Despite the limitations of electric gravel vacuums, they remain a popular accessory in the aquarium community. Limited range of models Unsuitable for small tanks More expensive More points of failure Requires a minimum depth of water Requires constant cleaning to maintain suction Battery-operated/limited runtime Often need modification to work correctly Often have weaker suction Still need a siphon to drain the tank If you dont want to submerge your arm up to your shoulder, a deeper aquarium needs a longer vacuum tube.

Alternatively, you could always grab a good pair of aquarium gloves to keep your hands and arms dry. The standard-sized opening on a gravel vacuum is 1.5 inches (4 cm) and is suitable for aquariums ranging from 5 to 20 gallons. It is important that you choose the correct size because a gravel vacuum with an opening that is too wide will be difficult to move around your tank.

Well, things ended up getting a little out of hand, and before I knew it, I had amassed a collection of over 40 different gravel vacuums. After all, aquariums come in all different shapes and sizes, and you dont want to buy a gravel vacuum that is too small or large for your tank. Similarly, a gravel vacuum that is too large for your tank will not only be cumbersome to use but will also drain water too quickly.

Meanwhile, my local fish store was also kind enough to allow me to test gravel vacs on 60-gallon, 100-gallon and 200-gallon tanks. When using a gravel vacuum, you control the flow of water draining from your aquarium by kinking and unkinking the hose. This offered greater control over the water flow when compared to a thicker, more rigid hose like that of the Aqueon Siphon Vacuum, which resulted in jerkier movement.

All told, we spent dozens of hours performing hundreds of water changes. Full disclosure: Gravel vacuums are little more than a tube and hose, a design repeated by every brand tested. However, when graded against other areas of performance, such as how easy they were to start, quality of materials and price, it soon became clear who the winners were.

Python makes a wide range of exceptional water changing products. The silicone hose easily flexed and returned to shape when squeezed, providing precise control over the flow of water being sucked out of the tank. All the above Python Pro-Clean models feature a vacuum tube diameter of 1 inch (2.5 cm) and 6 feet (1.8 m) of hose.

While I love the quality of Python, they dont offer an appropriate product for 10 to 20-gallon aquariums. Unless your tank bottom is sparsely covered, I found this opening to be too large for precise and effective gravel cleaning. If you strip these extras away, you are left with a perfectly sized gravel vacuum for small aquariums, one of the best on the market.

Depending on the shape of your tank, you may find that you need a longer gravel tube to reach the bottom of your aquarium. You see, for a large tank, a 20% water change can require at least two or three trips through your house with an overflowing bucket. Even if you manage to complete the task without spilling a drop, its a lot of effort especially if you have to go up and down stairs.

The Python Water Changer is essentially a gravel vacuum that connects to your faucet with a long hose. With this handy device, you can clean your gravel while water is sucked out of your tank and emptied directly into your sink. Since swapping over to a water changer, I have cut down my tank maintenance time by 20 minutes!

I was surprised that the most popular gravel vacuum sold on Amazon.com, Tera Pump Aquarium Cleaner was actually one of the worst that we tested. While the ridged hose of the Tera Pump might allow it to bend without kinking, it has a serious drawback. While this admittedly made cleaning in the corners of the test tank an easier task, the offset location of the hose appeared to catch gravel, requiring manually unclogging it on more than one occasion.

The Imagitarium Aquatic Gravel Vacuum might be readily available on the shelf of your local Petco, but it was more expensive and performed worse than similar products manufactured here in America. While I love the Fluval Edge range of aquariums, their similarly branded accessories can be hit and miss. The TOM Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner featured an angled neck with a pump bulb incorporated directly into the handle.

The A quaneat Aquarium Gravel Cleaner was a near identical design to the Tera Pump, including the same flaws. With its handy attachment, it not only claimed to clean gravel and siphon but also scrape sludge from the glass of your tank. Disclaimer: After testing every major brand of electric gravel vacuum, it is my opinion that the siphon-style is superior in every way.

So, I was not surprised when their electric gravel vacuum, the Quick Vac Pro, surpassed the competition. While this falls short of the 4.5-hour runtime that Eheim claims, it still beat out the other electric gravel vacuums we tested by a long shot. The Oscar in question was a notoriously messy eater, with the majority of the food falling to the gravel.

Even the sticky pleco poop wasnt a challenge and was quickly sucked into the vacuum chamber. It prevents small pieces of debris from escaping and turning your aquarium water cloudy. With a built-in rechargeable battery and being significantly more affordable than FishLabs top pick, it had a lot of promise.

Unfortunately, the Nicrew Rechargeable Gravel Vacuum had comparatively poor suction and offered a measly 2.5 hours of runtime although we struggled to even get close to the 2-hour mark. Running on two C-sized batteries, this device failed to offer a reasonable amount of suction. During cleaning, the bag caught on aquarium decorations and driftwood, separating it from the body of the vacuum and releasing gunk throughout the tank.

The Super Battery Powered Gravel Cleaner is a good reason why you should not make purchasing decisions on price alone. During the testing of the first one, the vacuum tube was a loose fit and fell out when I held the product vertically. The Fluval Aqua Vac Plus was the only electric gravel vacuum we tested that could also pump water out and into a bucket, similar to a traditional siphon.

While we had no issues with reliability during testing, you should be aware that at the time of writing this, over 50% of reviews left on Amazon were 1-star.

Everyone whos ever owned a fish tank knows all about those cheapo plastic siphon-action gravel vacuums. Theyre messy, the tubing can be difficult to control, and if you suck something up into the vacuum you didnt intend to, you end up having to yank it up out of the water to release the suction. Theres got to be a better way to clean your aquarium gravel!

Here are reviews of the 5 best electric aquarium vacuum gravel cleaners to help you pick the right one for your needs. Once you pick one, youll finally be able to put away that towel that lives in the cabinet under your tank solely to mop up water change messes.

NICREW Automatic Gravel Cleaner Does not require batteries Can be used for waste removal to decrease water change frequency Can clean tanks up to 28 inches deep CHECK PRICE Premium Choice COODIA Electric Auto Aquarium Gravel Cleaner 4-in-1 product for waste removal, algae cleaning, water changing, and gravel cleaning Includes small and large suction nozzles and algae cleaner attachment Soft, fabric filter bag to catch waste particles CHECK PRICE Upettools Aquarium Gravel Cleaner 6-in-1 function Includes four heads and a substrate washing tube Includes mesh filter bag and four extension tubes for access to different depths CHECK PRICE AQQA Aquarium Gravel Cleaner 6-in-1 function Includes four heads and a substrate washing tube with filter Includes mesh filter bag and extendable handle tube CHECK PRICE The best overall electric aquarium vacuum is the Eheim Quick Vac Automatic Gravel Cleaner for its handy design and ease of use.

This vacuum is not intended to replace routine water changes, but it will help decrease the need for tank maintenance by keeping filters cleaner, preventing the buildup of waste byproducts like ammonia, and removing solid waste from the tank. With the extensions, this product can be used to clean a tank that is up to 28 inches deep and it is safe for saltwater and freshwater use. Best value for the money Does not require batteries Can clean tanks up to 28 inches deep Can be used for waste removal to decrease water change frequency Can be used for water changes Includes extension nozzle and extension tube Saltwater and freshwater safe

The small suction nozzle has a built-in grate to prevent gravel and live animals from being pulled through the vacuum. It has a soft, fabric filter that allows large waste particles to be captured before clean water is returned to the tank. 4-in-1 product for waste removal, algae cleaning, water changing, and gravel cleaning Soft, fabric filter bag to catch waste particles Includes small and large suction nozzles and algae cleaner attachment Suction nozzle head has built-in grate to prevent fish and gravel from being sucked in Built-in flow adjustment valve Fixture clip is included

Requires electrical outlet Does not replace water changes Not for small tanks Fabric filter bag may cause leaks and overflows The filter bag may detach from the pump if not handled carefully, causing a watery mess. Filter bag may detach May not come with instructions Does not replace water changes Not for small tanks Needs electrical outlet

It also includes a mesh filter bag and suction intake and has a soft, spongy handle. The filter bag may come off if not handled carefully, causing leaks and overflows, or returning dirty water back into the tank. Does not replace water changes On/off switch is not waterproof Bulky and awkward to use Filter bag may come off easily Requires electrical outlet

Gravel is a popular substrate for aquariums and is generally too large and too heavy for most vacuums to pick up. If you have a lot of fish or snails that prefer to burrow, then it might be safest for you to stick with the old-fashioned tank cleaning method. Use: When you consider getting an electric aquarium vacuum gravel cleaner, you need to identify what exactly youre wanting to use it for.

If your intent is only to use it for removing solid waste between water changes, then you may be able to go with a simple model of vacuum. Most people dont have use for an electric aquarium vacuum that can also function as a tank shower, but if you have a turtle or want to oxygenate your water without the use of an airstone, then you may make use of a product like that. The world of electric aquarium vacuum gravel cleaners is relatively small, but its still important to make sure you end up with a high-quality product.

These reviews are intended to provide you with five high-quality picks for finding the right electric gravel vacuum to make it easier for you to narrow things down. Oliver (Ollie) Jones A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his masters degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.

Best Aquarium Vacuum – Comparison Table

An aquarium vacuum is a very useful piece of equipment to own if you keep fish. Although they are small, fish can be messy and cleaning their tanks is not the easiest job in the world. A gravel vacuum helps you to keep their tank clean as it sucks up all the dirt, debris and waste your fish produce and leaves them with a sanitary environment. The vacuum usually consists of a plastic tube that sits in your tank and continuously drains water from it until you remove it.If you own fish, the best aquarium vacuum is going to make your life a lot easier all around! First and foremost, a vacuum helps to keep the tank clean. Over time, fish waste, dirt, uneaten food and debris will begin to accumulate at the bottom of the aquarium with the substrate and trying to remove it can be tricky. Whether you use fish tank gravel or sand substrate, it doesn’t matter, they will both hold onto waste. A gravel vacuum helps to quickly get rid of all the unwanted waste and leaves your tank fresh. This can also help to lengthen the time between water changes.Water changes are an essential part of fish keeping, but they can be a pain. Fortunately, an aquarium vacuum can also be used to help. The vacuum can be used to suck up the water and makes changing the water a lot quicker! Even better, you can change the water and clean your substrate at the bottom of the tank at the same time.

Types of Aquarium Vacuum

There are two main types of gravel vacuums — a siphon vacuum and an electric vacuum. Both have their benefits and drawbacks and it will be up to you to decide which one is going to be the best aquarium vacuum for your tank.

Siphon Gravel Vacuum

A siphon gravel vacuum is the most popular type of vacuum. Fairly cheap and available in a wide range of sizes, this vacuum is easy to use because gravity does all the work. However, because it sucks up water as well as the dirt, you’ll need to drain your tank every time you use it. This is the best vacuum if you want one that can be used during water changes.

Electric Gravel Vacuum

An electric gravel vacuum is more expensive than a siphon gravel vacuum. They don’t drain your tank and instead pumps the water through the vacuum, trapping any dirt, debris, waste and food in the filter. These can be much easier to use and are great for cleaning the bottom of the tank between water changes. However, they are usually used in conjunction with a siphon vacuum, as you will need to be changing your water regularly anyway.

Tank Size

First and foremost, consider the size of your tank when purchasing a gravel vacuum. Some vacuums suction the water out very quickly and, if you have a small tank, this could pose a problem for your fish! A smaller vacuum works for a smaller aquarium.

Type Of Vacuum

As we have mentioned above, there are two main different types of vacuums — a siphon vacuum and an electric vacuum. A siphon vacuum is cheaper, but you will need to drain your tank every time you use it. An electric vacuum can be used for quick cleaning between water changes, but is generally more expensive.

Fish And Plants

Take into consideration the size of your fish and plants when purchasing a fish tank vacuum. You don’t want any accidents (ie. your vacuum sucking up your fish), so make sure you purchase one with a small enough nozzle. Fortunately, most gravel vacuums come with safety features built in to stop any accidents from happening.If you’re ready to find the best aquarium vacuum for your tank, take a look at the ones we recommend below, all available to you on Amazon.

NICREW Automatic Gravel Cleaner

Another gravel vacuum from NICREW, this one similarly removes particles from the topmost layer of substrate without disturbing the bottom layer of gravel. This device can be used in freshwater and saltwater aquariums with a water depth of up to approximately 28 inches and simply decreases the build-up of harmful toxins in your aquarium while reducing the strain on your filter. Easy to use, this vacuum can be used for complete aquarium cleaning or quick spot maintenance. It can also be used to help change the tank water.

STARROAD-TIM Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

The compact design of the STARROAD-TIM aquarium vacuum means it is perfect for any sized fish tank. Easy to use, all you need to do is press the button to pump water out, taking dirt and debris with it. There is a flow control so you can customize it to your preference, making water changes extremely easy. The aquarium gravel filter cleaner replaces the water while keeping the water fresh, trapping any waste in the filter and preventing any blocking by gravel pieces.This vacuum comes with extra accessories too, such as a glass scarper and a water flow clamp. Made from BPA-free plastic, this vacuum is completely safe for your fish tank, too.

LL Products Gravel Vacuum for Aquarium

This siphon vacuum from LL Products is 8 feet in length, perfect for both smaller tanks and large tanks. Easy to use, all you need to do is place the tube into the fish tank and squeeze the bulb to create a siphon. This device makes water changes very easy as it allows you to pump the water into a bucket while it collects any dirt and debris at the bottom of the tank. It also has a starter and stopper valve and a long hose with filter attachment, so cleaning can be done simply and quickly.This best aquarium vacuum kit is made from BPA-free plastic for extra safety and there is even a minnow net so you can easily move your fish when cleaning their home!

Boxtech Fish Tank Siphon Vacuum

This siphon vacuum from Boxtech is a multifunctional cleaning tool that helps you to keep your fish tank sanitary. The 72.4 inch long pipe are easy to install and operate and can be used in a range of different tank sizes. This device comes with an anti-back flow valve design that makes drainage more effective and, being made of quality flexible PVC plastic, it will not only last you a long time but it also won’t collapse and block the water flow while you are draining the tank.With a filter net cover you can be sure your fish won’t get hurt while you are cleaning their home and the extra long tubing allows you to get to any hard-to-reach spots without getting your hands wet.

UPETTOOLS Aquarium Gravel Vacuum

This gravel vacuum from UPETTOOLS is a 6-in-1 cleaner that includes a water changer, a sand washer, a debris cleaner, a water filter and water shower, alongside a flow adjuster. Great for tanks of any size and both fresh water and salt water tanks, this vacuum is easy to use and helps to make water changes quick and simple. Also leaving your tank clean, this vacuum helps to suck up any dirt, poop and leftover food without disturbing the gravel to give your fish a sanitary place to live.

Python Pro-Clean Aquarium Washer/Siphon Kit

Clean your aquarium in less time than it usually takes with this set. Designed to work on tanks as small as 20 gallons, it also works with those as large as 55 gallons. You simply place the tool inside the aquarium at the top of the water line and gently squeeze the pump. It siphons the water out of the tank and lets you keep an eye on anything that moves through the hose. You can also use it to target bits of debris that you see floating in the water. The siphon helps you clean the water without disrupting your fish.

Friendly Fish Co Aquarium Gravel Vacuum

Perfect for those new to owning fish, this all-in-one fish tank cleaning kit comes with a vacuum cleaner, a fish net and a fish tank cleaner magnet. While the cleaner magnet can be used to remove dirt from the sides of the tank and the fish net can be used to remove any floating debris, the vacuum allows you to change the water quickly and simply while sucking up any dirt at the bottom of the tank. The vacuum won’t disturb the bottom of the gravel and leaves your tank clean and sanitary. Perfect for many different sized tanks, this vacuum can be used in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

Best Aquarium Vacuum FAQ’s

The answer to this question depends on what is living in your tank. It is often recommended you clean the substrate at least once a month, while others recommend you do it at every water change. Generally, you should be using a vacuum whenever you see dirt and debris begin to accumulate at the bottom of the tank.Depending on how many fish you have, and how messy they are, most tanks require a proper clean about once every two weeks.

What is a gravel vacuum

A gravel vac is a rigid plastic tube, typically 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, attached to a hose. The tube sits inside your aquarium and allows you to both clean your gravel and siphon water out of your tank during weekly water changes.While it might look simple, a gravel vacuum is a surprisingly handy piece of equipment.With the help of gravity, a gravel vacuum will continuously drain water from your tank until you remove it from your aquarium.

Why is gravel vacuum necessary

It can be quite a helpful tool and can serve you in followingRegular water changes are an unavoidable part of fishkeeping. But at least you can speed up the process by using a gravel vacuum to drain water straight into your bucket.Over time, fish poop, uneaten food, plant debris and other waste fall to the bottom of your tank, getting stuck between the gaps in your substrate and quickly forming a thick sludge.By placing the tube end of the gravel vac over your substrate, you can vacuum all this gunk away, keeping your tank neat and tidy.Oh, and it’s not one or the other. You can clean your substrate and empty your tank at the same time!

Do you

Yes. I consider a gravel cleaner to be an essential product forWhy? Because water changes are a vital part of keeping your tank clean and healthy. And, a gravel vacuum provides an easy way to siphon water out of your aquarium. It sure beats using a cup or pitcher.Besides, your substrate isn’t going to clean itself – and in my opinion, a gravel vacuum is the easiest way to remove the built-up poop, uneaten fish food, plant debris and other gunk that has fallen between the cracks.However, if you have a larger tank, consider a good aquarium water changer instead. A water changer is essentially a giant gravel vacuum that connects to your faucet, eliminating the need to carry buckets of water back and forth through your home.If you want to know more about water changers, you can read our guide about how to use them here.So if you are considering skipping a gravel vacuum, I recommend that you reconsider. It will soon become one of your most commonly used pieces of aquarium equipment.

Types of gravel vacuums

There are two different types of gravel cleaners commonly used in aquariums…

Standard/Large size

The standard-sized opening on a gravel vacuum is 2 inches (5 cm) and is suitable for aquariums 20 gallons and over.

Small/Slim size

The standard-sized opening on a gravel vacuum is 1.5 inches (4 cm) and is suitable for aquariums ranging from 5 to 20 gallons.

Mini/Micro size

The standard-sized opening on a gravel vacuum is 1 inches (2.5 cm) and is suitable for aquariums up to 5 gallons.It is important that you choose the correct size because a gravel vacuum with an opening that is too wide will be difficult to move around your tank.However, those of you with larger tanks may also want to keep a small gravel vac on hand.You see, the mini-gravel vacuums work exceptionally well at precision vacuuming. Cleaning around plants, decorations and tight corners is nearly impossible with a standard-sized gravel vacuum – not so with a mini-gravel vacuum!I personally use both a standard-size and a mini-size vacuum. The larger gravel vac is used to clean open areas of gravel, while the small one is used to clean between plants.

Best gravel vacuums

Because gravel vacuums are a fairly inexpensive product, I decided to round up and test all the most commonly used gravel vacuums on the market.Well, things ended up getting a little out of hand, and before I knew it, I had amassed a collection of over 40 different gravel vacuums. From your generic Top Fin or Imagitarium gravel vacs, found on the shelves of your local PetSmart or Petco, to the more specialized Python gravel vacs – nothing was off limits.
And with a testing pool of over 40 gravel vacuums, I can confidently answer that question.Now, we had to come up with a way to test them.We wanted to test each gravel vacuum on an appropriately sized tank. After all, aquariums come in all different shapes and sizes, and you don’t want to buy a gravel vacuum that is too small or large for your tank. If so, then it’s going to cause you unnecessary stress each time you perform maintenance on your tank.A 5-inch (13-cm) gravel vacuum is too inefficient for a large aquarium, cleaning your gravel would take all day. Similarly, a gravel vacuum that is too large for your tank will not only be cumbersome to use but will also drain water too quickly.So, we purchased four different aquariums and layered them with gravel…Each tank was also set up with an appropriately sized aquarium heater, filter outlet and fake plants to recreate obstacles that would be found in a regular tank.As for larger-sized aquariums, we used one of my stocked 40-gallon display tanks. Meanwhile, my local fish store was also kind enough to allow me to test gravel vacs on 60-gallon, 100-gallon and 200-gallon tanks.It soon became apparent that while some gravel vacuums performed noticeably better than others, every gravel vacuum we tested was capable of siphoning water from the aquarium.What really separated them was the build quality – the hosing in particular. When using a gravel vacuum, you control the flow of water draining from your aquarium by kinking and unkinking the hose.Some hoses, like that of the Python Pro-Clean, were soft and flexible. This offered greater control over the water flow when compared to a thicker, more rigid hose like that of the Aqueon Siphon Vacuum, which resulted in jerkier movement.All told, we spent dozens of hours performing hundreds of water changes. It was a looooong and boring process. One that I hope not to repeat too soon. But I feel that the effort spent was well worth it and am confident that we found the best-performing gravel vacuums on the market…

Lee’s Ultra Gravel Vac – Small

Okay, so Lee’s Ultra Gravel Vac comes with a few extra bells and whistles.First, it comes with an oval-shaped, wide-mouth attachment. This piece of plastic connects to the vacuum tube and provides about 20% more surface area. In truth, for this sized tank, I didn’t find the attachment to be particularly helpful.And both the self-starter and hose clip failed to impress.
If you strip these extras away, you are left with a perfectly sized gravel vacuum for small aquariums, one of the best on the market.I am also happy to state that Lee also manufactures their gravel vacuums here in America.

Gravel Vac Alternative: Python Water Changer

The Python Water Changer is essentially a gravel vacuum that connects to your faucet with a long hose. With this handy device, you can clean your gravel while water is sucked out of your tank and emptied directly into your sink. Similarly, you can use the faucet to fill your aquarium with fresh water.Yep, you will never have to carry a bucket of water through your house again!Once you try out this water changer, gravel vacuums feel clumsy – there is no going back. Since swapping over to a water changer, I have cut down my tank maintenance time by 20 minutes!Want more information? Read FishLab’s complete review of the Python Water Changer or check out our best water changer guide to see how it compared to the competition.

Best electric gravel vacuum

What can I say… Eheim knows how to make good aquarium products. Their Everyday Feeder took first place in FishLab’s best automatic fish feeder review. So, I was not surprised when their electric gravel vacuum, the Quick Vac Pro, surpassed the competition.Running off 4 AA batteries, we consistently got just over 4 hours of use. While this falls short of the 4.5-hour runtime that Eheim claims, it still beat out the other electric gravel vacuums we tested by a long shot.The cost of disposable batteries soon adds up. If you plan to use this as a long-term solution, buy some good rechargeable AA batteries, like these.I put this gravel vacuum to the test on an Oscar tank and a pleco tank at my local fish store. The Oscar in question was a notoriously messy eater, with the majority of the food falling to the gravel. As for the pleco? Well, let’s just say that his monster poops definitely put this gravel vacuum to the test.To be honest, I was actually impressed at just how well the Eheim Quick Vac performed. It effortlessly lifted debris that had fallen into the crevices of the gravel. Even the sticky pleco poop wasn’t a challenge and was quickly sucked into the vacuum chamber.As for noise? Despite being electric, the sound given off by the motor was hardly noticeable.My biggest complaint is the battery compartment. If it is immersed or splashed, water will get inside and cause the gravel vac to stop working. However, this was easily overcome. The solution? Silicone tape (this one, to be precise). Of course, this meant I had to reapply the tape each time I swapped out the batteries, but at least it was a solution.Like with every automatic gravel vacuum, I recommend adding filter floss to the vacuum chamber. It prevents small pieces of debris from escaping and turning your aquarium water cloudy. This is essential if your gravel is covered in a layer of sludge.

Electric gravel vacuum runner-ups

When it came to electric gravel vacuums, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition. In fact, there are just a few models to choose from.I had high hopes for the Nicrew Rechargeable Automatic Gravel Vacuum. With a built-in rechargeable battery and being significantly more affordable than FishLab’s top pick, it had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the Nicrew Rechargeable Gravel Vacuum had comparatively poor suction and offered a measly 2.5 hours of runtime – although we struggled to even get close to the 2-hour mark.The next contender, the TOM Aquarium Mr. Cleaner barely sucked. Running on two C-sized batteries, this device failed to offer a reasonable amount of suction. But the biggest problem was with the mesh vacuum bag. The elastic mesh bag stretched over the blower and was easily removed. During cleaning, the bag caught on aquarium decorations and driftwood, separating it from the body of the vacuum and releasing gunk throughout the tank.Penn-Plax offered one of the cheapest electric gravel vacuums on the market. The Super Battery Powered Gravel Cleaner is a good reason why you should not make purchasing decisions on price alone. During the testing of the first one, the vacuum tube was a loose fit and fell out when I held the product vertically. The second one had a better fit, but it still failed to impress with its suction.The Fluval Aqua Vac Plus was the only electric gravel vacuum we tested that could also pump water out and into a bucket, similar to a traditional siphon. However, if you have a larger tank, you will likely be unimpressed at the rate at which this siphon drains your tank. While we had no issues with reliability during testing, you should be aware that at the time of writing this, over 50% of reviews left on Amazon were 1-star. Many customers report that their unit died soon after use.

COODIA Electric Auto Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

The best overall electric aquarium vacuum is the Eheim Quick Vac Automatic Gravel Cleaner for its handy design and ease of use. This product is battery operated and it is fully submersible up to 3 feet.The Eheim electric gravel vacuum provides easy gravel cleaning between water changes. This product pulls water in and filters it through a fine mesh filter, allowing waste to be pulled from the water while returning the cleaned water back into the tank. The suction in this product is made to stand up even to tough sludge. Since this vacuum is simply removing waste and returning clean water to the tank, there is no need for buckets or hauling dirty water out and clean water in.This vacuum is not intended to replace routine water changes, but it will help decrease the need for tank maintenance by keeping filters cleaner, preventing the buildup of waste byproducts like ammonia, and removing solid waste from the tank.

Buyer’s Guide

The Upettools Aquarium Gravel Cleaner is a 6-in-1 electric aquarium vacuum. It operates via an electrical cord and an on/off switch.This product can be used to change water, clean sand, vacuum solid waste, filter water, improve water flow, and create a shower. It includes a sand washing head, suction head, shower head, substrate washing tube, tank cleaning head, and four extension tubes for various tank depths. It has a soft, rubber handle and a mesh filter bag. It also comes with a water intake strainer pump for adding and removing water.This product should not replace regular water changes but can be used to decrease the frequency of water changes and make water changes easier when needed. The water pump does need to be fully submerged for this vacuum to function properly. The filter bag may detach from the pump if not handled carefully, causing a watery mess. This product does not always come with instructions, so you may have to reach out to the manufacturer for operating instructions.