Partial water changes are a snap with one of the best aquarium gravel cleaners. They extract debris from the bottom of the tank to keep the water clean. While your aquarium filter is necessary to keep fish healthy, so is cleaning the substrate. It’s an important job as this type of debris doesn’t make it into the tank filter but can still pollute the water.
- Top Aquarium Gravel Vacuums
- TOM Aquarium Gravel Vacuum 12-Inches Length
- Dora’s Corner Store 2×10-Inch Vacuum Gravel Cleaner for Aquarium
- Lee’s 6-Inch Slim Jr. Ultra Gravel Vacuum Cleaner, Self-Start
- Genuine TERA PUMP Aquarium Cleaner with Long Nozzle N Water Flow Controller, Model TRFTCLN
- Aqueon Medium Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner
- Aqueon Aquarium Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Large with Bulb, 10-Inch
- Zacro Fish Tank Gravel Cleaner – Aquarium Cleaning Pump Kit for Fish Tank
- Fluval EDGE Gravel Cleaner, 15-inch Intake Tube
- Marina Easy Clean Gravel Cleaner
- Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
- Eheim Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Vacuum Cleaner
- Penn Plax The Super Battery Powered Gravel Cleaner
- Fluval Aqua Vac Plus
- NICREW Rechargeable Battery-Powered Automatic Gravel Cleaner and Sludge Extractor, Handheld Cordless Water Changer for Medium and Large Tanks
- How to use a gravel cleaner
Top Aquarium Gravel Vacuums
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When you hear the term “vacuum cleaner” you might think electricity powers it. But most gravel vacuums are manual, although some run on batteries. These simple tools are effective nonetheless. Let’s review the top ones now.
TOM Aquarium Gravel Vacuum 12-Inches Length
The TOM Aquarium Gravel Vacuum from Koller Products is available in various sizes to suit your tank. The 12-inch model is perfect for small aquariums. It comes with a 5-foot-long removable hose.
Just above the main tube is a black pump. If you squeeze the pump a few times, it primes the vacuum and starts the water flow. The water will climb up into the tube and flow out the other end. Then just keep that other end of the hose inside a bucket or other recipient while you work.
Dora’s Corner Store 2×10-Inch Vacuum Gravel Cleaner for Aquarium
This little gravel vacuum has no hand pump to prime it. Instead, you can get the water moving by pushing the wide tube up and down inside the water. (We’ve found that this works best if you angle the tube instead of moving it straight up and down).
The two by ten-inch size vacuum with a 56-inch hose is for 15 to 30-gallon tanks. It’s convenient because it’s small enough to maneuver if you have a busy tank.
Lee’s 6-Inch Slim Jr. Ultra Gravel Vacuum Cleaner, Self-Start
The 6-inch Slim Jr. gravel vacuum cleaner has a small intake tube but a 6-foot discharge hose. It’s labeled as having “self-start”. But in our experience, this term means that you’ll need to start the flow yourself. See the section about how to use a gravel cleaner at the end of our reviews.
Genuine TERA PUMP Aquarium Cleaner with Long Nozzle N Water Flow Controller, Model TRFTCLN
TERA PUMP offers an aquarium cleaner with a 1.5GPM (gallon per minute) flow rate. It measures 64 inches long including the suction and discharge tubes. Best of all, it has a manual squeeze pump to start the water moving.
TERA PUMP points out that the plastic is BPA-free. As such it can double as a siphon to transfer liquids for other purposes, like water from storage barrels. Of course, once you’ve used it in your aquarium, you may prefer to avoid contamination by purchasing another.
Aqueon Medium Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner
Aqueon’s siphon vacuum comes in four sizes to suit 1 to 5-gallon tanks, 5 to 20, 15 to 35, and over 40-gallon aquariums. The difference between them lies in the length of the hose and the intake tube.
Aqueon Aquarium Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Large with Bulb, 10-Inch
We prefer Aqueon’s siphon vacuum with a bulb over the self-priming design. For a little bit more you’ll be assured of starting the water flow without extra effort. Additionally, it comes with clips to secure the discharge hose to the bucket.
Zacro Fish Tank Gravel Cleaner – Aquarium Cleaning Pump Kit for Fish Tank
The ZacroFish gravel cleaner is just over 8 feet long, but it has a small intake tube and a hand pump. It also comes with a clip to hold the hose in the bucket. The design includes a sieve to stop sand and gravel from flowing up into the discharge tube and away.
Fluval EDGE Gravel Cleaner, 15-inch Intake Tube
Fluval’s EDGE gravel cleaner has an intake tube with angled points on both ends. One side is for reaching into the corners of the tank. And the other angled point is the fitting to connect the discharge hose. The tilt stops the hose from kinking.
The whole setup is over 6-feet long. But you’ll need to prime the vacuum yourself. At least there’s a gravel guard to keep the substrate from flowing out of the tank.
Marina Easy Clean Gravel Cleaner
Marina’s Easy Clean comes in four sizes. Each one has at least 6 feet of hose. And the hose has a non-kinking accordion format to make it more flexible.
Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
Python makes water changes as painless as possible with their Clean and Fill system. It contains faucet attachments for the hose so you can hook it directly to your sink. Additionally, it has a gravel intake tube and a discharge hose. Just remember to condition the tank water if you choose to fill the aquarium from the tap.
Eheim Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Vacuum Cleaner
The Eheim Quick Vac Pro is battery-operated for convenience. You won’t need either a bucket or a hose to use it. Instead, this fully-immersible gravel cleaner sucks up and traps debris inside itself. Then you can pop out the cartridge to clean it. It runs for about 4 hours on 4 AA batteries.
Penn Plax The Super Battery Powered Gravel Cleaner
Penn Plax also makes a battery-powered gravel cleaner. Theirs runs on two C batteries. It siphons up debris from the bottom of the tank without removing gravel. Plus, it has an extensible tube that reaches up to 21-inches deep. This protects you from having to submerge your hand in the water.
Fluval Aqua Vac Plus
The Fluval Aqua Vac Plus also uses two C batteries. It comes with a fine filter pad that captures fine particles. And it has a 4-foot hose to let you drain tank water to a bucket. Turn a lever, and the water begins to siphon automatically.
Since the vacuum is fully submersible, it works well in deep tanks if you don’t mind reaching into the water. But be sure to empty and clean it regularly so that it doesn’t discharge waste into the aquarium.
NICREW Rechargeable Battery-Powered Automatic Gravel Cleaner and Sludge Extractor, Handheld Cordless Water Changer for Medium and Large Tanks
NICREW has a gravel vacuum that resembles the Fluval Aqua Vac Plus. But it has a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that keeps costs down. It operates up to 2-1/2 hours on a charge.
Next, its height adjusts to suit a variety of aquarium sizes. It’s not recommended for sandy substrates, but it cleans well on gravel. And it won’t lower the water level by much. It filters out debris and returns the cleaned water to the tank.
How to use a gravel cleaner
Aquarists prefer siphon gravel cleaners over battery-powered ones because they are better at extracting debris from the substrate. This method also helps you do a partial water change quickly.
On the downside, you’ll need to put one hand into the water. It’s best if you wash your hands right before starting so as not to contaminate the water with lotion or anything else.
Now here’s how to get the water flowing with a manual gravel vacuum. This is the method that’s least likely to scare the fish.
First, put the thin discharge hose into a bucket or the sink. Then hold the large intake tube in your hand and lower it into the tank.
Hold the tube mostly horizontal with the open end tilted upward. You’ll see the water fill it up with bubbles escaping towards the surface. Now lift up the tube with the open end still pointed skyward. You’re going to scoop water like this until the discharge tube is full and water is moving into the bucket.
Once the water is flowing and there’s no air trapped in the tubing, you’re set to start cleaning. Point the open end down and begin pushing it into the gravel. Dirt will move up into the vacuum.
If you end up with gravel climbing too high into the tube, you’ll need to stop it. Either kink the discharge tube with your other hand or hold the intake tube horizontal to slow down the flow. The gravel will drift back to the floor of the tank.
Try not to remove more than a quarter of the tank’s water at once. You can always vacuum again in a couple of days.
Fish-keeping is easier when you have one of the best gravel vacuum cleaners. This tool allows you to suction waste from the substrate and do partial water changes easily. Choose from manual or battery-powered and select the size that fits your aquarium. You can also find manual gravel cleaners with hand pumps for no-mess cleaning.