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How to Clean Fish Tank Gravel

Learn fish tank gravel cleaning techniques from aquarium expert Joseph Caparatta in this Howcast video.


To clean your gravel in your aquarium you want to have a basic siphon kit. I prefer one that is a two piece kit. It's got a two inch diameter, maybe twelve to twenty-four inch tube, connected to a five-eighths or three-quarter inch flexible hose that's maybe four to eight feet long that goes into a bucket. You want to get a siphon started whether you suck on the hose or you use a little pump starter. You want to get the water siphoning from the aquarium into the bucket.

And that gravel cleaner is going to free up a lot of the trapped detritus, fecal matter, food, waste, anything that's been accumulating in the gravel bed. And even if the gravel looks clean, trust me, it's got a lot of stuff lurking in it. Now that doesn't mean that it's really bad for the aquarium. Most of it, as it dissolves, is being broken down by food bacteria in the aquarium. But eventually it's going to get to the point where the gravel is so clogged that the water can no longer move through the gravel bed allowing the bacteria to get the oxygen it needs to be able to break down the waste.

So the goal is to remove a lot of the waste from the gravel bed so water can travel through it allowing the bacteria access to oxygen, water, and the waste. So every three to four weeks when you do your water change you want to siphon the gravel bed. I like to remove some of the decorations first. Put them in a bucket of hot water. And then siphon the gravel while changing fifteen to twenty five percent of the water.

It's good to clean your filter on the off week when you're not cleaning your gravel so you minimize shock to the aquarium. But just go through the gravel bed. Start in one corner and do a grid pattern just like you would vacuum a floor so you hit every square inch of the gravel bed.

Keep an eye on the bucket so you don't overflow the bucket. You can dump that water right down your toilet or right into your sink. If there's no gravel in it it's fine to dump down the drain.

And then when you refill the water just make sure you use dechlorinators. It's good to let the water sit overnight if you can so it de-gases. But you can use dechlorinators. And make sure the pH is the same so you minimize the fluctuations in pH which could be lethal to certain fish or any fish it's stressful on. Just go the extra distance. Make sure the temperature and the pH is matched to the existing water.

That's it. It's very, very straightforward. And it's actually somewhat curiously satisfying to gravel clean. I don't know what it is about it but it's like therapy. Enjoy it.

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