How To Clean Fish Tank Gravel

Keeping your fish tank gravel clean can be beneficial to you and your pet fish. How? First, a clean fish tank tends to be more pleasant to look at and show off.

Moreover, your fish would also thrive in a clean tank after all the fish waste, stinky water, and rotten plants have been removed. Knowing how to clean fish tank gravel is one thing, but it is even better to do it with ease. 

In the rest of this article, you’d be shown how to clean your fish tank gravel regularly without stress. Before diving right into the step-by-step guide on cleaning your fish tank, you should know why it’s necessary for you to clean your fish tank gravel regularly.

Let’s get started

Why You Should Clean Your Fish Tank Gravel Regularly

Cleaning your fish tank gravel might seem like a daunting task, but if you want a happy, healthy fish, you have to make time to do the cleaning. 

There really is no rule that insists you must clean your fish tank gravel at a given time. However, you can choose to do it daily, weekly, or monthly depending on what works for you and the state of the tank.

Also, check how active your fish is; if it is acting sluggish, it might be time to replace the water and clean the gravel. Here are reasons why you should clean your fish tank gravel;

How To Clean Fish Tank Gravel: Made Easy

1. To remove dirt

Removing dirt is the typical reason people clean their fish tanks. Over time, your fish waste accumulates, and it affects the water, changing its color, and dirt particles hide between each gravel. This can be harmful to your fish and cause them to get sick.

2. To control toxin level

The waste released by the fish into the water contains ammonia which turns to nitrate when broken down by bacteria. This is really bad for your fish, given the level of pH imbalance it causes. 

However, you control the toxin level when you change the fish tank water when needed. This is an excellent move to create a healthy environment for your fish.

3. Aesthetically pleasing

Keeping your tank gravel clean does a lot for the fish and you. A fish tank with clean gravel is pleasing to your eyes and as many guests as you let into your space.

Look at your fish showing their colorful fins in that clean tank. How pleasing! It makes your tank look attractive and also gives a satisfying feeling.

How To Clean Fish Tank Gravel With Ease

Now that you know why it is essential to clean your fish tank gravel, your next question should be, how do I go do it? There are two primary ways to clean your fish tank gravel; with a vacuum kit and without one.

Following these instructions would guide and help you achieve this with so much ease. Let’s start with the first method.

1. Using a vacuum kit to clean your fish tank gravel

  • Be prepared

Preparing makes it easy to get everything you need to clean your gravel. You would need a Siphon vacuum gravel cleaner and a bucket. Moreover, you should also know how the vacuum kit works to prevent mistakes.

The vacuum gravel cleaner sucks out dirt from the aquarium using hydrostatic pressure and gravity. Now, after it sucks out the dirt, you can quickly discard it. 

However, ensure the siphon tube is not lower than the aquarium, else it would be difficult for the dirt and water to gush out. But if the siphon tube is placed higher, the dirt will gush out easily.

Then, make sure you wait till it has been filled with dirt before taking it out of the tank. Do not forget your bucket; that is where you will discard the dirt. 

  • Move to unplug the filter, heater, and air pump 

This is a relatively easy step and should not be difficult for you. Once you locate where the filter, heater, and air pump are, have them unplugged. This would allow you to use your vacuum cleaner easily.

  • Submerge the vacuum kit into the tank

Remember the bucket; keep it close to the aquarium. Put the vacuum kit into your tank, and make sure the siphon vac is inside. This is the beginning of the vacuum exercise, and it should be done correctly for the best result.   

  • Carefully move the tube inside the tank 

With precise care, move the tube inside the tank until all the water begins to flow from the tube into the bucket. You don’t have to go too deep into the gravel; 2 to 3 inches is fine.

  • Start vacuuming

Once you have got the hang of it, ensure you get out the dirt as much as possible. Carefully take it as deep as possible but try to avoid large pebbles from getting into the tube. 

As the tube gets filled up, dispose of the content of the gravel vac and keep on vacuuming to get the water level to the position you want.

  •  Replace the filter, heater, and air pump  

Check if you have cleaned the gravel properly, if that is the case, you can plug back the filter, heater, and air pump you took out before you began the process.

That is how you use a vacuum kit to clean your fish tank gravel, but if you don’t have a vacuum kit, you still have the option of cleaning your gravel without one. Most people consider it a bit stressful, but these steps should improve it.

2. Cleaning without a vacuum kit

  • Move your fish to a new tank

Since you are going to clean your tank gravel without a vacuum kit. You have to take out all the tank’s content, including the fish. 

Therefore, a clean tank has to be prepared; the fish would be kept there until you are done cleaning its main tank. Be careful while moving them to prevent any harm. Take about 30% of the water in their tank and place it into the new tank; this way, the fish are not shocked by the environmental change.

  • Unplug your heater, filter, air pump, and other decorations

Before you do anything else, you must remove the heater, air pump, and any aquarium decoration you might have. This makes it easier to do the cleaning and prevent any damage.

  • Drain the tank

To get to the gravel at the bottom of the tank, you have to remove the water. Using a cup to scoop out the water would be a good start. You can carefully turn the tank content into a sieve till all the water is out and the gravel has settled into the sieve.

Pouring the water through a sieve prevents you from losing some of the gravel and makes it easier to keep the gravel in one place. It would also reduce the stress of packing out the gravel with your hands.

However, if your aquarium is too heavy for you to carefully turn, just stick to using a cup or bowl.

  • Clean the gravel

Wash the gravel under a running tap with your hands or a hose. Drain the water with your hands at the edge when it looks clean enough. Don’t wash the gravel too hard, so you don’t kill all the good bacteria in it; once you replace the gravel, they can grow back.

Also, avoid using soap, detergent, or any harsh cleaning agent; use just water. The smell and chemicals might not come off as much as they should and might pose a severe danger to your fish.

  • Plug back your heater, filter, air pump, and other decorations

Return all that you removed to their rightful position. If you keep some dirty gravel aside, mix it with the washed gravel and place the gravel at the bottom of the tank. Fill it up with clean water at the right temperature.

  • Put your fish back into the tank

Once you are done cleaning and everything is in order, return the fish to the tank.


Washing your fish tank gravel is not always the most straightforward task. However, these steps would definitely make it easier for you, especially if this is your first time owning a fish tank.

If you forget any of the steps or need to share your fish tank cleaning principles with a friend, you can recommend this post. All that’s needed is to go through the steps and add what works for you as long as they get the job done without harming your fish.

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