Many people involved in the fishkeeping industry aren’t aware of the potentially harmful effects that having dirty gravel or substrate in their tank can cause. Since the substrate is always in the water, most people automatically assume that it will always remain clean. But like any other object in your fish tank, the aquarium substrate has the ability to collect harmful dirt and grime, sometimes even more so than other items in the aquarium.
Given that substrate is located on the bottom of your fish tank, it can be the dirtiest element in your aquarium. Fish waste, debris, and other chemicals end up falling to the bottom of the tank at some point and they accumulate in-between the air pockets of the substrate. Because of the potentially harmful effects that having dirty substrate can cause, you should make sure that the substrate in your aquarium is always clean and healthy.
More specifically, you can clean your substrate by using an aquarium vacuum. They’re responsible for sucking up the substrate pieces in small groups at a time, ultimately removing any unwanted substances from the gravel, sand, or rocks. But it can be difficult to find the right aquarium vacuum on the market for your specific needs. Consequently, here is a complete guide that I’ve compiled together for you to reference to during your vacuum buying process. Not only that, but I’ve also included five of the best aquarium vacuums on the market.
Different Types of Aquarium Vacuums
Standard aquarium vacuums are able to function by a tube that’s inserted into your aquarium tank. Some standard tubes have a slanted end while others have a flat end on the tube. The tube that’s inserted into the aquarium water is them able to suction out all of the dirt and debris from the substrate after it’s inserted into the substrate material.
After the dirt is suctioned from the substrate, it then travels through the tube and lands into the bucket that’s located on the outside of the tank, usually on the ground. Standard vacuums come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, so you have the ability to choose the ones that best benefit your specific needs.
Mini vacuums operate in a similar fashion to standard vacuums, in that they effectively remove the dirt and debris from your aquarium substrate using a suction motion. They differ from other vacuums because they’re smaller and more portable than other vacuum devices. Because of that, they’re recommended for aquariums that are smaller in size, since the gravel and substrate is likely smaller particles.
They’re also recommended if you have sand as a substrate, since their suctioning function is weaker than other devices and it won’t suction the sand into the tubing.
Self-priming vacuums have the ability to use suctioning to remove dirt and debris because of your pumping the tube. By pumping the tube, you’re essentially priming it in order for the device to have enough suction motion to effectively remove dirt and debris.
Water-driven vacuums have the ability to function by water flowing through its tubing. When the water flows through the tube and out the other side, it’s able to create a suction that can then allow the vacuum to operate properly and remove the unwanted dirt and debris from the substrate.
Some water-driven vacuums are able to not only remove water from the tank with the dirt and debris, but they may also be able to refill the tank as well. This prevents you from having to refill the water in the tank that was lost during the cleaning process.
Some aquarium vacuums also have the ability to operate by using the filter’s energy. More specifically, filter-driven vacuums are able to effectively attach to the inlet tube of the filter, which then is used to pull water through the filter as well as the dirt and debris from the substrate that the other end of the tube is placed into (1).
Things to Consider Before Purchasing
You should consider what size your aquarium is, since you’ll want to find an aquarium vacuum that’s able to clean your substrate in an adequate amount of time. You don’t want to be spending hours cleaning just the substrate of your fish tank. Not only that, but you may find it beneficial to consider what size the substrate particles of your tank are. You don’t want the vacuum sucking up the small pieces of the substrate if you have a vacuum that sucks too hard on the substrate that’s too small for it.
Organisms in your aquarium
It’s important for you to consider what type of organisms you have living in your aquarium, since this will ultimately determine how dirty your substrate is as well as which organisms you’re recommended to remove from the tank before cleaning the gravel. You generally should remove all of the fish from the tank before you clean the substrate, since you don’t want the device to suck up any of the fish.
Type of aquarium vacuum
Lastly, you should consider what type of vacuum would work best for your needs. There is a wide variety of different types of vacuums on the market, so you should review the different types and then choose the one that functions in the best way for your specific preferences (2).
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I vacuum my fish tank?
It depends on the type of organisms that you have in your tank, since the rates that they produce waste vary. But you should generally use an aquarium vacuum for your substrate at least once a month. Many people think that simply changing the water of their tank is enough to provide adequate cleaning for their tank, but you should be vacuuming the substrate, since it’s likely the dirtiest element in your tank.
How do aquarium vacuums function?
There are several different types of vacuums for your fish tank that can function in various ways. Some vacuum products are water-driven and only require water in order to operate, while other vacuums require that you suck the water through the tubing manually. You can find different types of vacuums with various functions available on the market.
Why do I need to vacuum my aquarium?
You’re required to vacuum the substrate in your aquarium because the substrate likely contains the most dirt and debris that can accumulate and lead to problems if it’s not cleaned. Not only that, but you should vacuum the substrate in your aquarium because it will lengthen the amount of time that you can go without changing the water in the tank (3).
Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaners
1. Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
You should check out this Python aquarium vacuum because you have the ability to purchase it as it measures either 25, 50, 75, or 100 inches. Because of that, you can effectively choose which size tubing you want in order to best clean the substrate of your fish tank. Additionally, this vacuum won’t disturb your fish or the decor, so you can use this vacuum while your fish and decorations are still present inside of the tank.
Furthermore, this vacuum is water-driven and can connect to water faucets of any size. Given its design, you don’t have to use any buckets or other siphons in order to use this vacuum system.
- Available in various sizes
- Water-driven for easy functioning
- Requires no buckets or additional equipment for operation
- More expensive than other vacuums on this list
2. Eheim Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Cleaner
This Eheim gravel cleaner is highly recommended for you because it’s battery-operated, so you don’t have to hook it up to any faucet or other device in order to use it. Not only that, but this gravel cleaner is easy to use, since it doesn’t require any additional buckets or hoses in order to use it.
Furthermore, this product is able to be fully submersed in your tank water for up to three feet, so you don’t have to worry about the device not working if it gets fully wet.
- Easy to use
- Can be fully submersed in your tank water
- More expensive than some other products on the market
3. Tera Pump Aquarium Gravel Sand Cleaner
This substrate vacuum is suggested for you because you have the ability to customize your use of the product. More specifically, you have the option to choose between using two different types of nozzles, including either a shorter nozzle or a longer one. The shorter one can be used for drainage while the longer one can be used for collecting leftover fish food.
Moreover, this product can either be purchased in a small or large size. Consequently, you can choose the size according to the size of your aquarium tank.
- Comes with two different nozzles
- Available in small and large sizes
- Previous customers complain that the suction isn’t very strong
4. Dora’s Corner Store Vacuum Water Siphon
This Dora’s Corner Store is classified as the best aquarium vacuum because it comes with a self-priming system that uses a vertical motion in order to facilitate water flow to clean the substrate material more effectively. Not only that, but this water siphon is easy to setup, since it only comes with three parts to assemble, including the 10-inch tubing, the backflow valve lid as well as the 56-inch hose.
Furthermore, this water siphon is able to easily separate the debris from the water of the tank, preventing you from having to refill your tank with too much water when you’re done cleaning the substrate.
- BPA-free and easy to setup
- Suitable for tanks containing up to 30 gallons of water
- Doesn’t refill the water that it removes from the tank
5. SunGrow Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Kit
This gravel cleaner is recommended for you to check out because it’s affordable and it’s extremely easy to use. It features flexible tubing and it even comes with an operation bulb as well as a discharge hose. It’s equipped with a hand starter that makes the product extremely easy for you to start using.
In addition to these benefits, this product is recommended because it only takes two minutes to set up. In order to operate this device, you only have to put the nozzle into your tank and then attach it with the suction cup. After that, you can simply squeeze the pump to prime it and the device will begin to suck the gravel’s debris trough the nozzle.
- Easy to operate and store away
- Can be setup in 2 minutes
- Not self-priming
Overall, each of the aquarium vacuums included in this list provide you with the ability to adequately clean the substrate of your fish tank. They’re all capable of operating in an easy manner, and they can effectively remove the dirt and debris from your tank, eliminating the risk of your fish and other organisms becoming ill or developing health problems due to harmful substances accumulating in your tank’s substrate.
Given all of the benefits that aquarium vacuums can offer your aquarium, you should consider purchasing one from this list. But they all offer varying beneficial features that can still make your buying process difficult. Because of that, you’re most recommended to purchase product #4: Dora’s Corner Store Vacuum Water Siphon.
This product is labeled as the best aquarium vacuum because of its ability to offer the best results while still remaining at an affordable price. This aquarium vacuum is self-priming, easy to setup, and is easy to operate. Not only that, but it’s able to effectively separate the water from the debris that was located in the substrate, which helps to prevent you from having to refill too much water into the tank when the cleaning is done. Given these benefits, you should purchase the Dora’s Corner Store Vacuum Water Siphon on the market.