Whether you’re already a fish owner or you’re thinking about keeping some as pets, you’ll 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?
Fortunately, there is an answer — an aquarium vacuum. Also known as gravel vacuums, these devices help you to vacuum up any unwanted debris at the bottom of the tank quickly and easily. The best aquarium vacuum can also be excellent when it comes to changing the tank water and help you maintain a healthy environment for your fish to live in.
But with so many different aquarium vacuums out there, how do you know which one is right for your tank? 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. Keep reading on to find out more.
What Is An Aquarium Vacuum?
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.
Do I Need The Best Aquarium Vacuum?
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.
Features To Consider When Buying The Best Aquarium Vacuum
There are a few things to consider when buying the best aquarium vacuum to ensure you get the right one for your tank and your fish and plants.
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.
The Best Aquarium Vacuum — Reviewed
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. It easily removes dirt from the topmost layer of the substrate without disturbing the bottom layer of gravel and also decreases the build-up of toxins in your aquarium so there is less strain on your filter. There is a flow adjustment valve to adjust the water flow rate, too, making it simple to use when needed.
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.
This aquarium vacuum cleaner from Hygger has five different functions, making it a multi-use tool for your fish tank. Not only is there a vacuum that meets your needs for washing sand and gravel, there is also a brush head attachment for cleaning dirt off the walls of the tank and a duckbill head that absorbs the fish food and dirt remaining at the bottom of the fish tank.
There are also attachments that help with the draining of the water, making this device perfect for water changes and general aquarium maintenance. Easy to assemble, this vacuum is perfect for any tank up to 40 inches deep.
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.
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!
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.
This best aquarium vacuum cleaner from Lee’s measures 6 inches long and is specially designed for smaller aquariums, including fish bowls and designer aquariums. Easy to use, there is no danger of you harming your fish because the diameter of the tube is small. This also makes the vacuum perfect for tanks with sand or smaller gravel pieces. Self-starting, this gravel vacuum is simple and effectively gets rid of dirt and debris from the bottom of the tank. Even better, it is one of the cheaper aquarium vacuums out there.
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.
This COODIA vacuum has a 3-in-1 design and is ideal for gravel cleaning, sludge extracting and water changing. Ideal for regular aquarium maintenance, this cleaner is easy to use and, with a flow adjuster, can be used for many different sizes of tanks. The pump is installed close to the end which allows you to clean the tanks with a lower water level compared with other cleaners and the dirt is easily removed form the top layer of the gravel without disturbing any of the substrate.
The filter design traps the dirt while the water is returned back to the tank, reducing harmful toxins in the tank and reducing the strain on your filter.
This automatic gravel vacuum from EHEIM is battery operated and the perfect vacuum to use between water changes. 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. Excellent for spot maintenance every now and again, this vacuum can be used in conjunction with a siphon vacuum to keep your tank clean at all times.
This device is specifically designed to make changing the water in your fish tank easy, alongside cleaning the substrate in your tank. Adapting easily to most faucets, this system sucks up the water so you can replace it with clean water, but can also be used to suck up dirt and debris from the bottom of the tank easily. It will not disturb your fish or decor while you are cleaning the tank and can make your life much easier! Perfect if you want a vacuum that can also be used during water changes.
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
How often should I use a gravel vacuum?
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.
How often should I clean out my fish tank?
Depending on how many fish you have, and how messy they are, most tanks require a proper clean about once every two weeks.
As a fish owner, the best aquarium vacuum is going to make keeping your tank clean a lot easier. Not only does a gravel vacuum help to dislodge all the dirt that builds up at the bottom of the aquarium between the substrate, but it can also help when it comes to changing the water in your tank. Whether you’re looking for a siphon vacuum or an electric vacuum, there’s one out there that will suit your needs. Which one do you think you’ll go for?
Check out our other Fish Tank, Food & Accessories posts here:
- Best 5 Gallon Fish Tanks Guide
- Best 20 Gallon Fish Tanks Guide
- Best Aquarium Thermometer Guide
- Best Aquarium Gravel Cleaners Guide
- Best Water Conditioner For Fish Tank Guide
- Best Aquarium Rock Guide
- Best Aquarium Plants Guide
- Best Fish Tank Decorations Guide
- Best Fish Tank Gravel Guide
- Best Aquarium Sand Guide
- Best Goldfish Food Guide