How to Use the Water Siphon for Fish Tanks

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One of the crucial steps in cleaning fish tanks is vacuuming the gravel or substrate using a water siphon. These are quite simple to use. They remove debris and droppings from the substrate without disturbing the tank's water conditions.

Things You'll Need

  • Water siphon
  • Bucket or tank
  • Place the plastic side of the siphon in the water with one end placed in the substrate. The hose should flow from the top of the plastic tube out of the fish tank.

  • Lower the hose below the siphon in the tank and hold it over a bucket or tub. The siphon works using gravity to move the water, so it is important that the end of the hose fall below the bottom of the tube.

  • Start the siphon. The easiest way to do this is to lightly suck on the end of the tube until the water starts flowing. Once you see the water coming down the hose, stop sucking.

  • Direct the water into a 5-gallon bucket to measure the amount of water removed. For a 20-gallon tank, you should remove about 4 gallons of water. In general, you should only remove about 10 to 20 percent of the water.

  • Move the siphon tube through the gravel, removing as much debris as possible. If you have an under-gravel filter, there will be plenty of food stuck in the gravel that should be removed.

  • Place your thumb over the end of the hose to temporarily stop the siphon. Simply remove your thumb to start it up again.

  • Stop the siphon by pulling the tube out of the water. To be sure not to suck up any fish, you may wish to stop the hose with a finger and then raise it above water level. Then remove the tube.

  • Use just a hose, not the plastic tube, to clean smaller substrates like sand. Attach the hosing to a piece of wood or plastic that is longer than the tank is high. This lets you direct the tube without worrying about kinking. Clean the tank in thirds over 3 days to avoid disturbing too much of the substrate and tank.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not use a water siphon on coral reef tanks or those with living rock. The organisms living in the sand in these tanks must remain in order to provide food and good bacteria for the environment.
  • If you start the siphon by sucking on one end of the tube, be careful you do not get the water in your mouth.
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