How to Use a Fish Tank Vacuum

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Fish tanks can bring a unique beauty to any home, especially if they're carefully and properly maintained. Routine maintenance of your aquarium not only ensures that your tank will remain brilliantly clean, but will improve the overall health of your fish. Gravel vacuums, or gravel vacs for short, are an essential component to maintaining a clean, healthy tank, and they're quite easy to use.

Things You'll Need

  • Gravel vacuum
  • Plastic/rubber hose
  • Electrical tape
  • Bucket
  • Attach the plastic/rubber hose to the back of the gravel vacuum.

  • Place an empty bucket on the floor in front of the aquarium to be cleaned.

  • Using the electrical tape, securely fasten the other end of the hose to the interior wall of the bucket.

  • Take the gravel vacuum and start moving it back and forth in a pumping motion in the aquarium's water until you've created a syphon; the water from your tank should begin flowing up through the hose and down into the bucket.

  • Begin pressing the mouth of the gravel vacuum down into the gravel. The syphon should be strong enough to visibly extract the dirt and debris hidden within the gravel, while weak enough not to carry up the gravel itself.

  • Repeat Step 5 over all of the tank's gravel until clean. Do not let more than a third of the tank's water drain.

  • Replace any drained water with fresh, dechlorinated water.

Tips & Warnings

  • Gravel vacs are inexpensive and a great way to keep your tank clean, but are not entirely necessary unless you have an undergravel filter. If you're using a hanging or canister filter, you may be able to just shuffle the gravel around, releasing the sediments, which will in turn be sucked up through your pre-existing filter. Also note that most gravel vacuums come with the rubber hose, so that will probably not be an extra purchase.
  • Be careful not to let the tank drain too much, as replacing more than half of an aquarium's water at any given time can throw off the tank's balance and shock your fish, which can be fatal.

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