Fish tank water gets dirty very quickly, and one of its contributors is the gravels. The small pebbles trap in fish waste, debris, and leftover food, etc. This detritus not only muddies the water but also pollutes it, which could be harmful to the fishes.
While fish tank gravel vacuums do exist, there are many cheaper alternatives to do it as well. We will let you know three different methods on how to clean fish tank gravel without a vacuum, including other suggestions essential to keep your little pets healthy.
Ways to Clean Fish Tank Gravel Without a Vacuum
Although it takes minimal effort to clean using a vacuum, there are many other methods that are also very easy and more importantly cheap. If you’re not interested in spending money on getting an aquarium gravel vacuum, keep reading ahead.
Removing the Fishes from the Tank
The first and crucial step in cleaning the pebbles for any method other than the vacuum is to relocate your aquatic animals safely. You want to make sure your fishes don’t get harmed in any way during this process, so follow the steps accordingly.
- Ready another tank or bucket for the fishes. Ensure the container is completely clean and sterile, with no traces of any chemicals, cleaners, detergents, etc.
- Carry an appropriate quantity or around 50% of the aquarium water and pour it into the container.
- Now, you can transfer your fishes into the container. The easiest way is by using a net; however, fishes with flowy fins and or tails can get trapped in them, causing them harm, so for them, you need to use your hands to transfer.
Method 1: Washing the Gravels
This method is the most commonly used for cleaning the gravels. It requires quite some effort, but it’s also the most effective way. You will get the most benefits from it if there’s a growth of algae in your aquarium.
- After transferring your fishes, gather two cups full of pebbles straight from the tank. It is so that the beneficial bacteria don’t get entirely lost in the cleaning process. It will help their colonization faster and filtrating fish waste’s ammonia from polluting the water.
- Now, take the remaining ones and put them in a sieve. Rinse them thoroughly under clean water a couple of times until they’re completely clean. You can wear a rubber glove while cleaning if desired.
- Ensure that the sieve and gloves don’t contain any chemicals before cleaning for reasons mentioned before.
- Once clean, you can transfer the pebbles back to the tank and the unclean ones in the cups. Mix them in the tank, and you’re ready to move back your fishes to their clean home.
Method 2: Cleaning in the Tank
If you have any aquatic plants growing in your aquarium or have a smaller tank that gets dirty easily, this is a great method that doesn’t require taking anything out. Although it’s not as thorough as the first method, it’s simple and does the job very quickly.
- Relocate your fishes and remove or unplug the air pump, filter, heater, and any other ornaments around your aquarium.
- Use your hands to incorporate the gravels very thoroughly. You can slide the pebbles around the plants in case you’re worried the stirring will harm them. It will cause the trapped debris and detritus to come out, making it easy to remove them.
- Next, take out around 50% to 30% of the tank water from the top. You will need to keep some of that dirty water as it contains those beneficial bacteria.
- Refill the tank with clean water and place your fishes and ornaments back in its place.
Alternative Method: Algae Eaters and Detritivorous Animals
An effective way to keep your fish tank pebbles free of any debris and waste is to add friends to help keep them clean. However, you have to be very sure of yourself before getting one of these creatures as it’s one another animal to take care of.
- When going for algae-eating fishes, contemplate whether they will get preyed on by the other fishes or not. Like, even though Cherry shrimp is an excellent creature that feeds on the detritus, any bigger fishes will, however, eat them up.
- Having detritivorous is another great way. These animals eat organic matters and proteins that you can usually find with gravels. One of which is the Malaysian trumpet snail. They also oxygenate the plant roots.
- Another great one is the Siamese algae eater. They not only eat algae and all the detritus in the pebbles but also flatworms as well. Thus, it helps keep the water fresh and sterile.
How Often Should You Clean Your Fish Tank Gravels?
If you have a smaller tank or one under twenty gallons with no plants, it will get dirty more often than others. Another cause is if you have a lot of fishes or aquatic creatures than recommended. In such cases, you will need to clean the gravels once every week.
Accordingly, having a larger tank means it will take more time than a small one to collect detritus, especially if you have plants growing. For such aquariums, it’s best to clean the pebbles once every two weeks.
But generally speaking, cleaning them every two weeks is ideal for every fish tank. You can also take out and change around 10% to 20% of the water every week for measures.
Is It Really Necessary to Keep Them Clean Often?
You can skip cleaning gravels often by having a fully cycled tank. It will help disintegrate ammonia and nitrites from fish wastes. However, if left like that for long, it will cause algae to grow. To make it worse, it will eventually also create too much anaerobic bacteria, giving off a rotten egg stench.
Moreover, it will cause the water inside to get dirty faster, so you will have to change the water more often than normal. Due to this, it’s better to at least clean or vacuuming the food particles and plant matter to avoid all the trouble.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can I use something else instead of pebbles?
Answer: Yes, you can use aquarium sands, which is quite expensive. An alternative to it can be pool filter sand.
Q. How much is too much gravel put inside?
Answer: The usual recommendation is to put a two inches thick layer. You can also top it off to two and a half inches, but any more than that will be troublesome.
Q. How long does it take for beneficial bacteria to grow in an aquarium?
Answer: Typically, it takes 4 to 6 weeks. However, in seeded aquariums, it takes half the time.
Taking care of an aquarium is no walk in the park; it requires constant maintenance and attention. But if you’ve made it this far on how to clean fish tank gravel without a vacuum, you must be a responsible aquarist and love your cute little pets. And if you follow one of these methods, they will surely appreciate your efforts.