How often should I clean my aquarium gravel?
Once you’ve chosen the right gravel for your aquarium, which lets face it with so many colours, sizes to choose from you then have to figure out how your going to clean it?
Ideally you should only clean your cold water or tropical aquarium gravel once a week, maybe less frequently depending on how many fish are in your aquarium, and how much uneaten food debris or biological waste that could be gathering at the bottom of the aquarium.
I recommend getting into the habit of cleaning your gravel when you do your weekly or bi weekly water change. You can easily keep on top of cleaning your gravel when carrying out water changes as this will help reduce waste build up and keep your water chemistry at the required safe levels.
I recommend using a gravel vacuum and clean as much of the gravel as you can in your 25-30% water change but don’t rush if you don’t get it all cleaned in one sitting just start where you left off in your next water change.
If you have never used a gravel vacuum in your aquarium you can still start to use one but I recommend to start cleaning your gravel in smaller sections as this will allow you to thoroughly clean a specific area and move onto the next section in your following water changes.
So how do gravel vacuums work?
Before I get to technical, the first thing is to make sure you have a good sized bucket for the waste water to go into, and maybe an old towel on the floor to protect your floor from any unwanted splashes, once these are in place your ready to go.
Place your gravel vacuum in the aquarium being careful not to stress your fish out or disturb to much of the debris on the bottom. Place about 10-12cm above the gravel and start the siphon by simply moving the gravel cleaner up and down gently until the water starts to siphon into the bucket.
Once the siphon starts place the gravel cleaner into the gravel and you will see the gravel start to move up the main clear column however the gravel will start to fall back down releasing all the debris up and into the bucket through the clear tube. Once you have clear flowing water move onto the next spot.
To stop the siphon simply pinch or place your thumb over the end of the clear tubing. Some gravel cleaners come complete with a clamp to stop the water flow.
Its now time to top up your water levels in your aquarium, but remember to use a tap safe to remove chlorine when replacing the water.
Duncan’s top tip
Whether you are setting up or replacing your gravel, don’t put too much gravel in, if you put too much in it will make it harder to clean and will inevitably take longer.
If your keeping an aquarium with plastic plants and ornaments I have only ever placed a gravel layer of about 1cm thick, however if you have live plants you will need a slightly thicker layer to allow your plant root growth.