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Best Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Vacuum

Detailed reviews of our hands-on experiences on fish tank gravel cleaning siphon pumps, electric machines, and sledge extractors

Here we present you an insight into the best fish tank gravel cleaning products to buy in 2021. Read reviews by our expert editorial staff, buying guides, and recommendations for which are the top-rated aquarium gravel cleaners.

After days of research and hands-on testing on different gravel cleaners, we have finally discovered the best varieties of aquarium gravel cleaners – all of them which feature unique functionalities – and available in different sizes for different gallons of aquariums.

What is an Aquarium Gravel Cleaner?

An aquarium gravel cleaner, also known as a fish tank gravel vacuum, is an aquarium gravel cleaning kit. It features a rigid self-priming intake cylinder (generally about 2″ in diameter), flexible hose, and a priming bulb. It is a siphon-cleaning mechanism, which cleans gravel by using the forces of gravity and hydrostatic pressure. There is no need to remove your fish or plants, to get started with the gravel cleaning process.

How does an Aquarium Gravel Vacuum operate?

A gravel cleaner works by creating a siphon inside the aquarium. It operates by stirring the substrate rocks (gravel) in a segment of moving water to release and take away any debris trapped in the gravel. The ability to operate a gravel vacuum originates from a siphon. This same siphon will take away the debris via the suction tube out of the aquarium.

How does an Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Cleaner work?

A gravel vacuum cleaner kit features an intake cylinder (also called the suction tube) and a thin hose pipe (to extract water out). Some kits also feature a “priming bulb” for the easy creation of siphon in the aquarium water.

Doing the Assembly:

  • Attach one end of the hose pipe to the intake cylinder.
  • Secure the other end of the hose into an empty bucket placed at a level below outside the aquarium. *Since the vacuum works because of a siphon, for best results the bucket should be as low as possible below the aquarium.

Starting a Siphon:

  • Now completely submerge the intake cylinder inside the aquarium. Rapidly move it in up and down motion to start siphoning.
  • On the creation of a siphon, the aquarium water should begin flowing out of the aquarium into the bucket placed underneath.
  • If you buy a vacuum gravel cleaner with a priming bulb, then creating a siphon would be super easy as you can start the siphon by squeezing the priming bulb three to four times.

Doing the Cleaning:

  • After a siphon is created, take the intake cylinder deep inside the aquarium’s gravel bedding.
  • The suction effect will lift up and spin the gravel inside the cylinder.
  • Meanwhile, the debris and dregs will be sucked by the cylinder and carried downwards by the suction power into the outside bucket via the hose pipe. The gravel being heavier than dirt, will fall back to the bottom of the aquarium.
  • Lift the cylinder tube upwards from the gravel and again submerge it deep into the gravel bedding to pull out from dust and debris from the water.
  • Continue to work and clean gravel in an up and down motion, throughout the aquarium until the water coming through the gravel is mostly clear.

Types of Aquarium Gravel Cleaners

There are two different types of Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Vacuums:

1). Siphon-style Fish Tank Gravel Vacuum

These are the most commonly purchased gravel cleaners in the market. The kit includes a flexible hose, a rigid plastic intake cylinder tube, and sometimes also a priming bulb. They are cheap on the pocket, as well as available in a wide variety of sizes to suit different tanks’ requirements.

The Goodside:

The Downside:

2). Electric or Battery Operated Gravel Cleaners

These are technologically-advanced gravel vacuums that work by sucking in dirt and debris from the gravel, without actually draining the water.

It works by exerting pressure inside water, as a result of which dust and debris pop up from the gravel bedding and gets trapped inside an enclosed filter.

The Goodside:

The Downside:

Choosing The Right Size Gravel Vacuum Cleaner for Your Aquarium

When buying a gravel vacuum siphon pump, it must be ensured that the gravel vacuum cleaning intake cylinder has the right length and mouth opening diameter to suit your fish tank’s depthness and size.

An improper size ratio relationship will result in abnormalities such as siphon pump draining too much water out, weak suction, and require too much effort to clean the gravel.

Here’s a chart depicting the right size gravel vacuum cleaner for different aquarium sizes.

Gravel Cleaning Cylinder Diameter Aquarium Size Aquarium Type
2 inches (5 cm) 20 gallons Standard Size
1.5 inches (4 cm) 5 to 20 gallons Small Size
1 inches (2.5 cm) 1 to 5 gallons Mini/Nano Size

Best Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Kits with Priming Bulb

Aquarium gravel vacuums, equipped with priming bulbs provide efficient and easy creation of siphon by simply immersing the intake cylinder tube inside the fish tank and squeeze and releasing the priming bulb several times to start and control the siphon as well as control the suction and gravel cleaning power. Here are the best gravel vacuums with priming bulbs:

Laifoo Aquarium Siphon Vacuum Gravel Cleaner

The Laifoo Gravel Vacuum is a reliable gravel cleaning product with powerful suction and pressure to make gravel shake at a higher pace inside its cylindrical intake tube and squeeze out all the debris from the aquarium’s substrate with ease.

The kit features a flexible hose, a siphon ball, and an intake cylinder tube.

It is available in different sizes – 5ft and 7ft for small aquariums – and 25ft and 50ft for large to jumbo aquariums – with a drain flow rate of 1 gallon per minute.

At the hose end of the cylinder, there’s a strainer installed so that small fish or shrimp is not accidentally sucked through the pipe.

We Tested The Product & Here’s Our Verdict:

This product came in neat packaging with instructions laid out in detail on a booklet. The cylinder tube was made of rigid plastic and seemed to last for ages. The hosepipe was soft and flexible. And there was a black-colored priming bulb as well.

Due to the siphon bulb, we didn’t have to go through the hassle of first creating a siphon. You just have to simply submerge the intake tube deep into the fish tank and pinch the siphon ball several times to automatically start the suction of water out into the bucket underneath.

Siphoning was easy, and the filter worked great to keep out tank objects, yet sucked up all the yuck produced and settled on the aquarium’s gravel. We loved the product for its reliable functionality, ease of use, spills-free mechanism, hose holding clips, and above all you can go gravel cleaning without traumatizing your pet fishes by emptying everything out!

Customers purchasing the 25ft and 50ft Laifoo Vacuums are at a bigger advantage, as those models have a switching connector as well to refill new water.

SSRIVER Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Fish Tank Kit

The SSRIVER Gravel Vacuum is one of the best aquarium gravel cleaners to buy in 2021. The product has a strong cleaning power with perfect suction and less water discharge.

The kit includes several components – a hose, two intake cylinder tubes, an air pressing button, an adjustable water flow connector, a fixture clamp, a filter basket, and a cleaning scraper.

The suction tube can be doubled its length by attaching two tubes, after which it turns into a gigantic tube ready to clean gravel ‘hard to reach’ areas. Furthermore, a siphon can be easily started by pushing the air-pump button a couple of times.

We Tested The Product & Here’s Our Verdict:

This thing is not your ordinary gravel cleaner. In fact, it’s a more advanced product with lots of specialties and components. We found the product to be economically priced. The packaging consisted of two attachable tubes, tank scraper, water flow clamp, fixture clamp, a large flexible hose, and an air-pressing button. An instruction booklet also came along the package.

On attaching everything, this thing turned into a pretty gigantic lol! We immersed the large intake cylinder inside our aquarium, pressed the siphon button on the top, and the suction effect started right away.

Cleaning aquarium gravel was easy peasy, lemon squeezy with this product. The long suction tube reached every corner of the fish tank and we were further pleased with it as we didn’t have to dip our hands in the aquarium to make the tube travel hard to reach areas… this is surely a PLUS point of this product.

The suction power is perfectly balanced, as it pulls dirty water and debris, but does not take your substrate with it. We pushed the tip down into the gravel and pressed the air-pressing button several times to give the gravel a good swirl and washing inside the cylinder, after which the detritus was properly squeezed out right away into the outside bucket.

On testing the product, we found out that it doesn’t pull a lot of water out so you can actually clean the whole substrate during one cleaning. And even if you are worried about too much water being discharged out, you can still control the water flow using the water flow connector!

Overall, the SSRIVER Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Cleaner Kit is an ideal bang for your buck. It does not suck out tons of extra water yet pulls out all the filth from every corner of a fish tank.

Best Aquarium Gravel Cleaning Siphon Pumps

These are the most commonly available, cheaply priced, and reliable aquarium gravel vacuums that function by creating a siphon and using the downwards suction power to clean gravel.

The only downside of these products is that they don’t feature a dedicated siphon button or priming bulb. Their intake cylinders are self-priming, which means you would manually have to start a siphon and control the water speed by twisting the pipe or placing and removing your thumb on the hose’s end.

Here are our top picks for the best fish tank gravel cleaning siphon pumps:

Aqueon Siphon Vacuum Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

The Aqueon Siphon is one of the best selling gravel vacuums on Amazon. Available in different sizes for 1 to 60 gallon aquariums – the product efficiently separates debris from gravel, and also makes for the perfect aquarium water changing gadget.

The kit includes a flexible pipe, intake cylinder tube made of rigid plastic, and a clip for keeping the drain hose securely attached to the inside of the underneath bucket.

Just a simple up and down movement with the plastic cylinder will rapidly take action to start water flow. Debris is pulled away with flowing water and discarded while substrate tumbles to the base of the aquarium.

We Tested The Product & Here’s Our Verdict:

Aqueon Siphon Gravel Vacuum came properly packed in see-through packaging. We tried our hands on the standard size for our 35-gallon aquarium. Everything was easy to assemble.

After immersing the cylinder tube inside the aquarium, we have to make several up and down motions with the tube to create a siphon. Once created, the gravel cleaning process was smooth like a breeze.

On dipping the cylinder on the gravel bedding, the gravel rocks started vigorously shaking inside the cylinder, after which dust and debris were separated and sucked up straightaway by the flowing water. The gravel being heavier than the dust, fell back to the aquarium’s ground.

Sometimes, to stop the excess water discharge, we had to twist the hose a bit to slow down the water movement.

The suction was crazy strong. And we remained cautious while cleaning the gravel, as the Aqueon Siphon pump does not feature any strainer or filter to prevent small fishes and aquarium plants from being accidentally sucked down into the tub.

With improper usage technique, not being unable to control suction power and water flow, and not staying alert while doing the cleaning – can result in gravel or fishes being accidentally sucked up.

Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer Siphon Kit

With strong suction power and durable material, the Python Pro-Clean ranks among the best aquarium gravel cleaners and sludge extractors. The kit includes a flexible pipe, with one end attached to a transparent tube.

The product has proven to be effective in cleaning debris, fish waste, dust, sand, and food particles from the gravel. Right after immersing the tube inside the aquarium, wait for the siphon to start. Take it deep down into the substrate, and you will be amazed seeing how fastly the gravel rocks vibrate inside the transparent tube to shake off dirt particles from them.

We Tested The Product & Here’s Our Verdict:

Just like Aqueon, the Python Pro-Clean came packaged in see-through packaging. On handling the product, we found the quality of the tube very rigid and the pipe strong and flexible.

On testing the product, we were left amazed by its strong suction power and its ability to oust debris by sucking it away from the substrate.

However, a learning curve is involved, which means you would have to play with this product several times, before you become an expert in managing the water discharge, controlling the water flow, and efficiently cleaning the gravel.

Best Electric Aquarium Gravel Cleaning Machines

The electricity or battery-operated gravel cleaning machines, provide for fast and efficient cleaning of aquarium gravel. These high-tech gadgets eliminate the need for creating a siphon, and the best part is that the gravel is cleaned without the aquarium water being drained away.

They work by blowing in pressure inside water, as a result of which dirt particles are disturbed and start to float here and there, after which they are immediately sucked and trapped inside the machine’s filter.

Upettools Electric Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

Operated by a 110V/28W powerful water-cleaning motor, the Upettools Electric Aquarium Gravel Cleaner is the most technologically-advanced fish tank substrate cleaning product of 2021. It’s a 6-in-1 function enriched product, where you will find support for everything aquarium cleaning!

Using this item, you can perform different cleaning activities inside your aquarium, such as cleaning gravel, sucking debris, sucking fish poop, filtering the water, as well as changing the aquarium’s water.

We Tested The Product & Here’s Our Verdict:

We found the product as an All-in-One aquarium cleaning solution. The product came packaged with different components:

  • A 360° cleaning brush to clean dirt from aquarium’s substrate as well as glass
  • A 45 ° Corner Suction Inlet to clean debris stuck in Fluval edges of some aquariums
  • A Duckbill Suction Inlet to clean up fish stools and residues from the bottom of the fish tank
  • A Water Intake Strainer with 4 suction cupped-feet to suck the water out from the aquarium. It can empty a 180-gallon aquarium in 30 minutes!
  • A Filter Bag to trap dust particles inside when cleaning gravel
  • An intake cylinder tube
  • A hose with extension pipes

The product comes equipped with support for everything that results in a super clean aquarium. We found the motor to be pretty strong, as it sucked away all the dirt and debris with ease from our aquarium’s gravel. There’s support for sand cleaning as well, which is a plus point!

Overall, it’s a great multifunction product with facilities for both water changing + advanced-level vacuuming inside a fish tank.

NICREW Automatic Gravel Cleaner

With its intelligent 2-in-1 design, the NICREW Automatic Gravel Cleaner works as both a gravel cleaner and water changing machine. Its complete mechanism is electrically operated, with the cleaning process efficiently performed without dealing with the hassle of creating siphoning or annoying mess to clean up.

Simply immerse the intake cylinder inside the aquarium and let it sit over the gravel. Turn the thing ON, and see how energetically the motor shakes off the gravel on your targeted area and sucks up all detritus in its enclosed mesh filter bag while allowing the water to pass through back into the aquarium.

We Tested The Product & Here’s Our Verdict:

This electrical unit had a lot of suction power and delivered results up to our expectations. It was simple to use, and gravel cleaning was super easy with this product.

We simply immersed the long tube inside our aquarium, and the moment the tube’s head touched the substrate, there was an immediate rotary action by the motor that first separated all the detritus from the gravel and then sucked the dirt up into its filter.

The unit cleaned everything off the bottom without sucking up the gravel. The optimal motor power lets the unit pick up the gravel, suck up the junk and drop the gravel back to the bottom. The mesh-bag filter was easy to remove and wash out.

And with its double-action performance, you can turn the filter around and put a hose on it to use it as a Siphon for changing water from the aquarium.

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