Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How To Clean Gravel Without A Siphon: 11 Easy Steps (With Infographic)

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

aquarium with plants and gravel

As a fish owner, one of the things that you need to do on a regular basis is to clean the aquarium. Sure, filters can do a pretty good job of keeping the water clean and habitable, but that can only go on for so long. Besides performing regular water changes, you also need to clean the inside of the aquarium.

This includes the decorations, plants, rocks, glass, and the substrate, too. People who have gravel as a substrate usually use a siphon and vacuum combo to simply suck up all of that nasty gunk like feces, dead plant matter, and uneaten food. However, you may not have a siphon handy, or you might just not want to buy one.

Let’s do a step-by-step guide on how to clean gravel without a siphon right now.

Cleaning Gravel Without a Siphon: Step-by-Step Guide

how to clean a siphon
If you wish to use our image, please give credits: Image by hepper.com

The process of cleaning aquarium gravel without a siphon is really not all that difficult. Simply follow the steps outlined below, and your aquarium gravel will be as good as new before you know it.

The 11 Steps to Clean Gravel Without a Siphon

1. Use a cup to scoop out water

Use a cup or bucket and get a little bit of aquarium water out. This is the water that your fish will sit in while you clean the aquarium gravel.

2. Remove fish

Use a net or cup to scoop the fish out. Place the fish in the bucket or large cup into which you have just put some aquarium water.

cleaning aquarium with scoop-net_Alexander Geiger_shutterstock
Image Credit: Alexander Geiger, Shutterstock

3. Clear out tank

Get rid of things like motors, filters, hoses, air tubing, plants that are not rooted directly in the substrate, decorations, rocks, and everything else that is not nailed down.

4. Remove water

You are going to want to remove more water from the aquarium with a cup or bucket. This will go towards the water change; at most, about 1/3 or 1.2 of the water will do. Also, this makes lifting the aquarium easier. Lifting a full aquarium can prove to be fairly difficult.

aquarist preparing substrate in aquarium
Image Credit: rodimov, Shutterstock

5. Pour out any remaining water

Once the water level in the aquarium is low enough, pick it up and pour out the majority of the water. Be careful not to pour out the gravel, as well, leaving just a little bit of water in with the gravel.

6. Remove gravel

Go to your sink or bathtub and pour the gravel into a container, preferably something that has tiny holes in it to let the excess water drain. If the aquarium is still too heavy, use something to scoop the gravel out into the container.

Pea Gravel

7. Keep some gravel dirty

Take a couple of cups of the gravel, about ¼ of it, and put it aside. This gravel will not be cleaned. Waste-eating bacteria and other beneficial organisms live in that gravel. In order to quickly reintroduce these organisms into the tank once cleaned and to make their population flourish, you will need to keep some of those organisms alive from within the dirty gravel.

8. Rinse gravel

Simply use a hose or your bathtub to clean the gravel. Rinse it off with water, shake it around, move it with your hands, and keep doing this for a few minutes. If you do not have something with holes for drainage, just keep tipping the container to let pour water out.

Gravel in aquarium
Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock

9. Clean tank

Now it is time to clean the rest of your tank and all of the decorations. Once the tank is clean, you can put all of the gravel back in. Replace all of the decorations and equipment as they were before.

10. Adjust water conditions

Make sure that the water is at the right temperature, hardness, and appropriate pH level for your fish.

holding PH tests in front of freshwater aquarium
Image Credit: M-Production, Shutterstock

11. Add fish

Put the fish back into the aquarium!


aquarium plant divider

Final Thoughts

It may sound tricky at first, but people had fish in their homes long before vacuums and siphons. As long as you follow the steps outlined above, cleaning your gravel without a siphon is actually really easy. Sure, it will take a little longer than using a siphon, but a few extra minutes won’t kill you.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!