Before we get into our top 5 review, it’s important to understand how an aquarium vacuum works and what to look out for:
Why you should invest in a good aquarium vacuum
An aquarium vacuum is considered absolutely necessary for almost any fish tank. Not only does it help keep your gravel clean and sparkly – it’s also necessary to keep your water healthy.
Fish waste and leftover food build up in the gravel, and release ammonia and other toxins over time. As ammonia is highly lethal to any living creature, cleaning the gravel periodically is a must for any tank owner.
Finally, a gravel vacuum can also assist with water changes by allowing you to siphon and dispose of old water at a fairly quick rate.
1. Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
Let’s be honest – water changes can be a huge chore – let’s not even get into regular maintenance. We found that this aquarium vacuum makes the whole process a lot faster and easier. This fact – along with its quality construction, has earned it the #1 place in our review.
The “No Spill” aquarium vacuum cleaner comes with a fairly long hose – starting at 25 feet, it allows you to comfortably empty old water into your sink, without having to resort to buckets or siphons. If 25 feet isn’t enough, several variations of this product are available, going up to a whopping 100 feet in length.
No siphoning is required – simply turn the valve and begin vacuuming.
The gravel tube is 10 inches long, which should offer plenty of reach. This maintenance system also comes with multiple connectors which should fit most faucets, allowing easy water changes.
This aquarium vacuum comes with the following equipment:
- A gravel tube
- A hose
- A faucet pump
- A faucet adapter
- Hose connectors
- A switch valve
2. Sungrow Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Kit
Although it may look like nothing special, this aquarium vacuum is actually very well made. It gets the job done and comes with a number of features that help make maintenance easier.
The “ribbed” design helps prevent the hose from twisting and cutting off the water flow. Although this gravel cleaner uses an old-fashioned “bulb” system, it only requires a few pumps to start siphoning water on its own. The nozzle is covered with a net, ensuring that no fish or plants are caught in the vacuum.
Although we consider the “No Spill” system better for water changes, this is still an excellent gravel vacuum, and a must-have if you have a small fish tank.
It comes with the following:
- A short nozzle with a nozzle net
- A discharge hose
- An operating pump
3. Tera Pump Genuine Gravel & Sand Vacuum
We found this to be an overall solid product, whether you own a large or a small aquarium. Its total length is 64 inches, which should be plenty for most aquariums.
The Tera Pump comes with a pump for water extraction, a shorter nozzle for drainage and a longer nozzle for gravel cleaning. A suction cup is included – it allows you to stabilize the nozzle in place while draining water. The siphoning pump works similarly to Sungrow’s vacuum – simply squeeze it a few times, and the water will start flowing.
Unfortunately, we found the water flow it produces to be a little too powerful. On the upside, this vacuum comes with a water flow clip which allows you to easily restrict the flow of water.
4. Dora’s Corner Store Aquarium Vacuum
This aquarium vacuum is a real lifesaver that will definitely turn cleaning into a fun process! Easy to use, it effectively sucks in dirt and debris and separates it from gravel. It can also clean non-gravel aquariums, so consider it a must-have for any type of aquarium.
It’s suitable for cleaning 15 to 30 gallons of water. The vacuum comes with a 2 x 10 inch cylinder tube and a 56 inch draining hose. We found that it’s very easy to assemble and use. Once it’s underwater, shake the tube in an up-down motion to start the water pumping process and you’ll have a clean tank within minutes.
5. Kedsum Aquarium Gravel Vacuum
If you own a smaller aquarium and don’t require a cleaner with an extremely long hose or any huge features, this is a solid choice. Kedsum’s gravel vacuum is ideal for fish tanks from 15 to 25 gallons that are between 7 and 26 inches tall.
The outlet is improved with a knob which allows you to regulate the water flow, to a maximum flow rate of 64 gallons per hour. We found that this vacuum is good for both cleaning sand and gravel.
Like many similar cleaners, this gravel vacuum needs to be shaken to start the suction process. While we prefer the “bulb” system, the Kedsum is still easy enough to use.
How to use an aquarium gravel vacuum
After you buy an aquarium vacuum, you may be stumped on how to actually use it. Gravel vacuums come in multiple designs and sizes – and the process can vary based on the one you’ve purchased.
Place the intake valve into your aquarium, and the output valve in a bucket or jug. Make sure that the output valve is positioned lower than the intake valve – otherwise the water won’t start flowing.
If your vacuum has a “bulb”, it will require priming to get started. After the bulb is squeezed a few times (usually it takes 3 to 10 squeezes), a vacuum is created and the water will start flowing on its own.
Some vacuums need to be shaken to start the water flow. Simply hold the vacuum about 5 – 10 inches above from the gravel and shake it up and down – this will get the air out and start the flow.
Once the water flow has started, clean the gravel with the intake valve – similarly to how you’d vacuum a carpet. Don’t be afraid to dig around a bit to get all the dirt out. While the vacuum will pull dirt with the water, the gravel is usually too heavy and will fall right back to the bottom.