How to clean fish tank gravel without a vacuum

Updated November 21, 2016

So you want to clean the gravel in your fish tank, but you don't have a vacuum to remove the build-up that has settled around the little stones. There is a way to clean the gravel so that it can be reused, thereby saving you a little money. However, it will cost you some time. The end result will be clean gravel, a clean tank and happy fish.

Dip a cup or other small container into the water of the fish tank and fill with tank water.

Pour the water into a separate container that you will put the fish in while you are cleaning the tank.

Scoop out the fish and put them in the separate container.

Remove any hoses, motors, lids and decorations from the tank and set them aside.

Use a cup or bowl to remove more water from the tank and pour it down a drain. The tank will be too heavy to lift when it is full of water. Lowering the water level will help.

Pick the tank up once the water level is down low enough. Take the tank outside and slowly pour out most of the water, being careful not to pour out the gravel.

Place a pan or something to catch the gravel near the tank and pour out the gravel. If the tank is too heavy to turn over, you will need to scoop it out.

Set 1 or 2 cups of gravel aside and don't clean it. Waste eating bacteria has more than likely developed in the tank and saving a bit of the gravel will keep this bacteria alive so that it can resume its duties when the tank is put back together.

Use a hose to rinse the gravel. Fill the pan with water and use your hands to move the gravel around to rinse them off. Tip the pan slightly to pour some of the water over the edge and then repeat.

Pour the water off the pan again.

Clean the tank and then pour the gravel back in the bottom.

Put all the hoses, motors, and decorations back in place and refill the tank with water. Make sure the water is at the correct temperature and all other conditions are right for your type of fish.

Put the fish back in the tank.

Things You'll Need

  • Cup
  • Container to keep fish in while cleaning
  • Pan or shallow container to pour gravel into
  • Water source
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About the Author

Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.