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The Gravel Vacuum – Why Is It Important?

Gravel Vacuum

The gravel vacuum is a misunderstood and underused tool. Why is it the most important tool that our technicians use?

Because the gravel vacuum gets the dirtiest pollutants out of the tank.

Every time our technicians clean an aquarium, we use a gravel vacuum on the gravel or sand at the bottom. It is a detailed process, and it takes time and patience to do thoroughly. But using the gravel vacuum is the one step that provides the most health-benefit to your aquarium.


What does a gravel vacuum remove?

Detritus (dead particulate organic material… fish waste).

When a fish goes to the bathroom, part of its waste winds up in the sand bed, polluting the water. In the picture above, the darker cloud in the vacuum tube is detritus being pulled out of an aquarium’s sand bed.

Detritus is a slightly controversial subject among hobbyists. There are some who like to keep it in there for various reasons (such as detrivores – animals who eat it, or other natural processes).

In our experience, the more pristine the water, the happier and healthier the fish and coral are, and the more beneficial water changes are, because the pollutants are removed, as opposed to just being diluted, resulting in better water quality.

So we use a gravel vacuum on every visit.


How does a gravel vacuum work?

A gravel vacuum works on the principle of siphoning water. As the water is sucked out of the aquarium, the gravel vacuum is put into the sand and pulls the sand up inside it. The technician changes the flow of the water, slowing it down enough to let the sand fall back down, while the detritus and other pollutants float up to the top and are sucked out.

Good gravel vacuum technique requires steady hands and an eye for detail. Different gravel vacuums are used in different situations, ranging from super-long gravel vacuums for very deep aquariums down to as small as a tiny detail siphon for tight, hard-to-reach places.

Do you use a gravel vacuum in your tank? Why or why not? If you do, how often do you do it? Join the conversation and leave your answer below!

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