Gravel Cleaning - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 8 Old 04-04-2010, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
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Question Gravel Cleaning

Iv just cleaned my gravel for the first time n Im not terribly sure what to do. I bought a cleaner thingy n got it going n kinda swished it about n bits went up it. Didnt think it was working til i saw the couple inches of what can only b described a sludge after id been doing it a while.

Is that right?? I removed the fish n rock thingys into a bowl so they could hide in there n not get stressed. As u can tell Iv no clue Do I leave the fishes in the tank during cleaning or move em? They dont seem stressed. they got in the net quite happily.

How often am I supposed to clean the gravel?

Any help gratefully received


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post #2 of 8 Old 04-04-2010, 03:27 PM
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It really depends on the fish whether you have to move them or not. Sometimes chasing them down and catching them can be more stressful than just working around them. While you're vaccuming, leave some ornaments or plants in so give the fish something to hide behind.

I vaccume my gravel once a week when I do my water change. If I leave it for two weeks I get an unbeleivable amount of sludge. It's up to you.
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post #3 of 8 Old 04-04-2010, 07:21 PM
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Planted tanks and non-live plant tanks need different maintenance, so the first question is, do you have a planted tank or not?

If it is not planted, which I'm assuming from your post (pardon me if a wrong assumption), then you must do a partial water change every week to ensure stability of the water parameters and ensuring that nitrates are low. A lot of sludge suggests you might have a high organic load in the tank, or perhaps just haven't been doing weekly water changes. The gravel gets "cleaned" when you do the water change. Depending upon how much water you change, you can do the entire substrate every time or maybe half of it with the other half next week and so forth.

The amount of water changed depends upon the fish load; the more fish and/or the larger the fish, the more water needs to be changed.

Given that you should be doing this every week, removing the fish is very stressful for them, much more than the water change. After a while they rather get used to the water change. I've had my hatchetfish come up and try to nibble the hairs on my arm under water. The other day I was moving a few plants and wood around, and when I sat down to see what I'd done as I was working on it, some of the fish immediately got in the spot and checked out what was going on, looking for food bits stirred up, etc. Chasing the fish around, like with a net, is far more stressful for them, and stress means health issues are more likely to occur.

If further questions occur to you from this, ask away. And if you do have plants, I'll comment on the difference.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #4 of 8 Old 04-04-2010, 11:39 PM
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My fish are never bothered by my jabbing a gravel vacuum all over their tank... If anything they're very curious about it and I have to try not to suck up the smaller fish and babies as they get too close to the siphon lol!!! If they are afraid of the siphon just work through the tank systematically so that its easy for them to avoid the siphon.

But as long as the temperarture and pH aren't swinging as a result of large water changes or a vast difference betweent he parameters of the tnak water and your tap, the fish shouldn't be stressed at all by water changes. In fact, those who keep Discus fish (very expensive, delicate, finnicky fish) often do large water changes more than once weekly.
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post #5 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 12:28 AM
shove the vac into the gravel, stuff should get sucked up., pull the vac out of gravel and push it in somewhere newer, repeat. usually when I'm done with a non-planted tank I have to go back and smooth out all the lumps I've made in the gravel. Your fish should be fine in the tank.

.... I'm probably drunk.

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post #6 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 01:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks u r all wonderful :) been doing frequent water changes but not the gravel as cycling the tank. Now its all stable iv decided to make it tidier. The only living plants i have are moss which isnt planted. At mo doing water change twice a week so i'll vac then? if thats wrong will some1 tell me please. Iv got the cycling thin g right with ur help so gravel should b a doddle :)

Many Thanks


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post #7 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 08:33 PM
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I never remove the fishes neither. They do hide behind the plants and decorations.
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post #8 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 08:59 PM
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Here's a tip, put your finger over the outlet end or kink the hose to stop or slow the flow when you are cleaning. This is useful when small fish get close, or you are working a especially dirty area but don't want to remove too much water.
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