Keeping fish as pets is an almost magical experience. The serenity of the water and the vibrancy of their gorgeous colors and markings can leave you feeling both relaxed and in awe.
The way a fish tank is aquascaped also plays a large part in the experience. Different colored plants and natural-looking ornaments give the tank a realistic appearance that every fish owner strives for. Not to mention, it helps keep your pet fish feeling safe and secure, offering them somewhere to hide out of view if they sense a threat.
However, keeping your tank looking clean and your fish healthy can be a little bit difficult. Sure, there are filtration systems available that are an invaluable tool for maintaining your tank, but these merely clean the water.
Every so often you need to give the gravel in your tank a good clean and this is a job that your filter cannot do for you. So what’s the solution? The answer is simple. You need an aquarium vacuum.
These clever gadgets work by sucking up the gravel and churning it around in a column along with the water. This then loosens any debris such as fish waste and dead plant material and removes it before allowing the cleaned gravel to sink back to the bottom of the tank again.
If you’re thinking of buying an aquarium vacuum but you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry, we’re here to help. Below, we’ve listed five of the best aquarium vacuums available. We’ve also put together a buying guide that’s packed with information on what to keep in mind before making your final decision.
In a hurry? Let’s start by taking a look at our top pick.
OUR TOP PICK
The Python Aquarium Maintenance System is a ready to use system that adapts to most faucets. It operates with a ‘No Spill, Clean and Fill’ system that makes changing water and cleaning your gravel quick and easy.
Designed to make aquarium maintenance as simple as possible, there is no need for buckets, no siphons, no mess, and most of all, no tank tear downs. This doesn’t only mean cleaning your tank is super easy, but also makes the experience a lot more stress-free for your fish.
It’s an ideal choice for cleaning larger tanks too and will practically cut cleaning time in half. Not to mention, it will leave all your aquatic plants and tank decorations in place while you clean, preventing them from becoming dislodged and floating away.
The entire maintenance system comprises a hose, a gravel tube, a switch, hose connectors, a faucet pump, and a brass faucet adaptor. It even comes in many tube ranges including, 25ft, 50ft, and 100ft, giving you the versatility you need for a quick and easy clean regardless of how far away your tank is from your faucet.
- A complete tank maintenance system that dramatically cuts cleaning time
- Allows you to clean your aquarium without having to remove ornaments or plants
- Includes an adapter that can be connected to a variety of faucet shapes
- Also includes a variety of other accessories that make cleaning your aquarium quick and easy
- Is available in a range of hose lengths, giving you the ability to easily clean your tank no matter where it is located
- Doesn’t allow you to cut the flow of water without running to your faucet and manually turning it off
The Quick Vac Pro from Eheim is super easy to use, and entirely eliminates the need for buckets or hoses. It’s even so effective that it will help to extend the amount of time between water changes.
Completely battery operated, it doesn’t need any charging and also doesn’t come with the potential danger from connecting it to a power outlet. It can also be fully submerged in up to 3ft of water, making it useful for both complete aquarium water changes or quick spot cleaning.
It features an innovative super-fine mesh cartridge which is designed to trap the tiniest of waste particles and give you superior cleaning performance. This cartridge is also easily removable, giving you the ability to clean it after use.
The Quick Vac Pro is both an exquisite gravel cleaner and an outstanding sludge extractor. Any dirt particles are easily picked up by the advanced suction before the water is released back into the tank as crystal clear as the day you added it in.
- Offers superior suction power which helps extend the time needed between water changes
- Is battery-operated, requires no recharging, and doesn’t have restrictive or dangerous cables
- Can be fully submerged in up to 3ft of water making it perfect for deeper tanks
- Features a super-fine mesh cartridge that traps even the tiniest of waste particles
- Can be used for cleaning gravel, excluding sludge, and full water changes
- Although submergible, you’ll need to be cautious of water getting into the battery compartment
The Laifoo Aquarium Siphon Vacuum Cleaner is super easy to use and makes short work of cleaning fish feces, bio-material, and turbid waters from your aquarium. A few simple squeezes of the siphon ball and the water will begin flowing. It’s super durable too and is made from hard-wearing plastic for ultimate toughness.
Available with either a 5ft or 7ft hose, this vacuum gives you all the power you need to comfortably siphon water from even the largest aquarium without being restricted or having to construct an awkward bucket-setup.
The hose is anti-kicking as well, which makes siphoning water and vacuuming your aquarium even easier. This also means that you won’t have to worry about losing any suction power whilst you’re cleaning, allowing you to get the job done in record time!
It features an internal gravel filter-screen that allows you to clean your aquarium without accidentally losing any gravel in the process. It’s also designed to cause no disturbance or stress to your fish during operation, and it is odor-free so there’s no risk of them sensing a threat in the water.
- Super easy to use and allows you to clean your aquarium in record time without causing any stress to your fish
- Is constructed from tough, hard-wearing plastic for extreme durability
- Available with either a 5ft or 7ft hose to give you more freedom of movement over a variety of differently sized aquariums
- The hose is anti-kinking, so there’s no risk of losing vacuum pressure while you clean
- Features an internal gravel filter-screen that allows you to change water without losing any gravel
- Although there are two hose-lengths to choose from, you may struggle to clean particularly large aquariums with this vacuum
If you use sand instead of gravel as your aquarium’s substrate, then the Boxtech Aquarium Cleaner could be the best option for you. This is because it comes with a special sand-washing attachment that easily sucks up fish feces, food residue, and dead plant matter without removing even that smallest grain of sand.
It’s great for cleaning gravel too and is easy to operate with a simple siphon ball. Simply pump it two or three times and let physics do the rest of the work as water effortlessly through the PVC pipe. This doesn’t only make vacuuming your aquarium easier but takes all the hard work out of water changes.
There is also a filter net cover attachment included with this aquarium cleaner. This is innovatively designed to allow you to clean your aquarium without accidentally sucking up any baby fish or shrimp. Perfect if your fish are breeding!
This aquarium cleaner features an anti-backflow valve too. This makes drainage much more effective and allows you to change your aquarium’s water in super speedy time. The hose is non-kinking as well so there’s no risk of suction or water flow being reduced. It even comes with a handy suction clamp so you can keep it firmly locked in place while the water drains through it.
- Includes a specially designed attachment that is ideal for cleaning both sand and gravel
- Easy to use and operates with a simple siphon ball pump
- Also includes an innovative filter net cover that prevents baby fish or shrimp from being sucked up while you clean
- The anti-backflow valve works with the non-kinking hose to ensure there is uninterrupted water drainage
- Comes with a suction cup that allows you to secure the hose in place while cleaning
- May be too powerful to use on smaller tanks as it drains the water away so quickly
Featuring an easy to use, innovative gun design, this Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Cleaner from GDH allows you to precisely target certain areas of your aquarium and remove any fish waste or bio-materials. It also comes with a variety of attachments that make cleaning your aquarium quick and easy.
One of these attachments is the sand washing tube. This allows you to clean the sand and gravel at the bottom of your aquarium without losing any in the process. Water changes are simple as well thanks to the siphoning gun and durable PVC hose.
You can control the flow of water as you clean your aquarium with the flow regulating clamp too. This is ideal for part-water changes or for stopping the flow of water in between emptying buckets. There’s also a duckbill suction inlet attachment which allows for precision cleaning and can even be used for removing algae from the sides of your fish tank.
The hose is non-kinking, so you won’t have to worry about the flow of water becoming affected when cleaning the harder to reach areas of your aquarium. It comes with a specially designed water pipe clamp too which can be used to hold the hose securely in place against your chosen receptacle.
- The innovative siphon-gun design allows you to clean the harder to reach areas of your aquarium with more accuracy
- Comes with a variety of attachments including a sand washing tube that cleans sand and gravel without removing any from your aquarium
- Also includes a flow regulating clamp that allows you to cut the flow of water and empty a bucket without having to lose suction
- The non-kinking hose gives you a steady stream of drainage throughout your clean
- Includes a duckbill suction inlet that is ideal for removing algae from the sides of your fish tank
- The pipe needs to be securely connected to the siphon gun to ensure steady suction
Best Aquarium Vacuum Buying Guide
Deciding on which aquarium vacuum is best for your aquarium is no easy task, and you certainly can’t ask your fish which one they prefer!
To help make things a little easier, we’ve outlined some key points below to bear in mind when you start shopping around. These will help to guide you in the right direction and find the perfect vacuum for your aquarium the first time around.
The first thing to consider when purchasing an aquarium vacuum is the size of your aquarium itself. You need to be able to make sure your chosen vacuum can reach right down to the bottom of your fish tank and make contact with your sand or gravel.
Luckily, researching this is pretty straightforward. Take a look at the hose length the vacuum you’re thinking of purchasing has and measure this against your aquarium. Bear in mind that you’ll need to leave an allowance for one end of the hose to reach your substrate, and the other end to reach the receptacle you’re collecting the water in.
Type of Substrate
It’s a good idea to check that your potential new aquarium vacuum is suitable for the substrate in your fish tank too. The two most commonly used substrates are gravel and sand, however, gravel is much larger than sand and is, therefore, harder to clean.
If you do have sand lining the bottom of your aquarium, look for a vacuum that comes with a special sand attachment. This will feature a very fine mesh filter that, almost magically, sucks up debris whilst ensuring no sand is lost in the process.
There are loads of different attachments to look out for when you’re purchasing an aquarium vacuum and each will be specially designed to carry out a specific cleaning task. To get the best value for money, it’s a good idea to look for an aquarium vacuum that comes with a good variety of attachments.
Gravel or sand filters are an essential attachment as they’ll clean your gravel without sucking any into your wastewater. Another great attachment to look for is a duckbill suction inlet. This is ideal for cleaning the interior walls of your aquarium and sucking away any algae build-up.
Some aquarium vacuums come with a faucet attachment too. This will allow you to refill your aquarium after a water change directly from your faucet and takes away the need to heave heavy buckets of water back and forth.
Although not strictly an attachment, a non-kinking hose is a good thing to look out for as well. This will allow you to get into the harder to reach areas of your aquarium and carry out a thorough clean without the water pressure or suction power being affected.
Finally, you need to make sure that your chosen aquarium vacuum is going to last you a long time. The best way of ensuring this is to take a look at the materials used in its construction. Plastic attachments are by far the most durable and are highly unlikely to break or corrode under water pressure.
A host made from PVC is the best choice to go for as well. This won’t easily suffer from cracks and will be incredibly hard to accidentally puncture.
Make sure that the plastic used in the construction of your aquarium vacuum and its accessories is BPA-free though. This means that no harmful chemicals will leach out into your aquarium’s water whilst you're cleaning and, in turn, keeps your fish and live plants completely safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should you clean your aquarium?
This can vary depending on the breed of fish you have, however, the general recommendation is to clean your aquarium every one-two weeks by carrying out a partial water change. You should also remove any debris from your aquarium’s substrate using an aquarium vacuum.
What does an aquarium vacuum do?
An aquarium vacuum has two functions. The first of these is to clean your aquarium’s gravel or sand without losing any in the process. It manages this by sucking it up into a specially designed chamber and spinning it clean to remove any debris before releasing it back into the tank. Secondly, it can be used to siphon water out of your aquarium and make water changes quick and easy.
Should you leave your fish in the tank while cleaning?
You may worry that you could hurt your fish while you are cleaning. But, it is actually better for the fish to stay in the tank while you clean. In most cases, you won’t need to remove all of the water in the aquarium. Therefore, your fish will still be able to swim around. It will be more stressful for your fish to be taken out of the tank than it would be to be gently cleaned around with an aquarium vacuum.