Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner

Alison Page

Alison Page


Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner

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One of the most common causes of disease in freshwater and marine fish is stress. Poor water conditions in the aquarium typically cause stress, so keeping your tank scrupulously clean is critical if your fish are going to thrive. But it’s not always easy to remove fish waste and uneaten food from the substrate, which can upset the water chemistry.

That’s why you need an aquarium vacuum! One of these gadgets can make aquarium maintenance quicker and much more efficient, leading to a healthier environment for your precious fish community.

In this guide, we review our six favorite aquarium vacuums, as well as explaining how to use your new piece of aquarium maintenance kit to the best effect.

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What is an aquarium vacuum?

An aquarium vacuum is a rigid plastic tube of around 2 inches in diameter that fixes to one end of a siphon tube. You can buy manual siphon-operated gravel cleaners or electric models, depending on the size of your aquarium and your personal preference.

You use the vacuum to remove debris from the upper few inches of the aquarium substrate as part of your weekly water change regimen. The vacuum works by churning the gravel around inside a column of water to dislodge any waste matter that’s trapped in the substrate. The siphon then removes the debris that’s been knocked loose by the vacuum.

Using an aquarium vacuum helps to remove pollutants before they have the chance to damage your water quality and harm the fish. That reduces the workload of your filtration system and protein skimmer and can also help to extend the time between water changes.

If you own a very large tank, you should consider a pump aquarium water changer rather than a vacuum cleaner. A water changer is basically a giant gravel vacuum that you connect to a faucet. That means that you won’t have the hassle and effort of carrying buckets of water to and from the sink whenever you have the job of cleaning fish tank gravel.

Now you understand why it’s so important for the welfare of your fish to use an aquarium vacuum, let’s take a look at our favorite six aquarium vacuum cleaners.

Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner

Our Top 6 Aquarium Gravel Vacuum Cleaners

We’ve chosen these six aquarium gravel vacuum cleaners based on their effectiveness and on other user’s reviews. When you’ve found the perfect aquarium gravel cleaner for your needs, simply click on the link to see the full product specification and place your order.

1. Jeeco Aquarium Vacuum Gravel Cleaner

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The Jeeco Aquarium Vacuum Gravel Cleaner is a multifunctional device that can be used for partial water changes, removing algae, washing gravel, removing waste, and raking the substrate.

The cleaner is equipped with a plastic scraper for scratch-free algae removal, as well as being easy to assemble and use. Cleaning gravel in a fish tank is quick and easy with this cleaner kit, and you don’t even need to put your hands in the water!

One downside of this product is that it isn’t made with stainless steel, and that can leave the metal fixings vulnerable to rust. However, provided you dry the device thoroughly before you put it away, you could not have that problem. Also, if you have a very large tank, you may find that this device is a little too small to be practical.

What we like:

  • Multifunctional
  • Top-quality water flow and air pressing controller
  • Filter basket to protect fish during operation
  • Flexible hose to prevent splashing
  • Easy setup and operation

Room for improvement:

  • Can be prone to rust
  • Better for small, shallower tanks

2. Python No Spill Clean and Fill System

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The Python No Spill Clean and Fill System is an excellent value for money product and is one of the best aquarium vacuum cleaner systems we found.

Users love the fact that the aquarium vacuum cleaner is so easy to use and provides you with a very generous range of 25 to 100 feet and comes in four different sizes. You don’t need any buckets with this aquarium gravel cleaner, there’s no messy siphon to juggle with, and you don’t need to completely take your tank down, and this tank cleaning kit will not disturb your plants or your fish. Wow!

The aquarium maintenance system comes complete with a 10-inch extendable gravel tube, hose connectors, a switch, and a faucet pump with adaptor. Routine water changes are hassle-free and so much easier with this product; you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it!

What we like:

  • No fiddly setup required – ready to use
  • Does not upset fish or disturb plants
  • No messy siphons or buckets required

Room for improvement:?

  • Faucet adaptor doesn’t fit all taps
  • Hose splits under too much pressure

3. NICREW Automatic Electric Gravel Cleaner

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The NICREW Automatic Electric Gravel Cleaner is a power vacuum gravel cleaner that features a clever 3-in-1 design. The aquarium gravel cleaner is designed to clean your gravel, change the tank water, and get rid of waste simultaneously and with no requirement for messy siphoning!

Finally, you’ll be able to carry out essential tank cleaning without mess and hassle. This aquarium maintenance system gets rid of fish waste and other detritus from the uppermost layer of the substrate without disturbing what’s underneath. The system works well with both tank gravel and sand. The cleaner has a sponge filter insert that traps any debris as you work. Also, you can choose whether you want to use all three functions or opt to use just one if you prefer.

What we like:

  • Suitable for large and medium tanks
  • Features adjustable water flow
  • Simultaneously removes fish waste, cleans gravel, changes water
  • Doesn’t disturb the bottom layer of the substrate

Room for improvement:

  • Some users reported that the suction lacks power
  • Variable quality and some units broke after minimal use

4. EHEIM Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Cleaner

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The EHEIM Automatic Gravel Cleaner system is easy to operate and doesn’t require a bucket or messy hose.

The battery-operated cleaner is super-safe as there’s no mains connection to worry about, and the suction generated is powerful enough to do the job without disturbing your fish, tank decoration, and plants. The gravel cleaner takes four AA batteries that provide you with four hours’ continuous use. There’s no complex assembly process to worry about, and the cleaner comes with a two-year guarantee.

On the downside, the gravel cleaner is not suitable for water replacement, and the impeller can become congested with debris. That said, this aquarium cleaner does represent great value for money and is perfect for hassle-free spot-cleaning jobs.

What we like:

  • Battery-operated
  • Hoses and buckets not required
  • Perfect for both spot maintenance and deep-cleaning

Room for improvement:?

  • Impeller congests rather easily
  • Not suitable for carrying out water changes

5. TERAPUMP Genuine Aquarium Cleaner

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The TERAPUMP Aquarium Cleaner is designed to work with both gravel and sand, making this the ideal fish tank cleaner for you if you have multiple tanks with different substrates.

This aquarium vacuum comes with two types of nozzles. The long nozzle can be used for cleaning fine gravel, leftover food, and fish waste, whereas the short nozzle is designed for draining the tank.

The aquarium vacuum cleaner is designed to get rid of the fish waste while replacing dirty water simultaneously and all while not disturbing your plants, decor, and fish. This powerful vacuum cleaner is highly effective, smoothly removing 1.5 gallons of water per minute, safely and without making a mess. The pump is patented and is designed to remove debris efficiently. The waste containers are very easy to empty and clean out after use.

This aquarium vacuum is super-lightweight and not at all bulky, making it easily portable if required.

What we like:

  • Patented pump
  • Two different nozzles
  • Works with both gravel and sand
  • Manual operation

Room for improvement:?

  • Not great for water changes over 15%
  • Best for use in large tanks as too powerful for smaller setups

6. Lee’s 6-Inch Slim Jr.Ultra

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Lee’s 6-Inch Slim Jr. Ultra Gravel Vacuum Cleaner is a very affordable aquarium gravel cleaner that’s ideal for those who are trying a vacuum cleaner in their fish tank for the first time.

This aquarium gravel cleaner is designed for use with a small fish tank, including designer aquariums, and fishbowls. Most users love using this device, as it makes the process of cleaning their aquarium gravel super-simple and quick too.

The maintenance system comes with a self-start assembly and a vinyl hose that measures 72 inches in length. The gravel cleaner is really easy to use, and there’s no risk that you’ll harm your plants or fish thanks to the small diameter of the hose. The cleaner kit is suitable for use with both sand and fine gravel.

What we like:

  • Affordable price
  • Two different nozzles
  • Works with both gravel and sand
  • Suitable for use with a small fish tank

Room for improvement:?

  • Variable quality
  • Some users reported that the suction is too powerful for a very small system

How to use an aquarium gravel cleaner

Once you’ve chosen the best aquarium vacuum cleaner for your needs, you’ll need to know how to use it. All the products we’ve mentioned here are supplied with full manufacturer’s instructions, and one pump aquarium cleaner works in pretty much the same way as another.

What you’ll need:

  • aquarium gravel cleaner
  • plastic hose
  • plastic bucket

How to do it:

  1. Check that the plastic hose is properly attached to the vacuum head.
  2. Put a plastic bucket on the floor next to the tank to catch the dirty water as it’s removed from the tank. Drop the end of the vacuum cleaner hose into the bucket.
  3. Sink the aquarium vacuum cleaner head into the fish tank so that it fills with water. When the aquarium vacuum cleaner head is full of water, remove it from the tank and allow the water to drain down the hose and into the bucket.
  4. Just before the head is completely empty, immerse it in the tank again. That will cause an air pocket to form in the plastic hose, which pulls water through the vacuum, down the hosepipe, and into the bucket.
  5. Push the head of the vacuum into the aquarium gravel and gently move it in a smooth backward and forward motion. Any debris will be sucked out, traveling down the hose and into the waiting bucket. Some of the gravel will be drawn partway into the cylinder but will drop out again once you’ve finished the process. Don’t swirl the gravel around too vigorously, as that will make a mess. Take your time and carry out the cleaning process slowly.
  6. Pay close attention to areas underneath aquarium decorations and plants, as these are waste accumulation hotspots.
  7. Once the bucket is nearly full of dirty water, remove the head from the tank and allow the residual water to drain through the tube.
  8. Empty the bucket into a drain or sink.
  9. Repeat the process until you have removed 25 to 30% of the water in your tank.
  10. Finally, rinse the aquarium gravel cleaner thoroughly, dry any metal fixings, and store the device somewhere warm and dry.

Benefits of using an aquarium gravel cleaner

The primary benefit of using an aquarium gravel cleaner is that it enables you to efficiently get rid of the dirt, fish waste, uneaten food particles, and general detritus that accumulates at the bottom of the aquarium. That helps to improve the water quality of your tank, as well as to ease the burden on your filtration system.

So, your fish will enjoy cleaner water, and the beneficial bacteria in your filter will not be overworked either.

Unlike the traditional method of carrying out water changes by scooping clean water from the top part of the water column, you will be removing the dirty stuff that you don’t want in your tank.

Types of the aquarium gravel cleaner

There are two types of aquarium gravel cleaner for fish tanks.

1. Siphon design

Siphon-style fish tank gravel cleaners consist of a hollow tube and a flexible hose. These are the most popular design of aquarium vacuum cleaner, largely because they are the most affordable. Also, siphon gravel cleaners come in a wide range of sizes, making them versatile in that you can always find a maintenance system that’s suitable for your tank.

Because siphon cleaners are essentially powered by the effects of gravity, you won’t need to buy batteries or worry that your gravel cleaner will run out of power halfway through cleaning your aquarium.

That said, there are a few downsides to using a siphon tank cleaning system. One issue is that you must drain quite a lot of water from your fish tank in order to clean the gravel, and that’s a problem if you have only a small tank or if you don’t need to carry out a partial water change.

Also, siphon systems take practice to use correctly, and if you don’t get it right, messy spills can result.

2. Electric aquarium gravel cleaners

Electric or battery-powered gravel cleaners work slightly differently to siphon ones, and they don’t drain the aquarium. These devices are designed to pump aquarium water through the system, trapping any fish waste, uneaten food, and general detritus in a specially designed filter. So, you don’t need to prime the device before you can start using it; just switch it on, and you’re good to go.

The main advantage of this style of automatic gravel cleaner is that you can keep on cleaning your tank for as long as you need to without having to worry that you’re running out of water.

However, there are a few drawbacks to this type of aquarium cleaner:

  • they are very expensive in comparison to a siphon aquarium maintenance system
  • some cheaper devices can be unreliable
  • the range of models is somewhat limited
  • an electric pump aquarium cleaner isn’t really suitable for a small tank
  • a minimum depth of water is required
  • continuous cleaning is required to maintain suction
  • battery operation means limited runtime
  • suction is often weak

Also, a siphon is still required if you want to generate water flow if you need to drain the tank, as well as clean it.

What size aquarium vacuum cleaner do you need?

For the best results, you’ll need the right size aquarium maintenance system for your tank. Most systems come with different sizes options. So, how do you choose the right one?

Considerations …

The first consideration is the depth of your aquarium. Unless you’re happy to get a wet arm right up to your shoulder, you’ll need to choose a system that a long vacuum tube.

Also, you’ll need to think about your substrate. If you use sand as a substrate for your tank, make sure you choose a system that works on that medium. If you have gravel, consider how much gravel you need to clean, as that will determine the size of the cleaner you need.

Here’s a guide to the sizes of aquarium cleaner products that are available:


The standard size gravel vacuum opening is two inches and is generally suitable for a tank of 20 gallons and over.


The small size opening is 1.5 inches, which is suitable for smaller aquariums from five to 20 gallons.


With a mini size cleaner, you get an opening of one inch, which is best for tanks up to five gallons.

Size matters

It’s critical that you choose the right size product. If you get a cleaner that’s too wide, you’ll find it difficult to clean the gravel thoroughly before you run out of time as the water flow through the device will be too great. Also, an oversized cleaner will be awkward to move around inside a small tank.

That said, a mini size vacuum can be a useful purchase for any tank size. Mini vacuums are great for cleaning around areas such as tight corners, under decorations, and around plants, which would be virtually impossible with a larger cleaner.


In this section of our guide to aquarium vacuum cleaners, we answer some of the questions asked by people who are considering buying one.

Q: What is the best aquarium vacuum cleaner?

A: The best aquarium vacuum cleaner is one that is the correct size for your tank, fits your budget, and does what you need it to do. All of the pump aquarium cleaner products that we’ve featured in this guide get good reviews from users.

Q: How do aquarium vacuums work?

A: Aquarium vacuums work by drawing all the debris and fish waste out of the substrate, leaving the tank cleaner. Some vacuums remove only the dirt, trapping debris in a filter while leaving all the water in the tank, whereas others can be used for cleaning the substrate while carrying out a water change at the same time.

Q: How do you suction a fish tank?

A: To suction a fish tank, immerse the aquarium vacuum cleaner head into the fish tank so that it fills with water. When it’s full, remove the cleaner’s head from the tank and let the water drain down the hose and into a bucket. Before the head is completely empty, put it back into the tank so that an air pocket forms in the plastic hose, pulling the water through the vacuum, through the hosepipe, and into your bucket. You can then move the vacuum head through the gravel to suction away any debris down the hose and into the bucket.

Q: How do I vacuum my aquarium with sand?

A: If you have chosen sand as your aquarium substrate, you can vacuum it, but you will need a tank cleaning system that’s designed to do that. Not all aquarium vacuums can be used for cleaning sand, so be sure to check before you buy.

Final thoughts

Keeping your fish tank clean and maintaining pristine water quality is crucial to the health of all the fish, invertebrates, and snails in the community. Cleaning your aquarium with an aquarium gravel cleaner in conjunction with partial water changes is the best way of doing the job efficiently, quickly, and with minimal hassle and mess.

We’ve included reviews of some of the best aquarium cleaning kits you can buy online in our guide so that you can make your purchase with confidence.

Happy vacuuming!

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