Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner – Top 3 Reviews, Guide, FAQs & More

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You’ll agree with us when we say that an aquarium vacuum cleaner is a highly underrated piece of equipment that can do wonders for the cleanliness of your gravel. 

That’s why we decided to put the most popular aquarium vacuum cleaners out there to the test in order to find the best ones available. 

In today’s post, we’ll discuss what makes a great aquarium vacuum cleaner and how you can effectively put one to use.

Here are some quick summaries of the products we’ll be delving into today:

Top Pick

This product is adaptable to most household faucets and is specifically designed to ensure your fish are not disturbed while you’re using it to clean up your aquarium gravel.

Runner Up

This product is perfect for larger aquariums and it comes with two sets of nozzles that enable drainage as well as scooping of waste and leftover food in fine gravel and soil.

Also Great

Coming in with a hassle-free design, this product ensures that you spend the least amount of time performing gravel cleaning but with the most effective results.

Now let’s have a closer look at these products in the form of detailed reviews. 

Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner - Best 3 Reviews

1. All-Around Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner - Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System Review

Many novice fishkeepers are often intimidated by the setup process for aquarium vacuum cleaners. This product puts all those fears to rest as it is super easy to set up and it becomes operational in no time. 

It features incredible performance as the tubing sucks up dirt, waste, and debris at a break-neck pace and you’ll find that your aquarium gravel water runs clean within no time. It should also be noted that this effective performance also does not come at the cost of disturbing your fish. The aquarium vacuum cleaner does not cause any commotion within your aquarium that would stress your fish out even in the slightest.

Features of Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System – Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner

  1. Available in four different sizes
  2. Fits a wide variety of faucets
  3. Spill-free
  4. High-quality plastic
  5. Designed to prevent any leakage
  • Highly effective
  • Extremely long and adequate tubing
  • Compatible with a variety of taps
  • Sturdy
  • Does not disturb fish
  • Relatively expensive

If you’re looking for an effective aquarium vacuum cleaner that’s very simple to operate, this product is perfect for you. It’s made from high-quality material that will last you an astoundingly long time.

2. Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner with Dual Nozzles - TERA PUMP Genuine Aquarium Fish Tank Gravel Sand Cleaner Review

The TERA PUMP aquarium vacuum cleaner is really the underdog out of all the products we tested over the course of the last few months. None of us had heard of this brand and it really blew us out of the water with its performance. 

It was able to clean our aquarium much quicker than most other aquarium vacuum cleaners and the two different nozzles it comes with made it very easy to get deep into all the nooks and crannies of the aquarium gravel in order to effectively clean it. 

Features of TERA PUMP Genuine Aquarium Fish Tank Gravel Sand Cleaner

  1. Available in two sizes
  2. Lengthy suction tube
  3. Comes with two types of nozzles
  4. 1.5 gallons per minute cleaning rate
  5. Suction cup holds suction tube securely in place
  • Sturdy
  • Works as a water-changer
  • Adequate, long tubing
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Some customers say it lacks suction power

If you’re looking to thoroughly clean your aquarium gravel with the added benefit of convenient water changing, this product was made for you. Its streamlined design makes it very easy to use and the tubing size is more than enough for most households.

3. Best Inexpensive Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner - SunGrow Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Kit Review

This gravel cleaner kit really amazed us by how effective it was considering the price we bought it for. It’s by far the cheapest product on this list but its performance can go toe-to-toe with the other two products we’ve discussed. 

The netted nozzle attachment it comes with ensures that you suck up all sorts of dirt and debris while ensuring that no fish or aquarium gravel gets sucked up in the process.

The aquarium gravel cleaner itself is also incredibly easy to set up as it features an intuitive design that you’ll get the hang of in no time. 

Features of SunGrow Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Kit 

  1. Weight: 2.4 ounces
  2. Does not disturb aquatic life
  3. Flexible but sturdy plastic
  4. Leak-free
  5. 2-minute assembly
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Durable
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to use
  • Not suitable for larger aquariums

If you want clean aquarium gravel but don’t have a lot of money to spend, this is the product you’re looking for. It provides great value and you’ll be amazed by its quality and performance as soon as you first start using it.

best aquarium vacuum cleaner

Buyers’ Guide

Why do I need an aquarium vacuum cleaner? 

You’ll find a lot of fishkeepers undervaluing the convenience of an aquarium vacuum cleaner and more often than not, these fishkeepers are people who have never put an aquarium vacuum cleaner to use in their fish tank. Once you’ve used an aquarium vacuum cleaner, it becomes quite apparent why it’s an essential piece of equipment to have in your aquarium cleaning kit.

Just imagine how much of a hassle it would be to effectively remove all the stubborn dirt, waste, debris and leftover food from within the crevices and small spaces in your aquarium gravel if you didn’t have an aquarium vacuum cleaner. You would have to either scoop it using your hands which would be time-consuming and also not very effective or the only other way would be to completely empty your aquarium and rinse your substrate thoroughly. As you can imagine, this would be incredibly tedious and would take a lot of time and effort. 

How does an aquarium vacuum cleaner work?

An aquarium vacuum cleaner operates by churning and displacing aquarium gravel around in a column of moving water and thus, vacuuming up any debris, waste or leftover food that becomes dislodged through this process. The power needed for an aquarium vacuum cleaner to work usually comes from a siphon. This same siphon sucks up the debris and waste that is dislodged using the aquarium vacuum cleaner.

What are the different types of aquarium vacuum cleaners?

There are generally two main types of aquarium vacuum cleaners: siphon-style aquarium vacuum cleaners and electric aquarium vacuum cleaners.

  • Siphon-Style Aquarium Vacuum Cleaners

These are by far the most popular type of aquarium vacuum cleaners. In terms of appearance, they look like nothing more than a hose with a hollow tube. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and you’ll find that they can be used to perform water changes as well as for aquarium gravel cleaning. 

One disadvantage of these types of aquarium vacuum cleaners is that you have to drain water from your tank in order to clean your substrate.

  • Electric Aquarium Vacuum Cleaners 

Electric aquarium vacuum cleaners don’t drain water from your aquarium but instead, they run your aquarium water through them and trap large waste, debris and leftover food particles inside themselves. 

An advantage of these types of aquarium water cleaners is that you can use them for as long as you want inside your aquarium, you are not limited by how much water you have inside your tank. 

A major disadvantage is that they are quite expensive. A decent electric aquarium vacuum cleaner could cost you up to $50 whereas you can buy a high-quality siphon-style aquarium vacuum cleaner for less than $10. 

What should I look for when buying an aquarium vacuum cleaner?

There are some aspects of aquarium vacuum cleaners that you can think about that will help you narrow down your search and help you decide which aquarium vacuum cleaner you want. Some of these aspects are: 

  • Type

We’ve discussed the two main types of aquarium vacuum cleaners above and it’s up to you to decide which type you want. Do you want the convenience of electric aquarium vacuum cleaners at a high price or do you want the high precision and ease of use of siphon-style aquarium vacuum cleaners at a modest price?

  • Aquarium Size and Substrate Type

This also depends highly on you and how much you’re willing to get wet. If you don’t want your arm submerged into your tank all the way up to your shoulder, you might want to invest in larger tubing. 

At the same time, you also have to look at how big or small the individual size of your aquarium substrate is and get a vacuum cleaner with a tube opening that is appropriately sized according to that. 

How do I use my aquarium vacuum cleaner?

The steps to using an aquarium vacuum cleaner can vary slightly from model to model but here are some general step to using a siphon-style aquarium vacuum cleaner: 

  • Attach the siphon tubing to a nearby faucet and turn it on 
  • Place the opening tube of your aquarium vacuum cleaner inside your aquarium and open the switch. 
  • As soon as you open the switch, you will notice that the aquarium vacuum cleaner begins to draw water. 
  • Place the opening tube near your aquarium gravel and let it suck up all the debris, waste and leftover food from within it. 
  • Keep sucking up the waste until the water within the opening tube runs clear. 
  • Close the switch and take the aquarium vacuum cleaner out of your fish tank.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know what size aquarium vacuum cleaner would be appropriate for my aquarium? 

The first thing you have to consider is the depth of your aquarium. Look at how deep your aquarium is and get an aquarium vacuum cleaner that has an opening tube that’s long enough to reach the bottom of your aquarium gravel without you having to stick your arm into your fish tank. 

Next, you have to consider how much gravel you have in your aquarium that needs to be cleaned. Aquarium vacuum cleaner tubing generally comes in three different sizes: Large, slim and micro.

The large-size opening is about 2 inches wide and is appropriate for aquariums that are 20 gallons or larger. 

The slim-size opening is usually 1.5 inches wide and is appropriate for aquariums between 5 and 20 gallons.

The micro-size opening is 1 inch wide and is appropriate for aquariums up to 5 gallons.

Should I leave my fish in the tank when I’m cleaning it with my aquarium vacuum cleaner? 

Yes. You don’t need to take your fish out while you are performing a routine cleaning of your aquarium gravel using an aquarium vacuum cleaner. Just make sure you don’t make too sudden movements and try not to displace the water too much as that can be stressful for your fish.

Is gravel dust that gets shaken into the water by aquarium vacuum cleaner harmful to my fish? 

While it may seem harmful, there’s really nothing to worry about. Most of the dust that gets kicked up by your aquarium vacuum cleaner also gets sucked up by it. Any of the gravel dust that isn’t sucked up by your aquarium vacuum cleaner is usually swept by your fish tank filter. Hence, your fish are completely safe from any toxins which may be present in your gravel dust.

How often should I vacuum the gravel in my aquarium?

This often depends on the type of aquarium you have and how big it is. If you have a large amount of fish inside your aquarium who you feed quite often, you may have to perform aquarium vacuum cleanings more often. We recommend that for a standard 20-gallon freshwater aquarium, you do a thorough cleaning with your aquarium vacuum cleaner at least 2 – 3 times a week. 

Do I need an aquarium vacuum cleaner when I have a filter in my fish tank? 

Yes. While a filter does a great job at chemical, mechanical and biological filtration, it does have its shortcomings. A fish tank filter is not able to suck up debris, dirt, waste and excess food that gets stuck in your aquarium gravel. This waste can start decomposing and can lead to increasing ammonia and nitrate levels in your tank that could be severely harmful to your fish. Hence, even if you have a filter in your fish tank, you’re going to have to invest in an aquarium vacuum cleaner as well if you really want to keep your aquarium clean.

How can I ensure no fish are hiding in the gravel when I attempt to clean it? 

A little trick is to tap the glass before performing a routine cleaning in order to identify whether any bottom-dweller is hiding within the aquarium gravel. If you don’t want to startle your fish that way then another option is to drop some food into your aquarium prior to cleaning in order to lure them out. 

What do I do about the waste that’s too big for my aquarium vacuum cleaner? 

This can sometimes be a problem among micro-sized aquarium vacuum cleaners. For waste that’s too big for your aquarium vacuum cleaner, you might want to get a fish net which you can use to scoop that waste out from your aquarium gravel.

Is an aquarium vacuum cleaner an essential piece of aquarium equipment? 

Some people don’t consider an aquarium vacuum cleaner an essential part of a fishkeeper’s toolkit but we most certainly do. An aquarium vacuum cleaner is definitely very important if you truly want to keep your aquarium clean and free from all sorts of bacteria. 

Can my smaller fish get sucked into my aquarium vacuum cleaner

Normally, you should think about the type of fish you have and get an aquarium vacuum cleaner that is appropriately sized so it’s impossible for your fish to get sucked up into it. However, if you have fish that are extremely small, there definitely is a possibility that they could get sucked up into your aquarium vacuum cleaner. In order to avoid this, you can attach some type of mesh or thin membrane to the opening tube of your aquarium vacuum cleaner to prevent fish from being sucked up. 

Can I use an aquarium vacuum cleaner to remove snails from my fish tank?

You can definitely try though this is not an ideal way to remove snails from your tank and could be quite disruptive and stressful for your fish. 

Final Verdict

It’s essential that you find an aquarium vacuum cleaner that effectively cleans your aquarium while also not disturbing your fish too much. 

After much debate and research, we chose the Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System as the best of the bunch. It’s incredibly sturdy, very easy to use and can also be used as a water-changer.

This brings us to the conclusion of our post for the best aquarium vacuum cleaners. 

Give us feedback and let us know what aquarium vacuum cleaner you’re using.

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