In today’s article, we will talk about the best aquarium vacuum cleaner. We will go into detail about vacuum cleaners and end up with a list of our picks for the best vacuum cleaners available in the market. Our goal will be to help you to pick up the right vacuum cleaner for your tank.
What is an aquarium vacuum cleaner? Why do I need one?
An aquarium vacuum cleaner is exactly what its name suggests. It is a device that runs on a simple principle of sucking off the unwanted debris from the gravel that carpets your aquarium bottom. These basically serve two of the most important processes that maintain a healthy living environment inside your tank:
- Clean the unwanted materials that are stuck in the gravel of your tank
Cleaning the gravel can be a very long and tiring and sometimes fruitless work when done without any help. The uneaten food, fish excreta, other unwanted debris sink downwards and get stuck between and on the fine pieces of gravel that form the base of your tank. These can and these absolutely will contribute to the growing ammonium content in your tank leading to a toxic environment for your fish. Vacuum cleaners suck out all such unwanted materials from your gravel without you having to pick them piece by piece.
- Help in water changing process
The majority of the aquarium vacuum cleaners are manufactured not just to siphon away the debris from your gravel but also to help the wider water change process. Almost every, except a few, siphons help in draining out the water from your tank. And quite a few of them also help in filling new and cleaner water back in the tank.
These functions make an aquarium vacuum cleaner an absolute must. It is a frequently used and very handy tool to have.
Best Aquarium Vacuum Cleaner
Using our experience and research, we have made a list of the best aquarium vacuum cleaners that are easily available in the market. These vacuums have different designs, functional patterns, and features. We have put them all together and also tried to clear up some of the questions that we have seen customers face regarding many of these products.
Python pro-clean gravel washer siphon kit
Our first product comes from Python and it is a siphon type of vacuum. The Python Pro-Clean Siphon Kit is a simple but effective vacuum kit.
If you search for Python Pro Clean on Amazon or any other site, you will right away find a lot of confusion surrounding the sizes of the kit, so much so that many reviewers and customers complain of getting the kits of wrong sizes. So let us clear that for you, first and foremost. There are five sizes that you can get the Pro-Clean in, depending upon the size of your tank. You have the Mini which is 1× 6 inches in size. It can be used to vacuum off fish bowls and aquariums up to 10 gallons in volume. Then we have the Small version. It has the dimensions of 1× 12 inches and can be used for aquariums from 10 gallons to 20 gallons. The Medium-sized siphon is 2 × 10 inches and can be used for aquariums up to 20 gallons in size. Then we have a large size. It is 2 × 16 inches in dimensions and can be used for tanks from 20 gallons upwards up to 55 gallons. And finally, you have the Extra Large or X-Large size which is 1× 20 inches in dimensions. It is specifically used for taller tanks. The inside diameter of the mini, as well as the small hose, is 1/4 th of an inch. While the inside diameter for the medium, large, extra-large is ½ th of an inch. The nozzle is 15 inches in length while the hose is 6 ft long. It makes the total kit 7ft 3 inches long. This is particularly useful because it is easier to create a height gradient of height difference for the water to drain out from the tank into a bucket.
Another thing is, that this has no pump so a lot of people also seem to be confused as to how they should operate it, many also use their mouths to suck in the water initially. That is not required. First, you put the whole cylindrical nozzle portion under the water in your tank so that no air bubbles remain inside it. Then lift the nozzle out of the water and let the water level drop. Before the water level drops to the green ring on the base of the nozzle, submerge the nozzle back into the water. The siphon will now work. It is as easy as that. It will pick up water along with unwanted waste from your gravel and siphon it to a bucket. Hence, it is a perfect tool for separating and removing debris from your aquarium while you perform your routine water changes.
However, there are things you should consider beforehand. It has no screen on the nozzle mouth. And the name itself says it is a gravel washer siphon kit, meaning that it is too powerful for tanks that have sand as a substrate.
Overall, the theme of the Python Pro-Clean is simplicity. It has a simple design and does what it says.
- The tubing of the Pro-Clean is quite flexible.
- It is simple to use with minimum parts making it an excellent device for even beginners.
- It is very economical.
- Doesn’t contain a screen on the nozzle mouth.
- The plastic portions can break more easily than other portions.
Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
Our successive second product from Python and this one is the immensely popular No Spill Clean water changing system.
First things first, this comes in four different sizes. The smallest one is 25 feet long, then we have the 50 feet long version, the Large 75 feet long version, and finally the Extra Large or the X Large 100 feet option.
Now look, none of us like doing water changes, let’s be honest. It is s hassle and there are just too many steps involved and too many things to take care of. And that is exactly where the Python No Spill Clean and Fill comes in. As the name of the product says it is going to help you drain the water from your tank without the danger of it spilling, it is then going to help you siphon up the gravel and relieve it of unwanted wastes and unlike our first product, it is also going to help you refill the tank. There couldn’t be a name more apt for this product than “No-Spill”. It saves you from a lot of unwanted spills and mess by eliminating the need for buckets.
The design of this whole kit is very simple but very meticulous too. At one end you have the green colored T pump. It has three faucets or openings. One for the attachment of the water siphon hose. The other for the draining of water and the third faucet attaches to the tap. As you can see, it directly attaches to the tap and hence you do not require to carry any buckets to and fro the tank and your bathroom. Saves you a lot of time and effort and also minimizes the chances of spillage. The other end of the tube is the gravel tube that draws out the water from the tank as well as sucks out the unnecessary debris from the gravel. You have a valve attached to the gravel tube that can unscrew the gravel tube from the rest of the kit. This is because Python offers a wide array of gravel tubes which helps you to adjust the length of the tube depending upon the height of your tank. You have the standard 10 inches, then the 20 inches, 24 inches, 30 inches, 36 inches, 48 inches, and lastly the longest on the 72 inches long. This covers up any size of tank you may have. To start the suction, you just do a quarter-turn of the bell on the base of the T pump and pull it down a bit. All in all, it is a simple designed but effective vacuum.
You can also refill the tank just as easily with the Python Hook. But the Hook is sold separately.
- It can drain out the water from your tank, clean the gravel as well as help in refilling the tank without any issue.
- The gravel dirt cleaning process can be done quickly.
- Simple to use and doesn’t require buckets.
- Since it attaches directly to the tap, you may have problems controlling the chloramine and hardness of the water being pumped into your tank.
- The hook that helps you refill the water doesn’t come with the standard package, you have to buy it separately.
Aqueon medium siphon vacuum aquarium gravel cleaner
The third product on our list comes from a well known company in the aquarium keeping hobby, Aqueon.
The Aqueon Medium Siphon comes in 5 different sizes depending upon the. It has the smallest, 5 inches option that works for a tank of 1 gallon to 15 gallons. There is another option in the 5-inch variation that works for tanks from 5 gallons to 20 gallons. Then we have the 9-inch one which works in tanks from 15 gallons to 35 gallons. The 16 inches that can be used for larger tanks greater than 40 gallons in volume. And you have the 10-inch large version that works for tanks of 20 gallons to 25 gallons. So, you have the option to choose from depending upon the dimensions of your tank. The size of the hoses on each option is 6 feet which give you enough height difference for this siphon type vacuum to work.
Like every other siphon type vacuum, this too has simple design and assembly. It comes with three different parts. The hose, the gravel nozzle, and a hand rubber pump. Assembly is easy, you will need to put the hose under fast running water for it to be loose enough to fit the nozzle head. The hose and the gravel nozzle alone work easily even without the priming pump. You just need to dip the gravel nozzle all the way down and shake it in upwards and downwards movements. After a while, the water will start to drain out of the tank. This act of priming is made easier by the rubber pump.
Apart from these features, the package also comes with a clip that helps attach the hose end to the bucket. A nice touch. The vacuum head is quite large which makes it difficult to clean the gravel in the corner of the tank.
- Simple assembly and usage.
- Has a self-priming pump that makes it easy to start the water change as well as gravel cleaning.
- It comes with a clip that attaches the hose with the bucket. A relatively simple device but a very helpful one.
- The hose length at 6 feet can fall on the shorter side many times.
- The vacuum head is large and can cause difficulties in cleaning the corners of the tank.
Eheim quick vac pro
Our next product comes from the German giants EHEIM who make almost every kind of equipment related to the aquarium. Also, this is the first automatic vacuum on our list.
It is 24 inches long and catered more towards freshwater tanks. The package doesn’t justify the length of the vacuum because it comes in disassembled parts. But it is quite easy to put together. The upper part contains the start on and off button, the motor, the middle portion contains net-like mesh structures and the bottom portion is the suction portion. The suction sucks up the water along with the dirt and the sludge from the gravel or the bottom of the tank and after the water along with the unwanted particles reach the mesh part, the superfine mesh cartridge soaks up all the sludge and wastes while it lets the water to fall down once again. Any residual cloudiness will clear in a few moments. The mesh cartridge is also easily detachable so that you can keep the vacuum cleaner and perfectly in order for it to work again and again. The Vac Pro also has a sensible design in the sense that the operating button is placed on the top where you can simultaneously press the button with your thumb and also guide the suction nozzle at various parts of the substrate.
The company recommends that the minimum depth of the tank for the Vac Pro to be used must be 12 inches and it is not recommended that you use this for fine sand or fine gravel. It has no power cables or cords which eliminate any hassle or chances of tripping during water changing. It runs on batteries. 4 AA batteries are included in the package. However, the cost of changing batteries may add over time so using rechargeable batteries is recommended. The use of batteries also poses another problem. The motor portion of the Vac Pro is upwards towards the handle and when you submerge it underwater, in case you have a tall tank, the water can seep into the battery compartment. There is an O ring outside for this exact purpose but it may be better if you wrap some water-resistant silicone tape around it.
- It eliminates the long hoses a d cables in and around the tank while cleaning it up.
- It is very efficient at what it does.
- The fine mesh cartridges not just capture the dirt and sludge but also are easily detachable making it easy to clean.
- Having a rechargeable kit as a whole may have been better than having to keep changing batteries.
- Unlike every other product on our list, this doesn’t actually drain the water out of the tank.
Tom aquarium mr. Cleaner gravel siphon
The last product on our list comes from Koller Products and it too, just like our last product is a battery-operated vacuum-based gravel cleaner.
It has the dimensions of 14 inches × 4 inches × 2 inches. The package comes unassembled but putting it together is quite easy. It has a suction nozzle on the bottom. The nozzle has two slits on the lateral sides. Many customers have noted that Mr. Cleaner doesn’t have a suction power that is required for larger tanks, or it doesn’t suck in the gravel as you see in other siphon and vacuum type cleaners. If you do remove the suction cup the force of suction becomes top large and the gravel particles to are pulled in. The trick here is to bury the slits in the nozzle into the gravel deep enough for them to be covered. However, not all tanks have a thick substrate on the bottom so that the slits are blocked. What you can do is cover up the slits using tape. This dramatically increases the suction power. However, the suction nozzle works just perfect for smaller tanks. You also get another, separate suction tip for cleaning flat surfaces without the substrate or even the walls of the tank.
You then have another tube between the suction nozzle and the upper handle which contains the battery compartment. Between the suction nozzle and the battery compartment is an outlet near the motor of the kit. This outlet is for the garbage collecting bag which is quite frankly very small. The kit is operated on two type C batteries which go in the battery compartment on the top. However, you will see a noticeable decrease in the suction once the batteries start to lose their power.
- Comes with two types of suction tips: the surface cleaner and the gravel cleaner.
- Easy to assemble and easy to handle during usage.
- The suction power is just not enough for moderate to larger tanks.
- Since it runs on battery, you will need to buy high functioning rechargeable batteries.
How do you actually use an aquarium vacuum cleaner?
Well, the answer to this depends upon what kind of a vacuum cleaner you have. The simplest types of vacuums you can get are the siphon types like the Python Pro. These have simple designs and are quite straight forward to use. However, a lot of people are confused as to how the water draining process is started in such simple siphon vacuums without self-priming features. What you do is you fill the water in the siphoning nozzle, let it drop down but before it hits the bottom, you submerge the entire nozzle in the water. Give it a few seconds and it will start pulling out the water. Or you can shake the nozzle gently up and down inside the water. Many other vacuums have priming pumps or motors to do the job. Always follow the instruction manuals.
How many times do I need to vacuum my substrate?
It depends upon the tank you have. If you have a larger tank with a higher bioload, which means that you have many fish or plants, it is obvious that you will have more debris to be collected in comparison to if you have a smaller tank. How often you should use your vacuum depends less on what type of vacuum you have and more on what kind of fish you have and how much dirt collects into your tank. And if you have a newer tank, it will push back the time you have to vacuum your substrate. Nonetheless, clean the substrate at least once a week.
What are the things I should look for when buying a vacuum cleaner for my tank?
Type and size of your fish
Some fish like goldfish create a lot of waste material as compared to other species of fish. Also, what you must realize is that sometimes, through bad luck, you can very much suck in your fish through the vacuum nozzle. Hence if you have small fish in your tank, make sure you check the diameter of the nozzle beforehand.
Size of the tank
Once again, the ever-present decider of things: tank size. Like with everything else, the size of the tank also has a huge bearing over what kind of vacuum you should use and what size of vacuum cleaner you should use. Almost every company manufactures different sizes of vacuums for different sizes of tanks. Make sure you check the size before you buy it.
Type of vacuum cleaner
There are many vacuum cleaners that offer you various features. There are the ones that clean your gravel, the ones that clean your gravel along with draining out the water and the ones that clean your gravel, drain out the water, and also help in filling it back up. Some run on batteries, some run on simple hoses. While some require you to carry buckets of water to and fro your tank, some eliminate that need. We have in detail pointed down the pros and cons of all kinds of vacuum cleaners. Choose according to what product caters to your specific needs.
Size of the substrate and power of suction
Now, if you look at vacuum cleaners working on aquarium substrate you will notice how they work. The gravel is slightly raised so that any and all dirt is hidden below and around the gravel is taken up by the suction nozzle. However, the suction must be just enough so that the gravel particles don’t get sucked into the nozzle all the way. This depends upon the size of your gravel particles as well as the power of the vacuum. Various products come with nozzles of various sizes so that the gravel particles don’t get sucked in.
What do you mean when you say different “types” of vacuum cleaners?
Well, broadly speaking the aquarium vacuum cleaners are divided into two types: the mechanical siphon types and the battery run types. The siphon types of vacuum cleaners have their own sub-varieties. There are the ones that have simple hoses and suction nozzle. The length of the hoses varies accordingly. Then there are the ones that have the self-priming feature with handheld rubber pumps. The other type is the battery run type. This requires no hoses or connections.
Our Top Pick
If you follow our blogs, you will have known by now that we are huge suckers for simplicity. Sometimes, you just need the equipment to just do what it is supposed to and no more. And the Python Pro Clean is just that. It is simple, easy to assemble, and maintain a device that performs it’s a task perfectly. It comes in various lengths which lets you choose accordingly for your tank. You can clearly see that it nicely sucks away all the unwanted particles trapped in the gravel pretty much easy and you don’t require to change any hardware or connect it anywhere or require batteries. And for these exact reasons, the Python Pro-Clean is our top pick.
Laying out the features for the top vacuum cleaners fir your aquarium, pointing out their strong points and limitations is what we set out to do in this article. All the products on our list are moderately priced and efficient devices. Now it is up to you to choose whichever product that you think suits your tank the best. Good luck and we will see you again soon.