How to Properly Gravel Vacuum and Clean a Sponge Filter.

How to Properly Gravel Vacuum and Clean a Sponge Filter.


Hey, everyone. Cory from Aquarium Co-Op. And today I’m gonna teach you how to gravel vac an aquarium and clean the sponge filter. It’s one of the few questions I get over and over and over again, and so I know when I demonstrate it in the store, people can learn quite a bit, and so I thought, “Let’s do a video and, you know, (just) it’s gonna be quick, short and sweet. But let’s get into it. So, first you’re gonna need a gravel vacuum. This is, I think it’s a Lee’s Kit, but the Python ones work all the same; Aqueon–they’re all pretty similar–and then you’re gonna need a bucket or, as I’m using today, I’m using a trash can on wheels so–I do a lot of tanks and so being able to wheel around works nice–and so let me get the camera set up and we’ll start showing you some tips. All right, so the first tip I have for you is probably getting it so that all your decor–which I don’t have much the decor in this tank; that’s gonna be another video we’re gonna shoot after this on, getting this thing ready–but moving as many things as you can out of the way so that you don’t have to stop your siphon. So I’ve moved this sponge filter all the way to the side there. Usually I would scrub the sides for algae if I have any; in this tank, which I don’t. I do that first and then all the objects in the water is gonna when it starts gravel vaccing. So first what I want to teach you is how to start a siphon. This is a relatively simple thing once you know how to do it. The goal here is gonna be to put this tube in the water–it fills up with water–and then when the blue part, or green part, whichever kit you have, goes above the rim, the water will start flowing downward and we’re gonna to put the tube back into the water at an angle just like this so that we don’t trap air. If I come back in like this, it’s gonna get an air bubble and stop. So, we’re gonna demonstrate that a couple of times. Got the water full all the way in here. We’re gonna lift it up–water starting to flow–we put it back down and at the same angle, we have a siphon going. Okay? We’re gonna do that one more time. So, tube is completely empty air of water. All we got is air. We’re starting it brand new. Put it in an angle, goes in, filled up with water. Nothing will happen if it just stays like this. Once I lift it up is when the siphon will start going, and we put it right back down in, we got our siphon going going, okay? The next thing I want to teach you guys is when you are gravel vaccing, do it in a systematic row. So, I can’t really do that at this point just because i need to be close to the camera, but let me re-position it a little bit and I’m gonna move back that sponge filter to the other side so I can get a better position for you. All right, so what you wanna do is you wanna go back and forth through your aquarium in rows like you’re mowing the yard. You don’t want to kind of just hunt and peck–that’s gonna miss a ton of stuff. You also have to move your decor because that’s where all the debris settles, and so I’ve got the hose crimped right now and you should learn how to use this technique so water can flow. And now I crimp, water can’t flow, and what you’ll see, I’m gonna do a spot over here so you guys can watch. I’m picking up this coarse sand right now and once the debris lifts away from it, I can crimp the hose and move on. So that’s the technique we’re gonna use, and we’re gonna go to the corner here and, like, right now I got the hose crimped and there was a baby guppy in there but we’ve got a snail there, we’re gonna separate the waste, and we’re crimping the hose and that’s what drops the waste back down, if you can see that. And then we move on. and you don’t want to let any of this waste into the aquarium. Kind of think of this as like a chimney: you want all the smoke to go up out of the house, not inside. So what happens is, with gravel and sand and stuff like that, if you don’t crimp the hose and you’re waiting for it to come out, it takes a long time. We’re gonna to take out all this water. So the goal would be: we do all the gravel and the sponge and take out about one-third of the water in this aquarium. So I’m gonna go ahead and finish this up and we’ll get on to the sponge filter. All right, and lastly, when you’re finally done and you want to take the hose out, put your hand over the end of it and release this, it’ll suction cup your hand so that way nothing falls back into the tank when you take it out. It’ll hold it, and you can release it into your bucket or your tote or whatever you’re using. So, now we need a fish bag and we’re gonna clean the sponge filter here. So now I’ve got a fish bag, you know, just reuse one you get from your fish store, that type of thing, and the goal is to do this: the goal is to get the bag in there, get it all the way around that sponge filter and then pull it up the top, disconnect the hose so all the gunk stays inside. If I just go in there and grab it, it’s gonna release a whole bunch of gunk. So, that’s what we’re trying to do, and, yeah, so we’ll show you step-by-step. Get in there, get some water in the bag, and (then) go from the bottom and just try to barely move it as you’re walking it in. All right, so now I can remove the top of the sponge filter that’s in the bag, just like that. You can lift this up and out. And so you can see in the aquarium very little disturbance at all, and we just removed the filter. So now I wanna get the bottom piece out–that’s this right here– and give it quick rinse, kinda in the bucket where we took gunk out, and now we’re gonna wring this sponge in here and make really brown water and keep pouring it out ’till it comes clean. So, that’s what we do right now. And let me get on the ladder–that’ll be easier to show if I’m on the ladder. So you just start wringing it out. And we’re getting some of the algae off and things like that all at the same time, and we want to use the tank water is because when we use the tank water, it doesn’t have chlorine in it, we’re not killing any of the bacteria, we’re not gonna put it into shock from a different pH, a different temperature–that type of thing–so, you know, you get it as clean as you can the first pass and we’ve made lots of chocolate milk, like that’s brown water for sure. Pour that into your bucket. You can save this water and use it on your houseplants, stuff like that, it’s full of nitrogen. You know, you don’t want to let this sponge sit out for too long. After a couple of minutes a lot of the bacteria will have died, so you wanna keep it wet. So we’re gonna grab some more water and I don’t recommend taking it to the sink. One, it wastes water, and two, you could kill your bacterial colony doing that, you know, it’s not a high risk but it is a risk, and I’d much rather put the freshwater back into my aquarium here while I’m taking out old water. So you can see this one, not nearly as dark. It’s telling, you know, much cleaner if that passed. And usually, unless you’ve neglected it for a long time, you can get it in about three passes and then it’s never gonna be a hundred percent clean which, that’s actually fine, you don’t need it to be a hundred percent clean– we just need it to be operational. All right. And now we when I squeeze it out, you can see here very little of any thing’s coming out. I’d say we’re done. Let that go into the tote or the bucket, give it one last squeeze, and, yeah, there’s gonna be a little castoff as we put it back in the water. You grab the bottom here. But it will clear itself back up. It’s a nice, healthy sponge filter ready to do, you know, another, at least a month of work, and this is what I recommend to my customers and stuff like that. Unless you have a reason to do a different schedule, I start out with once a month and about one-third of the water gravel vaccing and servicing your filtration. Now, if this was all planted– which I’m gonna do a video on; I’m about to plant this whole tank up that’s why I’m doing this–you wouldn’t gravel vac, you wouldn’t go down into the gravel where the plant roots are; you would hover over the top just to pick up any loose debris. And, so yeah, it’s, you know, real quick there; (didn’t) it took me, you know, if I was not to time-lapse this video I think it took about 12 minutes, and so 40 gallon aquarium, 12 minutes, everyone can do that I think. That’s a very light load, (to) keep a very healthy aquarium. I used a little bit more than thirty percent here– I was doing a little bit of demoing. Plus, I don’t run the water level all the way up on this aquarium because I want to breed these mystery snails, so, that’s a whole different video though. So, thanks for hanging out guys. Hope that helps. I know when you’re getting into it, that can be one of the hardest things to understand: a good gravel back and a good service of this sponge (or) filtration you’re using, but it really helps and it’s one of the best things you can do to keep your aquarium healthy. So, if you enjoyed the video, “like” it. If you found it useful or you’re part of a group where someone doesn’t know what they’re doing yet, link this video to them and help them out. And, you know, thanks for hanging out with me and we’ll see you in the next video.

100 thoughts on “How to Properly Gravel Vacuum and Clean a Sponge Filter.

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  2. You vacuumed a poor little guy dude. Not the smartest to put a bunch of tiny fish in such a big aquarium as they dont need it and when you go to clean it with a big syphon like that this happens..

  3. This is the best video I've watched on this!! Recently adopted a musk turtle from a friend who couldn't care for it, and I've been researching how best to care for her so this video has helped massively!! 😁😁😁😁

  4. I was concerned how to clean a sponge filter without killing the beneficial bacteria, and as ALWAYS YOU CAME THROUGH FOR ME AND ANSWERED MY QUESTION THANK YOU SO MUCH! My wife is even becoming interested in the hobby now because of your videos . Thankyou. I wish you were in Florida.

  5. Thanks so much! I just cleaned my tank and there is a lot of sediment floating around. With your method of pinching the tube I can get so much more time gravel vaccuming! I will wait a couple of weeks and do it again using your method. I am sure I will get the tank a lot cleaner.

  6. Why don’t you use the tube above the sponge filter … doesn’t it create more siphon because the air has to travel up the tube pushing the water up with it . Making it pull water from the sponge ?

  7. Should I replace my Juwel rio filter with another one? id like the sponge thing you've got, but what machine do you use? that I can use for 240 liters?

  8. Should I replace my Juwel rio filter with another one? id like the sponge thing you've got, but what machine do you use? that I can use for 240 liters?

  9. I have 150 g tank planted 12 yrs I need to replace parts on filter system and maybe up grade? Can I get a person to walk me through this.

  10. Great video. I've been keeping fish for a long while, and i had no idea you could start a siphon like that!!! Wow. Thanks again.

  11. Did you make the video on cleaning a planted tank? I cant find it. I wanna watch it cuz I wanna know how to get the detritis out of the gravel of a planted tank

  12. My gravel vacuum has like round bally thingy and you just squeeze the siphon ball 3 times and it will start really simple too

  13. I know this video is old, but can anyone answer this? When you do gravel cleanings should it be weekly or monthly and should you always do deep gravel cleaning or sometimes just do the top?

  14. Thank you this was so helpful, first time fish owner here (Betta) and I think I have him a hard time when I tried to use the gravel cleaner for the first time, here goes another try today lol

  15. How to you keep from sucking up those tiny fish??? What if a fish gets sucked up all the way in the tube? I always seem to mess up all my plants because they get pulled up as I’m vacuuming the gravel. 🤷🏻‍♀️😕

  16. Obviously, I know how to clean a fish tank. Why would I watch this? I watched this video and am amazed at how many things I was doing wrong. So grateful that you made it.

  17. Just bought a used 75 gallon tank . It was a salt water tank. I'm putting my African chiclid in it. Any advice ?

  18. Thanks hey you make it so much easier to understand than others who ramble on so much I fall asleep lol you must’ve been doing this your whole life. Thanks for sharing it was really helpful

  19. An important question for a new tank.
    In a new tank cleaning.. say.. In a corner filter, when to clean the sponge out for the. (first time).. after four weeks? Eight weeks?

  20. I was looking for a tool that would clean the gravel in my tank without me having to lift the tiny pebbles to take out the waste… thank you so very much for the video!!!

  21. As soon as you squeezed out that sponge filter into the fish bag and it was nearly all brown and gunky, I thought, "that would be amazing to water houseplants with", and literally two seconds later you said the same thing lol.

    Also, about chlorine possibly killing bacterial colonies in established bio media/sponges: I read a study a while back about chlorine's effect on soil bacteria, which is also nitrifying bacteria, (since I mainly use tap water for all of my houseplants) in potted plants and gardens, and the study showed that chlorine concentrations typically used in water facilities has little to zero impact at all on established bacterial colonies. The concentration is simply too low to do anything. I still wring out sponges and filter media in tank water just to be safe, but mainly to save water and for convenience since the water is already right there in front of you. But definitely don't panic too much about this. I just thought I would share.

  22. So, when you clean out the tank… do you condition the new water BEFORE adding it to the tank or after? Is there a process to conditioning water? If it matters, I have well water that I will be using.

  23. Thank you so much just started in January. Bought 3 different vacs now see I was doing it wrong. Was just moving across sand just getting water through hose. Thank you so much

  24. This is the most informative youtube I have ever seen! I cant wait to clean my tank and try this method! I have bought two vacuums because I thought one was not working right when it was just me! haha. I would suck out to much water and never saw anything really coming out of the gravel! I also have a question about algae, if we clean it what will the snails eat? Also what about beneficial bacteria. I was told by someone not to clean it on my saltwater tank I just set up for those reasons, but I have a 10 gallon and no skimmer so I have followed many youtubes and they vigorously clean them.

  25. Your videos are really helping me. I need to see the video how to gravel vac a planted tank…did u do one??? I just planted 2 weeks ago…and havent done any thing except manually remove water and replace…
    Thanks Cory.
    Marilyn.

  26. Shouldn't you do a water change every month and clean your filter alternating them every 15 days? I have always done it that way and it has worked pretty well. I don't like doing both together unless you are running 2 filters

  27. A couple questions if I may 1st Can the gravel vac be used with sand? And 2nd what max size tank would you recommend for the sponge filters. I have a 350ltr/93gal with a canister filter

  28. Hey man. Great informative channel you have here bud. After watching this video, I began brainstorming, and an idea came to mind. Now, I don't know if this would work or not like I am "trying to see it in my head", so if in fact it is dumb, I apologize.
    My idea is as follows: It involves the suction tool you are using, and then this. So as to not have fish get sacked up, you barricade off a small section of the fish tank, so as to not have any fish go in it. This barricade does not necessarily have to be fitted/permanently attached. This barricade WILL need holes (multiple) to allow water into it, yet obviously small enough as to not have fish get into it. Now that I think of it, you could somehow have a sponge filter placed directly in front of the holes (and just like that, you have a sponge filter).
    Now, you create the suction (as majestically as you did it in this here video), and leave it in there. Now, instead of having that water leave the tank, you have it flow back into the tank, thus effectively creating an airflow. For the suction to maintain, it would have to be a "waterfall" , so the tube would have to be somehow fixed OUT of the water.
    Now, the part I'm not sure would work. Would it be possible to have enough water flow back into the barricade, to have essentially a two in one energy free filtration and airflow system?
    Thoughts?
    Afterthought design alternative Instead of the barricade idea, what about just placing a nozzle once there is suction, and then attach your one sided hole sponge to the end of the nozzle. Would that work???

  29. Just tried the gravel vac without seeing this video took out 15% of water and just one corner of the 50 gallon tank lol

  30. I'VE BEEN CLEANING MY TANK ALL WRONG! i do too much even change to filter on the H.O.T. filter. I thought i needed to because the carbon would get spent i thought

  31. @ 5:32 VERY LITTLE DISTURBANCE BUT THAT ONE SNAIL IS ROCKIN LIKE A TRAMPOLINE DURING HURRICANE SEASON.

  32. I never knew how important maintaining the bacterial flora on the filter media was. Great video and good info! Thanks from Vancouver Island. Cheers!

  33. dude your moniker of the puffer fish has your same front teeth. very clever. love that moniker! your videos are awesome and truly educational!

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