Best fish tank cleaner

Fish & Reptile Supplies

Keep your aquarium water clear and your pets healthy with regular use of a fish tank cleaner.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which fish tank cleaners are the best?

Many people keep a fish tank in their homes to enjoy the ambience and interest that colorful tropical fish provide. However, even the most beautifully arranged and populated aquarium can quickly become an unhealthy eyesore due to cloudy water overrun with bacteria.

To keep your aquarium tidy and your pets healthy, you will need to invest in a fish tank cleaner. Thankfully, these handy devices are inexpensive and easy to use. The SSRIVER Aquarium Gravel Cleaner simplifies tank cleaning further than most other models, thanks to its comfortable grip and easily primed pump.

What to know before you buy a fish tank cleaner

How does a fish tank cleaner work?

Sometimes called “gravel vacuums,” fish tank cleaners are plunged into the substrate at the bottom of your aquarium in order to suck up dirty water and debris that accumulates between stones and sand. Some cleaners create suction with an electrical pump, others use a manual pump and the most basic models simply use the power of gravity and physics to siphon water out of your tank.

What contributes to a dirty fish tank?

Fish tanks are closed environments where living things occupy spaces much smaller than they would find themselves in nature. As a result, microorganisms and waste products that are kept under control in the wild can swiftly accumulate to toxic levels.

  • Algae. A small amount of controlled algae growth is normal in any aquarium, especially those that include live plants. However, large blooms of this microscopic plant are an eyesore.
  • Bacteria. A properly set up fish tank will achieve a state of equilibrium, with both its inhabitants and the bacteria types they require for good health living in harmony. These tanks will have clear water, active fish and little odor. Improperly cleaned aquariums, on the other hand, cause the tank’s microscopic flora and fauna to fall into imbalance. Left unchecked, harmful bacteria growth can explode due to animal waste and uneaten food accumulating in the tank.
  • Animal waste. Fish produce a great deal of waste for their size. In the wild, moving water and a wide range of other natural occurrences prevent this waste from building up in a fish’s environment. Your pet fish, however, will depend entirely on you to remove waste and soiled water from their aquarium. If not regularly cleaned, your fish tank will become toxic with ammonia and other harmful chemicals clouding the water and harming your pets. This stagnation also results in a foul, swampy odor.

What to look for in a quality fish tank cleaner

Pump

A pump on your fish tank cleaner makes it easier to initiate suction. Some pumps are electrical, while others require you to squeeze manually or repeatedly pull a trigger to start siphoning. 

Hose length

The length of the hose attached to your fish tank cleaner determines how far away you will be able to place the bucket or container that you’re going to use to hold and dispose of dirty water. Many aquarium cleaner hoses are easily swapped with a replacement from a hardware store, allowing you to customize the length of the hose to reach wherever you wish.

Grip

Many fish tank cleaners feature an ergonomic grip that makes them easier to hold and use. Models that forgo this feature are inexpensive, but will often lead to you having to get your hands or forearms wet as you plunge the tool into your tank’s gravel. Fish tank cleaners with grips typically have a trigger that you use to pump water out of your aquarium and initiate a siphon.

Gravel tube

Aquarium cleaners feature a rigid cylinder that is used to access debris deep under and between the gravel in your tank. Select a cleaner with a long enough tube to reach the bottom of your aquarium. Aquariums with sand bottoms will require additional consideration with regard to this feature, as a special filter will be needed to avoid sucking up grains of sand.

Pump

From various attachments designed for cleaning different substrates to plant movers and algae scrapers, fish tank cleaners that include other accessories can provide great value and allow you to easily address challenging messes. 

How much you can expect to spend on a fish tank cleaner

The most basic aquarium cleaners cost as little as $6. The price increases as models include pumps and accessories, with the most advanced, professional fish tank cleaners costing between $30-$50.

Fish tank cleaner FAQ

How often do I need to use my fish tank cleaner?

A. While cleaning schedules vary based on aquarium sizes and populations, fish tanks generally should be cleaned weekly. Use your gravel vacuum to rid your tank of waste and debris from the bottom of the habitat, removing 10-20% of the tank’s total water content in the process. Replace with clean, properly treated water. Some aquarium keepers also perform more extensive water exchanges on a less frequent basis. Research your fish species and tank setup requirements and adhere to a schedule that best fits your habitat’s needs.

Can a fish tank cleaner get clogged?

A. Yes. Fish tank cleaners, especially small models with narrow hoses and filters, can become clogged with stray pieces of gravel, leaves from live plants or other bits of debris. You should thoroughly rinse your fish tank cleaner after each use.

Can I use my fish tank cleaner while my fish are in the tank?

A. Yes. Removal will cause more stress to your fish than simply working around them. Fish will generally avoid the cleaner, but be careful not to accidentally disturb or vacuum up any especially small or slow-moving creatures. 

What’s the best fish tank cleaner to buy?

Top fish tank cleaner

SSRIVER Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

SSRIVER Aquarium Gravel Cleaner

What you need to know: This cleaner features an easy-to-use pump and a long gravel cylinder. 

What you’ll love: Keep your hands and arms dry with this cleaner’s customizable gravel tube and manual pump. Its ergonomic grip makes cleaning comfortable and its included accessories help you clean your tank’s glass as well.

What you should consider: Some users feel that this cleaner’s suction is not as powerful as they expected.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top fish tank cleaner for the money

Aquarium Fish Tank Cleaning Kit

Aquarium Fish Tank Cleaning Kit

What you need to know: This tank cleaner includes attachments and accessories designed to keep your aquarium free of dirt and debris buildup.

What you’ll love: This cleaner’s squeezable bulb makes creating a siphon much easier than relying on gravity alone. Its included net and detachable heads provide the flexibility needed to clean environments that feature both sand and gravel bottoms.

What you should consider: This kit’s hose is very soft and flexible, causing it to kink and cut off water flow easily.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

AQQA Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Siphon Kit

AQQA Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Siphon Kit

What you need to know: This cleaner features an electronic pump and an array of professional accessories.

What you’ll love: Owners of large aquariums will appreciate this model’s electric pump and powerful suction. This model makes quick work out of extensive water changes thanks to a reversible pump that allows it to both empty and fill your tank. 

What you should consider: This cleaner is best for larger tanks and too cumbersome for smaller habitats.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.