How Do You Clean Substrate?

In Freshwater Aquariums by

You can clean substrate specifically gravel by using a gravel vacuum to remove fish waste and decomposing matter. Yes, I know it’s simple and common knowledge but not everyone knows exactly how to clean aquarium substrate which is why we made this article to teach aquarium enthusiasts more about aquarium maintenance.

When you are ready to clean your tank there are a few things you consider using but generally, the main things that you need are a gravel vacuum, water conditioner, and a bucket. You do not need to overcomplicate the process.

Gravel is one of the absolute favorites for aquarium bottoms and it’s easy to see since the gravel doesn’t serve as a decorative piece but rather as a filter. Being as a filter you end up with debris and waste. So, it is essential to clean the gravel for your fish, plants, and tank mates.

Even though the gravel does need to be cleaned you shouldn’t rinse off your gravel when you add more back to your tank unless it is the first time you are adding the gravel to your aquarium. The main reason is that when you clean the gravel you remove good bacteria.

The main problem with cleaning the aquarium with a gravel vacuum is that the vacuum will take out aquarium water with the waste. Because of this, it is easy to see why when hobbyists clean the gravel they also do their partial water changes at the same time. When you are doing some gravel cleaning be sure to unplug your heater, filter, and pump so they will not be burning up and giving off excess energy when it’s not the right time to. Who likes wasting energy?

For most sand substrate it is easy to clean. But, although that is true not all sand is the same. For most beginner tanks you will have play sand. The good thing about play sand is that you won’t have a huge amonia spike after cleaning the sand.

The main way you clean play sand is by raking the sand with your hand and using your gravel vacuum.

There are a few tank mates that you can add that will help you control algae and help with turning the substrate. The main tank mates for this are snails and shrimp.

Snails: Sun Snails and Nerites are perfect for the job here. Snail waste can add some more food for your shrimp, and the snails will help with cleaning the sides of your tank so less work for scraping off those annoying algae.

Shrimp: Personally I have shrimp in all our tanks. Shrimp are good tank mates with small peaceful fish but not very good for large fish. Shrimp will help clean your algae off your substrate, decorations, decorative plants, and your planted plants.

Cory Catfish: There are some good fish for cleaning the aquarium as well. The cory is no exception. The cory catfish is going to help keep up with uneaten food, and some other food debris in hard to reach places that your shrimp and snails might have missed. They are really cool to watch scavenge and sure are cute too. If you want to learn more about corys then you can check out this article.

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