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LoveMyFish1 04-17-2015 04:24 PM

Newbe, and need help with deciding when to completely clean my tank and gravel
Hello everyone. I've been reading the forums since last November when I got my tank...the advice really helped me get through the rough spots, especially since I (stupidly) started cycling my tank with fish already added. I primarily got into the hobby to give my cat some stimulation (he loves watching them, but has never tried to pry open the top and actually "interact" with them yet LOL) but the fish notice his presence, and move from one side of the tank to the other, which frustrates my cat!

Anyway, I have a 6.5 gallon tank, and it's been going well except that I think I overfed a bit early on, and 7 months since I started the tank, and despite weekly water changes of 2 gallons and suctioning the gravel, the gravel is really much so that I can't really get all the gunk out of it, and I'm considering whether to completely clean the tank and gravel. Despite my best efforts, I haven't found a thread on this site that would help me decide if this is necessary, offer alternative solutions, or which offers a guide on how to do this safely if it's indeed time to take the plunge. Any help from community members would be most appreciated. :confused:

sinibotia 04-17-2015 04:52 PM


Generally you never want to completely clean the gravel unless you're tearing down the whole tank and starting over. A lot of beneficial bacteria resides in the gravel and you want that to stay. Regular gravel vacuuming and careful feeding should help you gradually clean your gravel over time but I don't think it'll ever get truly "clean".

Delapool 04-18-2015 12:12 AM


As above. Gravel vacs should get it fairly clean but it's never going to be great.

In a larger tank, something like loaches are great for turning over the gravel a bit so debris can be swept off to the filter.

When I first kept fish several decades ago, I used to do that with a complete tank, filter and gravel clean. Surprised any fish survived really. I always used to have a few deaths doing that (although amazingly most survived).

I had the same problem in a 6 gal tank and gave up on the gravel. Swapped the tank over to bare bottom. I get green spot algae on the base now so it sort of looks like a meadow.

I put more biomedia into the filter and then several weeks later took out most of the gravel. Didn't clean the filter or tank glass so as not to disturb remaining bacteria. Then over a few weeks , the rest of the gravel went. Also I used prime as a water conditioner just in case.

LoveMyFish1 04-18-2015 11:22 AM

Thank you sinibotia: Really appreciate the advice!

LoveMyFish1 04-18-2015 11:26 AM

Thanks Delapool: This was very helpful. I suppose I could take out 1/3 of the gravel at each of my next three water changes and rinse them off with the old tank water I'm removing, which I would imagine will help keep the good bacteria on them, while eliminating the excess waste. Oh, and I use PRIME every two days--just a little...

Delapool 04-18-2015 11:46 AM

Just a thought but how are you doing water changes (amount) and gravel vacs now? Disturbing the gravel is going to be messy if just an extra water change can make a difference so to speak. Do you have a gravel vac?

Before I went planted in the large tank, I used to gravel vac about a quarter each week with the water change. I would poke the vac tube right down to the bottom of the tank and just work my way along. As the fish got larger I found I had to increase from fortnightly 15% pwc to weekly 30% pwc.

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