7 Most Popular Aquarium Vacuums & Gravel Cleaner
Written by Dan
Once you have setup your aquarium, there is one ultimate truth. If you don’t clean your tank it will get nasty! The good news is that over time we have gotten smarter and smarter when it comes to doing these dirty jobs. Cleaning all the detritus and uneaten food out of the bottom of your tank is probably one of the least liked jobs for most fish keepers. By the way detritus is just a nice way of saying FISH POO! To make this job easier, cleaner, and more sanitary we have the aquarium vacuum and gravel cleaners.
In this article, I will outline the 7 most popular of these tools showing you the pros and cons of each. If you want to skip right to which one we recommend the most well that is simple and it would be the Python No Spill System or the Ehim Quick Vac Pro. Both are awesome tools. I have personally used the Python for at least 15 years as my main tank cleaner and water siphon. The Ehim Quick Vac Pro is just an awesome tool eliminating the need to even siphon water out of the tank to get the crud out of your gravel.
What this article covers
- Python No Spill Clean Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
- TERAPUMP Aquarium Cleaner TRFTCLN
- Eheim Quick Vac Pro
- SunGrow Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Kit with priming bulb
- Zacro Gravel Cleaner
- NICREW Rechargeable Battery-Powered Automatic Gravel Cleaner
- LONDAFISH Electric Fish tank Vacuum
Python No Spill Clean Fill Aquarium Maintenance System
The python is 1st off 100% American made. It is also ingenious in the fact that it was one of the first products to eliminate the need of a bucket when vacuuming out your gravel or performing water changes. It accomplishes this by the use of a specially designed faucet attachment. This attachment will connect to almost any standard faucet turning on the faucet causes water to run through the connector and in turn create a suction on the hose and replacing you on the end of the hose sucking up a mouth full of nasty water.
The water that comes out of your tank flows right into the sink. Once you have cleaned the rocks out and drained enough water, you simply flip the sink attachment around and now the water flows directly from the sink to your tank. Viola no trips back and forth with a bucket. I am still a firm believer in RO Water though and do not use mine to fill back up my tanks but not having to carry jugs of nasty poo water all over the house makes this worth every penny in my opinion.
I have actually owned a couple of these over the past 15 years or so. They are extremely durable and made from high quality materials. I have not been gentle with the ones I have owned and they have withstood all the abuse I have put them through and kept on trucking.
- Eliminates the need for buckets when cleaning
- Takes water directly to the drain
- Durable and Heavy Duty
- American Made
- Larger product requires more space for storage
TERAPUMP Aquarium Cleaner TRFTCLN
The Aquarium Cleaner by TERAPUMP is a very good cleaning tool. The design of this model (TRFTCLN) provides some very nice convenience features to make cleaning your substrate or simply draining your tank easier.
First and foremost, the hand pump allows you to start a siphon without sucking on the end of the hose. If you have ever had a mouth full of dirty water you know why this is such a big thing for me.
Next the suction cup near the intake allows you to secure the line inside your tank and under the water line. This will greatly improve the odds that you will not have that end flop out of the tank onto the floor right as you get a couple gallons of water in the hose which then will end up, you guessed it, on the floor. This also allows you to use both hands rather than trying to pump start the siphon while playing stretch Armstrong to hold the hose in your aquarium.
The last feature they have added to this model is the flow control clip. This is not very high tech but it does the job taking the water flow down from 1.5 GPM (Gallon Per Minute) to a slower flow allowing you time to actually get in there and clean the gravel. It can be highly annoying to only be 1/3 of the way through your gravel and realize you have already drained half of the water out of your tank.
- Hand pump to avoid mouth starting
- Suction Cup to avoid hose falling out of tank
- Easy to use water flow for switching form drain mode to clean mode
- Water drained from the tank still needs to go into a bucket or jug and hauled to the drain
- Company has been fighting counterfeiters who are selling inferior products as if they were the official one. Make sure you get the real deal! TERAPUMP has taken action on this changing their packaging and branding to help consumers to identify the genuine product
Eheim Quick Vac Pro
Many years ago, while cleaning my tank I thought to myself, “Man wouldn’t it be nice if you could just vacuum the gravel without taking any water out of the tank, just suck up all the crappy stuff and do water changes separately.” I then proceeded to rig my Python hose up so it ran into one of my sock filters in the sump. I could vacuum out the tank and then just change the filter sock, which I was going to do anyway.
But what if you don’t have a sump, do we keep wishing? Back to the Future I mean present and BOOM wish granted. The Eheim Quick Vac Pro is a fully submersible battery powered gravel vacuum. This vacuum runs on 4 AA batteries and will run continuously for 4 hours on one set.
The impeller pump sucks water up through the bottom of the pump and through a fine mesh filter cartridge. This allows you to suck water from within the gravel where all the detritus and un eaten food is into the pump bringing all the crud with it. The crud is trapped in the mesh filter and the water flows right back into the aquarium.
Now this process isn’t flawless you are still stirring up the crud at the bottom of the tank and the mesh filter cannot catch microscopic particles. Expect the water to be a little cloudy during the cleaning process and for a short period afterwards. This is also to be expected with any siphon cleaner as well.
This is a huge leap in making cleaning our substrate more convenient. The more convenient it is, the more often we will do it, and the better our fish’s lives will be. This product gets a big thumbs up recommendation from me.
- No Buckets, Hose, or draining needed, perfect for quick spot cleaning
- Removing the crud from your substrate regularly prevents it from breaking down into the water and means you could extend the time between water changes
- Small form factor means this is easy to store
- Since this runs on AA batteries they will need to be replaced or at the very least taken out and charged if you use rechargeable ones
- Not usable on tanks with less than 12” of water because of the space needed to submerge the intake and impeller section of the pump
SunGrow Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Kit with priming bulb
Let me start by reiterating that this list is for the 7 most popular aquarium vacuums and gravel cleaners not the best 7. I say this because the third entry on our list, the gravel cleaner by SunGrow gets mixed reviews.
A large number of people say this is a great product and is great for smaller tanks where you don’t need big heavy duty hoses. Add this with the price point and it is no surprise that there are a large number of these sold.
Then come the complaints I have seen for things like faulty equipment that leaks or does not seal properly, comes in dirty with unknown crud in the tubing, faulty manufacturing so pieces do not even fit together.
The truth is SunGrow has been around for a while and is a known brand in the aquarium world. The fact that most instances I have seen of complaints could be due to a bad product, inferior counterfeit product by companies that are not concerned with the wellbeing of your fish, or just that people expected more than they were paying for. Remember that old tested truth, you do get what you pay for.
SO bad press aside what does this product have going for it. Easy simple construction, it is a siphon hose with a pump ball so you do not have to suck start the siphon; and it has a nozzle intake with a grate to prevent plants and fish from getting sucked up. It even has a shutoff valve at the end to adjust waterflow speed. Simple straight forward design is in many cases a good thing.
Ultimately this one is a 50/50 for me. If you just need a basic simple siphon cleaner at a good price I could see picking this up and never even looking at the reviews. But after reading some comments and watching a few video reviews I would be on the fence even with the low price point.
- Pump start siphon
- Livestock safe intake grate
- Light weight form factor
- Lightweight material will not hold up to long term abusive use
- Buckets needed to haul off waste water
- Many negative experiences expressed online which could indicate some bad manufacturing or even possible inferior counterfeit versions being sold as the genuine product
Zacro Gravel Cleaner
The Zacro Gravel Cleaner is a light weight gravel cleaner that has heavy duty tubing and good construction. It addresses a few of the common problems of your standard manual siphon design. 1st and most important it does have a hand pump to initiate the siphon. It includes a ball valve at the exit end to allow for flow control which is important when trying to clean the gravel and not suck out all of your water. The ball valve also serves as a connector should you want to add on additional hose to extend your length.
The most notable difference in the Zacro vs cleaners by other manufacturers is the tank clip that holds the siphon end in your tank at the desired depth. We have seen other models with suction cups or U hooks, but the style of clip implemented here is a unique design.
Overall this is a good basic gravel cleaner. It is not super fancy, it is not extremely large. It does however get the job done and at the low price point I wouldn’t feel bad getting a new one if it crapped out on me 6mo to a year down the road. This would be a good option if you just have a small tank and are doing infrequent water changes or gravel cleaning.
- Hand pump to start siphon
- Clip to prevent hose falling out of tank
- Adjustable water flow
- Smaller size not well suited for large aquariums
NICREW Rechargeable Battery-Powered Automatic Gravel Cleaner
Although Nicrew is not as well known a name in the aquarium world, they have released a very nice gravel cleaner. I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for and normally well-known name brands are more expensive but often are more durable and well built. The NICREW gravel cleaner is set to make them a name brand known for good products.
The closest competitor to this model is the electric gravel cleaner by Ehiem. Where the Ehiem uses 4AA batteries, NICREW are using a rechargeable 4400mAh lithium ion battery. This means you do not have to replace any batteries just recharge the one you have. That said the NICREW will only run for 2.5 hours on a full charge where Ehiem will run for 4 hours on a new set of batteries.
NICREW can also operate with the power cord attached. This also gives the motor a bit of a boost since it also runs at a higher power flow. The downside to this is that the cord is only about 3’ long so you will need to have a light weight extension cord to give you some room to move around your tank.
The water is sucked into the pump and through a fine mesh cartridge where all the crud is captured. This mesh catches most of the large particles but it will not like its competitor catch all the microscopic particles that make the water cloudy. This model does also include a hose adapter that bypasses the filter and pumps the water into a hose making it a standard siphon cleaner with an on off switch to start and stop the water flow. This is a handy feature.
- No Bucket or hose needed
- Rechargeable battery
- Siphon Hose optional for electric siphon
- Charging cable only 3’ no easy to run while plugged up without extension cord
- Does not work in smaller tanks with low water height 8”
LONDAFISH Electric Fish Tank Vacuum
The Electric Fish Tank Vacuum from LONDAFISH is another design attempt and powering the gravel cleaner. With Eheim and NICREW we have seen a filter built into the core chamber of the device. With the LONDAFISH model the idea is that the water flows out through a connector where you can either hook up a mesh bag to collect gunk or a hose for siphoning.
Although very popular based on sales of the product, which is most likely due to it being the least expensive of the electric models in our list; it has the worst customer experience history of all the models in our list based on what we have seen online. Most of the complaints we have run across are all due to the quality of the workmanship and the effectiveness of the mesh bag.
It would seem though that if you were looking for an electric version of your classic siphon and not a hose less option to clean your gravel this could very well be a good budget conscious option since the good customer experiences lean towards doing just that.
Just remember to expect what you get and get what you pay for and this could be just what you were needing.
- Electric powered siphon
- Adjustable depth sizes 24” to 39”
- Not as durable material as comparable models
- Filter sock only catches larger particles
If you have experience with any of these products or have questions we didn't cover let us know in the comments bellow.
As we wrap up this look at the 7 most popular aquarium gravel cleaners I want to reiterate my top picks. For the non-powered models, I like the Python as a heavy duty tried and true design. It is durable and gives a great way to drain water straight to the sink or tub.
With the powered versions, I think both the Ehiem and NICREW both have very good designs. There are some features with each that may simply come down to personal preference as well as brand loyalty and willingness to try a lesser known brand.
I personally would not give a recommendation on the LONDAFISH or the SunGrow products in their current iteration. As the companies improve on the design based on customer feedback I think they could have a very good product in the future.
All data gathered to determine the most popular models was done using the Jungle Scout chrome extension to analyze Amazon product ranking and sells history at the time of writing and may have changed since that time. Popularity was based on most sold and most grossing products. We will periodically review current data and update this article when possible.
Are there any gravel cleaners that we didn’t make the list and you think they should? Let us know below.