How do I clean the gravel at the bottom? Stirring the bottom with gravel vac raises clouds of gunk, so I wonder if its better to remove fish while cleaning or leave them in place.

I am a newbie, have a 3 week-old fish tank (5gal Fluval Edge) with four neon tetras. They only eat food as its falling -- not from the surface, not once it touches the bottom. Plus it took a while for them to start eating. So some food particles have accumulated within blue gravel at bottom, as well as other gunk. I think cleaning the gravel is called for (now? later?)

This question below is about cleaning gravel out of a tank. Videos I see show much larger tanks. What is the safest way to clean fish gravel?

  • 1
    I think the gravel vac is fine, the gunk will settle in time. You can also get a garbage crew to clean out excess food, like sucker fish, snails and shrimps
    – Huangism
    Jan 5, 2015 at 15:44
  • Thanks! Just leave the fish in there, raising cloud of sediment doesn't bother them (at least not more than stress of netting them out)?
    – prototype
    Jan 5, 2015 at 17:02
  • 1
    Yea, leave them in there, if you really want to, you can take them out but it's not a big deal. I assume you have a filter which should help with the cleaning. Don't feed too much if you have no garbage crew else you would have to clean the gravel a lot more often
    – Huangism
    Jan 5, 2015 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


Cleaning gravel can be tricky, so this is actually a good question.
In short- you can leave the fish in the tank- just watch what you put in.

But as far as way to clean gravel goes, here are some of my answers:

  1. This best approach is, as mentioned before, to look at your tank as an ecosystem. In the natural environment there would be loads of
    other decomposers and bugs to take care of the gunk piling up. Snails and bottom feeders are great for this.

  2. Stirring up the gravel could help your filter do the work.

  3. You could then also ultimately remove the gravel from the tank and clean it, but take caution: Any chemical can obviously be harmful to your animals. Clean the gravel in fresh water with as little chemicals as you can (I've heard of people who took out gravel, bleached their gravel and then put it back and killed off all their fish). I really recommend just doing this mechanically, scrubbing them in a cloth can work. Then leave to dry out in the sun (The sun will also help bleach the stones and kills algae). Then rinse off in fresh water again. Then, like with new water, introduce the clean gravel little bit by little bit. It's a pain and there are probably better ways, but it's safe.

Hope this helps!

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