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Siphon – An Indispensable Tool For Cleaning The Aquarium

by Tracy Finke

Siphon is one of the necessary items of equipment, which should be in every aquarist. Any soil sooner or later silted because of the accumulation of fallen leaves of plants, residues of uneaten food, products of the inhabitants of the aquarium, etc.

And if periodically not cleaned, the soil will begin to sour, releasing into the water ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which negatively affects the health of the inhabitants of the aquarium, the water itself, and its appearance.

If before most aquarists removed the soil from the container when replacing the water and washed it, but now it is rare who does this, because this approach leads to the destruction of useful bacteria that inhabit the soil, as well as to disrupt the biological balance in the aquarium.

Siphon design: minimum components – maximum efficiency

Source: thesprucepets.com

The best tool for cleaning the ground – is a gravel siphon water changer. Its design is very simple – it is an ordinary hose, one side of which is attached to a wide tube (the funnel). It is immersed in the ground, blown into the second hole, and lowers the free end into a large container, as water, together with all the debris begins to drain there https://portlandaquarium.net/gravel-vacuum-cleaner/.

Choosing a siphon, pay attention to the diameter of the hose. If you have a small aquarium, do not buy a device with a wide hose, otherwise, all the water from the reservoir will drain faster than you siphon the soil. If you have an aquarium volume of about 100 liters, to clean the bottom there is an ideal siphon with a hose diameter of 1 cm.

Types of siphons and their special features

Source: aquariume.com

There are two types of siphons on sale:

  • mechanical
  • electrical (battery-operated/accumulative)

The standard mechanical device consists of a funnel (transparent glass), whose diameter should be at least 5 cm and a hose. With too narrow a cup and a small height of the aquarium, the siphon will draw in not only dirt but also stones, which, in turn, rising in a spiral, will end up in the hose and can clog it.

Choose a completely transparent device so that you can observe the entire cleaning process. This will allow you to move the funnel to the untreated area of the bottom promptly. The cleaning of the area to be treated is complete when you can see that clean, unadulterated water is flowing into the hose.

WARNING: Be very careful when cleaning the bottom of a heavily planted area so as not to damage the roots. It is best to use in such a case a special siphon with a metal tube, the end of which is flattened. Just above the flattened end, there are many holes up to 2 mm in diameter. But do not use such a siphon if the bottom of your aquarium is filled with sand.

There are also models on the market without a hose, where the funnel is replaced by a transparent dirt collector, arranged as a trap or pocket. Most of these traps are electric, function similarly to a vacuum cleaner, and have no water drain. Here, water is sucked in, dirt settles in the trap, and the cleaning liquid is returned to the aquarium.

These electric devices are suitable for cleaning ponds where the ground quickly silt up, but where frequent water changes are not desirable.

The convenience of electric siphons is that you do not need to drain dirty water, filter it and then return it into the aquarium to maintain the required acidity in it.

But electric siphons also have drawbacks:

  • The batteries tend to run out, and this can happen at the most inopportune moment when you don’t have all the bottom treated yet, so you should always have spare ones on hand;
  • They can only be used in bodies of water with a water column height of no more than 50 cm, otherwise, water can get into the battery compartment.

Criteria for choosing the right siphon

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Choose a siphon with a high funnel (at least 20 cm), which will avoid being sucked in by stones. The principle of the device is similar to a mixer: stones are lifted and mixed, but 15 cm – their upper limit and they sink to the bottom of the aquarium again.

Examine the edges of the funnel – it is best that they were streamlined, then you can easily immerse it in the ground and not damage the root system of plants. Give preference to an oval shape funnel, then you can easily get to the hardest-to-reach places (corners of the aquarium, areas between large stones, ceramics, snags, decorations, etc.).

Take note! If your aquarium is fully planted with plants, siphon the bottom can not! Firstly, the silt that accumulates in the soil is a breeding ground for aquarium flora, and secondly, you are likely to cause damage to leaves and plant roots.

Is it possible to make a ground siphon with my own hands?

Source: aquariume.com

You can make an aquarium siphon yourself. The main advantage of this method is saving money.

To make a siphon, you will need:

  • An empty plastic bottle with a lid;
  • A hose (the length of the hose will depend on the volume of the aquarium);
  • Knife;
  • Silicone (if sealing is required).

First, you need to cut the bottle in half, the funnel will serve as the neck of the bottle. Then you need to make a hole in the plastic bottle cap, which should coincide with the hole of the hose. The hose should be inserted from the inside.

No more than two centimeters of the total length of the hose should be left in the middle of the funnel, and the remaining length of the hose should be on the outside. If you can’t make a suitable hole, you can use silicone to seal it. The sealant is necessary to avoid water leakage. When the silicone dries, you can start using the trap.

Care and Storage

Source: itsafishthing.com

The care of the siphon is quite simple. After use, it should be disassembled and gently rinsed in running water. You can use a soapy solution and then rinse thoroughly with clean water. Rinse is mandatory, as soap can harm the inhabitants of the aquarium. Keep the hose must be necessarily coiled to avoid breakage and cracking.

Important! Electronic siphons do not require special conditions of storage and operation but do not forget about the possibility of water in the socket, which can lead to a short circuit.

How often should I siphon?

  • In an aquarium without vegetation, populated by large fish, siphoning should be carried out regularly (at least once every 7 days).
  • Aquariums with fry require siphoning almost daily. This is because the fry is kept dense, feeding is carried out frequently, and biofiltration in these tanks is not fully established. Pebbles for such structures can not be used, so the remains of food and feces are removed directly from the bottom.
  • With a large number of plants, especially with a root type of food, cleaning is carried out much more rarely and accurately.
  • In other cases, it is recommended to approach the cleaning process individually, as contamination. An experienced aquarist can tell by eye when to clean, while a beginner will be helped by a simple test.

Tips and facts

Source: itsafishthing.com

  • To siphon less often, try not to overfeed the fish and give them as much food as they can eat at one time. Settled food particles quickly lead to souring of the bottom.
  • Many aquarists prefer sand to gravel. It is best not to do so. With each cleaning, a small amount of sand will dwindle, but the stones are not in danger, and the siphoning process is much easier in this case.
  • Take care of the aquarium properly and on time, because cleanliness – is the key to the aesthetic beauty and health of aquatic inhabitants!


You can find many different siphons in stores with different designs, with their advantages and disadvantages. Before giving preference to one or another option, you should not forget to consider the quality of the cleaner and the needs of the aquarium inhabitants.