Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How-To Start Your Gravel Vacuum Siphon

Updated with another YouTube link and commentary, on 2009-0829.

There is no reason to suck on the tube to start a gravel siphon.

Here is a YouTube video showing one way to start the siphon going without having to suck on the hose. Here's another YouTube showing a gravel vacuum in action. Here's a YouTube showing the way I start my gravel vacuum, which I describe after this link.... but I don't put the hose around my neck like the lady in this video does. I'm not sure why she's doing that anyhow. LOL

Another way to start the gravel vacuum, as shown in the third link above, which is less disruptive than pumping the vacuum tube up and down like in the first link, is to first set up your bucket.

Put your finger over the drain (small) end of the siphon hose.

Then dip the large end of the siphon (vacuum tube end) into the tank and turn it upside down so it fills up with water.

Then lift it out of the tank and slowly let the water drain down into the siphon tube until it reaches your finger.

Then put your finger on the end again so the tubing stays full of water.

Then while keeping the big end (vacuum tube) open side up, again sink it back into the tank so it fills up again (so no air is in the big end or the tubing).

Turn the big end over to get ready to start vacuuming and put the small end in the bucket and release your finger.

Voila! The siphon effect should be started.

Of course always rinse your hands and arms under hot running tap water to remove as much skin oil, etc. from your hands/arms before putting them in your tank.

If you have a long siphon hose, like some folks use to water their gardens at the same time as doing a PWC, this isn't practical and the simplest thing might just be to suck on the end but you should only have to suck a little to get the water up over the top of your tank and down to floor level in the house. It's best to use clear tubing for this purpose so you can see the water. After that, it should continue the siphoning until it reaches the end of the hose and flows out your back door.

Even if I was going to use the long siphon hose process, I would still use the method I described above, since I've read stories of people being 25' or 50' away from their tank when they started the siphon going with the sucking method and by the time they got back to their tank, one of their prized fish had swum up the siphon tube and got caught on the small opening of the tubing. A recent post in a goldfish forum had this accident happen to their small black moore and both eyes got sucked out and the fish didn't make it.

Of course, all of this is moot for me since I use a Python Water Change & Fill System which is worth its weight in gold as far as I'm concerned. I can do PWC's on all of my tanks in a 1/2 hour without making a mess or carrying a bucket.

Here is a recent question and my reply from a forum:

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Chris
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 9:33 PM
Subject: [AquaticLife] Lenny, Your Blog

Don't you have a primer on gravel cleaning? I know you've typed that one should only do 50% per pwc. Could you post the link for me? I cannot find it.

My Reply:

My standard recommendation is 25% PWC's so that one is not changing the water chemistry parameters too much, too fast.

If the tank is especially dirty, then a series of 25% PWC's, one every couple of hours, should be done. For properly stocked tanks, a weekly 25% PWC should be sufficient. For overstocked tanks, 2 or 3 PWC's a week might be needed... daily in some cases.

As far as vacuuming the gravel, I do have a blog article on "How-To Start Your Gravel Siphon" but as far as cleaning the gravel, it's just a matter of siphoning a small section at a time until the water being sucked up through the siphon tube is flowing clear, then move to another section. If you can't clean all of the gravel during one 25% PWC, wait an hour or so (or the next day) and do a 2nd and/or 3rd 25% PWC until the gravel is mostly coming up clean.

For folks with bigger tanks or multiple tanks, I strongly suggest a Python Gravel Vacuum And Water Change System or one of the other brands who have copied the Python. I think Lee makes one now and there's another brand I've seen and those two have lower prices than the Python.

Another option is a canister filter system like the Marineland HOT Magnum 350 Pro series that has an integrated gravel vacuum tube system so the canister filter provides the suction to suck up the detritus out of the gravel but then the water is returned to the tank so you would still have to do a separate 25% PWC using a regular siphon or pump... or modify that Magnum system to also have a valve that would send the water to a long drain hose instead of back into the tank... but even then, you would have to refill the tank.

The Python or a copy-cat brand is the simplest overall system since it does the gravel vacuuming, water change and then refill all from the same connection.

Maybe, I'll add this reply and more to my existing blog article on the gravel siphon.

Lenny Vasbinder
Fish Blog - (Links to articles referenced above listed on the right side under Archives - Year, Month and under Labels)

1 comment:

  1. Lenny,

    Thanks for providing this type of information. You have worked very hard to put this together and it is apprciated. I really am a child when it comes to dealing with aquariums, I had no idea what all it entailed. But I do look forward to learning and ejoying the outcome. Thank you for your help. Kevin


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