white fish tank gravel

How Often Should You Clean White Aquarium Gravel?

6 min read

There’s nothing like sparkling white fish tank gravel to brighten up your aquarium space, but as with anything, maintenance is an issue you have to consider: just how often should you clean white aquarium gravel?

You may already have white gravel in your fish tank or you may be looking to buy it. Either way, you should know about the maintenance involved.

Almost every aspect of your aquarium needs maintenance, but did you know that the color of the substrate you choose can affect the amount of maintenance needed?

Read on to find out why it is a good idea to fill your aquarium with white gravel, the downsides to it, and how often you should clean it.

Let’s get started!

Why Use White Fish Tank Gravel?

white fish tank gravel

The substrate you choose provides a backdrop for your whole aquarium. So it is important to select a color that allows your fish and the various decorations to stand out.

White is such a neutral color that it allows your fish and aquatic plants to get center stage.

Moreover, white substrate can also increase the brightness in your tank by reflecting light back into the tank. Usually, your aquarium lamp illuminates from above, but in a white gravel fish tank, the reflected light will illuminate your fish from below.

The end result is a complete all-around illumination of all the inhabitants of your aquarium. It would almost give out a certain heavenly vibe.

Lastly, it can simply be a matter of preference – some people like the color white (don’t ask for examples though, as I don’t know anyone).

The Downsides to White Aquarium Gravel

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine with white gravel stones, however. There are certain drawbacks to it.

First, the high brightness can make your fish uncomfortable. When nervous, fish like to hide in dark secluded spots – that may not be possible if you brighten up every corner of your tank. As you may know, certain fish breeds are more nervous than others.

Second, your pet fish inevitably poops after eating, all of which will collect on the substrate. With a white substrate, the fish feces will be highly visible to observers. It is not a pretty sight, to say the least.

Lastly, white gravel appears to get dirty faster than other darker colors. I say appears because it doesn’t actually get dirty faster, but rather whatever dirt it collects is highly visible compared to other gravel colors. It is similar to how white clothes seem to get dirty faster compared to darker ones. 

Dirt, algae, and certain aquarium microbes will do a number on your gravel. Very soon, your beautiful white gravel will turn into a dull off-white or brown color – definitely not what you intended when you selected white as your substrate color.

That brings us to the topic of this article, which will be discussed next. 

white gravel

How Often Should You Clean White Aquarium Gravel?

There’s no exact science on how often you should clean your white gravel. What we know so far is that white gravel is more demanding in terms of maintenance compared to other gravels, so it needs to be cleaned more often.

Therefore, let’s start off by looking at how often you should clean ‘normal’ aquarium gravel. Here again, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, because there are a lot of factors involved.

First is the size of your tank – larger tanks can go longer without cleaning. Then there’s the bioload in your tank, which is a fancy word for every organism in your tank that can produce waste. If you have a high bioload your tank is going to get dirty faster. It is recommended to have one fish per gallon of water.

You should also take into account how big and powerful your filter is. A good filter can remove waste efficiently. Also, the use of additional components, such as protein skimmers, can reduce the amount of waste in your fish tank.

So all in all, you should normally clean your aquarium gravel 1-2 times per month, depending on the factors mentioned above.

So how does that equation translate to white gravel?

Well, you should aim to clean your white fish tank gravel once per week. That may seem demanding, but such is the maintenance required when you choose white as your substrate color.

How to Clean White Gravel in Fish Tank?

You can follow the two-step process outlined below to keep your white aquarium gravel clean.

Step 1: Use a Gravel Vacuum

Aquarium Filter

A gravel vacuum is a handy tool for aquarium owners – most consider it a must-have piece of equipment. It can be used to siphon all kinds of waste from your gravel, ranging from uneaten fish food to fish feces and other debris.

It is very easy to do this; just move the siphon part of the gravel vacuum over the whole area of your tank’s bottom. You may not be able to reach the parts under aquarium plants and decorations, but it’s all right – these parts are already hidden from view, so you don’t have to clean them that thoroughly.

Normally, most aquarium owners would finish off with a water change. However, since you have used white gravel, you should follow the extra step described below.

Step 2: Scrub the White Gravel Stones

The gravel needs a good scrubbing to regain its original whiteness. It may sound like a lot of work, but luckily, you just have to scrub the stones that are in view. That means scrubbing the topmost layer and also the stones that are pressed against the sides of the tank. If one side is hidden from view, such as when the tank is against the wall, you can skip that side.

Before you do this, it is a good idea to remove the fish into a temporary aquarium or container, as the water will get cloudy when the substrate is disturbed. Draining the tank is also a good option as it makes it easy to remove/replace the gravel.

You should scoop the gravel using your hand (or a tool if you can’t reach it) and put it into a bucket. Fill the bucket with water, grab the gravel in your hand and start scrubbing – you can use a brush or any other abrasive tool.

Whatever you do, do not use soap or any other cleaning agent; they are toxic to your fish. 

After that, you can rinse the gravel. You can use a steel strainer (colander) for rinsing. If it is not available you can simply rinse the gravel using your hand or just shake the contents of the bucket and drain the water (do this a few times).

Finally, you can put the sparkling white gravel stones back, spreading them as evenly as possible. Add the water and then the fish and you’re done.

Some Final Thoughts…

I hope that answers how often you should clean white aquarium gravel. White gravel may be demanding in terms of maintenance, but you will be rewarded with a nice and bright backdrop for your aquarium.

Feel like it is too much work? Why not explore black aquarium gravel, which is just as appealing? Or how about other earthly tones that do a better job disguising dirt?

Remember, a clean tank is a healthy tank. Learn how to keep white aquarium gravel clean and everything will run smoothly. Thanks for reading!



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Pet Aquariums

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