At the pet store every now and then, I see a staff person vacuuming out the gravel in the display tanks. It’ s so efficient to just get under the rocks and siphon out all of the gunk that settles in there. But I’ve got a little fish bowl, well, really and indoor pond since I don’t have fish, just live (and plastic) plants and some aquatic snails. One of those big fish tank vacuums would be overkill. And, yes, I can drain out all 2 gallons of water and wash out the gravel, but the plants really don’t like having their roots disturbed very often. You can’t leave the scum in there because it will rot and take all the oxygen from the water. That’s what killed my shrimp.
One day it hit me: a turkey baster. Yup. Simple, cheap, effective.
How it works: squeeze the air out of the blub before you put it in the water. Bubbles disturb things too much. Then gently nestle the end of the baster down into the rocks, particularly around the live plants where the majority of the debris collects. Ease pressure off of the bulb and watch the brown water slide up into the baster. Just squirt the water down the drain and you’re well on your way to a cleaner tank. Sometimes small rocks or snails end up in the baster. When that happens, I empty the baster into a cup to keep the rocks or snails from going down the drain. Then I return them to the bowl.
Which baster should you use? Get one that the bulb fits on the end of the tube nice and tight. Mine comes off frequently and it makes the job much harder. Also, a plastic tube is a good idea since you’re jamming the end into gravel.
The turkey baster cleaning method isn’t something that you can use all the time. Occasionally, you’re going to have to do a full cleaning including removing and cleaning the rocks. Plants, get over it!.