One of the first and most maddening things fish owners learn when they start keeping fish is that the list of ways in which their fishy friends can perish is staggeringly long. For creatures which make up so much of the world’s biological population, it’s truly remarkable just how many ways things can go wrong for fish, even those kept in an aquarium.
Indeed, the fish you keep in your aquarium might sometimes be even more susceptible to certain kinds of problems because of their sheltered environment. Where fish in the wild build up immunities and protections to certain rougher conditions, that isn’t the case with aquarium fish, who need to be kept in very precise conditions, lest they perish.
So can unwashed gravel kill fish? The truth is, even something as simple as unwashed gravel can prove deadly. That’s because aquarium fish have very delicate systems, especially compared to their counterparts in the wild, and so ingesting anything strange could be a recipe for disaster.
That’s especially true when you consider all the bacteria and microorganisms that might be living on these unwashed gravel pieces, let alone any inorganic contaminants. Even if they don’t ingest anything, simply being in the same water as these unwashed gravel pieces can leave your fish with polluted water, which can also leave them vulnerable to the Fish Grim Reaper.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that cleaning gravel for your fish aquarium can be quick and easy.
For the most basic gravel cleaning job, all you need is a large bucket and an aquarium fish sieve or something similar. Place the sieve over the bucket, and fill it about halfway with gravel. Once you’ve done that, start pouring water over the gravel into the sieve so that it filters through to the bucket.
This process will effectively ‘strain‘ your gravel, washing away pollutants and some microorganisms. Once you’ve done this, the gravel should be clean enough to place in the tank.
Fish Tanks that Need Little or No Management
Additional Cleaning Methods
While the above-mentioned cleaning method should be fine for the vast majority of your gravel, there are still some instances where it may be lacking.
Store-bought gravel with artificial ingredients is one such case. Ironically enough, these gravel packets are produced in part with the intention of giving fish owners clean gravel for worry-free use in their tanks. Unfortunately, too many fish owners think that just because the gravel is coming out of a container rather than out of the ground means it’s completely clean.
There may be chemicals relating to the process of packaging the gravel which remain stuck to it, even if it’s too small to detect.
What’s more, sometimes store-bought gravel will come pre-dyed. When this is the case, those very dyes can, if not washed properly, lead to the same chemical contamination situation you’re looking to avoid.
What’s more, even after you have introduced your washed gravel into the tank, you still aren’t done. Fish produce waste, after all, and that waste will filter down and stick amongst the gravel at the bottom of your tank.
Not only will this make your tank unsanitary, but unattended, it can make for a nasty odour. You thus want to regularly extract and rewash gravel every few weeks as part of your tank maintenance routine.
For particularly large tanks, you’ll want to consider purchasing a special hose and other gravel and tank cleaning apparatus.
Given the danger involved with unwashed gravel and how fast it is to clean, there’s no need to use it in your tanks. Simply following these basic cleaning methods can give your fish safe and clean gravel in no time.