Can you use bleach to clean aquarium gravel?

Last Updated on January 18, 2021 by cmoarz

If you love aquariums, maintenance is an essential aspect of it. And knowing what to do and which materials you need to clean the aquarium is the first step because just changing the water will do you no good. Everything inside the aquarium needs cleaning, and that includes gravel stones as well.

So can you use bleach to clean the gravel? Yes, you absolutely can. It is one of the most recommended materials for aquarium gravel cleaning. It is an excellent material to reduce all the algae and bacterial growth that can affect the fish’s health.

Typically, the aquarium has a filtration machine and a few hoses, some plastic items for decoration, and gravel stones. The aquarium gravel stones are important because they have a lot of benefits for the fish. Typically, it is for decoration purposes, and there are different varieties of gravel stones that you can choose. Gravel stones in the aquarium are also known as substrates.

Gravel stones are known to possess biochemical properties that can filter the water in the tank and nourish the fish with nutrients, and it creates a healthy environment for them to grow. It is not an absolute necessity, but gravel stones are a must if you want your fish to stay healthy.

It is worth mentioning that the choice of gravel stones for your aquarium depends on the type of fish you want to keep. So there are different options for salt water and fresh water fishes. The most common and readily available gravel stones are for freshwater aquarium tanks. The saltwater gravel stones, on the other hand, have fewer options. And the reason is that saltwater marine animals tend to have specific biological needs, and most of them feed off gravel stones. So that is something to check first before you decide to pour any gravel stones in your aquarium tank.  

Is it safe to disinfect aquarium gravel with bleach?

Disinfecting your aquarium with bleach is recommended by many aquarists. However, there are some safety concerns that you should know about bleach first because if you use it in the wrong quantities, it can become hazardous. So first things first, you should know how to use bleach the right way without causing you any harm. Remember that mixing bleach with other materials like soap and other chemicals is not a wise option. So always use bleach with water. And you should mix just 10% of the bleach in water. Once you mix them, it is advisable not to dip and soak gravel stones for more than fifteen minutes. And that includes other materials as well. So if you follow these simple steps, using bleach should not cause any harm.

For cleaning your aquarium, gravel stones, water, and bleach should be in the ratio 9:1. And it is worth mentioning that apart from gravel stones, you can also clean all the other aquarium materials like the glass, the filter hose, the plastic plants, and any other materials used inside the aquarium. You can mix the bleach and water inside the aquarium tank itself or in a bucket. But for gravel stones and other materials, it is best to separate them and soak them in a bucket. You can fill up the tank with the bleach and water mixture for the aquarium glass. Additionally, if the gravel stones are new, you can wash them with hot or warm water before putting them into the tank.

One of the most important things to remember is rinsing off the aquarium and other materials properly after finishing soaking them in the bleach. So clean everything with clean water. And you can soak the materials in water for another 10-15 minutes so that the water absorbs any residual bleach. Once you finish doing that, you can dry everything properly before you put them back again.

Bleach alternatives

Bleach is not the only option if you want to clean your aquarium gravel stones. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can always try other alternatives. For example, you can use vinegar as a substitute for bleach. It is not as hazardous as bleach and easy to use. Moreover, it is a natural product that does not harm your fish or any other materials.

Using vinegar for cleaning your aquarium gravel stones is one of the best and safest ways. But there is another crucial thing to keep in mind when you clean the stones. Old gravel stones are known to have useful bacteria that can help the fish, and cleaning them would mean killing them. So the best way to avoid that is to separate the older gravel stones from the newer stones. And you can wash only the newer gravel stones. Here is a simple guide on cleaning gravel stones with vinegar.

  • Gently remove all the fish and transport them to another tank or bucket with fresh water.
  • Remove all the decorations and the plastic materials, including the filter.
  • You can choose either distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar and then mix it with water in a ratio of 1:1.
  • Soak all the materials and keep them for about 24-48 hours.
  • For aquarium tanks, wipe them gently with the vinegar with a sponge or a piece of cloth, and then rinse them thoroughly.
  • After soaking the stones and other materials, dry them properly before putting them back on the tank.

Aquarium cleaning and maintenance are crucial for keeping all your fish healthy. And gravels stones are an integral part of it. Things like knowing the benefits of having older gravel stones are essential and how long you should soak it in chemicals like bleach. You should also clean the aquarium at least once in two weeks, although it depends on how big the aquarium is and how many fish you have, and the types of fish. So remember all the information and try and use the right quantities of bleach or any other material and follow the proper steps to avoid any problems.  


Owner of and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!