Here is a simple way to make an inexpensive DIY (do it yourself) under gravel filter. The instructions are extremely simple and anyone should be able to follow them and make their own under gravel filter just by looking at the images. You will need all the items show in the image below plus a air pump or ‘bubbler’. Or you could go ahead and use a power-head. The power-head option will give you a more powerful system. If you chose to do so you wont need the Air Pipe or Pump.

Quantity and dimension of all items will depend greatly on your aquarium size/dimensions including depth/width and layout you choose.

For the design show above you will require some PVC Pipe, lets say that can run 4 times the length of your aquarium (half inch should be fine), 3 PVC ‘T’ joints, 4 PVC Elbow joints and Air Pipe that can run the length from under the gravel to your Air Pump (remember to always place your Air Pump above your aquariums water level). Then again this is just one design and you could modify it to your liking, the concept and working would remain the same i.e. air is forced up one pipe (above gravel) which creates downward pressure/force in the rest of the under gravel piping, these pipes have cuts in them, thereby forcing suspended particles in the water to be sucked down and trapped in the gravel.

So let us begin. Cut some PVC Pipe into 2 pieces  a little under the length on your aquarium (so you have a little wiggle room, half an inch should do) and 1 a little less so you can attach a PVC ‘T’ joint to it whilst keeping it the same length as the other 2 pieces, then cut this piece into 2 one third down. Cut 4 pieces under 2 inches short from a quarter of the depth/width of your aquarium. (All 5,2+1+4, of these pieces will have cuts inserted on them as mentioned further on).

Cut one last piece to the length of half the height of your aquarium. Its best to keep the height  well enough under the water in case you want to add on a power-head in the future. (This piece will NOT have cuts inserted on it as mentioned below). If you have decided to use a power-head you should skip this step. On the other hand if you will indeed be using a n Air Pump, insert or poke a hole at about one forth  the length of the piece. Here you will insert one side of the Air Pipe. Don’t make it too big as the Air Pipe may slide out, it should snugly fit in. You can insert the hole at a lower point but you must ensure that it does not get covered when you attach a PVC ‘T’ joint to it.

Next up, insert cuts into the PVC Pipe as show above. There is no need to insert any cuts in the piece that will point upwards (the one that is half the height of the aquarium). Don’t make them too deep or wide as the air will not be able to flow throughout the Pipes you will lay out under the gravel which will in turn result in only half or a certain section of the tank  getting cleaned and also half or the gravel in that particular section will look dirtier than the rest of the tank (especially if it is white gravel) . You can use a paper cutter or small saw.

The rest as they say is history…….no no I’m just kidding, its mostly like a puzzle now. Just attach the pieces together. Take the 2 pieces which run almost the length of your aquarium and attach the PVC Elbow joints to them. Next,take the 4 pieces that measure under a quarter of the depth/width of the aquarium and attach them to the other ends of the PVC Elbow joints. Now you should have 2 pieces shaped like this: ‘ [ ‘. Follow this up by connecting the 2 pieces together with 2 of the PVC ‘T’ joints. Then attach the remaining 2 pieces that have cuts in them to the only remaining open slots left on the PVC ‘T’ joints. Finish off the under gravel section by completing the connection between the last two pieces you just attached with the remaining PVC ‘T’ joint.

Lastly attach the last PVC Pipe piece (the one without the cuts) to the PVC ‘T’ joint sticking upwards and attach the Air Pipe in the hole. Take the other end of the Air Pipe and plug it in to your Air Pump. If you decided on using a power-head, attach that to to top up the PVC Pipe sticking upwards.

Now you can place your very own under gravel filter in your aquarium and cover it with gravel. I hope you find this post most useful. Please sign up to show your support for the site and to stay posted on more great information.

12 Comments for this entry

  • BHASKAR says:

    Its been great to see this post.plesae keep me in loop with any other details for aquariums.

    thanks n regards,

    • admin says:

      Hey there,

      Glad you liked and found the post useful. We’ll be sure to add more useful topics.


      Imran (Admin)

  • Tils says:

    Great information. It saved me a whole lot financially…thanks.

  • eat lionfish says:

    It’s an amazing article in favor of all the internet visitors; they will obtain advantage from it I am sure.

  • Ahmed Fraz Mamoon says:

    I didn’t understand one thing. From where the water will be sucked. And if the gravel will come around the PVC pipes or there would be a sheet which will keep the gravel above the PVC pipes.

    May be this is a childish question but I am Only a newbie to the world of Aquariums.

    • admin says:

      Hi Fraz,

      Thanks for visiting our site. The gravel wont be able to enter the PVC pipes because the cuts on them will be very thin/narrow as compared to the gravel itself. These will only allow water to flow through causing the particles in the water above to settle in the gravel.

      Welcome to the fantastic world of aquariums/fish and good luck with this hobby.

      PS. No question is childish, this is how we learn and share our passion.

      All the best,

      Imran (Admin)

  • Fraz says:

    Hi Imran,

    But how the water will be sucked from the gravel filter and then how that water will be cleaned ?



    • admin says:

      Hey Fraz,

      Basically the job of the Under Gravel Filter is to suck most if not all the particles floating in the water and trap them in the gravel. This way the water stays clear. However it is important to note that obviously the gravel will get dirty over time and require cleaning. To do that you can use a “Gravel Cleaner” () – I’ll post how to make one yourself at home soon.

      By the way dont forget to sign up on this site and share your tank pictures.

      Good Luck

      Imran (Admin)

  • Chris says:

    Thanks a bunch! I recently acquired a large odd sized tank and have not had any luck finding a filter that will do the job….This gives me a place to start and some ideas that will work great! Glad I found your page!

    • admin says:

      Hi Chris,

      Glad you found the post useful and thanks for stopping by.

      May you tank water stay ever crystal clear :)

      Imran (Admin)

  • Asad says:

    I want to see the live pictures of PVC undergravel Filter system. Can you show me please?

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