- Freshwater and Planted Tanks
- Marine and Reef Aquariums
- Best Aquarium Sand Worth Buying
- 1. Natural’s Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand
- 2. Eco-Complete African Cichlid Sand
- 3. Imagitarium Black Sand
- 4. Flourite Red Sand
- 5. CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight Sand
- 6. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand
- 7. FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz Silica Sand
- 8. Pure Water Pepples Aquarium Sand
- 9. Activ-Flora Planted Aquarium Substrate
- 10. Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium San
- Our Suggested Picks for Best Aquarium Sand Options
- Natural’s Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand
- Eco-Complete African Cichlid Sand
- Imagitarium Black Sand
- Flourite Red Sand
- CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight Sand
- CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand
- FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz Silica Sand
- Pure Water Pepples Aquarium Sand
- Activ-Flora Planted Aquarium Substrate
- Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium San
The right aquarium sand brings an aesthetic appeal to your tank, as well as builds a conducive environment for your critters to thrive in and enhance bacteria growth.
High-quality aquarium sand will help keep your fish happy and comfortable since most species of fish come from sandy habitats.
Different from aquarium gravel, sand makes it easier to clean your tank as they don’t accumulate dirt. Besides, sand allows your fish to absorb food better and works as a biological filtration system to keep the tank clean and habitable.
However, it’s quite challenging to pick the right sand. In this post, we’re introducing you to some of the most used aquarium sand available on the market, which helps you come up with the right buying decision.
Freshwater and Planted Tanks
Most freshwater aquarists love the look of a small-sized substrate. Tropical streams, lakes, and rivers often have a sandy bottom containing find sand. The majority of tropical fish love to rest on the smooth sand. A few species will get mouthfuls of sand, sifting it for food.
Others want to dig up a “nest” for egg-laying. If you want your aquarium to look more natural, sand is the option to choose. Live plants might seem to do best with a sand-like substrate.
The fine grains will surround the roots and fix the plants. The tightly packed grains don’t enable much water to run through the substrate. This is great when including solid fertilizers around plant roots. The nutrients will likely stay in the sand bed and not dissolve into the tank water and promote algae growth.
Live plants also grow in low-oxygen conditions on a sandy substrate. In those conditions, plant nutrients, especially trace elements, are converted into a form that plants can absorb through the roots.
Some sands are pH-neutral, leaving no effect on water chemistry. Specialty sand will increase the pH and are the best fit for African cichlid tanks.
- Sands appear more natural, compared to larger pebbles.
- Aquatic plants grow in a small-sized substrate.
- A lot of fish love to sift the sand or spawn in it.
- Available in Earth-tone colors
- Some are designed exclusively for high-pH tanks.
Marine and Reef Aquariums
Marine sand is common in fish-only and reef tanks. The white crushed coral sand looks brilliant and contrasts with multicolored reef fish.
Synthetic (resin) corals and other decorations will become outstanding on the white sand.
Reef aquarists add a layer of sand to keep a small area of low-oxygen for natural denitrification. This sand layer holds undisturbed to generate a slightly anaerobic zone proper for the bacteria that eliminate nitrate.
Natural coral rubble is crushed and sifted to create marine sand. Several saltwater fish, such as blennies, prefer burrowing in marine sand. Shrimp tend to move the grains around to build a cave to hide in.
- Looks natural, like a reef environment
- Burrowing fish and inverts will love the fine particles.
- Generates a stable base for live rock
- Can be used with the Live Sand technique
Best Aquarium Sand Worth Buying
This is 100% natural aragonite, collected from the seafloor.
Aragonite is calcium carbonate (CaCO3). It is comparatively inert under marine tank conditions. The crystal structure holds the carbonate and calcium locked and insoluble unless exposed to a very low pH or strong acids.
Despite being endorsed for pH control for saltwater and reef tanks, aragonite brings no pH buffering capacity for marine aquariums, under normal conditions.
It is a great substrate for marine tanks and offers something for jawfish, wrasses, and gobies to sift through.
Deep aragonite beds lead to limited water flow and allow for a denitrifying biological filter. This “live sand” type of biological filter is a widely-used reef tank technique.
The Natural’s aragonite sand cannot be used in calcium reactors as it will pack tightly. Meanwhile, you can use this aquarium sand in freshwater for raising African cichlids. If the tank contains enough carbon dioxide in the water, some of the aragonite will dissolve, escalating the water’s hardness and alkalinity.
You will want to keep track of pH, water hardness, and alkalinity to ensure the water chemistry is proper for you.
Digging cichlids will love moving this sand around the tank. Remember that this is not true fine sand. The texture is slightly more coarse, compared to beach sand. The grain size is 1.2 to 1.7 mm.
The Eco-Complete aquarium sand is created to keep a high pH for African Cichlids aquariums. Rift Lake cichlids inhabit an environment high in magnesium carbonate and calcium and have a higher pH. The manufacturer makes it easier to rebuild the African Rift Lake environment.
The porous surface of the substrate will benefit bacteria to colonization. In fact, Eco-Complete is pre-activated with beneficial bacteria that maintain the water clean and clear of detrimental ammonia and nitrite.
The African Cichlid Sand includes life, water-purifying bacteria that make cycling a new tank more effectively.
No rinsing is needed as the Eco-Complete sand is wrapped in a water conditioning solution and is ready to use.
Imagitarium is manufactured by the Petco house brand. First and foremost, you might think this black substrate is used for freshwater tanks. You would be right, according to the discus on the bag.
However, this is sand, not gravel. The tiny grains are suitable for planted tanks where plant roots require a secure “soil” to grow in.
The sand will keep fertilizer tablets close to the roots and bog down the release of nutrients into the water.
The Imagitarium black sand is perfect for freshwater shrimp aquariums. The sand is fine and easily sifted by Amano, some clawed shrimp, and cherry. Fan shrimp will have no issue walking around on a bed of sand.
It’s possible for soft-bellied tropicals like Corys and loaches to rest on the sand without hurting their skin.
There have been no reports of the sand changing alkalinity, water hardness, or pH. This is an advantage, ensuring the sand is inert and won’t alter the parameters in your tank.
You can use this aquarium sand with African cichlids but it won’t increase or buffer the pH. You will need to use a cichlid buffer to increase the pH for Africans.
If you love the look of black sand in a reef tank, you will face no problems with this substrate. The only complaint about it is from beginner sand users. The sand requires to be rinsed and then enabled to get completely wet in the tank. Small sand-coated air bubbles may appear until the sand is totally wetted. This is normal and will disappear in a day or so.
This is reddish sand created from fired clay. The sand gets its brick-red color thanks to the iron within the clay structure. This substrate has the look of soil.
If you don’t like the single color, you can mix Flourite with another sand for added contrast.
Flourite is widely-used in planted tanks but can be used in any freshwater aquarium. The tiny grain is slightly bigger than typical sand. it will keep live and plastic plants securely in the substrate. Live aquatic plants can get some trace elements from the substrate too.
Flourite will not discharge nutrients into the water and won’t promote algae growth. You should not disturb sand substrate and live plants with heavy siphoning.
The CaribSea Moonlight sand helps decorate your fish tank and its natural color brings a good match for your colorful finned friends.
This aquarium sand is made for any aquarium. No dyes or paints are used to create the color of the sand. Besides, this sand substrate is pH-neutral, so it will not change the water chemistry.
The material is extremely lightweight, so it may move around easily by currents generated from your filters. In addition, the tiny particle size and lightweight allow the sand to suspend itself in the water column for a longer period of time.
One thing to note is that there is an oily residue. You have to rinse it away before using the sand in your tank.
This is another aquarium sand from the Carib Sea. The sand is filled with millions of autotrophic, chemolithotrophic, and heterotrophic bacteria, which are essential for the health of your aquarium.
These bacteria will benefit the process of waste cutback and also enhance the cycling time for new setups. Therefore, you just perform less maintenance to keep the water clear and clean.
The CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand is great in suppressing the new aquarium syndrome, as it will aid in mimicking the natural home for the fish. In addition, it can work as an ammonia reducer and nitrate filter, maintaining the level of pollutants low in the tank.
What’s more, the sand can act as a high-capacity biological filter for your fish tank, leaving you with better clarity of the tank water. Plus, it helps keep the proper pH of the tank water, so you don’t need to add more chemicals to moderate the pH level.
The Fairmount Santrol aquarium sand is a perfect option to keep your swimming pool or aquarium clear and clean.
The sand will not stain anything that sits on it. It will sort out dust, algae, oil, leaves, insects, and even suntan lotion.
It’s crucial to find products that are odorless and inert. This aquarium sand will not alter the pH balance of the water or add anything unnecessary to it. Importantly, the silica sand is 100% natural and includes no chemicals.
Initially, the sand looks brown instead of white. You can rinse it thoroughly to remove the color. Combined with a lighting system, the sand can brighten up your aquarium greatly.
This stunning white sand looks amazing and includes plenty of beneficial Heterotropic, Chemolithotrophic, and Autotrophic bacteria.
Your aquarium’s biological filtration will get a considerable improvement as the sand will increase the surface area for bacteria to colonize. The live organisms work fast to eliminate nitrogenous waste and maintain your aquarium’s pH level.
Provided in a 20-pound bag, the item can be used in freshwater tanks – as the name indicates, it’s made to simulate the environment of the African Cichlid, a colorful freshwater fish species that are familiar to many aquarists.
This is live and that settles rapidly with minimal clouding, leading to an aquarium that’s clear within several minutes. Though it’s not pure white, it is still one of the whitest sands available on the market. Beyond that, this aquarium sand does a good job of buffering pH and mitigating detrimental toxins.
Gravel-style substrates, such as the Activ-Flora Planted Aquarium Substrate, are far more porous than normal old sand, making them perfect for planted aquariums where aquatic flora require to take root.
The product brings all the benefits of live sand, with tons of Heterotrophic bacteria for fast cycling without altering your aquarium’s pH.
Besides, the iron-rich composition shows that you won’t have to add additional substrates, like laterite, and it’s clear of chemical additives and artificial dyes. In addition, this aquarium sand is packed with dozens of micronutrients, including magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, which are eventually released to maintain plants growth.
According to customers’ feedback, the sand has a natural look and they quickly found a difference in their planted aquarium. Even though it might cloud your water at first, it should clear up some days later. Just remember that the substrate is aimed for freshwater planted aquariums, not reef tanks with corals.
Even though many aquarium sand types are created specifically for use in either freshwater or saltwater aquariums, there are some options that can be used for various purposes. One of them is the Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand. This is a natural substrate coated in colorfast acrylic that prevents it from negatively affecting water chemistry.
You can use this aquarium sand in your tank and pond to make the floor bottom look stunning. It offers living space for beneficial microbes and anchoring for your plants. Additionally, the sand also aids in the filtering process of the water tank by extending the surface area available for nitrifying bacteria to colonize.
Our Suggested Picks for Best Aquarium Sand Options
Natural’s Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand
|$$||Natural’s Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand|
Eco-Complete African Cichlid Sand
|$$||Buy on Amazon!|
Imagitarium Black Sand
|$$||Buy on Amazon!|
Flourite Red Sand
|$||Buy on Amazon!|
CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight Sand
|$$||Buy on Amazon!|
CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand
|$||Buy on Amazon!|
FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz Silica Sand
|$$||Buy on Amazon!|
Pure Water Pepples Aquarium Sand
|$$||Buy on Amazon!|
Activ-Flora Planted Aquarium Substrate
|$$||Buy on Amazon!|
Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium San
|$$||Buy on Amazon!|
For anyone who plans to build a saltwater tank, there’s no greater option than the Nature’s Ocean Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Aquarium Sand. It’s a thorough solution to construct an aquatic habitat for saltwater fish. This aquarium sand doesn’t require any additional setup or preparation before bringing your fish to the tank.
Meanwhile, a cost-effective alternative for those who love building a freshwater tank is the Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand. You just need to spend a little extra work on rinsing or preparing before using.