The Best Aquarium Sand

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington

What are you decorating the bottom of your tank with? We’ve got some ideas – here’s the best aquarium sand on the market.

Half the fun of having a home aquarium is getting to decorate it. The options are endless when it comes to substrates, decorations, and tank inhabitants – the only limits those of your own creativity. Though you could easily create a bright and whimsical tank theme, there’s something to be said for a natural décor scheme. A thriving underwater environment lush with plant life that looks like something you’d find in the wild brings the beauty of nature into your home and it all starts with the right substrate.

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of substrate in an aquarium and why sand can be a good choice. You’ll also see our top picks for the best aquarium sand to consider for your tank.

The Best Sand for Aquariums

When using sand as the substrate in your tank, it’s best to measure how much you’ll need by weight rather than volume. You’ll need about one pound per gallon of water or you can simply fill the tank to the desired depth. Rinse your sand well before adding it to your tank and give your tank a few days to settle after filling it before you add your fish. A power filter will help with this.

Here are our top picks for the best aquarium sand:

1. CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

This natural aquarium sand is the ideal solution for freshwater tanks. It is pH neutral, guaranteed not to alter your water chemistry, and it has a unique particle size that resists the collection of detritus and waste.

2. Stony River White Aquatic Sand

Give your aquarium a clean, bright look with this premium aquarium sand in white. This fine-grained sand is safe for use in freshwater aquariums because it has a non-toxic coating and it won’t affect your tank’s pH.

4. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand

Designed specifically for marine aquariums, this aragonite sand contains millions of beneficial bacteria to enhance the biological filtration in your tank. This sand will help you recreate a natural marine environment and is safe to use right from the bag.

5. CaribSea Super Naturals Peace River Sand

If you want a unique look for your aquarium, this river sand might be a good option. It is completely natural and ideal for freshwater tanks. This sand has a larger grain size designed to reduce the buildup of detritus and a variegated color.

6. CaribSea Eco-Complete African Cichlid Sand

Your colorful aquarium fish will stand out against a dark background with this black aquarium sand. This sand is mineralogical and biologically complete, designed specifically to maintain the high pH required by African cichlids.

7. Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand

Do something different in your tank with this fine-grained black aquarium sand. It has a unique look and a fine texture that helps reduce the accumulation of detritus, supporting the growth of healthy bacteria.

8. CaribSea Ocean Direct Caribbean Live Sand

This live sand is different from other options on the market because it utilizes patented sea breathe technology to preserve real, live sand with its original bacteria. Each bag contains up to 1,000 more beneficial bacteria than other methods.

9. Seachem Fluorite Black Sand

Completely natural and with a moderate pH, Landen Namaule Sand is ideal for general tank use as well as make-up sand for aquatic plants. The neutral and versatile color of the sand makes it really easy to incorporate into any aquarium, and the fact that it is medium grain ensures that you can easily plant aquatic flora in it. This aquarium sand won’t cloud the water in the tank and gives it a natural look, so if you are keen on incorporating sand into your tank that looks like the “real deal” and blends in beautifully with the decoration, flora, and fauna of your aquarium, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Landen Namaule Sand comes in 4.4 lbs (2 kg) and 11 lbs (5 kg) packages so you can easily fill any tank size without having to worry you’ll run out or get too much sand for your needs, both of which happen often with aquarium sand bought in bulk.

10. Nature’s Ocean Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Sand

Made from 100% natural materials, this aragonite sand is perfect for the marine tank at home. This sand is collected from its natural environment and packaged in its natural state, transferring the benefits of real marine bacteria right into your tank. It immediately removes nitrogenous waste with instant cycling guaranteed.

11. Worldwide Imports Aqua Terra Sand

If you don’t need anything flashy, this natural coated sand is a great option and highly affordable. It comes in a neutral tan color and medium grain, plus it won’t alter the water chemistry in your tank.

The Benefits of Sand in an Aquarium

When you stroll down the aquarium aisle at your local pet store, you’ll see a wide variety of options for aquarium substrate. You may be drawn to the colorful epoxy-coated rocks or glass marbles, but don’t fall for the misconception that simpler options like gravel and sand are outdated. These classic substrates are not only affordable, but they look great and come with some surprising benefits.

Here are some of the benefits of using sand as substrate:

  • Light-colored sand gives your tank a cleaner, brighter appearance – colored rocks can detract from the natural beauty of your fish.
  • Many species of fish prefer sandy substrate and may even require it for healthy digestion – catfish, for example, burrow in it and other bottom feeders filter food from it.
  • Sand is easy to clean and maintain – debris tends to accumulate on the packed surface, making it easier to siphon than gravel.
  • Aquarium sand is more affordable than some types of gravel and it will last the life of your aquarium – it can even be used with other substrates for planted tanks.
  • Certain types of sand can be used to help maintain ideal conditions in your tank – live sand, for example, contains natural bacteria that support gas exchange in saltwater and reef tanks.

When it comes to choosing the substrate for your tank, there are many different options. Sand offers a neutral foundation for a natural décor scheme or you can make it colorful with something more vibrant. If you’re not sure what sand to choose for your aquarium, try one of our recommendations. Be sure to choose an aquarium sand appropriate for your type of tank – saltwater tanks may require different substrate than freshwater tanks.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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