Advanced Guide to Best Aquarium Sand [with Review]

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Having sand in the aquarium totally changes the aesthetics of your aquarium. This is true for all kinds of aquarium – freshwater, saltwater, shrimp, planted, everything!

However, aquarium does more than just enhancing the beauty. It helps the mechanical filtration and sometimes provides essential minerals that boost the health of the fish and the plants.

So, how can you get your hands on the best aquarium sand?

This article will guide you through!

​Name of the Product

​Type

​Aquarium For

Rating

​Price

​Special Sand

​Freshwater And Saltwater (With Some Exceptions) Tank

​Reef Sand

​Saltwater Tank

Carib Sea Arag-Alive 20-Pound Fiji Sand - Best for Coral Growing

​Reef Sand

​Saltwater Tank

​Natural Black Moon Sand

​Freshwater And Saltwater Tank

Flourite Black Sand  Best Substrate for Freshwater Tank

​Natural Black Moon Sand

​Freshwater Planted Tanks

​Special Black Sand

​Freshwater Planted Aquariums

Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates - Best Sand For Saltwater

​Natural Live Sand

​Saltwater Tank

​Natural White Sand

​Freshwater And Saltwater Tank

Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand - Premium Black Option

​Special Black Sand

​Freshwater And Saltwater Tank

U.P. Aqua Shrimp Sand - Best For shrimp Tank

​Special Black Sand

​Shrimp Tank

​White Silica Sand (Pool Sand)

​Freshwater And Saltwater Tank

​Special Black Sand

​Freshwater And Saltwater Tank

Types of Aquarium Sand

Play Sand

Play sand is by far the most common type of sand that ends up in most fishkeepers' tanks.

Why is this type so popular?

There are many reasons, but the most obvious one is – non-toxicity.

The non-toxic sand will make sure that your tank will remain cleaner and the fish and the plants will get a better living condition.

However, there is a “but!”

Sometimes, the play sand might contain clay or clay-like contents. 

If your play sand comes with clay, it will make the water cloudy and eventually pollute the water. So, it’s always better to get the play sand from any reputed source.

Otherwise, your aquarium cleaning sessions will become a nightmare.

Overall, play sand is a basic option that fits the needs of a new fishkeeper, but you might want to choose a different type of sand if you are highly enthusiastic about fishkeeping.

Pool Sand

Pool sand is another common and popular option among the fish keepers. You can identify the pool sand with the bright white shimmering color.

Certainly, pool sand is superior to the play sand.

The individual particles of the pool sand tend to be uniform, creating a superior surface area.

Also, you will not have to worry about the pollutants, such as the clay particles. So, your tank will be cleaner.

But there is a big downside of choosing the typical pool sand.

Pure pool sand will be white that can cause glaring, especially, if you have a powerful lighting system.

Why is it bad?

Your fish will probably be stressed with the “too bright” environment. If you can control the glare, there is nothing to be worried about the pool sand.

Specialty Sand

As you can see, about all the natural types of sand have serious flaws. So, aquarium specialists and companies have created special sand mixes that are free from all the negative traits.

So, there is be no glaring or clay-clouding.

Moreover, these special sand mixes have a neutral pH level. As a result, you will get contamination-free experience, and sand will not affect the water condition in any way.

As you have guessed, these special sands are more expensive.

But it is totally worth the price.

If you are looking for the best aquarium sand, the special sand variants are the best you can have.

12 Best Aquarium Sand Options in The Market in 2020

Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

Among all the brands that specialize in making aquarium sand, CaribSea is the most notable one. They have a wide variety of rich quality sand.

I have personally used their sand and worked like a charm. Most of their sand variants are pH neutral, so it will not change or affect the water chemistry of the water.

Moreover, they don’t use soluble paint that can pollute the water. Overall, Caribsea Super Naturals can be a perfect option for all the fishkeepers.

Notable Features

  • ​- Natural sand collected from the Rio Negro, deep from the dark and exotic Amazonian rainforest
  • - Contains bio-magnet clarifiers that cleanse the water
  • - Contains gravels from sunlit Sri Lankan beach 
  • - Has proper sized grains to filter out debris in the water
  • - Doesn’t contain additional colors or dyes
  • - Completely pH neutral formulation
  • - Comes in three sizes – 10, 20, and 50 pounds
  • Pros

    • ​Doesn’t hamper the pH level
    • ​Avoids dead spots
    • ​Doesn’t cloud the water
    • ​Superior quality

    Cons

    • ​Comes in only one color – natural white
  • 2. Nature's Ocean Aragonite Live Sand for - Best White Sand for Freshwater Aquarium

  • Nature's Ocean Aragonite Live Sand for

    I certainly love this product as it doesn't act as a decorative option but improves the water quality to a great extent.

    I have seen very few aquarium sands that can remove the toxins of a nitrogen cycle (ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate). Well, Nature's Ocean No.0 Bio-Activ can help you reduce such wastes, especially nitrates.

    The manufacturers promise instant cycling feature that allows you to add fish in the tank immediately without any delay. As you can expect, it obviously is a pH neutral option.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Removes the nitrogenous wastes like ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate
  • - Contains Bio-Activ live Aragonite that helps to retain the precious minerals in the water
  • - Instant cycle feature allows you to add fish without any delay
  • - Contains biofilm that encourages beneficial bacteria to grow
  • - Collected from natural sources
  • - Balanced pH level
  • - Boosts buffering capacity
  • Pros

    • ​Live sand helps to maintain the marine environment in the tank
    • ​Removes toxic contents
    • ​Helps the beneficial bacteria growth
    • ​Fish can be added immediately
    • ​Great buffering agent and balances pH level

    Cons

    • ​Comes in only one color – natural white
  • 3. Carib Sea Arag-Alive Sand – Best for Coral Growing 

  • Carib Sea Arag-Alive Sand

    Again, I will be talking about CaribSea, but this one is specially designed for marine environment.

    The specialty of CaribSea Arag-Alive is the vibrant pink color and capability to add millions of beneficial bacteria as they have added Aragonite. Moreover, it helps the biological filtration.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Comes in exotic Fiji Pink color
  • - Added alive Aragonite helps the beneficial bacteria to grow
  • - Compresses ammonia cycle
  • - As the Aragonite is alive, you will not have to replace the sand ever!
  • - Prevents the algae outbreak
  • - Contains biofilm that prevents precipitation of the carbonate in the water
  • - Maintain pH level at the constant level of 8.2
  • Pros

    • ​Removes waste from the aquarium water
    • ​Acts as a biological filter
    • ​Doesn’t cloud the water
    • ​Can maintain a constant pH level without additional chemicals
    • ​Creates a soothing environment with the Fiji Pink color

    Cons

    • ​Expensive compared to many other similar products
    Carib Sea ACS00821 Tahitian Moon Sand for Aquarium

    Are you looking for a unique black substrate with a natural flavor? CaribSea is ACS00821 will bring the perfect sand all the way from Tahiti!

    This product is known for offering the exotic black moon Tahitian sand that doesn’t contain any additional black color or dye.

    Also, the Made in USA tag means a lot to many fishkeepers.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Naturally collected Tahitian black moon sand
  • - Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater
  • - pH neutral variant will not disrupt the water chemistry
  • - Doesn’t contain dyes of black paint
  • - Doesn’t have sharp shards
  • Pros

    • ​Stunning natural black color
    • ​Doesn’t cloud the water
    • ​Neutral pH level
    • ​Collected from exotic islands of Tahiti

    Cons

    • ​Expensive and rare; you will have a hard time finding this item

    ​5. Flourite Black Sand – Best Substrate for Freshwater Aquarium

    Flourite Black Sand

    Flourite black sand is a special type of sand that is more suited for planted tanks. This black sand provides an ample amount of nutrients to the plants.

    If you want to maximize efficiency, you should use this sand as the integral substrate bed. You will not need gravel modifiers such as laterites if you go for Flourite Black Sand.

    The manufacturers haven’t created the block color with any kind of coating but used natural black gravels. As a result, it will not change the pH level in any way.

    There is a negative trait of this sand – it clouds the water in the initial use. You will need to use a good mechanical filter or a filter floss to clear out the cloudiness in the water.

    However, the cloudiness occurs only during the initial usage.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Suitable for planted tanks that can be used in freshwater tank too
  • - Provides a huge amount of nutrients to the plants if used as the integral substrate bed
  • - Natural black gravels
  • - Doesn’t need gravel modifiers like laterites
  • Pros

    • ​Great for aquarium plants
    • ​Can be used as the only substrate layer
    • ​Contains natural black gravels
    • ​Soothing color

    Cons

    • ​Clouds the water in the initial stage
    • ​Needs additional item (Clarity™) to clear the water

    ​6.  Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate – Best Sand for Freshwater Aquarium

    Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate

    CaribSea Eco Complete is a specially designed aquarium sand suited for freshwater aquariums. It doesn’t only help the fish but also helps the plants to grow.

    This product contains Floraspore™, which is a root enhancing symbiont.

    Overall, the sand contains more than 30 different minerals that boost the water chemistry by adding beneficial microorganisms without the nuisance of the algae outbreak.

    With the Bi-Modal grading system, you can separate the substrate level in two layers. The finer layer in the bottom promotes root development, and the big and coarse layer conveys oxygen to the fish.

    That’s why this is a complete package for both the fish and the plants. I would say that this is the best sand for planted aquarium.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Suitable for planted aquariums as it has Floraspore™, a root enhancing agent
  • - Adds beneficial microorganism and more than thirty different minerals for a better living condition
  • - Stops algae outbreak
  • - Bi-modal layer system helps the plants to strengthen the root and the fish with more oxygen
  • Pros

    • ​Complete care for freshwater fish and plants
    • ​Helps to strengthen the roots of the plants
    • ​Adds in helpful agents in the water
    • ​Prevents algae outbreak
    • ​Offers more oxygen to the fish
    • ​Mesmerizing black color

    Cons

    • ​Not suitable for saltwater fish
  • 7. Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates - Best Sand for Saltwater Aquarium

  • Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates

    This is one of the finest and from CaribSea. CaribSea Ocean Direct offers the highest bacteria growth percentage among all the sands. You will get original ocean water as they coat the sand gravel with real ocean water.

    All credit goes to their patented Sea Breathe Technology™.

    This is probably the best aquarium sand for marine tanks.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Naturally collected ocean sand that processed for maximum cleanliness
  • - Removes toxins like ammonia
  • - The sand gravels are coated with bacteria and a thin film of real ocean water by capillary action method
  • - Contains live sand that offers 1000x more bacteria growth than average count
  • - CaribSea has a patent pending for their sea breathe technology
  • Pros

    • ​Comes with the richness of real ocean environment
    • ​Each gravel is coated with beneficial bacteria
    • ​Offers 1000x more bacteria growth
    • ​Removes nitrogenous toxins

    Cons

    • ​Not suitable for freshwater tank
    • ​A bit expensive
  • 8. Stoney River White Aquatic Sand – Best for Small Tanks

  • Stoney River White Aquatic Sand

    If you have a nano aquarium and looking for a small bag of aquarium sand that will not pollute the water, you should be getting Stoney River White Aquatic Sand.

    It’s nothing but clean natural silica sand that doesn’t contain various additives. Moreover, you will get natural ocean-like coloration with this sand.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Comes in a non-toxic coating that doesn’t affect the pH level of the water
  • - Natural white color aquatic sand that suited for both freshwater and saltwater tank
  • - Offers natural ocean-like coloration i​n the tank
  • ​- Natural silica sand
  • Pros

    • ​Non-toxic silica sand doesn’t contaminate the water
    • ​Compatible for both fresh and saltwater
    • ​Perfect size for nano aquariums
    • ​Creates a natural ocean-like color in the tank

    Cons

    • ​Doesn’t improve the coloration of the fish
  • 9. Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand – Premium Black Option

  • Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand

    Some fishkeepers think that Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand is the best ever black sand in the market.

    I will not tell you that it's the best, but it's certainly one of the finer products. It has very smooth and round sand grains that enhance the looks of your aquarium to a great extent.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Supports natural bacteria growth
  • - Soothing black sand mimics exotic marine beaches
  • - Eradicates harmful toxins
  • - Filters out debris
  • Pros

    • ​Helps to retain a proper environment for both the fresh and marine water fish
    • ​Beautiful color
    • ​Promotes beneficial bacteria growth
    • ​Removes toxins
    • ​Assists the mechanical filter to stop debris from moving in the water
    • ​Budget-friendly

    Cons

    • ​Average compared to other great products
  • 10. U.P. Aqua Shrimp Sand – For Shrimps Only!

  • U.P. Aqua Shrimp Sand

    U.P. Aqua Shrimp Sand is a special type of sand that is specially designed for shrimps. In fact, this is shrimp-only sand.

    Mostly, shrimp breeders love this product, and I have rarely seen freshwater or saltwater fishkeepers to use it in their regular tanks.

    The sand contains tiny uniform grains that are mixed with trace minerals that are essential for the shrimps.

    You can use it in the shrimp refugium too.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Specially design for fresh and saltwater shrimps
  • - Contains vital minerals that match shrimp diet
  • - Can be used in shrimp breeding tanks
  • Pros

    • ​Has a soothing black color
    • ​Low plant nutrient and high concentration trace minerals help the shrimp colonies
    • ​Small grain size is better for shrimps
    • ​Easy maintenance
    • ​Perfect for breeding

    Cons

    • ​Not suitable for regular fish or plants
  • 11. FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz-50 – Pure Silica Sand

  • FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz-50

    What if you want nothing but pure natural clean sand, no special feature, or whatsoever? Don’t there are certain products that meet your specification.

    FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz-50 is a perfect example of such a product. They are offering natural silica sand that doesn’t contain any additive or chemical agents.

    It’s just simple clog-free sand grain that doesn’t contain dirt or other pollutants.

    You will be getting pure pool filter 20-grade white silica sand.

    Notable Features

  • ​- Natural silica sand that doesn’t contain extra preservatives
  • - Help the existing mechanical filter by filtering large debris
  • - Completely odorless premium grade pool sand
  • - It doesn’t solidify or clog-up
  • Pros

    • ​Clean and natural silica sand
    • ​Odorless
    • ​Comes in natural color
    • ​Boosts coloration with the natural bright white color

    Cons

    • ​Doesn’t come in any different color
    • ​Doesn’t contain beneficial agents
    Estes Gravel Products AES06606 Este Marine Sand Black for Aquarium

    This is another great nano aquarium sand coming from Stoney River that I have already mentioned. But this one is a black sand.

    Just like the previous one, Estes Gravel Products AES06606 Este Marine Sand Black is also a non-toxic and safe option.

    You can use it in both freshwater and saltwater tanks.

    Notable Features

  • ​​- Comes in a non-toxic coating that doesn’t affect the pH level of the water
  • - The soothing black sand is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater tank
  • - Offers natural ocean-like coloration in the tank
  • - It anchors down the plants in the tank
  • Pros

    • ​Non-toxic silica sand doesn’t contaminate the water
    • ​Compatible for both fresh and saltwater
    • ​Perfect size for nano aquariums
    • ​Creates a natural ocean-like color in the tank

    Cons

    • ​Doesn’t improve the coloration of the fish

    How to Choose the Best Sand for Aquarium?

    Applications – Freshwater vs. Saltwater

    Before jumping in for any aquarium sand, make sure you are getting the right type. Especially, make sure that you are well-aware of the application.

    Are you planning to use the sand in a freshwater or a saltwater tank?

    The application plays a massive role in the buying decision for your sand. So, check the product label and make sure you are getting the right type.

    Some brands offer sand that is good for both the freshwater and saltwater tank. If you are so confused, you can go for these ones.

    Color and Design

    Adding sand in the tank completely changes the looks and feel of your aquarium in terms of aesthetical perspective.

    You can get an abundance of color options available these days from the modern manufacturers.

    Why shouldn’t you be a bit more creative?

    Even there are some brands that offer glow in the dark sands! Yes, you can make the sand layer glow in the blue light in the dark!

    How cool is that?!

    Material Matters!

    Pure sand is made of grains of silicon dioxide (SiO2) that is referred to as silica sand.

    Aquarium sand often contains different other components.

    This is mostly done to enhance the looks of the aquarium. But sometimes, the manufacturers add beneficial minerals that are good for the health of the fish and the plants too.

    So, you should check the features of the product and take a better look at the sand materials.

    Filtration and pH Balance

    Depending on the material of the sand, it might help the growth of the beneficial bacteria in the tank.

    These bacteria help the natural filtration process and even can help the existing filter in the tank.

    Also, good sand will filter out the debris.

    Wait, there’s more!

    Aquarium can maintain pH level balance in the tank too.

    There is no doubt that aquarium sand is more than another decorative item in the tank. It can help you create a better environment for the fish and with the maintenance process.

    FAQ – Best Aquarium Sand

    What Is Aquarium Sand?

    Aquarium sad is not typical silica sand. Commonly, the sand or similar component that constructs the substrate layer in the aquarium is known as aquarium sand.

    In a general sense, the sand is added to enhance the looks of the aquarium, but it also helps the filtration system and balances the pH level of the water.

    Is Sand Good for A Freshwater Aquarium?

    As I have said, marine fish feel cozier with the sand.

    Does that mean it is useless in freshwater tank?

    No!

    The freshwater fish enjoy the sand as much as the marine fish. You can get special freshwater aquarium sand from the market.

    But don’t use sand designed for saltwater in a freshwater tank. It will disrupt the pH level.

    Always check the label before you make the purchase decision. It’s best to get sand that is good for both kinds of water.

    Is Gravel or Sand Better for An Aquarium?

    The answer totally depends on your aquarium planning.

    For example, some fish love to burrow. If you use coarse gravel in this scenario, it won't help, and the fish will feel uncomfortable.

    It’s better to use sand if your fish loves to burrow.

    On the other hand, if you want to control the amoeba outbreak and algae growth, you should use gravel.

    So, the “gravel or sand” debate depends on the type of fish you are keeping in the aquarium and your aquascaping strategy. 

    In a general sense, gravel is better for freshwater tanks, and sand is better for saltwater tanks.

    How Much Aquarium Sand Per Gallon?

    Certainly, adding a pinch of sand will not do any good for your tank! Also, adding pounds and pounds of sand is equally damaging.

    So, what is the accurate ratio?

    Actually, there is no exact mixing ratio, but everything depends on approximation.

    Although, I personally felt that one pound of sand per gallon of water to work just fine. According to that rule, you will add 10 pounds of sand in a 10-gallon tank and so on.

    I personally have seen this ratio work like a charm, but you can try your own formulation.

    How Long Does Aquarium Sand Take to Settle?

    Once you pour water in a sanded tank, you will see the sand settle within a few hours. However, you should give it more time for the sand to settle fully.

    Don’t rush.

    Why?

    You might not see the tiny sand grains floating in the water, but after pouring water, millions of sand grains float around.

    The rule of thumb is waiting three to four days for the sand to settle fully.

    How to Clean Sand for Aquarium?

    Inserting dirty sand in the aquarium is a big mistake for both the freshwater and saltwater tanks. Even if you have bought sand from a reputed source, it might contain pollutants or clay.

    So, cleaning sand before using it in the aquarium is essential. 

    To do so, you should pour the sand in a separate bucket and mix it with clean water. Now, you should start stirring the sand-water mix.

    Use a circular motion as I have seen this motion work perfectly. Also, make sure that sand doesn’t settle in the bottom of the bucket.

    After stirring the mix for a few minutes, wait about 30 seconds for the sand to settle. Soon, you will see dirt floating around as it clouds the water.

    Now, gently pour down the cloudy water in a sink.

    Conclusion

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