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Sand in Aquariums: Benefits of Using Sand in Your Fish Tank

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Sand gives a natural touch to any aquarium.

Sand gives a natural touch to any aquarium.

Why You Should Use Aquarium Sand

Epoxy-coated rocks are a thing of the past! Although colorful rocks are good for some applications, nothing screams sophistication like aquarium sand. Household aquariums are supposed to add natural beauty to your home, not take away from it with colored chaos. Using sand greatly enhances the natural look of your tank, and, more importantly, it will make your aquarium the centerpiece of your room. In this article, I'll discuss the benefits of using sand and how to prepare it for use in your aquarium.

Benefits to Using Sand

  • Once added, sand will brighten the appearance of your tank. It will give your tank a much more natural appeal. Sand leaves your houseguests feeling like you are maintaining a micro-ecosystem and not just an ordinary fish tank.
  • Many fish will benefit from sand as a substrate. A little-known fact is that many species of fish actually consume sand. They do this to help out with digestion. For catfish and other burrowing species, sand is the prime substrate choice, as rocks and pebbles can injure these fish and prevent natural feeding behaviors.
  • Contrary to common belief, sand is actually very easy to clean and maintain. Although sand is cleaned a little differently, the overall process is no more difficult or time-consuming than cleaning gravel.
Blasting sand accented with pebbles can be observed in this photo.

Blasting sand accented with pebbles can be observed in this photo.

Types of Aquarium Sand

  • Play Sand: This is the most inexpensive way to give a great natural look to your fish tank. Play sand can be purchased at most hardware stores for as little as $3 a bag. The varying colors and grain sizes make for an attractive substrate.
  • Blasting Sand: Again, this is an inexpensive way to give your tank a natural feel. The only difference between play sand and blasting sand is that blasting sand is much more consistent in color and grain size. If play sand is not refined enough for your liking, you may find blasting sand very pleasing.
  • Silica Pool Sand: This specialty sand used for swimming pools is also great for aquariums. Unlike play and blasting sands, silica pool sands can be purchased in a variety of different colors and grain sizes. It gives the fish keeper a larger range of customization, but it is more expensive than the other options.

How to Prepare Your Sand

No matter what sand you choose, you're going to have to prepare it to be used in the aquarium. Below are the steps to properly prepare your sand.

  1. Weigh or measure out how much sand you'll need. I've always gone for around a pound of sand per gallon of water, or a consistent inch depth of sand.
  2. Rinse/clean your sand. This is the single most important step for preparing your sand. If you don't rinse your sand before adding it to the tank, you'll have excess dust that will create cloudiness in your tank that could last for weeks. To properly rinse sand, add it to a bucket and fill it with water. Stir around the sand and pour off dirty water. Repeat this process over and over until the water runs clean. It may take a while to accomplish, but it'll really help you in the end.
  3. Add the rinsed sand to a dry and empty aquarium, and then fill it with water. Placing a plate on top of the sand and pouring the water over it will keep currents from stirring up too much dust.
  4. Be patient! No matter how careful you are when filling, the first time you use sand, you'll most likely end up with some degree of cloudiness in the water. This is normal and should settle out within the first couple of days. Power filters will greatly clear your water if your sand is on the dusty side.

Enjoy the Natural Look of Your Tank!

Now that you know how to use sand in aquariums, your fish tank will have a renowned sense of beauty. This inexpensive way to spruce up your tank will leave you all smiles for years to come.


Nspeel from Myrtle Beach on August 23, 2011:

Great article I use sand in all my aquarium very use for any beginner. voted up very useful