Last updated: September 5, 2021

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Having an aquarium in your home can be fun for the whole family. If you are currently setting up one of these and you are reading this article you are probably wondering what type of aquarium sand you need. You are in the right place; we are here to help you make the best purchase possible.

When setting up an aquarium, you are making a mini-ecosystem where real fish will live. You need to choose the correct type of sand. You want the fish and other creatures to feel at home. This item will bring a beautiful, natural touch to the aquarium and make the animals feel more comfortable. If you're not sure where to start, keep reading.

Key Facts

  • Most people use white sand when decorating their aquariums. However, this color may make it hard to see certain species of fish. However, don't worry. There is a huge variety of types of aquarium sand on the market.
  • Sand is a beautiful touch to any aquarium and makes a better environment for the animals inside.
  • To choose the best aquarium sand for you, you need to consider various factors. We will go over these factors in detail at the end of the article in the section titled "Shopping Criteria."

Our Selection: The Best Aquarium Sand

If you are setting up a new fish tank in your home or you want to add to the one that you currently have, it is important to choose high-quality sand for you fish to live a healthy life and for the aquarium to look great. A good fish tank is a wonderful touch to any room.

Now, we understand that there are tons of choices when it comes to this item. To help you with your purchase, we have made a list of our favorite aquarium sand on the market. If an item, in particular, looks interesting to you, you can click on it and be directed to Amazon where you can compare prices, reviews, ratings and more.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Aquarium Sand

Each fish tank is different and may require a different type of sand. Therefore, you need to choose the product that best adapts to your fish and tank. Above, you have gone over our favorite sand on the market. You may have even chosen some out for you. However, there is some information that you should know before making your final purchase. In the following section, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions from buyers like you.

Coral sand is made out of crushed coral and gives the tank a natural touch.
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What is aquarium sand exactly and what benefits come with using it?

Aquarium sand is made out of small rocks varying between 0.02 and 2 mm. This sand can be used to decorate your aquariums or terrariums. This product comes in many different colors. In the following section, we will list the benefits that come with using aquarium sand in your fish tank:

  • The variety of colors allows you to personalize your aquarium however you want without hurting your fish or aquatic plants. The sand will give your fish tank a beautiful and sometimes natural touch.
  • It is not toxic and does not lose its color. So, it will last you for a long time.
  • Aquarium sand is super easy to clean. You can even do it inside of the tank.
  • It helps keep your fish healthy. Many healthy bacteria will grow inside the sand that will benefit the nitrogen cycle of your fish tank. They are called nitrifying bacteria, and they are in charge of breaking down the waste at the bottom of the tank.

Neutral (chemically inactive) aquatic sand can be used in any type of fish tank, but you should keep in mind that certain types of sand are better for saltwater tanks.
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Do I need aquarium sand or gravel?

If you have already looked up aquarium sand online, you have probably also noticed that aquarium gravel is also an option. Even though these two items are similar, they are not the same. The main difference is that gravel is much larger than sand.

You may be wondering which one is better for your fish tank. In our opinion, aquarium sand is a much better choice; it is much easier to clean and safer for your little pets. If you buy aquarium gravel, there is always the risk of your fish swallowing the gravel; this can be extremely unhealthy. In conclusion, we recommend buying aquarium sand, but, if you wish, you can combine the two.

Is aquarium sand just for decoration?

In general, all aquarium sand for freshwater tanks is only for decoration and usually comes with a wide range of colors and materials to choose from. If you decide to add aquatic plants into your tank, you need to purchase a nutrient-rich soil. Sand is inert and will not help these plants grow.

If you do have plants, you should only put the sand where the plants will not be growing. It is important to note that aquarium sand also makes a home for beneficial bacteria that maintain the nitrogen cycle of the water.

What materials are aquarium sand made out of?

There is a variety of sand on the market; let's talk about some of the most popular types. These types differ based on what kind of aquarium they can be applied in, their color, and the material they are made out of. We will expand on these different kinds of aquarium sand in the list below:

  • Quarts aquarium sand: This type is very classic and one of the most common types. It comes in white color and brings a lot of light to the aquarium. Quarts aquarium sand will also make your fish tank look cleaner and larger than it actually is. You can use it in any type of fish tank, and, since this sand is neutral, it will not change the chemical composition of the water. However, it is important to note that some experts say that the white color can confuse certain species of fish.
  • Coral aquarium sand: This sand is made out of crushed coral and gives the tank a natural touch. This type of sand is created specifically for saltwater fish tanks. Due to its structure and composition, good bacteria will grow quickly with this sand. These bacteria will help maintain a stable pH level and nitrogen cycle which will be very healthy for your fish.
  • Cristal aquarium sand: This type of sand will make your tank look original and different from the rest, especially if you have colorful fish. It is also chemical inactive. So, it will not change the chemical composition of the water. You can use this sand in freshwater or saltwater fish tanks.
  • Silica aquarium sand: You can use this sand in any type of fish tank. It is very soft and natural-looking. Before putting it into your tank, we recommend that you rinse it several times to remove all of the powder that it may contain.
  • Reef aquarium sand: This sand is one of the best options for a saltwater fish tank. It comes with important nutrients that will benefit the health of your fish. It is harvested in a natural environment and helps maintain the pH level, salinity, alkalinity, and more.
Types of Aquarium Sand Pros Cons
Quarts aquarium sand Neutral.
Can be used in any type of aquarium.
Can harm your fish if it is not finely ground.
Coral aquarium sand Natural.
Helps maintain a stable Ph level.
More expensive.
Only for saltwater fish tanks.
Cristal aquarium sand Neutral.
Can be used in any type of aquarium.
Not very natural.
Great for shrimp.
Silica aquarium sand Neutral.
Reasonable price.
Can be used in any type of aquarium.
You have to rinse it before putting it in your fish tank.
Very finely ground and can cake together.
Reef aquarium sand Helps maintain the pH level, salinity, alkalinity, and more. Expensive.
Fewer color choices.
Made for saltwater aquariums.

What different colors and sizes are there when it comes to aquatic sand?

Aquatic sand comes in many different shapes and colors. It can be blue, yellow, black, pink, green, grey, purple, or made up of many different colors. In the following section, we will layout the different sizes of aquatic sand that you may find on the market:

  • Large sand: 2 mm to 5 mm. This is more like gravel.
  • Medium sand: 0.5 mm to 2 mm.
  • Small sand: 0.02 mm to 0.5 mm.

The types of aquarium sand differ based on what kind of aquarium they can be applied in, their color, and the material they are made out of.
(Source: Tatyana Tomsickova: 100037614/

How do I choose the best aquarium sand for my fish tank?

Neutral (chemically inactive) aquatic sand can be used in any type of fish tank, but you should keep in mind that certain types of sand are better for saltwater tanks. Experts recommend that the sand should be as fine as possible and duller in color. However, it is your choice how you want to decorate your tank. Every aquarium is different.

We recommend that you avoid any sand that is made out of limestone. This type of sand has a high percentage of calcium carbonate. Instead, you should choose a neutral or silica aquarium sand. Once you add the sand of your choice into your tank, you should always observe your fish's behavior.

How do I clean my aquatic sand?

Although you probably already know this as a fish owner, cleaning an aquarium requires both time and patience. Your fish and plants deserve the best ecosystem possible and it is important to follow the correct steps when cleaning their sand. First of all, especially when it comes to silica sand, you should rinse it various times before putting it into the aquarium.

You can clean the sand inside the tank. You need to clean it regularly as fish food and other waste can build up at the bottom of the tank; let's say, every time you change the water of your aquarium. You will need an aquarium siphon. This item will vacuum out the filth.

Why can't I take the sand out and rinse it?

After a while, aquarium sand begins to develop lots of beneficial bacteria. If you take the sand out of the fish tank and rinse it, you will be removing these bacteria.

Shopping Criteria

As you have seen throughout this article, there are a lot of details that you probably did not know before when it comes to aquarium sand. You may now be more confident about your purchase. However, before you make your final choice, there are a few shopping criteria that you need to keep in mind that will help you make the best purchase possible:

Type of Aquarium

There are many different types of aquarium sand and, while some can be used with any type of fish tank, others are made specifically for saltwater. Saltwater aquatic sand is a bit more expensive than normal sand because it is usually natural.

If you are setting up a saltwater tank and you want it to look as natural as possible; you need to choose aquatic sand that is meant for this type of fish tank. On the other hand, if you are setting up a freshwater tank, you have a lot more products to choose from.


It is very easy to clean aquarium sand inside the tank. When you buy it, make sure to read the product's description. As we mentioned before, if you purchase silica aquarium sand, you need to rinse the sand several times before putting it into the fish tank. Rinse it until the water runs clear. Patience is key.

Advice from Other Users

If you have a friend or family member with an amazing fish tank, ask what type of sand they use and they will give you some great advice. It is also always a good idea to go over the different ratings and reviews from other online users.


To sum up this article, we want to take this time to remind you that each aquarium is an ecosystem, not just a decoration. Your aquatic plants and fish deserve the best. That is why it is so important to choose high-quality aquatic sand that is made for the type of tank you have. Taking care of a fish tank takes time and dedication. We are now confident that you are ready to make your final purchase. So, now it is up to you. What are you waiting for?

(Source of attached image: Srihin: 44200855/