Best Aquarium Sand : Our Top Picks

Since fish are naturally from lakes, rivers, streams, and other bodies of water, placing them in a tank isn’t necessarily ideal for them. But if you create a smaller environment within their fish tank that mocks the habitat that they were derived from in nature, then you can make their home experience with you in the aquarium much better.

In order to do so, you will have to purchase the right kind of aquarium equipment, including the proper accessories and decorations. For instance, you may find it helpful to include the best types of plants and rocks that match their natural habitat. But not all fish are from the same place, so they differ in the specific home environments that they’re used to.

Because of that, you should search what type of environment your particular fish are from and then decorate your fish tank accordingly. While doing so, most people generally assume that all fish prefer to have gravel at the bottom of their tanks. But this isn’t always the case, since some fish actually prefer sand over rocks or gravel.

Because of that, you should consider putting sand at the bottom of your aquarium for your fish. But it can be difficult to choose the best type of sand to place in your tank, since there are so many different types, colors, and textures. Because of that, here is a complete guide that includes helpful information I’ve compiled together in order to make your sand-buying process easier.

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Not only that, but I’ve also included a review of five of the best aquarium sands on the market.

Advantages of Using Aquarium Sand

More natural

Sand is able to act as a more natural substrate than other types of gravel, since gravel usually have some sort of coating on the outside of the smaller particles. That coating can potentially harm your fish if it’s peeled off and releases into the water. It even looks more natural than other types of substrate, since sand is able to create piles and slopes that aren’t as steep as other rocks, gravel, or particles.


Sand tends to be cleaner than other types of substrate, since there is a smaller space in between each of the particles. Given the smaller spaces, there is less room in order for dirt and debris to fit in between the particles. When debris is built-up between other gravel, it breaks down over time and can lead to a rise in the nitrate and phosphate levels of your aquarium water. This can result in your fish becoming sick, and they can even die if the levels become too high too suddenly.

Doesn’t affect the filter

Many people that haven’t used sand like to think that the sand particles will get sucked in through the filter, since the particles are so small. But this isn’t usually the case because most aquarium sand particles are heavier and fall to the bottom of the tank more quickly than expected (1).

Fish can burrow

Some fish like to burrow into the substrate in order to bury their food, sleep, and even to clean themselves. Because of that, it’s easier for fish to burrow in sand than it is for them to burrow in other types of substrate.

Less maintenance

Sand is typically cleaner than other types of substrate, since there is less dirt and debris mixed in between the particles. Because of that, you’re required to change the sand less than other types of substrate that have larger particles (2).

Different Types of Aquarium Sand

Play sand

Play sand is classified as a type of sand that is non-toxic and has the ability to stay clean for longer periods of time than other types of sand. It has a low level of clay content, so the sand isn’t as likely to stick together and create chunks. Additionally, play sand is able to make the cleaning process in the aquarium much easier, since it’s one of the cleaner types of aquarium sand.

Specialty sand

This type of aquarium sand is one of the most innovative types of sand, and it can be customized in order to fit the type of aquarium that you have in general. More specifically, this type of sand is able to be customized in order to match not only the type of aquarium you have, but also the plants, equipment, fish, and other accessories in your tank.

Pool sand

Lastly, pool sand is labeled as a type of aquarium sand that is represented as a better quality sand than the other types. Pool sand contains particles that are more uniform than other types, so it creates a better surface areas for your fish to swim on. Not only that, but the uniform particles make the sand look better at the bottom of the tank as well.

In addition to that, pool sand is also free of contaminants and is generally safer for your fish than some other types of sand on the market (3).

Things to Consider Before Purchasing Sand

Color and texture

Since your aquarium should have an all-around natural look that works well for the fish that it houses, you’ll want to make sure that the color of the sand as well as the texture of it matches well with both the rest of the tank as well as the fish’s natural environment.

Particle sizes

It’s important to consider what size sand you need in order for your fish to remain comfortable. More specifically, some steams and lakes have sand that includes larger particles than other ones. Given that, some fish are accustomed to having sand particles that are typically larger than more finely-grained ones. Not only are they used to simply having it in their environment, but some fish even prefer a certain size sand particle because they utilize for certain needs, such as burrowing and sleeping in, hiding their food in, or simply laying and resting on.


Some types of sands are capable of filtering out harmful debris and waste while promoting beneficial bacteria to keep the chemical levels of the water in balance. Because of that, you should consider purchasing a type of sand that’s able to accommodate for this, since this will ultimately make the water of the aquarium healthier (4).


You should consider how simple the sand is to install and apply, since some can be more difficult than others. Some sands aren’t even ideal for your type of aquarium, so you should make sure that your aquarium allows for easy installation.


It’s important to choose the right brand because some brands aren’t able to offer sand that has as high of a quality as other brands. Given that, you should remain mindful of the reviews as well as the brand’s customer service reputation in order to choose the best the best brand for aquarium sand on the market (5).

Best Aquarium Sand Reviews

1. CaribSea Aquatics Super Naturals Aquarium Sand


This CaribSea aquarium sand product is highly recommended for you because it helps to further make your fish tank a more natural environment for your aquatic critters. Not only that, but this product contains particles that have grain sizes to reduce the buildup of detritus.

There were no paints or dyes used in this sand, so it ensures safety as well as a natural environment for your fish. This aquarium sand is also pH neutral and is safe for practically all types of aquarium systems. It’s also easy to install, since you can simply just spread the sand particles around the bottom of the tank.


  • Doesn’t use paints or dyes on the sand particles
  • Grain size is smaller, so it reduces the possibility of detritus build-up
  • Neutral pH


  • Only available in a 20-pound bag

2. Nature’s Ocean No.0 Bio-Activ Live Aquarium Sand


You should check out this Nature’s Ocean Aquarium Sand because it has the ability to remove all of the nitrogenous waste that’s in the water of your fish tank. More specifically, it’s able to remove any excess ammonia, nitrite, or nitrates from your tank water. Not only that, but this product is able to immediately remove these wastes from the water, so you don’t have a waiting period in between setting up the tank and putting your fish in.

Furthermore, this aquarium sand is able to maintain the water’s proper pH levels. Additionally, it provides enhanced buffering capacity.


  • Affordable
  • Immediately removes nitrogenous waste
  • Maintains a proper pH balance


  • Only comes in a 10-pound bag

3. Seachem Fluorite Black Sand


I recommended checking out this product for your aquarium sand because it comes in a black color, so it’s able to look more natural in your fish tank. Some fish are used to having black sand in their natural environment, so they’ll be able to feel more comfortable in their tank.

Not only that, but this black aquarium sand is able to bring out the colors of the fish in your tank, so you’ll be able to make your aquarium look brighter in general. Furthermore, this aquarium sand is easy to use, since you can simply install it on the bottom of your tank. It’s heavier, so you don’t have to worry about your filter picking it up.


  • Presents a black color, so it brings out the colors of your fish
  • Heavier sand particles, so you don’t have to worry about your filter picking it up
  • Easy to install


  • More expensive than some of the other sand products on the market

4. Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates


This Carib Sea Aquarium Sand Substrate is highly recommended for you to check out because it comes in a two-pack of 20-pounds in each bag of sand, which is more sand than most other sand products on this list. Additionally, this sand has the ability to preserve its own bacteria in order to control the balance of nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia in your tank water.

In addition to these benefits, this aquarium sand has particles that are heavier. By having heavier sand particles, you’re able to prevent your filter from picking up any of the particles. Not only that, but this product allows the fish to comfortably burrow in the sand, which is beneficial for fish that like to sleep in the sand.


  • Contains real live sand, so it keeps the balance of the water in a healthy state
  • Contains natural bacteria
  • Includes 2 bags of 20-pounds in each


  • More expensive than some of the other products

5. Carib Sea African Sahara Sand for Aquarium


This Carib Sea aquarium sand product is recommended for you to consider purchasing because it has the ability to create a more natural environment for African cichlids. Because of that, you can specifically provide the best environment possible for your fish.

In addition to that, this aquarium sand contains sand particles that have smaller grain sizes. Given the smaller sizes, this sand reduces the build up of detritus in your aquarium water. It also has 20 pounds in the sand bag, so you will most likely have some left over.


  • Specifically made for environments that have African cichlids
  • Sand particles are smaller
  • Made in the USA


  • More expensive


Overall, each of the products on this list have the ability to offer you a wide variety of benefits, such as the ability to cover the entirety of the base in your tank. In addition to that, you don’t have to worry about any fo the sand particles from these products affecting your filter, since they’re heavier and are able to stay on the ground.

Since each products has its own personal beneficial features, you may have trouble picking the best product for your specific needs. Because of that, you’re more recommended to purchase the best aquarium sand product #4: Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates. This product comes with two packs of 20-pound bags, so you’re able to use this product if you have a larger tank. Additionally, this product has its own live sand, so it can promote healthy chemical balances in your aquarium water.

Given these benefits, you should purchase the best aquarium sand on the market: Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates.

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