1. Home

Discuss in my forum

Can you offer advice about using sand in a freshwater aquarium?

"I am putting together a 75g freshwater tank. I want to put some sand in it but I cannot find any freshwater sand. I put sand in a 29g once before and thought it was great. Some guy told me not to use sand. Can I put sand in freshwater? Where can I get it? Will it cause problems? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank You"


June 24, 2006 at 10:03 pm
(1) Karen says:

Hi, I am currently using sand as substrate in 2 of my tanks. One is a dwarf puffer tank and the other houses a group of Julidochromis African Chiclids. I actually prefer the sand over gravel. Debri (fish waste etc.) doesn’t sink below the surface of the sand like it does gravel. When I siphon/do water changes, I don’t push the tube down into the sand as I do with my tanks containing gravel. I just sweep the large end of the siphon just above the surface. It works wonderful. I highly recommend it :)

July 1, 2006 at 12:21 pm
(2) Betsy says:

What type of filter are you using?

January 6, 2007 at 8:39 pm
(3) yannis says:

If you want to use sand notice that you must have a VERY good filter, about 2 or 3 times your tank capacity. Because the sand does not “breath” and all the biology happens in the filter.
Sand is better for the plants though.
If you don’t use salt aquarium sand you won’t have a problem.
Excuse my english.

April 21, 2007 at 4:21 pm
(4) Brian says:

I am revising my 29 gallon aquarium and changing over to sand, but I am using playground sand. I paid less than $10.00 for 2 decent size bags. It’s cleaned already and is great to use!! You can find it at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Hope this helps!!

May 13, 2007 at 3:40 pm
(5) kris says:

I am going to try sand in my 29 gal and i heard from some people that play sand grows algae alot quicker then other sands, so i am going to try argonite sand.

May 19, 2007 at 4:10 am
(6) Mark says:

Aragonite isn’t good for fresh water aquariums unless you plan to keep african cichlids or livebearers. It is high in calcium and will raise the hardness and pH of your tank to levels far beyond what an average freshwater community aquarium should be.

Instead see if you can find Quikrete Medium Sand. I have heard this is rather hard to find – I only know of one Lowe’s out of four in my area that carries this stuff. But it’s truly excellent – all uniform grain size. Already washed, dried and kiln-sterilized. Completely inert.

Also pool filter sand as mentioned before, and any “aquarium” sand by premium manufacturers that indicate they won’t change pH or hardness.

May 23, 2007 at 9:35 pm
(7) allie says:

I was wondering if anyone knew anything about painted turtles. Would it be okay if i were to put sand in the bottom of his aquarium rather than gravel? If so, what type of sand should i go about getting?

July 18, 2007 at 1:26 pm
(8) PATTI says:


August 15, 2007 at 8:40 pm
(9) JOHN says:


October 2, 2007 at 11:40 pm
(10) lance says:

don’t use play sand. It won’t hurt your fish, but the silicates will release uncontrollable NITRATES AND CAUSE A WATER ALGAE BLOOM.

January 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm
(11) Randy says:

I have put sand in a 10Gallon tank to see how it will due. I went to a pool store and purchused filter sand and it seems to be working quit well good luck

January 19, 2008 at 9:09 pm
(12) Roxanne says:

When using sand do you also use an underground filter?

January 23, 2008 at 10:38 pm
(13) Randy says:

A underground filter will not work with sand it is to heavy. If you have a rear hanging filter I suggest you use two.

June 5, 2008 at 3:32 pm
(14) John says:

I usually use sand in with other types of gravel but never by itself but Im sure it would work fine.

June 11, 2008 at 1:37 am
(15) mike says:


June 19, 2008 at 11:24 pm
(16) Phil says:

Good info. I was just starting to think about sand in my 22 gal aqu. I have a community fish tank of gouramis, a Cory cat, one roseyred, blue neonís, some yellow spotted fish I have no idea what they are. My decor is Egypt and I thought sand would be cool.

August 3, 2008 at 11:47 pm
(17) nick says:

i was told that i can use silica sand in my 75 gal tank. im planing to put a freshwater stingray in there. can i use silica sand?

September 6, 2008 at 4:28 pm
(18) Guy says:

Go to te beach, get dry sand, wash it, ur good!! I did this with a small amount of sand (1/4 to 1/2) pounds of sand. I washed it in boiling water and put it in my decoration bottle. It has been fine, no ph changes. Is it bad for the tank to have more than this small amount of sand? could i put more in or is it to salty? Thanks

March 24, 2009 at 5:53 pm
(19) michael says:

what sand could i use for cichlids?

April 15, 2009 at 7:09 am
(20) nanzkidz14 says:

Why is my sand so foggy like dust when I put it in my tank?

April 15, 2009 at 5:00 pm
(21) Oritz says:

I buying a 110 gal saltwater tank with sand can i use it for frestwater tank, do i need to buy gravel for it. Thanks

May 6, 2009 at 7:54 pm
(22) Maurice says:

I have a 55gal tank. I have gravel now and wanted to change it to sand. I bought a bag of CaribSea Argonite Sand (sugar sized). I was told I could use it for freshwater, put the filtering is the prob I have. I have a hanging filter that filters the water and shoot s it back out creating oxygen. Thought I should use 2. Anymore help or suggestions would be GREAT. nanzkidz14 this happens when yoiu place it in there givfe it about 24hrs. to let settle. nick dont think sand with silica should be used, ask around buddy before using.

May 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm
(23) Maurice says:

Michael use this type good for cichlids>>>>>>>>>CaribSea Argonite Sand (sugar sized).

June 6, 2009 at 10:19 am
(24) tom says:

When I set up my cichlid tanks, I used pool filter sand. It is much cleaner than other sand. On my 75, i made a piping system with a pump pushing and filtering the water through it. The piping goes under the sand with jets that come above the sand in spots to keep flow high on the bottom. Keeps debris for the most part from settling on the bottom and gets picked up by the filters.

June 18, 2009 at 7:41 pm
(25) tyger says:

I would like to see a pic of this sand pipe sytem if you have any thanks.

July 14, 2009 at 8:04 pm
(26) Rick says:

San is great for freshwater aquariums!. I have 4 tanks and all are with sand. Black Tahitiam Moon Sand is really cool. I use 100 lbs of sugar fine sand in my 75 gallon mbuba tank. Dont waste your money on the stuff sold at the LFS. I got the 100 lbs rom my local rock yard for $10. The LFS wanted to sell me the exact same sand but 20 lbs for $26. You have to wash it over and over until the water is crystal clear. Even when you put it into the tank after washing it will still cloud up. Just run your filter after all the large particulates sink and it will clear up in a couple of days (it wont hurt your fish). Its super easy to clean and the Mbuna really like it!

August 1, 2009 at 9:16 pm
(27) Derek says:

what could you possibly use to clean fine sand? Seems like you would loose a lot of it while trying to clean it.

January 17, 2010 at 4:00 pm
(28) Kathi says:

I would love to put some sand in to help with my live plants, but I want black sand and it’s ridiculously expensive. I did a search for black sand and found a Rubbermaid sand that is used for ashtrays. Is there any reason this couldn’t be used? I have no idea what the chemical makeup is. Also, does anyone know anything about Tourmaline sand? Thanks for any info.

January 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm
(29) Kathi says:

Eek! OK, got hold of Rubbermaid….DO NOT use their black sand. Initially it shows that this is a silica sand, but when you get the spec’s, it’s about 95% coal slag! Even their rep’s said it’s a really bad idea to use this for fish.

January 27, 2010 at 11:40 pm
(30) Charlie says:

If you want use black sand, their is CaribSea aquarium sand (Black tahitian moon) it is expensive about &25 for 20lb Bag. If you want use play sand, it is not black, but it is great and is very cheap, at Lowe’s for about $5 and you get 50lbs, a couple bags and your fish tank will look great. You could possibly dye this sand black, but I am not sure if it can be done or what dye you would use, hope this helps.

January 30, 2010 at 12:21 am
(31) Doug says:

just put sand in a 180gal with fx5 waitin for it to clear up,puttin sabertooth tetras in

February 14, 2010 at 5:14 pm
(32) mike says:

why do some resommed twice the rated filter capacity?

March 24, 2010 at 12:31 pm
(33) Jeremy says:

I have a60 gallon hexagon tank! i just recently did an oops and i used to have 15 fish now i have two! i didn’t heat the water up when i changed 50 % of it out cause my phosphates are off the charts! so i think i am going to start over i want a peaceful fish tank with sand in it what would you recommend to use for a blue lobster and some tetras and stuff like that?

April 13, 2010 at 10:55 pm
(34) Jose says:

I have a 20 gallon high with soil/vermiculite sublayer capped with 1.5 in of sand. Sand is Quikrete’s Play Sand. I like the color, but it took forever to clean. Pool filter sand is coo. My friend used sand from a creek. He washed it 5x, and put in his 10 gal, and its doing great. I also bought a 10 lb bag of black sand from a local fish store. It has no brand name. It looks like little pieces of broken obsidian or coal. I have it on a 3 gallon bowl with java fern, crypts, and java moss. The crypts melted but are slowly growing back. the ferns are growing very nice. It houses a female betta

May 10, 2010 at 12:11 am
(35) jake says:

I have a 55gal freshwater tank, all the decor is artificial and rinsed very well, my filter is a fluval 305, the sand is freshwater tetra sand, i have a few cichlids, cory cats, and pleco. my amonia levels are off the charts. Can you help me out and tell me how to eliminate ammonia?

oh yeah the tap water im using to fill the tank has no ammonia in it

May 10, 2010 at 3:06 am
(36) HAARRII says:

I think sand is way better than gravel and looks great too..check out this video on youtube

May 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm
(37) maril says:

fish can live in a sand tank fresh water or salt belive me i have ran a tank for 12 years and ther has been no proble don’t use beach sand. unless you boil it.. give the sand a try and see how it goes. aquarium sand is really a wast of $ money . but you can get play sand i got 55gallons of play sand for 29.98 and i still have it. its the same thing.. thanks :)

May 16, 2010 at 8:17 am
(38) Amber says:

I have a 75 gallon fw tropical community tank. I use aquarium salt and have quite a few live plants. I would like to “landscape” my tank and was thinking about sand / micro sword grass combination. Any input and advice would be great!

May 18, 2010 at 10:00 pm
(39) fidel says:

Hello I have 2 pacu and 2 managuise cichilds and I was wondering if sand woul not affect the condition answer me at f.meta.llica@hotmail.com

June 4, 2010 at 7:35 am
(40) Luke says:

A 50 pound bag of sand did my 55 gallon and i think it works great but you do need twice the filteration

June 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm
(41) Esmirna says:

im thinking of using sand on my 20 gal. tank i didnt know it was that dififult :( anyboby could give any good advise wish one is the best, easiest and faster to use im not an expert on this topic

July 5, 2010 at 8:30 pm
(42) fishguy says:

I use to run a lot of salt water tanks, but now I am doing the fresh water. There are a lot of useful things that can be taken from salt and use while running a fresh tank. You can use sand I have been using sand out of a local river for 10 years now. I just put the sand in a 5 gal bucket stick a hose down in it and let the water run for 1/2 an hour this cleans it of debris. The reason I use “wild” sand is because just like salt water sand it has filtering bacteria as well as many little things like worms and other creatures which help to stir the sand bed. I also use rocks from the same river and use then just you would live rock in a salt tank. So basically I run my freshwater tank the same as I would a salt tank by creating an enclosed ecosystem. I use wild snails to clean up algae, these snails breed like crazy which makes perfect food for my crayfish. You just have to set up the tank like you would a salt tank. 1) but your sand and rock or decorations in. and fill with water. 2) allow the tank to cycle by monitoring the ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels. 3) wait for a algae bloom then add snails 4) when snails have cleaned the algae up good slowly ad fish.

August 2, 2010 at 6:38 pm
(43) mikayla says:

I have a 10 gallon tank with 2 bettas and some other random fish I have the rocks but I really love the look of sand in salt water tanks I want to put sand in my tank but idk what kind of sand works best i really want white sand and i dont want to wast money if someone could please email me i would appreciate it so much my email is mikaylarulles@aol.com

January 2, 2011 at 5:42 am
(44) Aquaticopia says:

You guys have to remember that many sands will raise your pH. People asking about Cichlids – there are two kinds: African, Central/South American. African cichlids enjoy high pH, use any sand that’s not toxic. CA/SA cichlids (even most fish from those regions) enjoy acidic water and a pH that is neutral if not lower, same with planted tanks. The sand you use for this must be inert. I’ve heard that sand blasting sand is safe for this, but I can’t find any and I use “rinsed” sand from a local yard store, which is extremely fine sand (like beach sand) that I pay 3 dollars for a 5 gallon bucket full.

For cloudiness: you want to put your sand in a bucket of water and churn it a bunch to get it nice and milky, then dump the water off and do it all over. After the milky effect is slightly minimized, add the sand to your tank. You HAVE to run a filter (preferrably large HOB or canister) to remove the remaining dust, as it can take ages to settle, and as soon as you disturb the tank, it will rise out again. Once you’ve ran a filter and removed the dust, you will need to clean out your filter media completely, because it will be saturated in this dust.
Good luck!

March 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm
(45) Chris says:

I am starinig a freshwater tank and getting ready to use sand I when to petco and the young lady from the aquerium section suggested that I use sand that is used to clean pool, called silca sand, a 50lb bag at the pool store cause about $11 dollars a bags and you do not need to clean it.

July 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm
(46) sylros says:

I’ve just purchased sand from a pet store, had to clean it and it still clouded the tank. I’m glad that it will clear eventually. I got sand because I wanted something different and I like the look of it but don’t want to have Cichlids. Which fish would be best to get as I’m setting up a new tank. I already have baby guppies…will they be OK?

Thanks for all the info about where to get cheaper sand, didn’t even think to check the pool places or Lowe’s.

October 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm
(47) Bill V. says:

I want to try sand substrate in 20 gal. tank for south American Chiclids & am wondering what best kind & does it clog filter intakes. Is aquarium sand somewhat larger grains than regular beach sand ? Thanks for any input !
Bill V. bvonman@gmail.com

January 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm
(48) Anthony Rose says:

Someone up above was asking about why extra filtration. The reason is the nitrogen cycle: Fish piss contains ammonia which kills them quickly. Over time, good bacteria grow onto things in the tank and they eat up some of the ammonia. But these bugs need oxygen. In gravel, there are biger gaps than in sand, so in gravel the water oxygen can get about 2 inches down, so you get a lot of filtering help with gravel. In sand, only the very top layer gets bacteria.

If all this was news to you, then remember this: never wash your filter media in tap water, the chlorine kills the good bugs. You can rinse it in tank water you take out. Also don;t clean everything at the same time. Also, change 20% water per week. And finally, the two golden rules for me learnt the hard way: don’t change much! and a hungry fish is a happy fish (has something to live for!).

January 23, 2012 at 12:48 am
(49) nick says:

Hi I have just finished building my first 65 gallon acrylic tank , and I was wondering if I could use regular sand in it. I live very close to a sand pit and wanted to know if that sand is cleanable to be able to use in fresh water tank. Thanks

March 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm
(50) james says:

I have a crayfish and I put construction grade fill sand in the tank along with some rock from my yard. I am having a real problem with high ph.
does anyone know it the sand is a cause for this or maybe the rock or both.
Thans in advance for any input.

April 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm
(51) Geff says:

Question for Anthony Rose & others who suggest twice the filtration – Would an air stone hooked up to a pump help make up the difference in oxygen?

April 24, 2012 at 11:57 pm
(52) jerry says:

sand is an excellent substrate ive been housing fish for eleven years i have cichlids and hillstream loaches as well ropefish… i used the same white sand golf courses use i take the sand and run it through and screen to remove all debris then rinse it with hott water and drain as well as i can.. put into tank let run for a week and stir three days after applied to remove any left over debris missed as well…. this method has worked well with my planted tank as well i used river rock to put on top of sand as weight for plants… and loaches i used baseball size stones under t5 light that promotes well algae growth to insure food same idea with cichlids… info on ropefish just ask had mine for six years now have five…

May 19, 2012 at 11:27 pm
(53) Ron says:

I have 185 gallon fresh water tank I have been using Sand that I bought from Home Depot for 3 years now with no issue. You will have to rinse the sand 1st. I suggest poring the sand into a 5 gallon bucket and running a hose thru it for 30 mins to get all the dust out.

Good luck.

July 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm
(54) sammy says:

i have a 35 gal freshwater tank. it has sand that i bought from the local pool/hottube store. its filter sand. and works great. i have no problems with it what so ever. and its natural looking. no dyes or chmicals on it. i have some live plants. and have biomax in the filter. rinsing it before use is recommended. if not get some pollywool. super cheap from ur local pet store and put some in the filter wherever theres room. after a few hours cloudyness with disipate. i have found that it is much much better then using rocks from the store. the more unnatural the worse it is for ur fish.

June 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm
(55) mitchell says:

I have a sixty gallon fresh water tank with five pirahnas and two pleco’s. I’m moving I a couple days when I take out the fish and move the tank id like to replace the gravel with sand. My fish poop way to much and its become a hassle trying to clean the tank. I’ve read all the post above but I’m still not verhy clear on what kind of sand I should use. Also any reccomendations so I don’t shock my fish during the move. Please and thank you everyone who helps me out

August 16, 2013 at 1:00 am
(56) j says:

I’m still new at this I have Bala sharks, neons, one pleco and a Raphael cat and was thinking of putting sand in place of gravel. I heard from someone that u have to rap the filter inlet with a panty hose like material. Is this true? Or will my filter be fine without it?

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.