Find Out Which is the Best Aquarium Sand for Your Aquarium

I love keeping fish and have multiple fish tanks to simulate different ecosystems and underwater environments. When I want to buy aquarium sand, I first decide the kind of fish I am going to keep. Some fish like cichlids eat sand and it is healthy for them. On the other hand, fish like betta and goldfish can fall ill and die if they eat sand.

I also look at the price. While price is an important factor, I avoid cheap sand with quality issues. These can not only cause brown algae to thrive in my fish tank but can also lead to diseases. So, I look for trusted brands that offer quality sand at affordable prices.

It is also important that the sand I buy is pH neutral. That way, it will not cause the pH level in the aquarium to spike, which can be detrimental for my fish.

Of course, when I first started buying sand, I was confused as I did not know what to why. Experience has taught me. I do not want you to go through a trial-and-error method of choosing the right aquarium sand. That is why I have reviewed the best fish tank sand for you so that you can make an informed buying decision.

Table: The Best Aquarium Sand On the Market
Product Name Price
#1 Natural Clay Gravel by SeachemCheck Price »
#2 Sand for Freshwater Aquarium by Stoney RiverCheck Price »
#3 Sand for Saltwater Aquarium by CaribSeaCheck Price »
#4 River Sand for Freshwater Aquarium by CaribSeaCheck Price »
#5 Gold Sand for Fish Tank by CaribSeaCheck Price »

Top 5 Aquarium Sand on the Market Reviewed

1. Natural Clay Gravel by Seachem

This fish tank sand is black in color and comprises porous clay gravel. It is perfect for aquaria that have living plants but can also be used in freshwater aquaria. When you use this aquarium sand, you do not have to use a gravel modifier. It creates the perfect substrate in an aquarium.

Product Specs

  • Made up of clay gravel
  • Black in color
  • 15.4 lb bag

Our Verdict

It is the perfect sand for an aquarium with live plants. The good part about it is that there is no need to use a gravel modifier. It is porous and you do not have to change the substrate when you clean the aquarium. It also does not change the water chemistry.


  • Perfect for live plants
  • Does not require gravel modifiers
  • It is porous
  • Can be mixed with gravel
  • Can be used in a freshwater aquarium
  • Does not require replacing
  • Does not alter water pH


  • Makes the water cloudy initially

Tip: If the aquarium water becomes cloudy due to the clay gravel, just run the filter for 24 hours. It will make the water crystal clear.

Info alert: This aquarium gravel contains dust and it is necessary to rinse it thoroughly before use. Rinse until the water is clear and then add to the aquarium.

2. Sand for Freshwater Aquarium by Stoney River

If you are looking for the best sand for aquarium freshwater, this sand by Stoney River is surely right up there. It does not change the pH of the water and you can use it as a substrate without washing.

Product Specs

  • White sand
  • Comes in a 5lb packet

Our Verdict

This aquarium sand is clean and the grains are small but not too small that they get sucked out when you vacuum the aquarium for a water change. It can be used without washing and will not cloud the water. It is designed for freshwater aquaria and is completely non-toxic. It is coarse aquarium sand.


  • Washing the sand is not necessary
  • It is non-toxic and fish do not ingest it
  • Safe for fish
  • Perfect for a freshwater aquarium
  • Looks natural
  • Easy to clean
  • Does not get sucked into the vacuum during a water change


  • Some users complained that the sand makes the water cloudy

Tip: If you are worried about the sand making the water cloudy, rinse it well and let it stand in a bucket of water for two days. Change the water a couple of times each day. The sand will not make the water cloudy.

Info alert: The sand is coarse to touch and if you are washing the sand, wear waterproof gloves to avoid hurting your palms.

3. Sand for Saltwater Aquarium by CaribSea

This is the best sand for saltwater aquarium on the market. It is aragonite sand that makes it perfect for saltwater aquaria. It works to maintain optimal pH of the water.

Product Specs

  • Aragonite sand
  • Fortified with live marine bacteria
  • Comes in 20 lb packet

Our Verdict

This substrate is designed for people who want to keep saltwater aquaria. It is enhanced with millions of marine bacteria that maintain the biological equilibrium of the water. It enables you to maintain the pH of the water without a problem and you can use this aquarium sand to create a reef-like aquarium.


  • Cycles the aquarium as soon as it is added
  • Compresses the ammonia cycle in the water
  • Grain size is similar to natural sand found on the beach
  • It acts as a natural filter in the water
  • Can also be used in a freshwater aquarium


  • It has a low pH and could dissolve and add too much calcium to the water

Tip: It makes the water cloudy so make sure you use a good filter in your saltwater aquarium. It should clear up in 24 hours and be crystal clear in 48 hours

Info alert: Check the expiration date on the bag. If it is expired, do not use it for your saltwater aquarium as the live bacteria will be no longer alive.

4. River Sand for Freshwater Aquarium by CaribSea

This fish tank sand by CaribSea is meant for freshwater aquaria. The grain size is fine to medium. The grains are large enough to let you vacuum the bottom with a siphon hose and you will not lose your substrate. Also, you don’t have to worry about debris and fish waste sinking into the sand.

Product Specs

  • Comes in 5 lb bag
  • Sand grains are white and crystal-like
  • pH neutral
  • Does not contain chemicals, colors, or coatings

Our Verdict

The sand can be used as a substrate in a fish-only aquarium or a planted fish tank. The sand grains sparkle in the light. It makes it easy to clean the tank as fish waste does not sink in. Cleaning the sand is easy. The directions are on the bag.


  • Makes the aquarium look great
  • It is pH neutral so does not change the chemical balance of the water
  • Reduces the amount of detritus
  • Made in the USA
  • Easy to clean


  • Some users complained that with bright aquarium lights, the sand builds up algae very quickly

Tip: Use the water clarifier that comes with the sand to quickly remove the cloudiness of water.

Info alert: This sand is the right choice for bottom-dwelling fish and invertebrates or those that like to sift sand.

5. Gold Sand for Fish Tank by CaribSea

This aquarium sand is fine and made for saltwater and freshwater aquaria. It is not coarse sand, making it perfect for turtles and fish with soft bellies. It does not alter the pH of the water.

Product Specs

  • Comes in 5lb back
  • Sand grains have a golden hue
  • pH neutral
  • Does not contain chemicals

Our Verdict

While the sand is fine, it is still granular. Hence, it perfect for bottom dwellers. The gold color hides dirt and debris, which can be a blessing for those who do not regularly maintain their fish tanks. It does not alter the chemistry of the water. You can use it as a substrate or top dressing with another substrate.


  • Easy to use
  • Gives a natural look to the aquarium
  • Fish, snails, and turtles love it
  • Soft sand
  • Made in the USA
  • Maintains the pH of the water
  • Does not contain chemicals


  • Tends to make the water cloudy if not washed well

Tip: Use the water clarifier to get rid of the cloudiness quickly. It comes with the sand and will clear the water in about 24 hours.Tip:

Info alert: When you change the water in your aquarium, you do not have to worry about the sand making the water cloudy again if you properly wash the sand before the first use.

Buying Guide for the Best Aquarium Sand

If you are looking to buy the best aquarium sand for your freshwater or saltwater aquarium, you need to consider a few things. While fish do not have a preference when it comes to sand color, you should be careful to choose the sand based on the fish, plant life, and other aquatic animals that you wish to keep.

Fish-Only Aquarium:

If you intend to keep just fish in your aquarium, look for sand that is fine and soft. That way, bottom dwellers and feeders will be able to sift through the sand with ease, without getting hurt or finding it difficult to dig or burrow into the sand. The aquarium sand should be around 2 to 2.5 inches deep.

Reef and Saltwater Aquaria:

If you want to maintain a saltwater or reef aquarium, sand will be the main substrate. However, make sure that you use live sand. That means the sand will have beneficial bacteria and help with biological filtration. That only keeps the aquarium clean but will also keep the fish healthy as it will simulate their natural environment.

Aquarium with Live Plants

When you want to give your aquarium a natural look and feel, you will opt for live plants. In that case, make sure that the sand has a high nutrient level. Some sands, like the one reviewed here, allow you to grow live plants without using another layer of substrate. That makes it convenient for you to grow plants in your aquarium and also ensures that cleaning the fish tank is easy. Remember, the roots should be buried in the sand for the plants to thrive, keep the oxygen level up, and also provide a hiding place for fish.

Related article: Cleaning your plastic fish tank plants

Other Things to Consider:

Grain Size: The sand grains should be small enough to ensure that debris, fish food, and fish waste do not get mixed in the sand. Instead, they should stay at the top of the sand substrate. Also, the sand grains should be big enough to allow proper circulation of oxygen. Otherwise, you will end up with dead zones in your aquarium.

pH Level: Opt for sand that is inert and pH neutral. That way, you will not have to worry about the sand changing the chemistry of the water, and you and your fish will be happy. Changes in the pH can be fatal for fish and other aquatic life.

Weight of the Sand: While a lot of sand that you get on the market tends to make the water cloudy, this cloudiness resolves itself. The filtration system will suck out the suspended particles causing the cloudiness and the water will become clear after 24 to 48 hours. The other alternative is to wash the sand well and use a water clarifier to quickly get rid of the cloudiness. However, there are sand brands that are not heavy and do not settle at the bottom of the fish tank. As a result, they stay suspended in the water and can damage the filtration system.

In Conclusion

Now you know more about aquarium sand. Read the reviews and then decide out of the top five, which is the right fish tank sand for you.

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