wet live sand for saltwater aquariums close up shot of 10 pound bag

Top Five Beginner Live Sand

Updated 2024

When choosing the right sand for your tank, there are several factors to consider:

1. Quantity: The amount of sand you need depends on your tank’s footprint and desired depth. You can use a handy Sand Depth Calculator to determine the right amount.

2. Necessity: Sand is not a requirement for a saltwater aquarium. Some hobbyists prefer a “bare bottom” tank for easier detritus removal, but certain livestock require a sandy substrate to thrive.

3. Type of Sand: Avoid using regular sand from hardware stores as it may contain minerals and heavy metals harmful to your aquarium. Opt for sand specifically designed for saltwater tanks.

4. Grain Size: The grain size of the sand should be chosen based on factors like flow in your tank and the type of livestock you plan to keep. Fine grain sand may not be suitable for high-flow tanks, while burrowing or sand-sifting creatures require a sandy substrate for survival.

5. Rinsing Sand: Not all sand requires rinsing. In the case of live sand, rinsing can remove beneficial bacteria, which is essential for the health of the tank. However, some sands might benefit from rinsing to reduce cloudiness.

I have used all of the sands on this list, and each one is better for different purposes.  But, if I only was able to recommend one, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page… You’ll see my choice.

For your reference, since all of the sands on my list are from CaribSea, here is their description of each one.

5. CaribSea Oolite (Sugar Fine)

If flow wasn’t an issue, I would always go with an oolite sand. Also called sugar fine, this sand is what you imagine laying on with a cool drink in the shade of a palm tree staring out over a calm blue tropical ocean.  It’s awesome, and I love the Arag-Alive line of sand, because it comes with beneficial bacteria infused.

But alas, most tanks are not low-flow tanks, so this sand won’t work.  Even a small amount of flow can cause large sand storms, and that’s just no good.

So, if you know you are going to have something like a fish only tank, or a super specific low flow coral tank, then this will work.  Otherwise save the island paradise for another day and choose something else on this list.

4. CaribSea Arag-Alive Bimini Pink

I’ve been loyal to CaribSea for many years, and they have consistently delivered great products for my tanks. Among their lineup, the Bimini Pink sand stands out with its vibrant colors and a mix of grain sizes ranging from 0.2mm to 2.2mm. The larger grains help keep the sand in place, preventing it from blowing around the tank.

One thing I appreciate about CaribSea is their realistic approach to cycling your tank. While the Bimini Pink sand comes pre-wet with beneficial nitrifying bacteria, they advise against adding fish right away, allowing for a proper cycle.

The Bimini Pink sand features larger shells, giving it a unique texture and making it an ideal hiding place for wrasses and a home for Cerith/Nassarius Snails and sand-sifting gobies.

3. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink

Fiji pink sand in 20 lb bag with close up of grain size

The Fiji Pink sand is undoubtedly a favorite among the Arag-Alive line. Its grain size ranges from 0.5mm to 1.5mm, making it slightly coarser than the Oolite sugar fine sands. Having used this sand multiple times, I can vouch for its small and consistent grain size, which stays put under moderate flow, but certainly not high flow.

Walking on a tropical beach, you’ll find sand just like this beneath your feet. It’s a common and natural mix of colors, typical of many tropical beaches.

This sand is particularly well-suited for reef tanks. It provides a comfortable home for various types of livestock, while allowing you to increase the flow for SPS corals.

2. CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade

wet live sand for saltwater aquariums close up shot of 10 pound bag

My current top pick is the Special Grade sand, which I use in all of my tanks. It has a slightly larger grain size compared to the Fiji Pink, making it just heavy enough to remain undisturbed by the flow. The sand is consistent in color, and I’ve noticed that my livestock seem content living in this substrate.

With a grain size between 1mm-2mm, I usually add this sand to my tank right after arranging the aquascape. After turning on the pumps and adding the clarifier packet, any dust settles within 24-48 hours, leaving the water crystal clear.

Overall, I believe you’ll be satisfied with any option from the Arag-Alive line. Just be sure to choose the right grain size that best suits your needs.

1. CaribSea Ocean Direct Live Sand- Original Grade

This is my new favorite.  Shown by BRS to help biome cycle the tank.  The only down side is it is a mix of grain sizes, so the finer grains will blow around in medium flow tanks.

Caribsea’s Ocean Direct Caribbean Live Sand is a fantastic option for reef tank enthusiasts seeking a quick and efficient setup. The sand incorporates “Sea Breathe” technology, which helps preserve the live ocean bacteria within the substrate.

Key features of Ocean Direct Live Sand:

– Contains live ocean bacteria, promoting a fast and efficient cycling process.
– Grain size ranges from 0.25mm to 6.5mm, providing a balanced texture for the tank.
– Offers a high surface area, creating an ideal habitat for beneficial bacteria colonization.

This sand is an excellent choice for those looking to establish a thriving reef tank in no time.

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