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Week 14. All about Aquarium Sand!

This week we will be discussing saltwater aquarium sand, including the types, why its so important, and the different types that are available. It is also different than normal “land sand” being that reef sand is made from Calcium Carbonate (aragonite). Sand in a saltwater aquarium is something that people can easily overlook, but it actually provides a ton of stability through being a home for tons of bacteria and critters. There a few different types and styles of sand available to us as hobbyists, but the differences basically amount to whether it comes dry or “alive” and the what grain size the sand is. Watch this weeks video and read below to know which is right for you! 

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Table of Contents

This Week's Video:

Why Sand is Important

As was mentioned above, Saltwater Aquarium sand is more than just a decoration, it actually provides a home for a lot more bacteria and important critters than most other surfaces in your aquarium. You already know that rocks and biological media is important for bacteria, but it’s often overlooked how much sand does! Some people do “bare bottoms” with no sand, but those are usually experienced hobbyists, and they have intense filtration in their sumps. There are certain benefits to not having sand, but it takes a lot more money and effort to get there than just having sand does. 

There are also other reasons its important, as some fish or other animals you may keep will need it for various reasons to survive. Having sand at the bottom can give some of your rocks a bit more stability from being tipped over. Finally, we just believe that an aquarium doesn’t look as good without sand! 

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How To Choose the Right Sand

There are a few types of sand, and like we mentioned before, it basically comes down to the sizes of the sand particles and whether it comes wet or dry. The reason some of the sands come wet is because they are meant to have bacteria in it, which helps speed up your cycling process. Dry sand is usually cheaper, and avoids any potential pests, although pests aren’t commonly a huge issue.

Unless you have a special situation, you usually want to just get sand that is around 1-2 mm of grain size. Most websites and labels will say what the grain sizes are, so don’t worry about memorizing all the names! Really small sand particles look awesome, but can be hard to deal with as smaller disturbances and even your wavemakers can cause a sand storm. Big pieces of sand look unnatural, trap food and poop, and are the worst at providing the benefits of why sand is important in the first place.

We personally recommend CaribSea’s Special Grade or Fiji Pink sand. There are some special colors, like the pieces of pink in the Fiji Pink, and there even is a black sand available. Its all up to you and what you prefer in that scenario. As well, you can setup your aquarium with different types of sand, you just may have to prepare more, whereas with the 1.0-2.0mm sand you can just kind of not worry as much about it. As well, you want to have somewhere between 1-3 inches of sand, less than that will not provide benefits while more will mean that you have to maintain your sand more often and worry about things like “anaerobic zones”. MarineDepot actually has a “calculator” to tell you how much sand you need for a specific depth in a specific aquarium sand.

Finally, don’t forget to clean your sand by “gravel vacuuming” but cleaning too much will cause problems! Once a month is a good schedule, and with a good cleanup crew, you may not even have to actively clean it! 

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