The Best Aquarium Sand (2021 Reviews)

Skylar Dial
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In aquatics, aquarium sand plays a crucial role in achieving the vitality of aquatic plants and the well-being of aquatic animals. Not all sand is suitable for aquariums, though. You need a product that is safe for aquarium fish and plants.

In this article, we have reviewed seven of the best aquarium sands for young and mature aquariums. We have included details on their composition and benefits, and we have given you short reviews of each product.

Finally, we have revealed our thoughts and opinions on them, as well as on the other products that we did not include in this article.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

NameCategoryProduct
Carib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand SubstrateBest OverallCarib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand Substrate
GloFish Aquarium GravelBudget PickGloFish Aquarium Gravel
Nature's Ocean No.1 Aragonite SandUpgrade PickNature's Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand

1. Carib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand Substrate

Our rating: 9 / 10

Carib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand Substrate

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Pros:

  • Extremely high-quality
  • Supports marine life and corals better than fine sand

This is the best sand for marine tanks currently available. CaribSea has a reputation for making high-quality fish tank products for a long time and continue to maintain that reputation with this sand.

The sand comes in a fine-grained grey color, and it looks natural. It’s a great substrate and is perfect for tanks with sump systems. You can also use it as an additive for your other fish tanks, but there’s no way you can cover the entire bottom of your tank with this sand.

We can safely say that this one of the best substrate sand for marine aquariums currently available. It’s very high quality, affordable, and can’t be beaten in terms of performance or value.

2. Carib Sea Arag-Alive 20-Pound Fiji Pink Sand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Carib Sea Arag-Alive 20-Pound Fiji Pink Sand

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A lot of people prefer the look of a natural substrate in their Betta’s tank. If you’re one of those people then you should consider the Carib Sea Arag-Alive Fiji Sand.

The Carib Sea Arag-Alive Fiji Sand is made of naturally occurring volcanic pumice. It’s lightweight and porous – which makes it easy to filter to keep the water clean.

This substrate will provide an attractive environment for your Betta fish, while helping to maintain a healthy water chemistry.

3. Nature's Ocean No.0 Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Live Sand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Nature's Ocean No.0 Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Live Sand

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Sand is an important part of building a saltwater aquarium. It serves as home for marine organisms as well as giving your aquarium a natural look.

However, not all sand is created equally and finding the right quality can also be very difficult. But if you’re looking for a fine-grade and high-quality sand for your saltwater aquarium, then we definitely recommend the product from Nature’s Ocean.

Nature’s Ocean No. 0 bio-active live aragonite sand can be used for tanks with a capacity of up to 150 gallons.

4. Pure Water Pebbles African Cichlid Bio-Activ Natural White Aquarium Live Sand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Pure Water Pebbles African Cichlid Bio-Activ Natural White Aquarium Live Sand

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Pros:

  • Excellent value for money
  • Great as a ground cover

Cons:

  • Not suitable for planted tanks
  • Too soft and light

The Pure Water Pebbles natural white aquarium sand is designed especially for freshwater aquariums and is of top quality. The sand comes in a manageable 20-pound bag with an excellent absorption rate. It’s ideal for Sea-Faring Aquaria and Pond-Raised Aquariums.

It’s not just a good substrate for freshwater aquariums; it’s also an ideal base for saltwater setups. You can use it for freshwater or saltwater aquarium, it’ll work just fine!

The sand comes in a manageable 20-pound bag that’s convenient to carry around. It’s hassle-free and easy to use. Its natural white color brings out the beauty of your aquarium.

5. GloFish Aquarium Gravel

Our rating: 9 / 10

GloFish Aquarium Gravel

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Pros:

  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Affordable, especially when compared to other brands
  • Causes less impact to the natural environment
  • Provides excellent coloration – the sand is colored with natural pigments
  • Can last up to 4 months once placed in the tank
  • The colors are opaque and won’t fade away over time
  • Does a good job in reducing nitrates

Cons:

  • Some report that they thought the bag was from a saltwater system, which can sometimes result in negative reactions
  • The bag is smaller than what you’d expect for a 5lb bag of sand
  • Doesn’t come with a packaging on the inside

Here is a review of the best aquarium sand! This sand is perfect for freshwater and saltwater systems – a must-have item for any aquarium. The sand is made of beautiful fluorescence grains, the color is so rich and intensive that they penetrate into the water, creating a soft and harmonious view and attracting all fish.

The size distribution of this sand is quite even. This means that the size of each grain is fairly similar, making it easy for fish to navigate their way around.

6. Imagitarium White Aquarium Sand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Imagitarium White Aquarium Sand

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Pros:

  • Non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and odorless
  • Prevents the growth of algae
  • Comes with a filter sponge
  • Allows free stream of water
  • Works great for tropical and marine fish
  • Available in several sizes
  • Non-porous and tear-resistant, allowing the tank to fill up gradually
  • Soft on your fish’s skin and won’t hurt their delicate scales
  • Very easy to clean
  • Affordable price

Cons:

  • Some reviewers have received defective packages
  • Sand can be a bit messy
  • Needs frequent rinsing
  • It’s super-lightweight
  • Tends to sink at the bottom of the tank

According to numerous customer reviews, the Aquarium Sand by Imagitarium is quite popular for several reasons. First, it’s affordable. Second, it’s very easy to clean, maintain, and rinses off quickly.

7. Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand

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This product is for those of you who want a simple, hassle-free environment for your aquatic life.

The 15lb (6.85kg) black aquarium sand will last you a long time in your aquarium (10-30gal). It has the perfect combination of high-quality coconut coir – which is light and porous – combined with black crushed coral.

Despite being compressed in the bag, there will still be some compression and dust once you clear off the top layer. It’s normal and it WILL settle.

8. Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight Sand

Our rating: 8 / 10

Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight Sand

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If you’re looking to draw attention to your fish then Carib sea sand is the best aquatic sand to buy.

This sand is 100% natural and is composed of coral sands. It’s cleared from the ocean bed, washed, and dried.

Its fine grain and bright white color makes it the perfect decorative sand for your freshwater aquarium. It’s particularly good if you’re looking to create a beach-like, tropical environment for your fish.

9. Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

Our rating: 8 / 10

Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

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Pros:

  • Sand for reptile substrates
  • Highly absorbent
  • Easily cleaned off
  • Light weight, easy to store
  • Affordable price

10. Estes Gravel Products AES06606 Este Marine Sand Black

Our rating: 8 / 10

Estes Gravel Products AES06606 Este Marine Sand Black

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The best sand for Betta fish is Estes Marine Sand – which is available in a variety of colors and sizes.

This premium sand is extra fine grain, non-toxic, non-tarnishing, and doesn’t cloud the water.

Like all the best aquarium sand, this product is perfect for Betta’s. It’s quite coarse, which means your fish will have a good ‘grip’ and isn’t likely to rub against the sand.

11. Activa Decor

Our rating: 8 / 10

Activa Decor

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Pros:

  • Natural-looking aqua-color
  • Doesn’t interfere with H.O.T. water
  • Tested to be toxic-free and non-corrosive to aquarium life
  • Can be washed and scrubbed without clumping
  • Hardened resin so it won’t blow around the tank
  • Very reasonable price and quality compared to other options
  • Perfect for Betta fish
  • You can even ues this sand for pets – birds, fish, reptiles, insects, and so much more

Cons:

  • If the bag spills, there’s no way to save the sand
  • It’s easy to screw up with too much sand, but that’s common sense

12. Royal Ram 2 pounds Natural White Marble Decorative Real Sand

Our rating: 8 / 10

Royal Ram 2 pounds Natural White Marble Decorative Real Sand

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So you need sand for your fish tank, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. You might even need a large quantity of it for a project, which means the price adds up very quickly.

Not to worry. If you’re looking for a cheap sand for your tank, then we’ve got you covered. Here’s a solution to your sand problem: the Royal Ram Natural White Marble Sand. This sand is completely safe for aquariums because as it states on the package, it is “for decoration only, not for use in freshwater aquariums.” As well as the fact that it’s actually made with real marble.

13. Stoney River White Aquatic Sand Freshwater and Marine Aquariums

Our rating: 8 / 10

Stoney River White Aquatic Sand Freshwater and Marine Aquariums

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It is white, it is pretty, it is affordable, and it is a great choice for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

Brookwood’s sand is full of all the essential minerals required for healthy aquariums. The sand doesn’t rot or dissolve like other sand substrates. And is also not rough like some other gravel substrates, which is particularly great for smaller aquariums.

This sand is soft enough as not to hurt the tail of your pet, but hard enough to ensure that your fish is safe and have a place to hide.

14. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

Our rating: 8 / 10

Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

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Pros:

  • Can be used for freshwater and saltwater
  • Can be used to replicate natural conditions
  • Perfect for ponds and aquariums
  • Helps control nitrates and ammonia
  • Super porous to ensure good oxygen levels
  • Good for plants to root in

Cons:

  • Can be a bit messy
  • Takes some time to get used to using
  • Hard to wash out when garbage needs to be removed
  • Reef safe

As you all know, freshwater aquariums are all the rage right now. And while the trend is more or less making a comeback – having gone out of vogue sometime in the 90s – it has totally changed the way we think of aquatic ecosystems.

For starters, the tastes of fish keepers have changed and evolved. The community that used to be so enamored with bettas are now more inclined to keeping fish that have more color.

Also, the way the fish are kept has changed. Because of the sheer number of different marine fish species available for purchase, people are more likely to pick up a coral or invertebrate to go along with their fish.

15. CaribSea Aquatics Eco-Complete African Cichlid Zack Sand

Our rating: 8 / 10

CaribSea Aquatics Eco-Complete African Cichlid Zack Sand

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African Cichlid Zack Aquarium Sand Substrate is the ideal substrate for low- to mid-light aquariums with small to medium-sized fish. The high-quality engineered quartz sands of this grit mix are ultra-fine-tipped, and specially sized to release essential elements and minerals that are vital to the health of your aquatic life.

Composed of sedimentary rock fragments that provide many of the elements that are beneficial to a healthy aquarium environment.

Dense grain packing enhances good substrate porosity, and therefore good oxygen exchange rates in your aquarium.

16. Carib Sea Arag-Alive Substrate

Our rating: 8 / 10

Carib Sea Arag-Alive Substrate

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Carib-Sea's Arag-Alive Substrate is a finely ground coral skeleton powder. Use it to naturally buffer your water's pH and hardness. Unlike freshwater Aquarium Gravel, which is non-toxic and completely safe for freshwater fish. Aquarium substrates are used in Marine aquariums as well as freshwater aquariums. The Substrate provides the 3 major functions in the tank: Decoration – The substrate provides a natural habitat for your fish to hide, seek shelter, spawn, and feed. Biological Filtration – As your fish and plants consume nutrients and produce waste, harmful ammonia, nitrites, and other toxins are produced. The Substrate percolates these harmful elements from the water, helping to keep your aquarium safe. The final function is described as "Aesthetic Value". Your fish, plants, and substrate will help you to create any Aquarium you can imagine!

A slow and gradual addition of substrate will work much better than dumping it all in at once. If you dump it into the tank at one time and the fish and other inhabitants aren't able to adjust to the water conditions of the change, it could cause serious and even fatal damage to them….It shouldn't be added at one time because not all of the water in your aquarium will be replaced with the new water.

17. Spectrastone Special Black Aquarium Gravel

Our rating: 7 / 10

Spectrastone Special Black Aquarium Gravel

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Pros:

  • Comes with a fine where scoop
  • Very easy to clean and maintain
  • Looks great and coordinates with most backdrops
  • Can also be used for Koi ponds
  • Doesn’t cloud the water
  • Will not cause water discoloration
  • Made in the USA
  • Will not scratch and is not abrasive on shell or on your hands
  • A little goes a long way

(Available in 20 and 40 Pound Plastic Bags)

The Spectrastone Special Black Aquarium Gravel for Freshwater aquaria is a great choice for freshwater fish tanks.

18. Nature's Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand

Our rating: 7 / 10

Nature's Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand

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Aragonite is a naturally occurring mineral. Perfect in function and appearance, it gives your aquarium a brilliant look. Aragonite sands are regarded as the best source for marine tanks. The grains are very lightweight and free of any phosphorous material thus preventing unwanted algae development.

The crystal clear appearance of the sand is perfect for saltwater application. No more observing the cloudiness of the water surface. So the fish can be clearly seen in their natural habitat.

The sand is extremely useful to maintain desirable levels of pH and alkalinity in saltwater. The best part of our aragonite sand is its tiny granules, which are perfect for small fish and shrimp in your aquarium.

19. Pisces 11 lb Diamond Black Quartz Aquarium Gravel

Our rating: 6 / 10

Pisces 11 lb Diamond Black Quartz Aquarium Gravel

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Pros:

  • Good-sized pebbles and is perfect for freshwater use
  • Gives a natural look that’s suitable for almost any aquatic setting
  • Opaque coloring means that black light can be used
  • Ideal for use with most freshwater fish – including Bettas
  • Can be combined with sand for an interesting effect

Cons:

  • Some have said that the gravel is too heavy
  • Can be messy to clean up
  • Not suitable for specific fish and plants

sized aquarium gravel with space between to avoid trapping fish. Ideal for most freshwater fish, betta, nano fish tank and goldfish setups.

As the number one aquarium gravel, the Pisces 11lb Diamond Black Quartz Aquarium Gravel is perfect for any home or office aquarium.

This black gravel is ideal for freshwater use and can be used for a variety of freshwater fish. It also provides a natural looking setting, which is perfect for letting the beauty of your fish shine. The pack includes 11 pounds of aquarium gravel and a free measuring cup.

20. Alan Stone Glow in The Dark Home and Garden Fish Tank Aquarium Decorative Sand Gravel Rock

Our rating: 6 / 10

Alan Stone Glow in The Dark Home and Garden Fish Tank Aquarium Decorative Sand Gravel Rock

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Pros:

  • The cool glow in the dark effect of this sand is awesome for kids
  • Glow In The Dark Sand comes in five colors including glow in the dark moonstone, red, sky blue, pink, and natural quartz
  • Provides a great background for your other tank decorations and fish
  • The soft, realistic texture looks beautiful
  • Easy to use and clean
  • Comes with a hedgehog and starfish shaped decoration to make it look even better
  • Reusable
  • Made in the USA
  • Made from 50% recycled glass

Cons:

  • May not work with certain water parameters
  • The sand may be a bit messy to work with and clean up
  • It’s not the best for visibility in fish tanks

With the Alan Stone Glow in the Dark Sand you can make your fish tank come alive at night. While being beautiful at daytime, this sand will be extremely glowing and vibrant at night.

The Alan Stone Glow in the Dark Sand comes in five different colors. While the blue and crystal blue ones glow in the dark, the other three are regular colors (red, pink, and natural quartz).

21. Nature's Ocean Marine White Sand #0

Our rating: 6 / 10

Nature's Ocean Marine White Sand #0

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Pros:

  • It’s durable and stays in place
  • The 5mm sand is suitable for all kinds of aquariums
  • Doesn’t cloud the water, neither does it affect the quality of the water
  • 10-lb bag is more than enough to last you a long time
  • The sand has a pleasing color, texture, and look
  • Safe for aquatic life
  • Easy to clean out and maintain
  • Affordable
  • Convenient and comes with a scoop for easy lifting

Cons:

  • Some find it hard to clean because of the small sand size
  • Adding it to fish tanks with water that’s already heated up can cause it to clump
  • It can get into live plants, so you have to be extra careful to keep the sand away from your plants
  • Sand particles may float up to the surface and create a layer that’s visible
  • It’s not advisable to use this in an Reef tank

Bag – Aquarium Fish Tank Sand Substrate Aquarium

Nature’s Ocean Sand is the ideal aquarium substrate for your fish tank. It’s made from finely ground aragonite and comes in a whitish shade.

22. CFKJ

Our rating: 5 / 10

CFKJ

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Pros:

  • Looks great under a wide variety of settings
  • Can be used for a variety of purposes (e.g. driveways, backyards etc.)
  • Long-lasting glow
  • Reasonable price

Cons:

  • Due to its glowing properties, the CFKJ Glow in the Dark Pebbles is not suitable for aquariums.
  • Many tanks that use this sand will also have to remove the caulerpa algae since it may colonize the sand and disrupt the arrangement.

It can be hard to get the sand back in its bag once it’s been removed. It’s a tight fit for the sand to be contained in a small bag.

If you’re looking for a sand that you can use for both interior and exterior purposes, then the CFKJ Glow in the Dark Pebbles could be the perfect solution for you. The bag contains 1000 pieces of 5lb pebbles which are perfect for most tanks.

23. Marina Betta Aquarium Starter Kit

Our rating: 4 / 10

Marina Betta Aquarium Starter Kit

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Pros:

  • Wide range of colors
  • Large bag, perfect for large tanks
  • You can customize the look of your tank with the variety of different colors
  • The sand is very smooth to the touch, especially if you buy the finer grain
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Can also be used for aquarium plants without the risk of them sinking
  • Very fine sand, perfect for fish with sensitive barbels
  • Excellent value for money
  • Fits very neatly
  • Very fine sieve

Sand, Sea Blue Sand, Black Sand, Red Sand.

24. OBNZ Glow in The Dark Pebbles

Our rating: 3 / 10

OBNZ Glow in The Dark Pebbles

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Pros:

  • Very durable (almost waterproof) and non-toxic, it’s safe for fish, pets, and children
  • The glue on the back is very strong and can withstand the strongest ocean waves.
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Can be used in any flower bed
  • Not porous, it has a very fine, smooth texture which is ideal for fish tank lighting
  • Can be used as stepping stones
  • Available in multiple colors
  • UV-plus technology, the color glows in the dark
  • The moomba stones can also be used as decorative rocks for courtyards
  • Does not get slippery ()

Cons:

  • The glue is not strong enough (sometimes) to withstand the strongest ocean waves
  • Fish, sand, and plants can fall between the cracks of the pebbles
  • It can be slippery and hard to walk on
  • These stones are not ideal for aquariums as the glue doesn’t come off easily and could be fatal for fish
  • These are not ideal for basking areas, they could make the tank too warm

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best aquarium sand?

A variety of factors determine which is the best sand for your aquarium. Things to consider when choosing the right sand include: aquarium size, fish size, and the type of filter.

Aquariums with just a few fish need a fine sand with a smooth texture to hide the footprints of the fish and other inhabitants. A coarse sand is not compatible with tanks with small inhabitants, and a medium sized fish will need a bigger size grain of sand since it will grow and need space for its new size. A multi-stage filter helps the aquarium improve the water quality. Knowing these things will help you choose what is the best aquarium sand for you.

Is sand good for a freshwater aquarium?

Sand comes in a variety of types, so it will be necessary to find the one most appropriate for your tank. If your water is hard and your tank has large, sturdy fish, river or mussel sand might just the trick. Although they are marketed as freshwater aquarium sand, they won’t pose issues for an established aquarium. On the other hand, if your aquarium is more delicate and has smaller fish, you should consult with your local pet store on the best option for your tank, as there is no sand that is universally appropriate.

Is sand or rocks better for fish tanks?

Many fish tank hobbyists claim that the sand is a better material to have in your aquarium because it helps maintain a high level of humidity in your tank while also adding hiding spots that your fish find appealing. However, depending on the type of fish that you have, they may take to the sand more than they would to rocks or gravel. Type of fish aside, some hobbyists prefer the look of sand and claim that the sand also absorbs light beams better than rocks or gravel.

While sand may prove to be a good addition to your tank, it is important to note that it may also contain toxins which may leak into the water in high enough concentrations, particularly via water changes. This is a risk that you don’t have to take if you decide on a different material to use in your tank.

Is aquarium sand hard to maintain?

Yes, it’s not the easiest to maintain but once you follow the instructions and keep an eye on it, it’s pretty straight forward.

What most people do wrong, is not calculating how much sand they need for their tank. Many people have smaller aquariums and using the full recommended amount of sand can turn their tank into a useless piece of decor.

You need to learn how much sand you need.

If the sand in your tank is very dirty you can not just rinse it in the shower, you need to vacuum it first. Once you vacuum it you can then use a sprayer to rinse off the sand and after that it will be easier to vacuum. Then you rinse again with fresh water.

Conclusion

The name says it all, you get the best of both worlds: cleanliness and natural beauty. The aquarium sand is made from a natural, mineral-rich volcanic stone that makes the perfect substrate for aquariums. The fines of the aquarium sand are larger and more porous than regular aquarium gravel.

More porous means the sand is high in surface area area, allowing beneficial bacteria to colonize on the substrate more quickly. This leads to faster, more complete, and more stable biological filtration. It also means you can grow plants directly in the sand, with the roots in the aquarium and the top in an air-space above the water.

That makes the aquarium sand even more perfect.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Carib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand SubstrateBest OverallCarib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand Substrate
GloFish Aquarium GravelBudget PickGloFish Aquarium Gravel
Nature's Ocean No.1 Aragonite SandUpgrade PickNature's Ocean No.1 Aragonite Sand