Best Sand Substrates Reviewed 2021 Buyer’s Guide

Sand Substrates Reviewed 2021 – Substrate research can be eye-catching: hobbyists live off their substrate and everyone claims to be the best.

Lucky for you, this manual makes it easy to create the best choice for your setup.

Let’s get started.

Recognize The Role Of The Substrate

Sand Substrates

The reef substrate has many functions for your aquarium. Let’s take a look at the very crucial roles he plays.


Whichever substrate you choose, it is likely to have a big influence on the overall look and texture of the aquarium.

Sand substrates can be found in an assortment of colors and grain sizes, which could be a visually appealing part of the aquarium or can hide in the base of the tank and also blend in with the overall aesthetic.

Either way, part of the allure of owning an aquarium makes it look as awesome as it gets, and the substrate at the base of the tank is a big part of that as well.

Aquarium Sand Substrates

Area For Biological Filtration

Even non-living reef presses quickly become alive as beneficial bacteria colonize the substrate at the base of the tank.

Beneficial bacteria require a solid surface to catch and colonize, and the reef substrate provides such a coating.

After shrimp, these germs can play a role in breaking down uneaten food waste and fish waste that falls into the base of the tank. In the procedure, these bacteria play an important role in maintaining the chemistry of the water in your aquarium.

Aquarium Reef Sand Substrates

Substrate for burrowing or sifting creatures

The sand substrates can also form a soft palate that is entertaining and the sand-sifting creatures inhabiting your aquarium can infiltrate it.

Many sand-sifting creatures use the bottom press as a food source, choosing through it to locate uneaten chunks of food and other deposited food.

At the same time, burrowing creatures such as crabs and a few fish want the substrate to feel safe differently, they might be worried about your aquarium environment.

A Place (Potentially) For Denitrification

In case you have a six inch or larger sand bed, it is possible to really make denitrification easier by removing nitrogen from your aquarium water.

This happens because in a deep sand bed, oxygen completely penetrates the bottom of this substrate. When there is no oxygen, bacteria have the ability to convert nitrate into nitrogen gas so that it is lacking in the water and cannot be used by algae to grow.

Things to Consider When Choosing Substrate

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a substrate. Lets discuss the most crucial factors and how they can use the creatures you have residing in your aquarium.

Dry Sand Vs Live Sand

One of the main benefits of sand in the base of your aquarium is the fact that it functions as a hotbed for beneficial bacteria that help modulate water chemistry.

However, dry sand does not contain germs when you get it. It takes a while to several weeks to feed the bacteria on your sand by rolling the tank.

If you just can’t wait to get your aquarium up and running and full of creatures, Living Sand is an alternative. Living sand is currently recycled, so it is colonized by valuable bacteria and sent wet so that these bacteria remain operational when they reach your aquarium.

Owning this original colony of germs can dramatically speed up the process of controlling your aquarium’s water chemistry, but live sand is also quite expensive compared to sand.

Sand Vs Flow Grain size

The size and grain flow are constantly at odds in an aquarium, which can create tradeoffs for aquarists.

More flow at the bottom of your tank is usually a fantastic thing as it helps prevent trash buildup which is just as improper and terrible for the chemistry. But environments with small grains such as sands do not handle high water flows well enough.

While this may lead to a larger grain size, furthermore, there are disadvantages because the grain size increases.

Larger grains provide larger spaces between each grain, so the support provides less safety and habitat for burrowing creatures. Plus, porous spaces can actually allow detritus to build up in any areas where the water flow is not as powerful.

What Care Are You Ready To Take?

Sand beds can be a lot of maintenance work or almost none, depending on the type of mattress you have and how you want to manage your tank.

It is important to realize that sand beds are residual beds because of the beneficial bacteria they contain.

Therefore, if you want to take on the job of using a vacuum sand cleaner to keep your sand sterile, it is essential that you do your entire bed regularly as you set up your tank or work in tiny spots. Otherwise, you risk losing the beneficial bacteria and the health of your entire aquarium.

On the flip side, a larger grain baler is likely to be less difficult to wash without causing as much disruption just because the majority of the debris you’re going to be cleaning is in large pore areas and is easier to access.

You can even choose to perform very little maintenance and ditch it to germs and creatures in your aquarium such as sea cucumbers, snails, and gobies to clean up debris for you. Your tank base appears dirtier, powerful approach to handling water chemistry.

What Creatures Are In Your Aquarium?

The types of creatures that live in your aquarium should have a big effect on the type of substrate you want.

For example, when you have types of fish that choose in the simmer for a quick bite, you will need a soft, fine-grained substrate.

This increases the debris capture area that fish can bite on, while ensuring that their skin will not be cut and possibly infected, as it can with coarse-grained media such as the coral skeleton.

The types of creatures on your aquarium can also influence the amount of maintenance you need to perform. If you have creatures such as snails, gobies, and sea cucumbers always consuming debris away from the press, you may not have to constantly clean the press and may choose to get a grain substrate fine such as sand.

Finally, consider if any of these creatures on your chariot are burrows. These critters will favor fine-grained substrates as they offer more room to conceal than coarse-grained substrates with areas of deep pores.

What Kind Of Appearance Do You Want?

Keep in mind that aesthetics are also an important part of your own choice of substrate. Even if you have met the requirements for all of the creatures in your aquarium, you will still have options for colors and styles of mattresses that will influence the overall look of your aquarium.

How Much Sand Substrates Can You Wish For A Tank?

The thickness of your sand bed is an important consideration when setting up an aquarium and you don’t need to secure less or more sand than you want. So how can you determine what the ideal amount is?

How To Know How Much Sand Per Gallon

To determine how much sand substrates you should have in your tank, you should be aware of the thickness of the sand bed you intend to create and the tank base measurements.

However, there is an easier way to find an approximation using just the amount of tanks. The amount of gallons in the tank is approximately equal to the amount of sand in pounds it takes to gain a one-inch mattress. Therefore, in case you have a 45 liter tank, 5 kg of dry sand is enough to get a one inch mattress.

Shallow Vs. Deep Sand Beds

There is a lot of disagreement in the aquarist community as to whether a shallow bed between 5 and 5cm deep or a deep mattress between 3 and 15 cm or more is larger.

Shallow sand beds stay oxygenated for, so in order to avoid nitrogen build-up that could change the water chemistry in your tanks, you will need to wash the bed about once a month using a siphon.

On the other hand, deep beds have no oxygen at the base of the bed, which allows bacteria to attenuate denitrification so that the nitrogen balance in the reservoir corrects itself automatically.

Deep beds therefore require little or no maintenance and can really be damaged by intensive cleaning.

Generally, avoid sand beds between 3 and 5 cm in thickness from allowing toxic compounds like hydrogen sulfide to build up and back into the tank water, which can be very unhealthy for your aquarium.

Read Also: How To Choose a Substrate For An Aquarium?

Best Sand Substrates Varieties For Saltwater Reef Tanks Reviewed

Now that you know more about selecting and installing a bed on your septic tank, let’s take a look at the six best substrate selections for saltwater aquarium.

1. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand

This CaribSea Live Sand Mix was designed to get your reef aquarium up and running quickly due to pre-established colonies of beneficial bacteria.

The substrate itself is made of aragonite, which has a rather small grain size and can be inert in saltwater reservoirs.

The grain size is like the beautiful sand you can find on the beach and is excellent for reef aquariums using burrowing creatures or fish such as gobies which prefer to select detritus from the bottom of the tank.

Although the substrate is known as pink sand, you will find relatively few pink flowers in the mix and it has a rather pleasant white lavender appearance. In addition, there is an assortment of different models available from CaribSea to perform an exceptional research of your aquarium.

Caribsea Arag-Alive Fiji Aquarium Sand, 10 lbs, Pink

2. CaribSea Crushed Coral ACS00150

This mixture of crushed coral from CaribSea is created for ponds in which the substrate with massive granulometry is preferred. The mixture is specially designed for tanks with a higher flow rate throughout the bed, such as tanks with gravel filtration systems or reverse flow beds.

The grain size of the mixture is variable, from only 20 mm to more than 550 mm.

As there are crushed oyster shells and crushed corals in the substrate, it is not acceptable for aquariums using burrows or sand sifting creatures which sift particularly fish are vulnerable to being cut by this particular medium. . But, it works great for cichlid tanks.

The substrate is a sterile mixture, so it will take a few weeks of cycling for the germs to completely colonize a mattress made from this press. In addition, the substrate is only offered in one way

Carib Sea ACS00150 Crushed Coral For Aquarium, 40 lbs

3. CaribSea ACS00050 Aragonite Reef Sand

This dry aragonite reef sand is an excellent compromise between a very good sand press, easy to use for sieving fish, and a coarse-grained medium, ideal to avoid the accumulation of detritus.

The grains of the substrate are between 1 and 2 millimeters, although there is also a good dose of silt mixed with the larger pieces. It can be washed easily using a normal gravel cleaner without causing line blockages.

Another advantage of this stand is the fact that it can be used on its own for cichlids and similar tanks, but could also be used in conjunction with a finer sand substrates to provide additional building materials such as burrowing creatures. .

The sand substrates are created entirely from aragonite which has the added benefit of buffering the pH of your tank to keep it safe. Even though there is only one model available, sand is aesthetically pleasing to get a huge range of aquarium models.

4. CaribSea Dry Aragonite Special Grade Reef Sand

This sterile technical sand was created in particular for deep sand beds in which both reducing and denitrifying nitrates are secreted by the germs of the mattress.

The sand is relatively beautiful, with a grain size of between 1.25 and 1.95 mm, and is not intended to be hampered by cleaning. The size is great for poking around critters or for sifting fish through sand for a quick bite on trash.

On the other hand, the sand particles are only large enough that they will not float easily in the tank and cause cloudiness if disturbed by your own tank filter or fish sifting.

The sand is composed of 100% aragonite, which gives it an excellent fluid pH and conducts the trace elements necessary for aquarium water. Be aware that this sand is only offered in one way.

5. CaribSea Ocean Direct

This CaribSea Living Sand Mix has been designed to revitalize your aquarium cycle and protect against peak ammonia levels by providing an extremely concentrated combination of beneficial bacteria.

The substrate itself is very good looking more beautiful than the sand found in the majority of beaches, so tank cleaning may take a few days after incorporating this press.

Even this sand might be too good for aquariums using burrowing or sifting fish, as any sand thrown into the water column does not settle back for days.

For the same reason, this sand can be very difficult to clean and is excellent for tanks with heavy sand beds that do not require a lot of maintenance.

The small grain sizes also reduce the flow through the tank, therefore, there is less chance that the heavy layers inside the mattress will be unintentionally oxygenated when the mattress is established.

This sand is only offered in one way and has a very soft tan coloring.

Carib Sea ACS00940 Ocean Direct Natural Natural Aquarium Sand, 40 lbs

6. Natures Ocean Bio-active Reef Sand

This live sand mix in Natures Ocean is intended to instantly help capture the ammonium and nitrate levels under control on your tank to help a struggling tank or to immediately install a tank.

Be aware that due to the potency of the mixture, it is suggested to present this substrate in small quantities in an existing tank.

While the grain sizes of the sand are promoted to between 1 and 2.5mm, note that a large portion of the substrate is actually 1 millimeter in diameter or less.

There is a large volume of silt that is included with the sand substrates, and this can be useful in tanks where a particularly fine substrate is needed. The ultra-fine grain size contributes to the entire buffering capacity of the sand mixture, which can be created entirely from aragonite.

This yarn is only offered one way and includes a chalky white coloring.

Nature’s Ocean Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Reef Substrate, 4 kg

Selecting Your Reef Substrate

The best sea sand finally comes down to a particular aquarium and the requirements of your fish.

Live reef plantations such as CaribSea Ocean Direct sand, Natures Ocean Bio-Active, as well as CaribSea Arag-Alive sand are best for preparing a tank quickly or using crisis intervention to reduce ammonia levels in a tank. Current tank.

All three of these sands are also quite fine, which will work best for tanks using burrowing or sand-screening creatures.

If you want to prepare a tank with a deep sand bed, consider a substrate such as CaribSea Dry Aragonite Particular Grade Sand, which is specifically designed to promote nitrate reduction and denitrification.

Ultimately, in case you have a tank housing cichlids or other fish that require a rough substrate with higher leak rates, consider sand such as the CaribSea ACS00050 Aragonite Reef Sand which provides large sizes of grains.

How To Insert Sand Substrates For Your Aquarium

Adding sand substrates to your aquarium is a big undertaking, but luckily you just have to do it once in a while.

To begin with, you need to wash your sand to acquire dirt and silt. You can wash it in a pan, which allows the water to float and remove the haze while using it.

Once done, move your fish to a secondary tank and remove the water and any substrate you currently have on your tank. Spread the sand on the ground, fill the tanks and use a dechlorinating agent for the tank condition.

If you use live sand your brand new aquarium will be ready to house your fish, otherwise you will have to wait a few weeks until the aquarium to cycle with the sand to set up bacteria.

How To Mix Sand Substrates If I Want To?

It is also possible to combine your sand for aesthetic purposes or to find the benefits of coarse and fine sands. However, there are a few basic rules to follow when mixing your sand.

First of all, remember that finer grains will tend to settle to the bottom of the tank over time. To avoid unwanted deposits, simply place a mattress of fine sand on the base of the tank and then remove it. Smear coarser sand on top. 

Second, remember to differentiate between live sand and dry sand. Mixing live sand and dry sand is nice and will help start the nitrogen cycle in your tank, however, the result will not be as pronounced as you would when combining many types of sand substrates.

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