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Using Sand In A Tropical Fish Aquarium

Updated on June 24, 2011

To Sand, Or Not To Sand?

That is the question.  I have had sand in my tank for several months now, and it has been an interesting experience that no one warned me about.  Interesting is not necessarily bad, but I have ran into some unforeseen issues.  Changing from gravel to sand is a lot of work (especially if you decide you don't like the sand.)  So I am going to compile a list of pros and cons that I have learned from experience to hopefully help guide you in your decision.

Excuse the stand, it's undergoing some renovations.
Excuse the stand, it's undergoing some renovations.


  • It looks nice in the tank.
  • My fish love to play in it.


  • Unless you are very careful with a regular filter (turning it off when the sand is disturbed) you will need to purchase a canister filter, these usually run around $150+ But you definitely get the quality for the price. I purchased the Fluval 305 at Petsmart for $170, including tax. During the process however, I found that they also have Topfin filters that have lifetime warranties, if you have small fish and and don't anticipate a lot of sand aggravation, that might be the way to go.
  • Aquarium sand is fairly expensive as well, but there are alternatives. I used play sand in my tank, to do this you must rinse it out several times prior to putting it in the tank and you should also invest in some water clarifier.
  • Sand will trap toxic bubbles, every month or so you should release them in order to avoid harming your fish. this is very simple maintenance, and requires about as much time as syphoning the dirt out of rocks.
  • Sand can get very messy, but if you keep it in the tank, that wont become a problem.
  • It does not sustain plant life very well. I use the fake plants with fabric leaves, these generally look more realistic and are a lot easier to maintain.

I intend on updating this page as I go, if you feel like i missed anything or have any specific questions, feel free to comment!


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    • k_rowedy profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Texas

      Sting rays, that's crazy! I think they are outlawed in Texas or I would have seen them around by now, I might be doing some research on it in the near future though!

      I'm glad to hear the sand worked out for you, if you ever think of any challenges you've faced or benefits you've gotten from having sand in the tank, let me know!


    • tsadjatko profile image

      8 years ago from now on

      Good subject K! I put sand in my 120gallon tank when I decided to put fresh water sting rays in it, but sand isn't necessary for them. Spotted Sting Rays, are hardy, active, and easy to keep in the proper aquarium. But they have a poisonous stinger on their tails, and there is a probability that they could become established and reproduce in our native water. So most states in the United States ban them. The sand worked ou bery well though and I did like the look.


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