8 Best Aquarium Sands In 2021

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This is our review of the best aquarium sands in 2021!

After using and reviewing dozens of aquarium sands, I’ve found the CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand to be the best aquarium sand of 2021.

I’m a seasoned fishkeeper, with experience using most of the sands on this list, so I applied my knowledge about these sands, as well as the knowledge of others to make educated choices for the aquarium sands on this list so that you can make the best possible decision!

The CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand passed all of my requirements, from having the right grain size, to passing quality control.

However, I do understand that you may have needs different than what the CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand has to offer, so I reviewed sands with similar or unique benefits!

Let’s get started.

Our Best Aquarium Sands

  1. CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand (Best Overall Aquarium Sand)
  2. Seachem Flourite Black Sand (Best Plant Friendly Aquarium Sand)
  3. Stoney River Aquatic White Sand (Best Budget Aquarium Sand)
  4. Nature’s Ocean BIO-ACTIV Live Aragonite Aquarium Sand (Best Beginner Aquarium Sand)
  5. Estes Stoney River Black Aquarium Sand (Best Black Aquarium Sand)
  6. CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade Reef Sand (Best Reef Aquarium Sand)
  7. FairmountSantrol Aquaquartz Aquarium Sand (Best Pool Filter Sand For Aquariums)
  8. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand (Best Aragonite Aquarium Sand)

CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

(Best Overall Aquarium Sand)

Starting off the list with the best overall option is the CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand.

What makes this sand stand out from the rest is its super soft grains and neutral pH, making it a safe option for nearly all fish tank setups.

Carib Sea specifically designed this product with a neutral pH, so you won’t have to worry about pH levels fluctuating inside the tank. Huge plus if you’re keeping less hardy fish!

It’s also a natural sand, meaning it doest contain any artificial dye or color, making it perfect for fish!

This sand comes in a 20 pound bag, which is more than enough to fill up a 10-20 gallon tank!

So if you’re looking for the best overall aquarium sand on the market, consider the CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand.

Pros
  • Neutral pH 
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial dye or colors
  • Safe for nearly all aquariums.
  • Fine grain sand
Cons
  • Needs to be rinsed before use

Seachem Flourite Black Sand

(Best Plant Friendly Aquarium Sand)

For those of you with live aquarium plants, the Seachem Flourite Black Sand is a match made in heaven.

This sand not only looks incredibly great, but also performs incredibly great. The black sand’s porous nature promotes better delivery of water, nutrients, and other essential components to the roots of the plant, ensuring faster and healthier growth.

It also boasts a neutral pH and doesn’t come with any chemical coatings or treatments, so you won’t have to worry about any chemical changes inside the tank after adding this substrate!

When it comes to cleaning the sand, you can easily get the job done by using a water siphon to get all of the dirt and debris out.

The grain size is a bit larger than others on this list, ranging from 0.5-2mm, making it ideal for plant growth. There are also nutrients embedded in the sand, which makes this “aquarium soil” more fertile and prosperous.

So if your aquarium hosts live plants, the Seachem Flourite Black Sand is a great sandy substrate option to consider!

Pros
  • Neutral pH
  • Doesn’t come with any chemical coatings or treatments
  • Easy to clean
  • Nutrient rich
  • Suitable for rooted plants
  • Absorbs nutrients easily 
Cons
  • May cause some cloudiness at first

Stoney River Aquatic White Sand

(Best Budget Aquarium Sand)

For those of you wanting to purchase some aquarium sand on a budget, the Stoney River Aquatic White Sand is a great option to consider.

Despite the price, the quality of this sand is amazing! It’s made from non toxic materials like silica, making this aquarium sand free from chemical hazards. It’s also designed to not alter the pH of the water, which helps keep everything inside the tank stable!

Another plus is that this white sand is able to be used in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. I’ve used this sand in both my freshwater betta fish tank and nano reef tank, and so far everything looks well!

This product collects dirt and waste, then funnels it to the top, making the cleaning process a breeze!

Overall, if you’re looking for some high quality aquarium sand without breaking the bank, Stoney River Aquatic White Sand is a great option to consider.

Pros
  • Doesn’t alter pH
  • White color makes aquarium look great
  • Made from non toxic materials
  • Plant friendly
Cons
  • Product available in only 5 pound bags
  • Requires thorough cleaning before use

Nature’s Ocean BIO-ACTIV Live Aragonite Aquarium Sand

(Best Beginner Aquarium Sand)

Whether you’re a beginner or expert aquarist, you’ll find benefit from the instant cycling and ease of maintenance the Nature’s Ocean BIO-ACTIV Live Aragonite Aquarium Sand has to offer.

Per pound of sand, there are over 10 million Heterotrophic bacteria working to eliminate harmful nitrogenous waste like ammonia and nitrites inside the tank.

So what does that mean? Well, In simple words, you aren’t going to have to work as hard to maintain and care for the sand. In fact, the sand is practically fully independent, as the bacterias clean and filter the sand all by itself! 

Aside from that, this sand uses fine grains ranging from 0.1 to 0.5mm in diameter, which is key to enhancing the buffering capacity of fish tanks, as well as lowering cycling times tremendously

So if you’re looking for the easiest, best beginner friendly aquarium sand to use, the Nature’s Ocean BIO-ACTIV Live Aragonite Aquarium Sand is your best choice.

Pros
  • Contains over 10 million heterotrophic bacterias per pound of sand
  • Easy to maintain
  • Creates a beachy feel inside the tank
  • Fine grain 
  • Maintains a balanced pH inside the tank
  • Great for new and established fish tanks
  • Enhances buffering capacity
Cons
  • Can cause initial cloudiness
  • Not usable for most freshwater aquariums.

Estes Stoney River Black Aquarium Sand

(Best Black Aquarium Sand)

Whether you want black sand because of its nutritious benefits for rooted plants or you like the look it gives off, Estes Stoney River Black Aquarium Sand will give you all that you could want from a black substrate!

This sand is neutral in pH, making it a great non-toxic sand for marine and freshwater tanks. In fact it gets its black color naturally without any artificial dye or coloration, so you won’t have to worry about any toxic chemicals leaking into the tank.

Cleaning this substrate is relatively easy, as you can easily get the job done with a water siphon.

For those of you with live aquarium plants, this sand does a great job of anchoring down plants, which creates a healthy environment for them to grow and thrive in. 

Overall, the Estes Stoney River Black Aquarium Sand is a great black sandy substrate option!

Pros
  • Safe and non-toxic
  • Natural coloration
  • Easy to clean 
  • Great for aquarium plants
  • Adds a unique look to aquarium
Cons
  • Needs a good cleaning at first

CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade Reef Sand

(Best Reef Aquarium Sand)

For our readers with reef tanks, the CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade Reef Sand is a product to keep a close eye on!

This aragonite substrate contains millions of beneficial bacteria, making it perfect for saltwater aquariums especially. Since this sand already has bacteria in it, you won’t have to worry about cycling your tank, which can take weeks or even months to do!

Even if your tank is cycled, you’ll still benefit from these bacteria as they actively assist in the growth of plants and wellness of your fish!

This sand is also completely safe and wont throw your waters pH into chaos compared to other reef sands on the market.

Overall, the CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade Reef Sand is an amazing choice for saltwater and reef tanks.

Pros
  • Great for saltwater tanks
  • Contains millions of beneficial bacteria
  • Safe and easy to use
  • Functional and beautiful 
Cons
  • Not the best sand for freshwater tanks

FairmountSantrol Aquaquartz Aquarium Sand

(Best Pool Filter Sand For Aquariums)

For those buying sand for larger tanks, cost can become a struggle. One alternative people are doing to combat this issue is using pool filter sand as it’s relatively cheap. Most pool filter sands aren’t advised for aquarium use, but FairmountSantrol Aquaquartz Aquarium Sand is an exception to this “rule”.

Coming in 50 pound bags, buying this sand is a great option to fill up larger tanks.

This pool filter sand wont change the pH levels of your water compared to other typical pool filter sands.

One of the best things I loved about this sand is its color. Its warm, neutral light shade fits the typical “sand color” well. 

This sand is also 100% natural and chemical free, which is a huge win-win for pool filter sands!

Overall, the FairmountSantrol Aquaquartz Aquarium Sand is one of the best pool filter sands on the market for aquariums, and its cost effective too!

Pros
  • Comes in 50 pound bags
  • pH neutral
  • Nice warm, neutral light color
  • 100% natural and chemical free
  • Great option for larger tanks
  • Safe pool filter sand for aquariums
Cons
  • Needs good cleaning before use

CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand

(Best Aragonite Aquarium Sand)

Last but not least, the final aquarium sand on our list is the CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand!

This CaribSea substrate is a great option for all types of aquariums. It contains millions of bacteria, enhancing biological filtration on a whole different level. Thus, making this sand great for the growth and wellness of your fish and plants.

It’s also completely safe, as it keeps a good pH and keeps the aquarium relatively stable. This sand doesn’t come with artificial chemicals as well, which is a huge plus on the safety side of things.

The pink color of this sand is my personal favorite feature of this sand. Its faded pink look adds some real depth and personality to the tank!

Overall, if you’re looking for a high quality aragonite aquarium sand, the CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand is the option for you!

Pros
  • Enhanced biological filtration
  • Contains millions of beneficial bacteria
  • Great for growth and wellness of fish and plants
  • Chemical free
  • Pink sand adds unique look to tank
  • Great aragonite sand
Cons
  • Needs proper cleaning

What To Look For When Buying Aquarium Sand

Buying the right sand for your aquarium is important. Here is what to look for when buying aquarium sand:

  • Picking The Right Type Of Sand
  • Quality
  • Grain Size
  • Sand Color
  • Price

Picking The Right Type Of Sand

The first thing to think about is what type of sand you want to use in your aquarium. There are two main types of sands: live sand and dry sand.

The main difference between the two is that live sand contains beneficial bacteria colonies while dry sand doesn’t. 

Since live sand already contains the bacterias needed to kickstart your aquarium, you can instantly add fish after adding the sand. If you went with the dry sand route however, you’ll need to cycle your aquarium before adding fish.

You also won’t need to do any cleaning or rinsing on the live sand.

Live sand works well in aquariums, but THRIVES in planted aquariums! So if you already have or plan on keeping plants, going with live sand is best!

However, dry sands does have its uses. For freshwater aquariums especially, dry sands can offer you the ability to have a clean/pure substrate, so you don’t have to worry about some type of bacteria taking over the tank. 

Quality

Before purchasing any aquarium sand, make sure what you choose is safe, fully treated, and clean! If it isn’t, then your fish can become ill.

However, all the sands on this list have been researched and tested thoroughly so you shouldn’t have to worry about quality being too big of a factor.

Grain Size

Another insanely important factor to think about is the grain size of the sand. 

On average, a single grain of sand measures approximately 0.1 to 2mm in diameter.

Generally, larger grains of sand offer better aeration, but less protection and a higher chance of waste build up. On the other hand, smaller grains help keep waste at bay, but do a slightly worse job of aeration.

With that, the best aquarium sand should have medium-sized grains, providing the best of both worlds.

Sand Color

My favorite factor in choosing aquarium sand is its color!

This is all up to personal preferences, but If you need help deciding on a color, try imagining what feel you’re going for inside the tank. If you’re trying to go for a beach vibe, your best bet is to pick white sand or something similar.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to replicate the vibe of the forests, or have a blackwater aquarium feel in mind, then black sand is going to be your best friend.

Whatever color you decide on, make sure it fits your tank’s agenda!

Price

Finally, when buying aquarium sand, consider the price you’re paying per pound of sand.

If you’re buying sand for a smaller tank this may not be too big of an issue, but if you’re trying to fill a huge 125 gallon tank with aquarium sand, then going with the most expensive sand you can buy is a poor choice.

On this list, I did my best to find sand that is of the highest quality, but not breaking the bank so you shouldn’t have to worry about this for the sands on this list.

However if you’re doing your own independent research, don’t get caught up buying the most expensive thing available.

Frequently Asked Questions About Aquarium Sand

When buying aquarium sand, you may have some questions on your mind. Here’s the answers to some of the most common questions I get about aquarium sand.

How Much Sand Should I Buy?

The general rule of thumb is to buy 1-2 pounds of sand per gallon. 

This means that if you have a 10 gallon tank, you should be buying 10-20 pounds of sand.

Why is my fish eating sand?

Leftover food sometimes gets stuck in the sand. Thus, your fish may start nibbling at the sand to get to the food.

So if you do have a fish that eats sand, start feeding them less and consider purchasing more fine grain sand.

Is aquarium sand hard to maintain?

The answer: NO.

Maintaining aquarium sand is similar to gravel, in the sense that it’s pretty easy to clean as waste products usually sit on the surface. This means that sucking out the dirt with a siphon is generally hassle free and less time consuming than most think.

How do you maintain aquarium sand?

Cleaning the sand and replacing about 40 percent of the water each week should get the job done!

Can I use any sand in my aquarium?

No, not all types of sand are made for aquariums. For instance pool sand isn’t recommended because it has huge grain sizes.

I recommend sticking to sands specifically designed for aquariums.

Can you vacuum aquarium sand?

Yes, using a siphon is actually one of the easiest ways to clean aquarium sand!

Why is my aquarium sand turning black?

Aquarium sand usually turns black when it’s not maintained properly.

The scientific explanation for this is that hydrogen sulfide gas builds up in the sand caused by anaerobic microbial activity. 

To fix this, giving the sand a good clean should get the job done.

Can I use gravel with aquarium sand?

Yes, but it’s not recommended. 

The sand will fall into the voids of the gravel, settling down at the bottom. If you’re using gravel filters, this can be a nightmare as the motor won’t be able to suck water well.

Our Verdict

When choosing a great aquarium sand, make sure you pick the right type of sand for your tank, and make sure the quality and grain size is on point too! 

And it shouldn’t blow the bank either.

With that, the CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand checks all of our boxes, making it the best aquarium sand of 2021!

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Author
Hey there, my name is Gunnar Kennedy. I'm a fishkeeping enthusiast who's been in the hobby for over a decade now! I love sharing new ideas and helping others care for their aquatic friends!

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