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Best Aquarium Sand: Our Top Picks

  • Brennen Lahn
  • Dec 10, 2020
Best Aquarium Sand
Best Aquarium Sand

Picking the proper sandbed for your aquarium can be crucial to its future success. With so many unique ways to build your aquarium, sand selection is certainly something to keep in mind for your pending tank build. While everyone can understand the visual appeal of a sandbed, it can also play an important environmental role for species that rely on it for food, shelter, and camouflage. For saltwater aquariums, it is important to understand the distinction between live and dry sand. Within this article we will focus on live sand as it contains beneficial bacteria that will aid in the cycling of an aquarium. Dry sand is also an option for those who want to start completely free of wild bacteria and prefer to cycle their tanks slowly. Within this article we will discuss some of the best aquarium sand options for your tanks.  

Nothing beats a clean and evenly distributed sandbed in a vibrant reef aquarium. While it does take some maintenance to keep a sandbed in this condition, it really does make a massive difference in the appearance of your aquarium. We will begin by making some suggestions for a mixed reef and for a really high contrast reef. We will then make our picks for a Caribbean inspired reef and one that can survive higher flow aquariums. While these are some of our favorite choices, there are also a plethora of other sand options that may be a great fit for your aquarium. If you have any questions or if you are needing a specific recommendation please reach out to our customer care team and they would be happy to assist you.  

Summary:  

The Top Choice for the Mixed Reef: CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand 

Our Favorite for High Contrast: CaribSea Arag-Alive Hawaiian Black Sand

Our Pick for the Caribbean Feel: CaribSea Arag-Alive Bahama Oolite Sand

What You Need for a High Flow System: CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade Reef Sand

The Top Choice for the Mixed Reef: CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand 
Fiji Pink Live Sand
Fiji Pink Live Sand

In a standard mixed reef aquarium, we love the visual appeal that comes from CaribSea’s Fiji Pink live sand. The hits of pink throughout this fine reef sand will really pop under the glow of your lighting. It also will have great contrast with most coral and rockwork. We recommend using around one pound per gallon or just enough for a two inch sand bed. Since this is a live sand variety, it will help to cycle your aquarium at a faster rate where fish can be added within 24 hours of setup. This coarse variety will also work very well for any sand sifting fish species. For its visually pleasing color, ability to quickly cycle your aquarium, and consistent particle size, the Fiji Pink Live Sand from CaribSea is our best aquarium sand option for a mixed reef.   

Our Favorite for High Contrast: CaribSea Arag-Alive Hawaiian Black Sand 
Hawaiian Black Sand
Hawaiian Black Sand

For a more unique and vibrantly colored reef, the Hawaiian Black Sand from CaribSea would be your ideal choice. Even with its different color, this is still a completely natural reef sand. Similar to the previously mentioned option, this is a live sand variety that will aid in the cycling of an aquarium. With this being live sand, you will want to make sure that you don’t rinse the sand before adding it to the aquarium. This will remove all beneficial bacteria within the live sand and it will increase the time it takes to cycle. The particle size on the Hawaiian Black ranges between .25 and 3.5 millimeters which will allow for sand sifting fish species to be kept with this sand. The package will also include a water clarifying product that will help remove cloudiness from the water once the sand is added. With all of these benefits, this Hawaiian black variety is our pick for the best aquarium sand for a high contrast reef tank.  

Our Pick for the Caribbean Feel: CaribSea Arag-Alive Bahama Oolite Sand 
Bahama Oolite Reef Sand
Bahama Oolite Reef Sand

Anyone who has traveled to the caribbean and felt the soft beach sand between their toes could tell you about this Bahama Oolite sand from CaribSea. It is lighter in color and has very fine granules. The fine granules allow for a higher density which makes frequently cleaning out the sandbed more important. Also, this is not the ideal choice for an aquarium with a lot of flow as these smaller particles will blow around. It would also not be a great variety if you are planning on keeping sand sifting fish species. Even with these limitations, the Bahama Oolite sand has an amazing appearance which allows your corals to glow. The sand has a great shimmer effect when the lights shine on it. Just like the previous varieties this is a live sand variety that will help cycle an aquarium quickly. Overall, the Bahama Oolite is our choice for the best aquarium sand for that Caribbean look.   

What You Need for a High Flow System: CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade Reef Sand
Special Grade Reef Sand
Special Grade Reef Sand

If you need high flow in your aquarium but still love the look of a sandbed, rest assured there is still a good option for you. The CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade sand is another live sand variety that will get your aquarium cycling from the moment it enters your tank. The granule size of this variety is between one and three millimeters which will be capable of withstanding high flow SPS tanks. For those who prefer to cycle their tank manually, a dry variety is available in the same granule size. This granule size will also allow for an easier maintenance routine where it should be simple to remove any debris built up in the sand bed after a quick siphoning. This aragonite based sand can be used as either a deep or shallow bed that will allow you to keep a plethora of sand sifting species. For each of these reasons, the CaribSea Arag-Alive Special Grade sand is our top pick for a high flow aquarium. 

Final Thoughts: 

Sand selection was once a simply yes or no option. However, with the increased interest, development, and research going into the hobby, a plethora of sand options have presented themselves. The only factors to consider when selecting a sand variety for a saltwater aquarium is the outward appearance and if you prefer live or dry sand. Regardless of your sand selection, it is important to frequently siphon the sandbed to keep it looking clean and remove any buildup of excess nutrients. A clean sandbed will keep your tank looking great while presenting a perfect environment for whatever species you are keeping. We hope that this article has been valuable in your aquarium building process. If you run into any questions or are searching for a specific recommendation, our customer care team would be happy to assist you.  

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