The Best Aquarium Sand (Review) in 2021

Last Updated June 1, 2021

Finding the right sand for an aquarium can be very difficult, especially with the different kinds of sand on the market today. No doubt, aquarium sand not only varies in color, but also in materials and sizes. However, when filling your aquarium, you can’t make use of all sand types, since not all will work. In our article, ten of the best aquarium sands have been reviewed, with their description boldly stated to enable you to choose the best one for your aquarium. The sands types listed below have different rates and specifications; thus, they are suited for a variety of aquariums. Furthermore, we have also included a buying guide section that includes detailed questions and answers, along with the vital features aquarium sands present, before you decide on a specific kind.

The Best Aquarium Sand


The Caribea Naturals Aquarium Sand is our first and the best sand type. This is a natural sand that is made in the USA and doesn’t contain any dyes or artificial colors; thus, it is ecological safe for use. What’s more, the Caribea sand has a small grain size, and this makes it the best option if you wish to prevent any build up in your aquarium.

Furthermore, we love this neutral black sand fish tank because it is versatile enough to be used for all aquarium systems and allows you to recreate some of your favorite natural underwater worlds in the comfort of your home. For the highest level of authenticity in your aquarium, our experts will certainly recommend this sand from Caribea because it is carefully crafted and selected for a supernatural experience. The sand also comes in a wide range of colors to suit your aquarium design effortlessly. 

No paints or dyes

Ph neutral; safe for all aquarium systems

Made in the USA

Grain size reduces built up

  • Brand: CaribSea Aquatics
  • Model: CaribSea Aquatics
  • Weight: 10 pounds

pH neutral

Contains no dyes

Available in multiple colors


Not suitable for plant growth

May cause cloudiness


No doubt, there are a wide variety of sand types on the market today, and quite a number aren’t crafted from purely natural elements. Luckily, here is a great aquarium sand we love – the Natures Ocean Live Sand. It is clear that Nature’s Ocean is a company that cares about our environment. They love to keep all kinds of creatures safe; thus, they manufacture products using organic sources and processes. The result is sustainable products that can stand the test of time.

Their Aragonite aquarium decor is genuinely remarkable, from its composition to the usage. It contained the average and required pH; thus, your guaranteed safety for your fish. Once used, this sand helps you keep nitrates out of the water and away from your fish. With this sand, there is no need to wait for the cycling period; you only need to add your fish and watch them move.

Instant cycling guaranteed

No waiting just add fish

Reduces harmful nitrate

Maintains proper ph

  • Brand: Nature’s Ocean
  • Model: 20731
  • Weight: 10 pounds

Ideal for use in all aquariums

pH neutral

Contains no paints or dyes


Slightly prici=ey

Tough to maintain

Inadequate quantity


Twenty pounds of Carib Sea Fiji Pink Sand seems a lot, but once used, you realize how good and economical a single pack is. We introduce to you another spectacular sand type from the Caribsea camp. Like their other sand types, the Fiji Pink is formulated to enhance the biological filtration that occurs in your aquarium and is well suited for all marine aquariums, thanks to its high amount of aragonite substrate.

The Fiji Pink aquarium soil is created with the sole aim of allowing aquarium owners to recreate their favorite marine environments in the comfort of their home, with their level of control. What’s more, this sand Is engineered to begin your aquarium instantly; thus, you only need to add your fish. No doubt, we recommend this sand because it truly is remarkable in its use and also prevents the development of algae and also maintains the proper pH of your aquarium.

Functional aragonite substrate

For all marine aquariums

Enhances biological filtration

Helps recreate any marine environment

  • Brand: Carib Sea
  • Model: 792
  • Weight: 20 pounds

Helps in biological filtration

Discourages the growth of algae

Contains minerals for reef growth


Not ideal for all fish and plants

Needs to be correctly rinsed

Slightly alters the pH level


Another brand that has gained popularity over the years is Fairmount. This company has been in existence for a long time, with every product created made for the wellness of both animals and humans. With a significant consideration for the environment, they ensure that all products adhere to safety regulations and their Santrol Aqua sand is exceptional with its unique formula. 

This aquarium sand for plants is ecologically safe; thus, it is not known to solidify. The lack of such particles helps to prevent clogging and channeling of sand elsewhere. What’s more, the sand is organic, free from all dangerous chemicals and can also remove all dirt, insects, dust, and hair from your water efficiently. At a lower cost, you can implement short maintenance procedures that will allow you to make use of the sand for a very long time.

Pool filter 20-grade silica

Ecologically safe sand

Prevent clogging and channeling

Ensures easy maintenance

  • Brand: FairmountSantrol
  • Model: AquaQuartz-50
  • Weight: 50 pounds

Contains no paints or dyes

Available in multiple colors

Comes in a 5, 20- or 50-pound bag



Not ideal for all plants

Hard to come by


Caribsea is still in the aquarium miracle business; thus, they’ve introduced their latest sand type, the Ocean Direct Sand. This is a substrate that is formulated by the best oceanic engineers and enthusiasts, to offer your aquarium all the necessary benefits. It is natural and comes in a 20lb pack to last you a long time. It also contains a lot of natural bacteria that is essential for the health of both plants and animals.

Additionally, the Carib sea Ocean Direct freshwater aquarium sand uses a patented pending sea to breathe technology, which allows the sand to preserve its bacteria at no cost. Furthermore, this technology goes a long way to prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria, which can affect the metabolic nature of your organisms. We recommend Ocean Direct because it allows all aquariums to thrive as naturally as possible, without the stress of artificial elements which may be detrimental.

Natural live sand


2 in a pack

Contains original, natural bacteria

  • Brand: Seachem
  • Model: 3525
  • Weight: 16 pounds

Does not affect the pH of the water

Contains no paints or dyes

Comes in a 20-pound bag


Not conducive for all types of fish

Causes some cloudiness on first use


The Flourite Black Sand is a user-friendly sand type that adds a lot of value to your aquarium. The best engineers in the world formulate this American produced sand; thus, it goes a long way to maintain the health and state of every aquarium in which it is used.

Furthermore, it is regarded as very useful when used because of the presence of gravel modifiers which don’t alter the pH of your water; thus, your animals are kept safe and free from harm. The Flourite sand is also well suited to grow planted aquaria and is suitable for the overall life of your aquarium as it doesn’t need to be replaced from time to time. 

Easy to use

Great value

Manufactured in united states

  • Brand: Carib Sea
  • Model: 008479009401
  • Weight: 4.3 pounds

Dark color brings out the best coloration in fish

Contains beneficial bacteria for biological filtration

Does not require rinsing


White color does not enhance the coloration of fish

Not ideal for growing plants

High ph levels


Nature's Ocean Aqua Terra Black Sand 5 lb Bag

If you’re looking for a natural, dark sand, then look no further. This natural sand is completely non-toxic and will help you to maintain the natural Ph of your aquarium. Perfect for burrowers who like a light sand in which to play, this option is naturally dark, so will fit those whose aquariums also have a modern décor. Because all we know your fish will appreciate this.

Being so light, it can be a little difficult to rinse, and it may float when you first use this option. However, after 24 hours, you’ll soon notice that your fish tank sand will look great and feel good for your tank residents.

Natural sand

Black colouring

Ideal for maintaining a natural look


  • Brand: Nature’s Ocean
  • Model: Aqua Terra Black Sand
  • Weight: 5 Pounds

Acrylic coated to remain neutral

Helps to maintain the Ph of your tank

Fine grain helps to maintain a healthy balance


Can be difficult to rinse

Has a tendency to float on first use


Take a chance and have no regrets, with the Up Aqua Shrimp Sand. Everyone knows the importance of quality and organic sand in an aquarium, which is why this type is always high in demand. The sand comes with uniform grain sizes to prevent clogging and blocking of pipes and the Up Aqua fish tank sand does a fantastic job in all water, be it freshwater or saltwater.

Additionally, it is formulated especially for all shrimp keepers, and this means it has all the necessary bacteria and elements that will encourage healthy growth for as long as possible. What’s more, the sand contains high concentrations of trace minerals, with low plant nutrient levels to prevent over provision.

Small uniform grain sizes

Contains trace minerals vital for shrimps

Easy to maintain, great for breeding

Formulated for shrimp keepers

  • Brand: Up Aqua
  • Model: D-550
  • Weight: 1.8 pounds

pH neutral

Contains no paints or dyes

Available in multiple colors


Not suitable for massive plant growth

Changes in water composition

May cause cloudiness if not properly maintained


Carib Sea Aquatics Eco-Complete African Cichlid Zack Sand

For those seeking the ultimate natural sand, this Cichlid sand from CaribSea is a great choice for all your needs. Highly porous and maintaining natural, live bacteria, this sand not only looks great, but also helps to maintain the overall health of your fish tank. As such, it won’t need rinsing before its first use. Which makes changing the sand over much easier.

Another great choice for burrowers, do be aware that this sand is so light that it can easily be sucked into filters. We would recommend leaving the sand within the tank for a few hours before turning your filters on again, if possible, to help keep them clear and safe.

Highly porous

Contains live bacteria

Quick and easy to use

  • Brand: Caribsea
  • Model: 00777
  • Weight: 19.18 Pounds

Maintains the natural Ph balance of your tank

Light and ideal for burrowers

Beneficial bacteria help to maintain tank health

Does not need rinsing before first use


Be cautious of fake products

Not pure black sand

Can easily be sucked into filters


We love the Stoney River brand, which is why we decide to end this article with their best aquarium sand. Out of all the options mentioned, this tops the charts because of its affordability and high value. It features a non-toxic coating and doesn’t affect the pH of your water and is well suited for saltwater and freshwater aquariums; we know it is also well suited for your aquarium too. Enjoy all the benefits that come with using the best aquarium sand from Stoney Pebbles and watch your plants and fish thrive. 

5-Pound Bag

Will not affect PH

Safe for use in freshwater aquariums

Non-Toxic coating

  • Brand: Stoney River
  • Model: 6607
  • Weight: 5 pounds

100% natural ocean sand

Contains marine bacteria for biological filtration

Supports saltwater fish and reefs


Not suitable for substantial plant growth

Slightly alters the pH level

Not ideal for freshwater tanks

Best Aquarium Sand Buying Guide & FAQ

What to Look for in an Aquarium Sand

There are different sand types in the market today, ranging from unique to play sand. When applying sand, there are some features and factors you must consider before making that final decision. These factors are listed below and have been explained for a better understanding.

  • Application

Some sands are well suited for freshwater or saltwater. Depending on the aquarium you have, your choice will differ. Be sure to review the product description before making any final purchase.

  • Price

The second vital feature we need to consider is the price of all sand types. Usually, the price is a huge determinant for people when deciding the type of sand to use. Scout around for other and models, and review all their prices before settling on one product.

  • Brand

You will develop a favorite brand, without a doubt. The best way to find a favorite is to understand all the cons and pros of the known brands available on the market. After understating both the pros and cons, then only, can you make the right choice? Another way to go is to use all top brands as a reference point for your choice.

  • pH Level and Beneficial Bacteria

The bacteria and pH level of your sand are very vital factors that are important to every aquarist. There will be a severe disaster if the pH level of your aquarium is to change, which is why we recommend ph neutral sand types for use.


Benefits of Using Sand in the Aquarium

There are a lot of benefits to be derived from aquarium sand, and each one goes a long way to help in the overall growth of your plants and fish. The many benefits have been categorized under three major headings, which are discussed below.

  • The sand in aquariums makes every aquarium lively and beautiful. This is dependent on the sand color you choose to use.
  • Another benefit of the sand in aquariums is to house any debris or dirt that is excreted from fish and plants alike. The sand absorbs every form of waste to keep your water clean at all times, without any issues.
  • The final benefit of sand in the aquarium is that it is a natural element that is easier to clean, plus it looks better than many other options. They allow the free flow of water in your aquarium.

Types of Sand for Aquarium

  • Play sand

Play sand is the most commonly used option for aquariums. It is spotless and non-toxic. Some play sand types have a high level of clay content, and these types are awful for plants and animals alike. Using the high clay content sand in your aquarium makes cleaning very difficult.

  • Pool sand

The second type of sand is the pool sand, which is free of all contaminants. It is white and is regarded as more superior to the play sand. We love pool sand because all its particles are extra uniform and smooth to help create a better surface area. The disadvantage of using pool sand is that it can be blinding when your tank is highly lit.

  • Specialty sand

Specialty sands are a new and innovative addition to the sand industry, with the significant evolution of the aquarium industry. They have been formulated with the best features that keep your eater suitable for plant and animal life and the first and most vital feature of this sand is its Ph.

Aquarium Soil Vs. Gravel

Gravel and aquarium soil is widespread elements found in every aquarium. Choosing between the two can be very tough for many aquarium owners; thus, we have decided to distinguish one from the other. Gravel is dense in structure and is best used in freshwater aquariums. We love gravel because it allows for the free flow of water as compared to sand.

Aquarium soil, on the other hand, doesn’t allow water to flow freely. It, however, has more benefits than gravel, especially since it is excellent for all fish species. Many experts often opt for aquarium sand instead of gravel when creating their aquariums.

Blue Phantom Pleco Fish

Best Aquarium Sand FAQ:

Q: What is aquarium sand made of?

A: Aquarium sand comes in varieties, with each one made from varying materials. There are some made from a mixture of hard rock and other materials or substrates. There are purely organic sand types and those that feature artificial elements and substrates that offer different benefits.

Q: How much sand do I need per gallon?

A: One gallon of water, according to standards, will be suitable for 1 pound of sand. The approximation can be made using various methods, but the one purpose for impressive results has been stated above. With that as a reference, it means that you can make use of 10 pounds of sand to fill a 10-gallon tank.

Q: How long does aquarium soil take to settle?

A: Typically, aquarium sand doesn’t take a long time to settle. The settling process may be prolonged if it’s formulated with artificial elements. The general range for sand to pay is from a few hours to a few days. The determinants of this settling process include the size of grains, as well as how the sand is placed in the water. It can take up to three days for your sand to settle if it was just dumped.

Q: How do I clean sand for aquariums?

A: Cleaning aquarium sand is very easy, especially when you follow the instructions of the manufacturer. The first step is to pour your sand into a bucket and fill the bucket with water. If there are any piles at the bottom of your water, remove them and then mix your water-sand mixture. Ensure that the mixing process is done in a circular motion, after which you allow the mixture to settle for about 30 seconds. During the 30 seconds, you will find that the hot sand with sink, leaving debris and dirt to float.

Aquarium sand

Our Top Pick

There are ten sand types discussed below, and only one has been a global favorite for many years. In this top pick section, we take a look at this well-formulated product, its pros, and cons, as well as its composition. Caribsea has formulated our favorite aquarium sand. This is the Caribsea Naturals Aquarium Sand, a truly remarkable product that has been put together for the growth and beauty of your aquarium. It is well suited for all water types, and it accommodates the growth of different plants. Design your aquarium the way you deem fit, but making use of Caribsea’s special sand. We know you will love this sand and everything it represents.

Wendy Young
A freelance writer and word nerd, Wendy is a content writer with a knack for getting into the nitty-gritty of pet ownership. For the past three years, she’s been researching and writing a huge range of different topics – but always comes back to her beloved pet articles. Lover of all things four-legged and owner of Harley, Pepper and Rush, Wendy is currently completing her MNSW at Edge Hill University.
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