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The material sitting at the bottom of your fish tank is known as the substrate. You need an excellent substrate for your planted aquarium to ensure the plants thrive, and the tank is comfortable for your fish.

Sand makes a suitable substrate for fish tanks because it will not allow water to flow through it easily, and it mimics the natural environment of the river and seabeds where your fish live.

Even so, when choosing sand for your fish aquarium, ensure it is not the very fine variety. This is because it will allow water to drain quickly and leave your plant roots suffocated.

Moreover, this means you have to keep replenishing the water in your fish tank, and this will prove cumbersome for you.

Here are other tidbits that will prove essential when using a sand substrate for your fish tank.

Preparing the Fish Tank

Irrespective of the sand type you pick for your aquarium, you should prepare it before adding it to the tank. Measure about a pound of sand for one gallon of water or aim for a consistent sand depth throughout.

You should then clean the sand to get rid of excess dust that will cloud your aquarium’s water for a long time.

You ideally should add the sand to an empty and dry aquarium. Adding sand to a water-filled tank stirs up its particles and leaves you with cloudy water.

If you get some cloudiness when adding your water to sand, this should not worry you as it clears in a few days when the sand settles.

Should You Add Dirt Under The Sand?

When establishing a planted aquarium, you should have the right conditions in it for your plants to thrive.  Sand, however, contains no nutrients for your growing plants.

As such, it is best to add another material like dirt from Carib Sea Eco Complete to provide the needed nutrients for your plants.

You will place the sand in an adequately thick layer over the dirt. This way, the sand will provide a barrier against the dirt and your aquarium water. In so doing, nutrients from the dirt will not leach into your aquarium’s water and derange its parameters, thus affecting your fish.

How to Add Aquarium Dirt under Sand?

Adding aquarium dirt under your sand is in no way an easy process. Doing it wrong, on the other hand, is not an option since it will harm your planted aquarium rather than benefit it. Here are some steps you can follow when adding the dirt to your aquarium sand:

  1. Place a half-inch layer of dirt in your dry fish tank. When doing this, be careful that the dirt does not touch your tank’s sidewalls.
  2. Cover this dirt with approximately two inches of sand.
  3. Slowly fill up your tank with water such that the dirt will remain undisturbed.

What Plants Will Grow in A Sand Substrate?

Not all plants will do well in sand substrate, but there are few really good beginner plants, that you can plant in sand. Here are few examples:

– Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon sword thrives best in a sand substrate of at least 2.5 inches in thickness so that its roots will be firmly held in place.

This plant has large green leaves that will provide many hiding spots for your fish. It thrives in water temperatures of 60-84 degrees Fahrenheit, PH levels of 6.5-7.5, and hardness ratings of 8-15dGH.

– Crypt

Cryptocoryne lutea is a slow-growing plant species that offers texture to aquariums in the back and midgrounds. When planting the crypts in your fish tank, ensure you thoroughly wash them beforehand to avoid introducing diseases in it.

Most people worry that the plant’s leaves will melt when grown in water. This should not be a hindrance since the shoots remain in the sand and will re-grow in a few weeks.

– Vallisneria

This is among the easiest plants to cultivate in your aquarium. The Vallisneria send out runners after every 5-6 weeks that will grow into new plants. The plants have a dense carpet and can grow quite tall, making them ideal for providing hiding spaces for your fish.

– Water Sprite

This is a fast-growing species for fish tanks of at least 10 gallons. The water sprite reaches maximum heights of 12 inches and thrives in water temperatures of 20-30 degrees Celsius. The plant is nonetheless not an ideal choice for fish tanks with snails since these destroy it.

Can Sand Damage Your Filters?

Sand can ruin your filters if it gets sucked into it. This often happens when cleaning the filter, adding decorative plants, and changing water since these all disturb the sand at the tank’s bottom. The sucked sand, in this case, will damage your impeller, wear down the filter’s parts and clog the filter.

Potential Problems with Sand Substrate

Once you add sand to your aquarium, the substrate brightens it and will benefit many fish species. Even so, there are several drawbacks to using sand substrates for planted fish tanks. Here are some of the common ones:

  • Sand cannot be vacuumed well
  • Sand can develop air bubbles because of anaerobic bacteria in it
  • In very fine sand, plants will not grow
  • Sand clouds your aquarium’s water when not properly cleaned
  • It can damage your aquarium’s filter impeller

Wrapping Up

You can choose between play, blasting, and silica pool sand for your aquarium. Play sand is inexpensive and comes in several colors and textures for an attractive tank.

Blasting sand has a more consistent grain size and color and is more refined compared to play sand but is also more expensive than the latter.

Silica pool sand is mostly used for swimming pools, but it also makes an excellent choice for aquariums. Though more expensive compared to blasting and play sand, the sand comes in several grain sizes and colors. This allows you to customize your fish tank to match different elements.

Now that you know how to incorporate sand into a fish tank, you are assured of a beautiful planted aquarium where your fish will thrive. The sand also offers an inexpensive option for sprucing your tank and will last for ages.

Written by Fabian

Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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