fish tank sand

Using Play Sand For Your Aquarium

If you have a fish tank, then you know that aquarium sand and substrates can be mind-boggling expensive. If you happen to have play sand on hand, you may be wondering if you can use that in your aquarium. So, we’re going to talk about the ins and outs of using play sand in your aquarium.

play sand for aquarium
Can you use your kids play sand in your aquarium? The short answer is yes!

The bottom line is that yes, you can use play sand in your aquarium. You just need to give it a thorough wash before it goes into your tank.

Is Play Sand Actually Aquarium Safe

Play sand is a pretty good option for use in an aquarium. All the checking and filtering that has to be done to make sure that it’s safe sand for sandboxes also helps to make it safe for your fish. It is typically clean and low in dust.

As with anything you put into your aquarium, it is necessary to clean it before use. As the grains are quite fine, this can be a bit of an involved process, but given how much cheaper it is, you can look at this as an investment of time to save you some money.

fishes inside an aquarium
Play sand is actually safe for aquariums thanks to its filtering properties

How to Prepare Your Sand

The first thing to do is measure out the amount of sand you need. If you are just using it for basic appearance, then around an inch deep is suitable. If you have deep-rooted plants or burrowing creatures, you might want to take 3 inches as your minimum depth.

Put your hand into a clean bucket. If your sand is more than ⅓ the depth of the bucket, you’ll need to do it in stages. As you’re pouring it into the bucket, it’s an excellent opportunity to pick out any visible debris.

Cover your sand in water and give it a really good stir with something like a wooden spoon. Tap water is fine for this. Let the sand settle, then pour the water out. You can use this water in your garden, so it doesn’t go to waste. You’ll need to repeat this step until the water is clear. It can take as many as ten repetitions. This is to get all the dust and particulate out.

If the sand has been sitting around in your garage for a while. It could have harmful bacteria in it. You may want to heat the sand to kill these microorganisms. You can either boil it in water for around 20 minutes or heat it in the oven at 300 oF for the same time.

You’re now ready to put your sand into your tank. When you add the water in, it’s best to do so slowly to prevent agitating the sand too much. A good technique is to place something like a plate over the sand and pour the water into it. 

Benefits Of Using Sand In Your Aquarium

colorful fishes in a well-maintained aquarium
There are many benefits to using play sand in aquariums including the natural look

There are many benefits to using sand in your aquarium. If it’s not something you’ve considered before, then here are some of the best reasons.

Natural Look

One of the most significant selling points of using play sand in your aquarium is the look. It makes the tanks look brighter and more natural.

Great For Plants

If you have live plants in your tank, then sand makes an excellent substrate for them. They can easily grow their roots through it. You just need to make sure you keep it deep enough for them. 

Good For Burrowing Creatures

Burrowing creatures like catfish and hermit crabs like to burrow into the sand. You’ll often spot them disappearing into the sand between feeds.

Aids Digestion For Some Fish

Quite a few species of fish will consume sand. Like with chickens, the hard particles help them to digest their food.

Potential Drawbacks of Using Play Sand In Your Aquarium

As with everything in life, it isn’t all upsides. There are a few drawbacks to using play sand in your aquarium.

unique aquarium
If you use play sand in aquariums, you need to be mindful of a few risks

Can Get Into Your Filter

If the sand is agitated, it can get sucked up into your filter. If this happens, it could cause some damage. The best way to deal with this is not to overfill your tank with sand.

Harmful Bacteria Can Grow 

If the sand is left untouched, it can form small pockets. In these pockets, bacteria can grow, which may be harmful to your fish. If you have burrowing creatures in your tank, this isn’t a problem. As they agitate the sand, it prevents the growth of these microorganisms.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you choose the right aquarium sand?

If you know that you want to use sand in your aquarium, then it’s just a matter of look. Once you find a sand for fish tanks you like the look of, at a price you’re willing to pay, you can just go ahead and put it into your tank. 

If you don’t want to spend as long cleaning sand, you might do better by picking aquarium sand. It is more expensive, but it usually requires less washing.

Why should you use sand in your aquarium?

When you’re choosing a substrate for your aquarium, in most cases, the choice is a compromise between look and cost. If you want a natural look, then sand is a fantastic option. If you want something more colorful, you might do better with other options.

The only real exception to this is if you have burrowing creatures in your tank. In this case, sand makes an ideal home for them. They will happily bury themselves in the sand.

Can this sand be used for hermit crabs??

Play sand is an ideal option for hermit crabs. It makes a great base layer for them to dig in. It needs to be washed the same as for any aquarium, but you should find that they thrive in a tank filled with play sand.