Using the right sand in a reef tank is key to helping your coral thrive.
In fact, the best sand for reef tank creates an environment that recreates a natural ocean habitat by using sand right from the ocean floor, colonized with the right mix of beneficial bacteria.
The best sand won’t need changing very frequently or at all.
Plus, it will quickly get the water clear and balanced so you don’t have to wait too long to get started with your set up.
Table of Contents
- Best Sand for Reef Tank
- Sand for Reef Tank Reviews
- What is the best live sand for a reef tank?
- How much sand for reef tank?
- How to keep your sand clean in a reef tank?
Best Sand for Reef Tank
There are so many different varieties of sand out there that you might not know where to start.
If you’re looking for the best sand for reef tanks, check out the table below.
|Picture||Reef Sand||Net Weight||Link|
|CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand||20-Pound|
|Nature's Ocean No.0 Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Live Sand for Aquarium||10-Pound|
|Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates||20-Pound|
|CaribSea Dry Aragonite Special Grade Reef Sand||15-Pound|
Sand for Reef Tank Reviews
1. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand
One of the best things about this Fiji Pink sand from CaribSea is that it’s packed with millions of good bacteria before you even put it in an aquarium.
There are heterotrophic, autotrophic, and chemolithotrophic bacteria to aid in waste reduction and reduce the cycling time usually needed when setting up a new tank.
In fact, it’s specifically designed to avoid all the problems that come along with a new tank and acts as a nitrate filter, ammonia reducer, and biological filter in one.
It’s pretty enough to use on its own but can use it with another substrate as a way to quickly add beneficial bacteria to the tank. A water clarifier is included to help clear the water quickly when it first goes into the tank. It’s specially made to keep bacteria colonies growing, too.
The surface area is ideal for large colonies to adhere to and it contains a source of calcium, carbonate, and trace elements to keep the pH balanced without adding any additional chemicals.
One more thing, this substrate never needs to be replaced. It works in conjunction with the natural bacteria in the tank to keep your reef happy and healthy.
2. Nature’s Ocean No.0 Bio-Activ Live Aragonite Live Sand for Aquarium
Nature’s Ocean makes premium-quality sand that’s completely natural. It actually comes from the ocean and contains live marine bacteria that stabilized your tank really fast. The process that they use preserves all the bacteria in its natural state so it quickly adapts to your tank.
In fact, you can set everything up and place your coral and any fish into the tank the same day. The instant cycling quickly restores a natural balance to tank water, eliminating ammonia and nitrate quickly and effectively.
This sand contains live aragonite which helps control nitrate levels and maintain proper pH. There’s also plenty of natural living beneficial bacteria in this substrate, including heterotrophic, autotrophic, and chemolithotrophic to give a perfect balance to the water.
The sand also provides a lot of surface area for beneficial bacterial colonies to continue to grow and thrive creating a welcoming environment for your reef.
3. CaribSea Ocean Direct Substrates
CaribSea uses a cool preservation process with this Ocean Direct substrate. Every grain of sand is coated with bacteria that came directly from the ocean when it was collected.
It’s encapsulated with a thin film of ocean water that remains open to the air so that gas exchange can continue. This allows for beneficial bacteria to continue growing without any noxious build-up.
Each bag comes with clarifier to quickly get free-floating bacteria to the sand, rocks, and other biological filtration media. The tank is ready to go quickly and easily thanks of physics and biology.
4. CaribSea Dry Aragonite Special Grade Reef Sand
This Special Grade Reef Sand is a perfect, natural substrate for reef tanks. It provides a natural balance of the bacteria and minerals needed to keep the water in balance.
Because it’s reef sand, it’s specially formulated to create a reef-friendly environment. It’s harvested from true ocean water, not collected from beaches or shallow reefs.
Believe it or not, this sand keeps the pH at 8.2 without having to constantly add chemicals to the water.
That’s not all.
For every pound of this sand there are 10,000 square inches of surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. This provides a natural way to control nitrate, ammonia, and other harmful waste.
What is the best live sand for a reef tank?
The best live sand for a reef tank is CaribSea’s Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand. It comes full of good bacteria that helps get your aquarium balanced quickly, even if you’re starting from scratch with a new set up.
The mix of bacteria includes heterotrophic, autotrophic, and chemolithotrophic which work together to reduce waste and reduce tank cycling time.
Plus, the pH stays balanced without the addition of any chemicals. This substrate looks gorgeous and, as a bonus, never needs to be replaced.
How much sand for reef tank?
You might be tempted to think that, because this sand is so beneficial, more is better. This is not the case. It’s important to avoid using too much sand. Because this substrate is too thick, waste and other unwanted particles can get trapped and cause build-up and other issues in the tanks.
Experts have a lot of different opinions about the depth of reef sand. Some feel that around 2 inches is best, which is about 1.5 pounds of sand per each gallon of tank water. So, roughly 80 pounds for a 55-gallon tank.
Some people prefer a thicker layer of sand, especially on a larger tank, because it creates a more visually appealing ratio of water to sand. Just remember, 2 inches is the high end of the range. Any thicker and you could start running into trouble.
Other experts believe that a good rule of thumb is 10 pounds of sand per square foot of bottom area. This gives you about a 1-inch deep coating. It creates a much different look than 2 inches of sand does while providing ample space for good bacteria to thrive.
Still others suggest a depth of ½ to 1 inch. Obviously, this is going to create a much different look in the tank but, if you’re using good sand, this depth is still enough to provide enough bacteria and surface area for beneficial colonies to expand and thrive.
So, as you can see, there’s no definitive answer as to how much sand you should use for a reef tank but sticking between ½ inch and 2 inches is a safe bet. Any less and you run the risk of not having enough space for the necessary bacteria to thrive. Any more and you might run into problems with waste getting trapped and causing problems in the water.
How to keep your sand clean in a reef tank?
Reef sand is very different from most other substrates. You really shouldn’t need to change it very often. Instead, it’s ideal to add some animals to your reef tank to turn over the live sand. These creatures are affectionately called janitors, custodians, or cleaners. Some good choices are hermit crabs, shrimp, gobies, or jawfish.
Make sure you research these creatures before putting them into your tank as not all of these can live together peacefully. If you get the right mix of janitors, you should not need to do a deep clean of the sand.
That said, it’s still important to maintain a clean surface. Use an aquarium vacuum or siphon to clear away any left behind food or debris. Make sure you get anything that’s hiding between rocks or plants as well.
A reef tank requires a perfectly balanced tank that can be difficult to achieve. That’s why it’s important to use the right sand as substrate when you’re building your tank environment. We reviewed several great options, all of them natural sand collected from the ocean floor with their beneficial bacterial colonies intact.
By using the best reef sand, your tank will not only look gorgeous, but it will also be less work for you. By providing the beneficial bacteria the water needs, the sand helps keep the water clean and the pH balanced without ever having to use any chemicals. Add a few janitors to the tank and they’ll do the work of turning over the sand for you. All you’ll have to do is use an aquarium vacuum or siphon to clean debris from the surface of the sand as needed. That’s it! No changing out or washing substrate, no rotating water.
Our pick for best sand for reef tanks is CaribSea Arag-Alive Pink Fiji Sand. It looks gorgeous plus it has all of the elements you need to keep the tank water clean, pH balanced, and contaminate free. This substrate should never have to be replaced and won’t require additional chemicals to be added to the water. It will continue to help your tank thrive for a lifetime.