Sand is one of the most attractive types of substrate, and it’s a great choice for a lot of aquarium inhabitants, too. A lot of people might feel that sand in an aquarium is intimidating. Gravel is enough of a pain to keep clean, so how do you even begin with sand?
There are many things to consider when cleaning sand in an aquarium, but it’s something that anyone can learn to do. Here is everything you need to know about the process.
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Type of Substrate
The type of substrate is more important than you might think. Some people use play sand. With play sand, you can rake through it and siphon it without worrying about stirring up too much in the tank. On the other hand, specialty sand can release nitrates and ammonia, which can pollute the water.
Read the packaging if you’re not sure, or talk to someone at your local pet store to find out if the sand you have could potentially hurt your fish.
Begin by turning off everything in the tank, including the pump, heater, and filter, and it is a great time to do the rest of the tank maintenance. Take some tank water in a small bucket and use it to rinse the filter cartridge.
Remove all the decorations and wash them in warm water. Use your hands or a gentle bristle brush to remove all the algae.
If you have any live plants in the tank, leave them in the tank. Disturbing them may damage the roots.
Start by scraping off the algae. You can use an algae scrubber or a lint-free cloth to gently clean algae from the glass. It’s okay if anything falls to the bottom of the tank since you’re going to be vacuuming it up when you clean the sand later.
Use the siphon to drain about ten to 25 percent of the water into the bucket. You can drain this directly into a sink, too, if your setup allows it.
Fill the bucket with tap water and add the water conditioner according to the directions on the bottle. A water conditioner neutralizes the chlorine and other impurities in the water to make it safe for your fish. Let this water sit while you proceed to the next step.
Cleaning the Sand
Start by using your fingers to mix up the sand. Rake your fingers through the bottom of your tank, bringing the sand from the bottom to the surface. Make sure you overturn the entire bottom of the tank to cover all the sand.
Allow the sand to settle for a few minutes, then take the siphon to remove the debris from the surface. Move slowly back and forth with the siphon just above the surface of the sand.
If the syphon picks up any sand, you can add it back to the tank or dispose of it and add fresh sand. When adding new sand, make sure you rinse it before adding it to the aquarium. Put some of the sand into the large bucket, and use the sink sprayer to rinse it.
Dump the water, then refill and rinse again. Repeat until the water runs clear.
Putting the Tank Back Together
After the sides of the tank are free of algae, and you have overturned and vacuumed the sand, it’s time to put everything back into the tank. Replace the clean decor and add more sand if needed.
Check the temperature of the bucket of clean water to make sure it’s close in temperature to the water in the tank. Then, add it to the tank slowly. If you dump it in too fast, it will disturb the fish, sand, and the decor you just replaced. Pour slowly or use a plate to deflect the water and disperse it into the tank.
When the tank is full again, turn on the filter, heater, and lighting. Make sure everything is operating as it should be. Don’t be surprised if the water is cloudy. It will settle in a few hours.
You might want to leave the light off for a few hours after cleaning the tank. This process can be very stressful on your fish, and leaving the light off can help them relax.
Clean Sand for a Healthy Tank
Sand is an ideal substrate for any tank. It looks natural and is a perfect option for bottom feeders that can hurt their stomachs on coarse gravel.
Some people are intimidated by sand in an aquarium because they think it’s a lot of work, but that’s not necessarily true. We hope we helped you see that aquarium sand is easy to care for and that you give it a try in your tank.