Most beginners flounder in deciding which sand to use for their saltwater aquariums, because there are various types of sand to choose from. Not only do they struggle with deciding on a specific sand to use, they also often ask how much sand they really need in their aquarium. When you consider a specific sand type, you should also take the size of the sand bed into consideration- do you want a deep sand bed or a shallow one?
There are three main types of sand that can be used in saltwater aquariums, namely Aragonite, Crushed Coral and Oolite.
Aragonite is the most typical and highly endorsed type of sand. It looks like prototypical sand and is made up of the same material that coral skeletons are made of, in other words, Aragonite is known as sand that is formulated from calcium carbonate.
Crushed coral includes much larger particles rather than being soft and delicate. Is has an appearance of little white stones and is made of crushed coral skeletons, obviously as the name states.
Lastly, Oolites are limestone consisting of a mass of rounded grains (otoliths) made up of concentric layers and has a diameter of less than 2mm.
There are also a few different colours of sand that you can choose from, like traditional, white, black and pink.
Traditional sand is your ordinary, run of the mill sand. White sand is known to brighten up your tank and would go perfectly with a tank that has other colourful elements such as corals and fish. It is made up from dead corals’ crushed skeletons.
Black sand is also known as Tahitian moon sand, because of the black beaches in Tahiti, caused by volcanic activity and lastly, pink sand is a combination of red and white sand. The ‘white’ sand is the Aragonite and the red sand originates from a sea creature called forams, which has a solid red shell.
Most people don’t consider sand as one of the important aspects of aquariums, but it can be just as important as any other element in your tank. Having sand in your tank adds an elegant atmosphere to it, it can help speed up the biological filtration process and the denitrification process and it can serve as a habitat for several species of fish and good bacteria.
Now the question is: Do I buy live sand or dry sand? Live sand is natural reef coral sand with millions of beneficial bacteria and organisms which aid in the dissolving of organic wastes like ammonia, nitrites and nitrates produced by larger organisms in saltwater aquariums. Dry sand can either be sand that is artificially dried after being made into a mould that was distinguished from greensand or it can be sand that does not produce any oils or gasses. Live sand is generally more expensive than dry sand, but it is more beneficial, because it helps with the biological filtration process.
Determining how much sand you want to put into your tank depends on what you want to do. If you want to decorate your tank, you should go with the sand that has the most interesting appearance to you. If you want to go with the option that most people go with, you should have a sand bed that is about 1-2 inches in height and lastly if you want to have a deep sand bed in your tank, make sure that your sand bed is about 15cm in height, in order for the biological filtration to function properly. If you have a sand bed that is between 5-15cm, the biological filtration will not function like it has to. Please remember that for every 3.8 litres of water, you must add a 2.5cm layer of sand.
Before adding sand to your aquarium, you should properly clean the sand to prevent a hazy appearance in your tank, because of the dust that is found in uncleaned sand. After that you can put the sand into a plastic scoop and lower it into the water, when reaching the bottom, gently let it fall to the surface of the glass or sand that is already there. Picking sand is not rocket science, just pick a sand type that you like and go with it.