How to Clean Aquarium Sand

Aquariums are beautiful and peaceful additions to your space, but only when they are properly cleaned and maintained. When starting a fish tank, one of the first things people usually add is the substrate, and this is usually gravel or sand. If you have chosen sand as the base for your aquarium, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to clean it. The last thing you want to do is assume it will be fine without regular maintenance! 

To help you keep your aquarium sand clean, we have put together this handy guide which outlines the different ways that you can clean your sand and how to do it. Keep reading for hints, tips and advice from Pond Planet today. 

4 Ways to Clean Aquarium Sand

Here are our top 4 options for cleaning your aquarium sand. Consider incorporating a few of these methods into one regular maintenance routine, or try out just one or two to see an improvement in the cleanliness of your tank. 

1. Gravel Vacuums

The most obvious solution for keeping your aquarium sand clean is to use a gravel vacuum. Although, don’t let the name fool you; they are also built for use on sand. This simple device keeps aquarium substrate clean with a flexible syphon tube and a larger diameter pipe combination. These work together by sucking the sand up through the wider pipe and tumbling it to release debris and dirt. 

Next, any loose and removed dirt floats up the syphon tube and is released into the bucket and the now clean sand sinks back down to the aquarium bottom. 

It is worth noting that due to aquariums sand being so fine, we find it works best to hover the gravel vacuum slightly higher above the sand to ensure it is cleaned and returned to the bottom of the tank properly. This technique will become second nature with a bit of practice, and you will have nothing to worry about! 

2. Power Vacuums

Another type of vacuum cleaner available is the power vacuum, and unlike the gravel vacuum, it does not work by syphoning the sand. Instead, this battery-operated vacuum works by trapping loose dirt and returning clean water to the tank. It can also be connected to a hose to perform a water change and remove the dirty water. 

3. Sand Sifting Fish 

A way to clean aquarium sand without much work yourself is to introduce sand sifting fish to the tank. Popular species known to sift through sand are Corydoras and Suckermouth catfish, also known as ‘cleaning fish’. These species will use their short whiskers to find food in the sand and sit on, swim over, and sift through the sand all day long. This routine keeps it turned over and cleaned regularly. 

If you do choose to use sand sifting fish to keep the sand clean, then make sure you still regularly feed them sinking food designed for the species, as a diet from sifting through that sand is not enough to sustain them. 

4. Hands-On Cleaning 

If other options are not suitable for your tank, then you can always get your own hands dirty,  literally! By simply rolling up your sleeves, getting stuck in and raking your fingers through the sand yourself, you can turn over the sand and dislodge dirt and debris yourself. If you combine this simple technique with a water change or mechanical filter clean, you can remove the dirt permanently.

Top Tips for Clean Aquarium Sand

  • Clean your aquarium sand properly before adding it to your tank. 
  • Only add a thin layer of the sand substrate to avoid compacting; aim for no more than 2.5cm deep. 
  • Make sure you only use sand safe for aquariums, as not all sand is the same, and some will have adverse effects on your aquarium. 
  • Stick to a routine of regular sand cleaning and utilise substrate dwelling fish to keep your tank clean. 
  • Do not mix substrates with fine sand as the sand will fall to the bottom with the larger and coarser gravel remaining above. 

Next Steps

Now you have the basics covered for keeping your aquarium sand clean, you can look forward to a healthy and regular maintenance routine. This will ensure your aquarium life is happy and healthy and maintain a beautiful and clean aquascape. Shop aquarium treatments and cleaning tools available online at Pond Planet today, as well as a wide range of natural sands and coloured sands. Or why not look for further advice on cleaning your aquarium? Here we are proud to offer our customers all the advice you could need on topics such as cleaning and maintaining your tank filter and how to improve water quality.

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