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5 Steps On How To Clean Aquarium Sand

If you have spent a good deal of time and money putting together a beautiful aquarium, then it’s important to make sure you keep it clean.

The benefits of keeping everything clean mean your fish will be healthy and more relaxed. Your tank and equipment will last longer plus your aquarium will look a lot nicer.

Many people choose to use sand instead of gravel as it gives a more natural feel to the aquarium.

So in this article, you will learn some great tips on how to clean aquarium sand.

Know Your Sand

There are a lot of different types of sand available so the first thing you need to do is check what you have. The type of sand you have will alter how you have to clean it. We will cover this in more detail as you read on but there are two types of sand that you need to know about.

The first type of sand that is usually classed as play sand is much easier to clean. This is because it doesn’t trap any harmful elements that can go back into the tank. The second type of sand is a specialty planting sand that can release ammonia if not handled in the right way.

It is important that you check which category your sand comes under to ensure that you handle it in the right way.

To summarize this section you need to check the following:

  • Is the sand play sand?
  • Is the sand specialty planting sand?
  • If your sand is specialty planting sand then you need to be extra careful when cleaning.

First Steps On How To Clean Your Aquarium Sand

clean aquarium sand

The first thing you need to do is turn off any electric accessories such as a filter, heater, and pumps. This is always an important step as accidents do happen. As you will be handling water you don’t want any chance of electricity connecting with you at the same time.

The next thing you need to do is move as many decorations out of the way as you can so you can clean as much of the sand as possible. It is not necessary to move any plants as disturbing the plants could damage them.

Once you have turned everything off and removed any decorations that you can then you will need to remove some of the water. Depending on how dirty everything is you may need to remove about 25% of the water from the tank.

There is some advice that says you should not remove decorations from the tank when cleaning. This is because you are removing bacteria that are helping the aquarium’s ecosystem. This is a personal choice so if you prefer you can leave everything in the tank and clean around it.

Here are the key first steps:

  • Turn everything off
  • Water and electricity don’t mix so be safe
  • Remove decorations but not plants
  • Or, clean around decorations if you prefer

Next, you can move onto cleaning the sand.

Cleaning The Aquarium Sand

Once you have followed the initial steps to clear the aquarium you can then begin to gently rake the sand with your fingers. When you do this you should see that all the debris and waste in the sand will settle on the top. Once the waste has settled you can use a vacuum siphon to pick up all the particles that now sit on the sand. After that use a net to pick out any larger debris that might be floating in the tank.

As mentioned in the last section if you are using play sand then you can rake without worry. If your sand is a specialty planting sand then there is a risk that it will release ammonia when raked. This is why it is important to check the type of sand first otherwise you might poison your fish. You could check the packaging the sand came in or check with the seller for any special cleaning instructions, this way you know for sure about any special instructions for cleaning the type of sand you have.

If the sand is a specialty planting sand this usually means you can only rake through the top inch or so of the sand. You will not be able to rake the bottom of the sand but the manufacturer guidelines should make this clearer for you.

Things to keep in mind when cleaning the sand:

  • Is it play sand or specialty sand
  • If you have play sand rake as normal
  • If you have specialty sand follow instructions, usually you can only rake the top inch
  • Use a net to get any big bits

What Is A Vacuum Siphon

You may have spotted that I mentioned using a vacuum siphon to pick up the debris once you have raked the sand. A vacuum siphon is a special tool you can get that you can use to help keep your tank clean.

Think of it as a kind of hoover for the aquarium. Once you have cleaned your tank and raked the sand, you can use the vacuum siphon to then extract all the debris that has collected on top of the sand. There is a range of these devices on the market so have a good look at them when deciding what is right for your needs. You will find they have a variety of features so you can get one to suit your needs.


Snail on the ground of a Aquarium

Another suggestion on how to clean aquarium sand is to get some snails. Snails are wonderful little creatures to have at the bottom of your aquarium. Snails do provide several great benefits such as eating waste. The snails as they move along will disturb the sand which means that the sand is always getting turned over. When the sand has turned this allows any debris to get moved to the top so you can easily remove it.

Another great thing about snails is that they will eat any excess food so your fish don’t overeat. The snails will also help keep algae down as most snails love to eat algae.

Some types of snail to consider are:

  • Malaysian Trumpet Snail. These snails are brilliant for turning over the sand so they would help keep any debris visible.
  • Nerite Snails. Nerite snails are great as they usually stay at the bottom of the tank so help keep the sand clean. They look amazing and they also love to eat algae.
  • Blue Mystery Snail. The Blue Mystery snails are fantastic additions to any aquarium. They will eat away at any debris left on the sand so helping to keep it really clean.
  • Japanese Trapdoor Snail. This snail is another one that loves to eat away at any waste so it will help keep your sand or substrate clean.

There are many other snail species available and they can make wonderful additions to your aquarium. Apart from helping keep the tank clean they also look great. Snails can give a boost to the appearance of the tank.

If you do decide to get a snail please make sure you check that you are getting a variety that is suitable for your aquarium. You need to check if the snail will be a danger to the fish in your tank. Or if the fish is a danger to the snail, also check if the snail will eat any plants you have in the tank. Provided you match the species with the environment of your tank then you shouldn’t have any problems.

Keep in mind the following when thinking about snails:

  • Will they turn the sand?
  • Will they eat excess food and waste?
  • Will they eat fish or plants?
  • Will the fish eat the snails?

If you keep these questions in mind when picking a snail for your aquarium you will get a great addition to your tank. They can also add great color to the tank so snails can be worth getting just for the view as well.

Final Thoughts On How To Clean Aquarium Sand

As you can see the process of how to clean aquarium sand isn’t that complicated. If you follow the instructions correctly then you should be able to keep your sand clean so that your fish thrive in a clean environment.

Provided you do this cleaning on a regular basis then you should find that cleaning the sand is always easy, straightforward and quick.

Here are some final reminders:

  • Check sand type first, is it play sand or specialty sand?
  • Rake the sand carefully as you don’t want to poison your fish.
  • Use vacuum siphon to collect the debris and waste
  • Consider adding snails to your tank if suitable, snail helps keep the tank clean and look great.

If you keep these points in mind then your sand will always be clean. This means your fish will be happy, healthy, and stress-free plus you can enjoy viewing a clean aquarium.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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