How To Clean Aquarium Sand? | AquariumHelps

In an aquarium, cleaning the sand is an important part of every aquarist. Because the sand contain different types of waste on their surface area that is harmful for pet fish. Many people think that cleaning sand is much more difficult than gravel cleaning. Actually, both are done almost the same process.

In this post, I’ll discuss how to clean aquarium sand perfectly, The step-by-step process, Some important tips, and so on.

Gravel Vacuum

To keep your sand clean, you can use a gravel vacuum. It is a combination of a ductile siphon tube and a wider diameter pipe that suck the sand up into the wide pipe, tumbling it and leaving the dirt and debris. The dirt floats inside the tube and buckets, and the substrate sinks back to the bottom of the aquarium.

Sand Sifter

It is a good practice to clean your sand, adding sand-sifting-fish like Corydoras catfish, which use their short whiskers to probe the sand for finding food. Add a few fish like that, and they will swim over and sift with the sand that helps keep the sand clean. For this task, these types of fish are familiar although they are not able to survive on scraps and need special sinking food.

Elbow Grease

If you have no problem wet your arm, rake the sand bed thoroughly using your finger, turning it over, and then dis, turn it over and remove the dirt and debris. Incorporate this step with water changes and mechanical filter clean so that the dirt will be removed permanently.

Power Vacuum

If you don’t want to siphon your tank water, then you can use a power gravel vacuum that cleans the tank water thorough trapping that aquarium waste. Just hover the vacuum slightly higher while cleaning the sand.

How To Clean Aquarium Sand Without A Vacuum

When you don’t have a gravel siphon, you can use a turkey buster as an alternative option, which would be a smarter solution. The tucker buster (also known as pressure kit) can perform accurately when removing dust from the substrate. It is sometimes better than a vacuum kit, although it takes a longer time to complete the whole aquarium.

Using a tucker buster for cleaning the substrate is quite easy, and the total process is nothing more than to point, squeeze, then eject. This trick is especially useful for those people who keep small fish in nano tanks or excessively decorative tanks that have more than enough nooks and crevices.

But if this trick is not acceptable to you, I recommend you remove the vac tube part form your gravel siphon when your challenge is keeping sand out of the vacuum kit.

Keep away the vac tube from the vacuum and use hose so that it can suction well and get specific dirt spots on the sand.

How To Clean Aquarium Sand With Vacuum

Here are three quick steps to clean the sand with a vacuum (siphon)

Step #1 Shake the sand 

This is the first thing you have to shake the sand slightly with your hand, net, or whatever you want to use. Shake the sand thoroughly and give your tank five to ten minutes to settle. In this way, the dirt that your filter was not able to pick out will stay on top of the sand.

Step #2 Siphon the dirt

Now you have all the dirt on top of the sand-substrate, and you siphon the dirt from the sand’s surface. To get the best result, go over the sand gently and lightly through your vacuum. And, don’t try to get down excessively into the sand because it can allow the vacuum to pick all the sand out of the tank instead of picking the dirt.

As your challenge is taking all the dirt into your vacuum, tilt the siphon and try to make a swirling motion on the sand. This will remove all the waste from your substrate as well.

Step #3 Clean The Filter

The last thing is to clean the filter entirely as it may have dirt when you shake up the sand. 

Once you have complete the vacuuming, you have to give your filter a quick clean so that it has no dirt inside or any angle.

Aquarium Sand Cleaning Fish

The most natural way to clean aquarium sand, adding bottom-dwelling cleaner fishes or other aquatic animals that can live in the tropical aquarium. Such as snails and shrimps.

However, what kind of fishes and shrimps are able to make the desired cleaning for the tank sand?

#1 Corydoras Catfish

The Corydoras Catfish are the most popular and familiar fish to clean the tank sand. And, they are really natural cleaner that will find and collect discarded waste from water either at the top of the sand or beneath the substrate.

There are some cory fishes that help to keep the substrate clean:

  • Bronze Cory
  • Skunk Cory
  • Albino Cory
  • Pygmy Cory

#2 Botia Loaches

The Botia Loaches are another genus of excellent bottom-dwelling cleaners. Most aquarists love this fish because they do a great job keeping the substrate clean and having awesome personalities. Though most species of Botia loaches need to be in a group of at least six individuals, however, they can eat pest snail.

There are some Botia Loaches fish spices:

  • Clown Loach
  • Skunk Loach
  • Dwarf Chain Loach
  • Zebra Loach

#3 Shrimp

Though Shrimp is not friendly with some fish species as tank mates, this is our other top pick to clean sand naturally. In the tank, shrimps are able to comb everything on the plants, decorations, and substrate. Because of their little size, Shrimp are able to clean tightest nooks and crannies in the aquarium.

There are most common shrimp spices that can clean the substrate: 

  • Red cherry shrimp
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Amano shrimp
  • Bumblebee shrimp

#4 Snails

Having a tiny mouth, snails can clean up the aquarium substrate such as dirty sand, dead plants, leftover food, and so on. Though some species of snails are not perfect for this expectation, others are undoubtedly better. However, Nerites would be perfect among all of the species if you suffer from algae along with the dirt sand.

There are some species of nails to clean substrate

  • Ramshorn snail
  • Mystery snail
  • Nerite snail
  • Malaysian trumpet snail

#5 Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose is a master of concealing fish who clean the aquarium substrate at night when the lights go out. 

However, these pleco fish don’t eat as many algae as the otto catfish. 

If you look for a special algae eater, then I recommend keeping your aquarium either dwarf suckers (Ottos) or siamese algae eater.

Here you have to keep in mind that the Bristlenose Pleco can dig and pull down your sand substrate, so all the decorations should have steadily placed on the bottom of the tank or in such a way that they are not able to fall over the decorations.

Tips On Cleaning Sand 

  1. Using gravel vacuum, keep it over the bottom of the tank and move it around until you discover waste is sucked in and sand is remaining.
  2. As sand keeps the dirt on their surface area, don’t try to vacuum in-depth into the sand. Just hover over the surface of the sand normally.
  3. To do the job thoroughly, vacuum the sand again after the first run. It allows your sand to look completely new.
  4. Before starting the vacuuming, stirring the sand with a stirring stick or your finger, so that anaerobic conditions can get destroyed.
  5. It is ideal to change your fish tank water and clean sand twice a month, making the cleaning task more accomplish.
  6. If you have time to dry sand under the sun, extreme heat can kill bacteria. It allows the sand to keep good conditions; however, it’s not mandatory just and optional.

How To Prepare Sand For Fish Tank

Ascertain The Tank Size

Before going to purchase the sand for your aquarium, ascertain the size of the aquarium. You shouldn’t put the sand as much as it is required.

Ascertain The Weigh Of The Sand

After ascertaining the tank size, be sure you have measure the sand weighs. Because keeping so much sand would be harmful to your fish, wherein the ideal measurement is one pound of sand is for one gallon of water.

Arrange The Required Supplies

Before starting the work, make sure you have arranged all the required supplies near your hand.

Rinse The Sand Meticulously

To keep away your tank from cloudiness and harmful bacteria, rinse the sand meticulously and thoroughly as it may have excess dust.

To rinse the sand, fill a bucket with water, and put the sand in it. Then, shifting the mix and pour off the dirty water. 

Repeat the process until you seem that there is no spot and dirt on the sand.

Clean And Dry The Tank

It is an optional process, but it has a positive effect. However, if you have a brand new tank, then it should be cleaned before use. And, after cleaning dry it politely.

Add The Sand

Now its time to add the sand into your aquarium tank and fill it with water. Keep a plate on top of the sand while filling the tank with water so that it can prevent sifting sand and making a whole.


All sand types are not for aquariums, so use the sand that is specially prepared for aquariums. Otherwise, the sand would be dirty and effect badly on the PH of aquarium water. 

Before placing new sand into an aquarium, don’t forget to rinse it as new sand makes the aquarium cloudy.

Try to use a thin layer bed of sand. 2.5cm deep is liable to compacting and turning anaerobic. 

Don’t mixture fine sand with coarser grits and gravel.

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