How to Clean Aquarium Sand?

Every aquarist knows that setting up a fish tank is not an easy job. From finding the right plumbing and filtration devices to identifying the right type of tank, there’s a lot that needs to be done.

In other words, there are numerous decisions that you will have to make in order to set up an aquarium that will keep your fish healthy and happy.

One of the many essential decisions is to decide the kind of substrate that you want for your aquarium. Aquarium gravel, marble chippings, aquarium sand, and coral sand are all popular choices among aquarists. However, one of the most admired and in-trend fish tank substrate is aquarium sand.

Aquarium sand is a common substrate that can be used in almost all types of aquariums. Generally, sand is available in different colors, allowing you to pick the color of your choice and increase the aesthetic appeal of your aquarium. It is best suited for fish that like to dig around in the tank or bury themselves.

However, the downside to opting for this aesthetically appealing substrate for your aquarium is that it is a bit difficult to clean as compared to other types of substrates.

Due to their small size, sand particles can easily get sucked up in the gravel cleaner or filter. As a result, your rather costly tank filter can get damaged and stop working. This will create a whole new set of problems and is also unhealthy for your fish.

Therefore, it is important to understand how to clean aquarium sand if you love your fish and wish to maintain an ideal habitat for it.

The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Aquarium Sand

Multiple steps are involved in keeping the aquarium sand clean. Scroll down to take a look at them. However, before you can start cleaning the substrate, you will have to prep your tank for the cleaning process.

Prep Your Tank

The first thing that you need to do is turn off the filters, heater, and all the pumps. For safety reasons, it is important to make sure that no electrical devices are left on in the tank when you are cleaning it. Once you have done that, you are all good to dip your hand in the water and remove all plants and decorations.

Clean these items using warm water and a brush until all debris and algae is removed and place them on a lint-free rag or a bucket. Keep in mind that while you may want to clean the live plants too, it is not a good idea to take them out of the tank as doing so can damage the roots and gradually kill your plants.

Now, it’s time to drain the water. Use a siphon to drain a portion of water depending on how dirty the water it. The rule of the thumb is to remove around 10 – 25% of water when it comes to cleaning the tank. You will have to repeat this partial water changing and cleaning process every 1 – 2 weeks to keep your fish healthy and your tank clean.

The Cleaning Process

Once you have prepped the tank, it’s time to move on to cleaning the aquarium sand. Keep in mind that while it is essential to clean the substrate to provide the ideal habitat for your fish, it is also important to refrain from overdoing it.

There’s no need to go for thorough cleaning too often as debris and pollution generally stay on the top layer. Nevertheless, if the tank is not cleaned for a long time, you will notice green and brown deposits in the lower layers. Clean the substrate as soon as possible to get rid of them!

Clean the Inside of the Tank

First of all, use a lint-free cloth or an algae scrubber to clean the sides of the tank from the inside.

Apply consistent pressure and don’t scrub too hard as it is possible to leave scratch marks on the surface. Also, there’s a risk of tipping the tank. So, scrub gently until the walls of the tank are squeaky clean.

Related Article: How to Remove Scratches from Aquarium Glass?

Rake up the Aquarium Sand

Use your fingers to rake through the aquarium sand. This will bring the impurities hidden in lower levels of the sand to the surface. Gently push the sand from the bottom to top. Work your way through the tank until all the sand has been upturned. Impurities and debris will settle on the surface.

If you are not comfortable raking up the sand using fingers, you can also opt for a spatula. Aquarium spatulas with extra long handles are easily available in the market. You can use it to whirl up the aquarium sand. Furthermore, a spatula will also make it easier to smoothen out uneven sand on the surface.

Use a Gravel Siphon

Remove the debris accumulated on the surface using a gravel siphon. Lower the siphon into the water. Keep it at least a half-inch above the surface of the aquarium sand to ensure that large portions of sand do not get sucked into the tube.

Slowly move the siphon head back and forth over the sand while maintaining the depth level. Focus on any large impurities that you may see on the surface. Continue until the surface is clean of all visible debris.

You can also use a gravel siphon to go over the surface before raking through it. This will make sure that any impurities on the surface are not transferred to the lower levels of sand. However, this doesn’t exempt you from using the siphon AFTER raking through the sand.

Deep Cleaning

Keep in mind that this step is NOT advisable for regular cleaning since it can suck up sand particles. However, you can opt for deep cleaning by using a suction bell or a siphon once or twice a year. It will remove coarse impurities from the lower layers of the aquarium sand. When you do use it, opt for a small or weak suction pump with low pressure. Also, look for a small and thin hose.

Penetrate the hose in the lower layers instead of skimming on the surface of the sand and target the yellow or green spots. This method works particularly well for areas near the windscreen as dirt, debris, and contamination is easily visible. If too much sand gets sucked in, simply push the tube and most of the sand will drop right back in the tank.

Refill the Tank

Your aquarium sand is squeaky clean! Now all you have to do is replace the tank décor and refill the tank. Take your time replacing the décor and get creative if you want. If you are putting in new decorations, make sure you wash them before introducing them to your tank.

When it comes to refilling the tank, it is advisable to use treated water only. Also, use a jug or a small container to pour in freshwater as it is less likely to disturb the fish. Finally, don’t forget to turn on the heater, filters, and pumps!

Helpful Tips to Keep Your Aquarium Sand Clean

If you are still worried about cleaning the aquarium sand in your tank clean, you will be glad to know that there are multiple things that you can do to keep the sand and tank clean over time. These tips will also reduce the need to clean the sand frequently.

  • Reintroduce Aquarium Sand: You can reintroduce the sand that is picked up the siphon during the cleaning process in the tank. However, make sure you wash it before putting it back in the tank. Use cold water to re-rinse the sand but let it return to room temperature before adding it in the tank.
  • Introduce Snails in the Tanks: Most snails like to dig around in the sand. This prevents stagnation. They also help reduce the growth of algae in the tank, which helps keep the sand cleaner. And most all – snails will make an interesting addition to your tank! However, make sure you get the right type of snails for your tank. It is better to visit your local aquarium store to learn more about it.
  • Scheduled Substrate Removal: If the san in your aquarium is excessively dirty, you can remove and replace it. Use gravel cleaner to pick up sections of sand and replace them. However, it is a gradual process so make sure you take your time. Replace the sections of sand over a course of a few months as frequent substrate removal can stress out the fish and diminish the growth of healthy bacteria.
  • Leave the Tank Lights Off: This tip has more to do with keeping your fish happy and healthy, which should be your top priority, than keeping the sand clean. Once you have cleaned the aquarium sand, leave the lights off a few hours. This will help your fish relax as the cleaning process can stress them out.

A clean tank is a healthy tank! Now that you know all about keeping the aquarium sand clean, you can go ahead and get your favorite substrate for your tank without having any second thoughts.

Remember, as an aquarist, keeping your fish healthy is your responsibility. So learn all that you can about fish-keeping, do it the right way, and keep your fish hale and hearty for a long time.

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