An Ultimate Guide on How to Clean Aquarium Sand

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Do you have a fish tank at home? What worries you more, getting it home or the stress of how to clean aquarium sand efficiently and quickly? Well, there’s a lot to take care of when you get a fish aquarium, and they also require your attention and your proper care. Speaking of which also reminds me of many other things related to the fish tank.

A fish tank has many lives in it, and you need to be very alarmed about its cleaning and sanitization. Everything has a way to do it, so does tank cleaning, sand cleaning, filter removal, fish feeding, water changing, etc. of a fish aquarium. These actions, if done properly and on a segmented time interval, is going to keep your tank clean and your fish healthy. So, now you can take a look into the article to have an insight into aquarium sand cleaning and other similar topics.


Different Methods of Cleaning Aquarium Sand

It’s a tough task to maintain a clean tank and especially when you have gravel and sand substrate. It becomes highly challenging, and many times people ignore the part of cleaning due to that. However, it’s not as difficult as it looks. There are multiple easy ways to clean aquarium sand. Below listed are the top 2  ways on how to wash off

1. Removing Dirt and Debris From Your Tank

The first and foremost thing that you do before starting the cleaning process is that partially empty the fish tank of both water and decors. Later, you can proceed with the process of how to clean aquarium sand.

Step 1. Scrape off Algae

Gently rub the tank from within using an algae scrubber or a lint-free cloth. Make sure that you are supplying a consistent and light pressure while making small circles on the surface. Also, it's completely fine for the algae to fall on the sand as they easily tell you How to clean aquarium without siphon up with time.

  • Do not be too harsh on your fish tank as it can cause damage, create scratch, or tip over.

Step 2. Comb Your Fingers Through the Sand

Put your fingers into the sand at the bottom of your fish tank. Shuffle the sand upside down until you see the entire sand has upturned. You will now be able to see that debris and deposits have settled on the surface of the sand. This becomes easy for you to separate those unwanted elements from the sand using this process.

  • Sometimes it is helpful to go over the sand surface one time with the siphon before raking.

Step 3. Remove surface debris with a gravel siphon

Use a siphon to remove surface debris and dirt. Dig your siphon deep until you see it is about ½ inch above the sand surface. Keep moving the siphon in a back-and-forth pattern.

  • You can either re-rinse those sand particles and back in the aquarium, or else you can also throw them out. It is often suggested to keep adding new sand every week anyway. This keeps the aquarium clean and sanitized, which helps in maintaining tank and water cleanliness as well as fish health.

Step 4. Replace the decors if required

Once you are done with cleaning the sand particles and fish tank, you can also pick some time for tank decors. They are also an important part of the tank and require cleaning as well. You can either clean it up properly and then put it back or replace it with some other decors. See that the decor pieces are anchored and move around the freshly cleaned sand as needed.

Step 5. Pour fresh water into the tank

After all the process you went through replace the tank water by adding fresh and treated water. You can either pour directly by bucket or you can also use a jug. However, it is generally suggested to use a jug as pouring a large amount of water at once might disturb the tank and the fish.

  • Use a water pipe to add new water to the fish tank as that is not only easy but also reduces the chances of tank damage.

Step 6. Re-activate your filter, heater, and tank lighting

Right after you’ve completed the water change, your aquarium is ready to work again. You can now plug all of your tank appliances back in. Make sure that you saw it functioning normally before leaving the fish tank alone.

  • It is suggested to leave your tank’s light off for a few hours. This will be helpful for the fish as they need to relax after they have been part of a stressful event.

  • For better knowledge, check the replacing water temperature with a thermometer before adding it to your fish tank. Make sure that both existing and new water temperature are roughly similar to avoid shock fish to get shocking.

Did You Know?

The National Aquarium in Baltimore has a banana plant.


2. Keep your fish tank clean regularly

This is one way that you can use regularly to avoid sand or gravel in your aquarium to be covered by debris or dirt. Take a look at this very simple method:

Step 1. Always rinse the substrate before adding it

Place your new sand in the bottom of a large bucket. Ideally, it should be a 5-6 gallon container. Use a sink sprayer attachment or a garden hose to spray into the sand. Keep stirring and churning the sand until you see the dirt particles rising to the top. Pour this dirty water out and repeat the process. Keep this process in the loop until you see the water is clear and your sand is ready for the tank.

  • Use cold water to rinse your sand, as that helps in speeding up the process. However, make sure that the sand reaches room temperature before adding it to your tank.

Step 2. Use a fine net to segment the floating waste

So, these easy tricks are going to make your day as you can efficiently learn how to clean aquarium sand. Followed by this, there is one other thing we need to talk about. Usually, people think sand and gravel are the same. Well, let me tell you, they aren’t. They are two different elements, let’s see how.

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Difference between Sand and Gravel

Sand and gravel are two different elements. However, they are hugely similar but they do have basic differences. Gravel in an aquarium allows water to flow through them, whereas sand doesn’t.  Gravel is usually a better choice for most freshwater aquariums. However, if your fish tank includes fish like scavenge, they do the job of filtering substrate. So, do not get confused between sand and gravel.

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Cleaning Aquarium Gravel, How?

The process of gravel cleaning is very similar to what we followed in sand cleaning. So, here’s the simplest method on how you can keep it clean. These methods of aquarium sand and gravel cleaning are very easy, Take a look:

  • Fill a bucket halfway with dirty fish tank water and halfway with clean tap water. (This helps in balancing water temperature and avoiding the fish to get in a drastic shock)
  • Place the fish in the bucket.
  • Unplug all electrical aquarium equipment and drain the tank water completely.
  • Save some dirty gravel with bacteria in it to re-colonize the tank later on. Since rinsing out the gravel with chlorinated tap water destroys most of your friendly waste-eating bacteria.
  • Vigorously stir and rinse the gravel in the bucket with a garden hose until you see the water running clear in the bucket.
  • Keep the process in the loop at least twice.
  • Now, clean the tank with warm tap water. Use a paper towel to wipe the inside of the aquarium.
  • Put all the dirty and clean gravel back into the tank.
  • Refill the tank with clean cold tap water. Add a de-chlorinating agent to the water. (Check the water temperature before putting the fish inside)
  • Plug in all the electrical equipment.
  • Return the fish to the tank.

Wasn’t it just so simple to do the cleaning? Make sure you follow these methods to keep your aquarium clean. Moving on generally people want to know what’s the better option, sand or gravel. Well, let’s see which one is.

Which is better to keep in the Aquarium, Sand or Gravel?

Multiple factors tell which is better. However everything has its own pros and cons but still a small margin in their benefit can act as a deciding factor. In this case, where sand helps in avoiding leftover food to rot and settle in the bottom as it has no gap, gravel allows water to flow which helps in avoiding the buildup of amoebae and bacteria.

But what makes gravel a better option is that it is heavy that it doesn’t get pulled into the aquarium filters which may clog them to work less efficiently. Whereas sand particles are tiny and might clog the filters. Hence, gravel is a better alternative.

Did You Know?

In Osaka, Japan’s outdated phone booths have been turned into aquariums.


Tips and Suggestions for keeping the sand clean

There are multiple ways of keeping the sand clean. But before that, let’s discuss some basics tips and suggestions that you can follow, take a look:

  • Whenever you change the water and notice any dirt, suck off the top layer quickly with a hose.
  • Do not use a suction bell or a dust bell to clean the aquarium sand as the pressure of the suction cup is not enough to suck it, it might loosen up and fall on the gravel. So it is rather suggested to use smaller and weaker suction cups.

Video Introduction

Let’s Wrap it up

We have talked about how to wash aquarium sand, how to clean a fish tank with sand, gravel, etc. in this article. There is a lot more to explore about fish, and it’s an aquarium, but I am sure we have covered up the most of what we should be aware of about aquarium cleaning.

Make sure to follow the steps carefully and always use equipment that is tested ok and is verified. Other than that, this article talks about various methods of cleaning and keeping your fish tank clean and your fish healthy. Follow these amazing tricks as they are very easy and efficient. These methods of how to clean aquarium sand don’t require much effort and are very cost-efficient. 

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