How to Keep the Sand in Your Aquarium Clean

Updated February 21, 2017

Aquariums are popular in many homes and are enjoyed by children and adults alike. While gravel is often used in the bottom of aquariums, sand can also be used. Usually, there is a filter under the sand where the fish waste is sucked in to keep the water clean. It is important to keep your sand clean so that bacteria does not build up and release toxic gases, such as high levels of CO2, into your aquarium, which could kill your fish or other aquatic life. The better you care for your tank, including the sand, the healthier your fish and other aquatic life will be.

Choose clean sand to put into your aquarium. There are many types of sand, including silver sand and aquarium sand. You can go to your local store where fish are sold to purchase the appropriate kinds of sands for an aquarium. Do not use beach sand, as the salt levels are too high.

Place the sand in your aquarium. The sand should only be about an inch high so that it is easy to clean and too much bacteria does not form. If you have live plants that need to be anchored in the sand, use about an inch and half, but never more than 2 inches.

Prepare your siphon to clean your sand of waste. As you would for gravel, you can use a siphon. The large end, usually about two diameters wide, will go in your fish tank to siphon and the smaller end will go into a large bucket.

Start the suction on the siphon. Some siphons come with a priming ball that you can squeeze and release to start the flow of water. You will have to remove it to allow the water to go into the bucket. Others you will have to suck on the smaller end to get the suction started. Clean it first with antibacterial cleaners and wipe off any cleaning residue with a clean wet rag. As soon as the water makes it way over the aquarium and starts flowing downward, stop and allow gravity to do its work. Do not get any water in your mouth.

Stick your hand in your fish water and grab the siphon. Hold it about an inch or two above the sand. Move your siphon in circular motions to agitate the sand and pick up the waste that is released. Adjust the siphon higher or lower depending on how much sand is being siphoned away. Expect to lose a lit bit during the process.

Stop the siphoning after about 15 per cent of your water is gone out of your tank by lifting the siphon up out of the water. Slowly dump out the bucket in your toilet and clean it out. Refill it with fresh water.

Refill your aquarium with fresh water. Let the water sit for a couple of hours to get to room temperature before refilling your tank. Put more sand in if you lost too much during this siphoning.

Repeat this process every week to keep your sand clean and safe for your aquatic life.

Things You'll Need

  • Siphon
  • Bucket
  • Antibacterial cleaner
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About the Author

Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.