Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
3 Tips for Clean Aquarium Sand

3 Tips for Clean Aquarium Sand


Cleaning Aquarium sand is easy, although some
people do struggle. I have three easy tips to keeping your sand clean. 1. Water Flow
Water flow is very important to all aquariums, but especially in ones with a sand substrate.
To stop dirt from settling it is important to have a good flow around your aquarium.
This can be done simply by using a filter properly rated to give enough flow for the
size of your aquarium. Sometimes though, even this isn’t enough flow, in this case use a
filter rated over your aquarium size, or even use multiple filters or power heads if needed.
You will sometimes get areas of dirt buildup (mulm) called dead spots, these are areas
where the flow isn’t strong enough. Disrupt these areas by moving the direction of your
water flow or add a second power head. 2. Livestock
Bottom dwelling fish are ideal candidates when adding to a sand substrate aquarium.
They will swim and root around in the sand disturbing the top layers. This will turn
the sand over to stop algae growth and also re agitate any dirt which has settled so that
it is picked up by the filter. Ideal candidates to add are catfish such as Corydoras, Synodontis
and Ancistrus; loaches are also an excellent choice as they will dig into sand giving excellent
disturbance. Make sure to pick the correct species for your aquarium size as many catfish
and loaches become quite large. Malaysian trumpet snails (MTS) are a favorite
of mine for sand substrate aquariums, especially ones with live plants. MTS are burrowing snails
which scavenge for food and also eat algae. While they burrow they will move the sand
around, rotating it as would happen in the wild. This is great as it also means that
nutrients will be delivered to middle and bottom layers of the sand which is great for
aquarium plants which root feed. They will also disturb and buildup of toxic gases caused
by rotting organic matter in the sand. MTS can become a pest if they are given too much
food as they are prolific breeders, but so long as they are not fed too much they will
rarely be seen and are an excellent addition. 3. Manual removal
When you get a buildup of dirt and mulm in an aquarium, such as that caused in dead spots;
the only way to remove it is manually. This is easy to do and can be done during your
regular water change. Simply use a small hose to siphon the mulm off the surface of the
sand. Be careful to not get to close to the sand, other wise you will be removing your
substrate as well. You can see how to do this in the video at the top of the page. Thanks for watching!

82 comments on “3 Tips for Clean Aquarium Sand

  1. I really enjoy your videos and information? I was wondering if you'd consider doing a tutorial on how to plant the plants in sand? I am looking at setting up a new tank with sand. Thank you for your videos

  2. the tank is  gathering dirt on one side behind the bog wood because the water current caused by the filter or what ever is causing the movement in the water because the water is moving only in one direction taking the dirt with it and when it reaches the bog wood the current is weak and therefore it stops leaving the dirt there.

  3. I like to keep my hands out of the aquarium as much as possible. Did you discover any new tricks in keeping your sand clean since the upload?

  4. I think I have diatoms not sure why or how to get rid of it. I notice that a lot of the brown stuff either sticks to glass or is deeply mixed into the sand. Not sure what to do. Suggestions?

  5. Question I am in deep need of your help. I have been away at school so my tank has been heavily neglected. My problem is with my substrate. This is my first experience with a sand substrate. It is 85% flourite on top of eco complete. The tank has been so neglected that the sand substrate is beginning to stick together like kitty litter. It is extremely difficult to clean my syphon has trouble picking up larger pieces. Should I start at one end of the tank and Over time sweep across the bottom over several water changes? Or is it too late. I almost never want to deal with sand after this initial baptism by fire. Also the syphon is much larger than my previous which I thought would be better at picking up larger debris but my tank is a 40 breeder and the water drains too quickly to adequately clean the bottom. How deep should I go into the substrate while cleaning as well? I am fearful of going too deep and stirring up sometime bad. Is it normal over the life of a sand substrate aquarium to Never fully clean the bottom? MY substrate is 4" deep. Thank you.

  6. hi i have a 300 litre aquarium i have it filled with sand n fine gravel i have a synodontis i also have 5 congo, 4 rasboro, 5 black widow, 2 serpea, 1 neon tetra's, 2 silver shark, 1 jewel cichlid, 1 molly, 2 zebra danio, 3 giant danio, 2 bristlenose pleco, 3 swordtail, 1 dwarf gourami, 2 platy n 2 rainbow (reason for alot of the schooling fish being low is have recently had alot of fish die on me so am waiting to make sure everything is ok before i add the right amount of the schooling fish) what would be the best way to clean my tank at mo i use a sand n gravel cleaner n i also put my hand in tank to release the gases in the sand but obviously this makes my tank very cloudy so is there another way i can make sure that it is all clean plz ( since doing the stir of the sand via my fingers i have not lost any fish) 

  7.  I recently switched from a gravel substrate to to sand.
    i found your post very useful with Top tips and great advise.
    thank you

  8. Hello. I have a sand bottom substrate in my 125 gallon tropheus tank with Malaysian horn snails, tons of them, as a matter of fact. They have gone down the overflow, in the sump and repeatedly completely shut down my pump by getting into the prefilter and then the impeller. I have recently thrown in about 8 assassin snails in the tank and now my sand surface looks like a graveyard of Malaysian snail shells. Any thoughts? I hate to deplete the population, love the snails, but the return flow from the pump headache got to be too much. I have a juliochromis in the overflow and tried to control the snail population in the sump with clown loaches and assassins in the sump, but it was not enough. I am not sure if the assassins will eventually wipe out the Malaysians, or if there will somehow be a balance.. Your fish look beautiful. Any advice, greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

  9. Im about to remove my sand out of my aquarium its messing up my power filters every month I'm buying new propellers

  10. I have a 20 gallon sand aquarium, I have a 40 gallon filter and I still have issues with stuff ending up on the bottom of the aquarium. I have a Jack Dempsey that is a total jerk face and kills anything else that goes in the tank, snails, bottom dwellers, you name it.  He even rips up plants. Any advice besides cleaning it out all the time? Would it be better if I just had rocks?

  11. Have you ever tried just using a turkey baister to clean up dirt. Its way easier than pulling out a hose everytime crap gets on gets bottom.

  12. i have axolotls, they dont like strong flows in the aquarium. When i would use a cat fish, the axolotl would eat it an die too, because the cat fish would destroy the axolotl´s stomach. So i always have to remove the Mulm when i do a water change. It is not that bad, i just collect the mulm while the water flows into the bucked 🙂 
    Nice video

  13. Great video. Im new to alk thus. We have. 3 koulis loaches. 1 pleco. 2 danios. 3 snails and 6guppies. Our take is 124litres. The water testing keeps saying its toxic. "(. But the fish look happy. We have no real plants as was told they can contaminate the water. We have white gravel that I vacuum. But it all looks brown still. Should I completely emptie the tank. Put sand I stead of gravel in. ??

  14. what kind of wood do u put in your aquarium? & how do u know it wont kill your fish? Also how do u get it to sink.

  15. Nice aquarium.

    I like the simple design. The natural look is best… sand, driftwood… live plants. Good combination.

    Going for the same make with my 55 gallon tank. Aiming to fill it with 6-8 corydoras (peppered probably), a red tail shark and perhaps some livebearers.

  16. A tip for you, use a net to scoop out the plant material Before making a water change and thus making your water change easer.

  17. The problem with the Malaysian snails is that by burrowing they unsettle your rockscape and put your fish in danger. Also, the synadontis will eat eggs and fry of cichlids. Last cichlids don't like strong water movement and the movement should remain at the top of the tank.

  18. well getting bottom dwellers isnt always an option depending on your livestock. my cichlids would probably kill them.

    more water flow isnt always desirable depending on species.

    so i say just siphon it manually like you showed. at least thats the only option for me.

  19. BEST WAY TO CLEAN DEAD SPOTS IS TO HAVE NO DEAD SPOTS
    DEAD SPOTS ARE UGLY IN AQUARIUMS ANYWAY
    MORE THINGS IN THE MIDDLE IS THE BEST

  20. Mulm…. ever took a look at nature ? Mulm is not really a problem you might not like te looks of it but ,up to a point, you do not really need to remove it.

  21. You should try a small bubbler in that dead spot corner. Plus my loaches love playing in the current, so maybe your eel-like fish will enjoy it quite thoroughly.

  22. How big is the tank for the bichir and what species is it? I’d like a friend for my oscar but I’m wondering if my tank is too small! Thank youu

  23. I cleaned my sand the other day of fish poop and sucked up al the sand in the bucket with a tube like yours Syfened it up into bucket then swished it around in bucket to loosens any poop left in bucket pored it out left sand in bucket put fresh water in it with water conditioner in it pored it back in tank is tha ok to do tha?

  24. I like sand for the reason theres no spots for stuff to go physically down in it. I have sand in my 10 gallon. I use a turkey bastor. Also when adding water do not i repeat do not dump it in fast enough to stir it up or unplug your filter. I found this out the hard way. I ruined a aquaclear 20 by doing that. Tore it up pretty quick. I do have cory cats and a bristlenose pleco also. My 10 gallon with the sand is the cleanest tank of 3 i own and it's the only one with sand.

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