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.

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