How To Clean Aquarium Sand In Fish Tank! (4 FASTEST WAYS)

image of How To Clean Aquarium Sand

If you’ve got sand in your fish tank, you may be wondering how to clean it. After all, it certainly doesn’t stay clean forever.

Luckily, there are a few easy ways for you to clean your fish tank sand. These methods include:

  • Gravel siphon
  • Turkey baster
  • Bottom feeders
  • Replacing the sand

By using one of these four methods, you can keep your tank clean and healthy for all your fish. Remember: A healthy fish is a happy fish!

Read on to learn more about using these methods to clean your sand (and your tank!). 

Why Do We Use Sand In a Fish Tank?

If you’re new to having a fish tank, you may be wondering just why you would want sand in your tank. There are a few reasons you would want sand in your tank. 

Firstly, a substrate, in general, is really important for your tank. Substrate not only adds beauty to your tank, but it’s also helpful for lots of different fish species.

While a larger substrate like gravel may be used for fish that cannot swallow sand, sand is a better choice for species like cichlids that need it to help digest their food.

Sand is also affordable, easy to find, and can be easily spot cleaned compared to other types of substrate, including gravel, peat, and clay. Plus, it can be found in many different colors, so you can decorate your tank to whatever theme you’d like!

Finally, sand is best for fish that like to burrow into their substrate to hide and rest. Sand is fine and soft on their bellies, which can prevent accidental injury. 

We said before that a healthy fish is a happy fish, right?

Should We Clean Aquarium Sand?

It should be pretty easy to figure out why sand needs to be cleaned. Fish, like all other animals, eat and poop within their tank.

This means these matters build up over time and can make your sand pretty gross. It can also cloud the water and even cause bacterial buildup, which can make your fish sick over time. 

Do we need to say the line about healthy fish again?

Cleaning your sand keeps bacteria from growing and debris from entering the tank. Clean sand also keeps your water clearer, so your tank is easy to see into. 

Remember, there are two times you need to clean your sand: 

  • Before putting it in the tank
  • After putting it in the tank

Read below to learn more about both of these methods. 

Before Putting In Tank

Believe it or not, you shouldn’t just pour your new bag of sand directly into your fish tank.

You should prepare sand for aquarium. Even new sand often contains dirt and other debris you don’t want in your water, so you’ll want to wash it first. Washing your sand before putting it in the tank is quite easy.

  • You’ll want a bucket and a source of running water such as a hose.
  • Pour the sand into the bucket and fill the bucket with some water.
  • Stir the sand into the water and pour as much dirty water out without pouring the sand out. 
  • Repeat this until the water is clear. This means your sand is clean enough to put in your tank. Remember, if you don’t do this step, your sand can cause your clean water to become cloudy with dirt and debris. Yuck!

After Putting In Tank

The other time you’ll want to clean your sand, of course, is after putting it in the tank. As your fish go about their little fish lives, they’ll dirty your sand with poop, food, and other general filth. 

When you start to see buildup in your sand, you’ll want to clean it out. You can either clean the sand you already have or replace it with new sand if you want a new color or type.

To learn how to best clean your sand, read below. 

The 4 Best Methods To Clean Sand In Fish Tank (Including DIY)

The primary methods to clean out the sand in your fish tank include:

  • Using a gravel siphon
  • Using a turkey baster
  • Introducing bottom feeders 
  • Buying new sand

1. Gravel Siphon

The easiest way to clean the sand in your tank is by extracting the dirty sand using a gravel siphon. A gravel siphon is like a small vacuum that is normally used to suck out gravel from the bottom of a fish tank.

Gravel siphons can also be used for sand, which makes cleaning your sand a breeze. Simply stir the sand in your tank to send the dirt to the top, let the dirt settle, and then suck the top layer of sand off with the siphon.

If you plan on reusing the sand, you can then take the dirty sand and wash it out using the bucket method described under the “before putting in tank” section above. If you’re concerned about bacteria, you can also boil your sand to kill any microorganisms that may be in the sand.

2. Turkey Baster

Not all hope is lost if you don’t have a gravel siphon! You can still produce the same effect with the true hero of thanksgiving – the turkey baster.

Of course, be sure to use one that you’re not using for dinner this year. 

Use the turkey baster, as usual, to suction up dirty sand from the top layer of your substrate after stirring and letting the dirt settle. You can then either dispose of the sand or clean it using the bucket and boil methods. 

3 Bottom Feeders (Without Vacuum)

If you aren’t feeling the whole “suction up sand” thing, you could always consider getting some bottom feeders for your tank!

Examples of bottom feeders include:

  • Snails
  • Shrimp
  • Plecos – freshwater sand cleaner fish

You could get some of these to eat any of the dirt and residue that collect on the sand, which would, at a minimum, reduce how often you need to deep clean the sand. 

Of course, always make sure all of the aquatic animals you have in the tank will get along with your bottom feeder of choice. If the bottom feed you choose is a known snack to your fish species, you may want to consider a different species of a bottom feeder. 

It’s important to note that bottom feeders will reproduce according to the amount of food it has to compete for. If you have a very busy fish tank, your bottom feeders could continue to reproduce to eat away at the residue in the sand. 

This is great news if you want a very clean substrate, but you’ll want to make sure you’re willing to parent a few dozen bottom feeders first. 

4. Buying New Sand

Though this isn’t technically a way to clean the sand you already have, one way to get clean sand in your fish tank is just to replace the dirty sand with new sand.

Since sand is cheap and easy to find, replacing it is a simple way to keep your tank clean at all times. It also saves you the hassle of having to wash your sand and is often the better choice if you’re switching sand types or colors.

When getting rid of old sand, try to see if there’s a way for you to repurpose your old sand rather than throw it out first. You could use your sand to repot plants, grit your driveway, or make a small sandbox, for example!

Who knew old sand could be so useful?

Potential Issues With Cleaning Sand

Though cleaning sand is generally easy, there are a few things to keep in mind when actively cleaning it.

Firstly, always make sure your fish or other aquatic creatures are out of the way while cleaning your sand. The last thing you want to do is accidentally suction your fish with a siphon or turkey baster!

For this same reason, you should also make sure any smaller creatures like snails or shrimp are relocated beforehand.

You also want to make sure you don’t accidentally remove too much sand. This is especially easy to do with a gravel siphon, so make sure you’re being gentle with the tool every time you use it. 

Now You Know How To Clean Aquarium Sand In Fish Tank!

Remember before filling your fish tank that you’ll have to wash your sand first. Once your sand is washed, it’s ready to be put in the tank!

Always be careful and gentle when cleaning sand. Make sure you’re keeping your fish safe from harm when cleaning the tank to avoid casualties. 

You’ll also want to make sure you clean the sand well before reintroducing it to your tank. Boil and rinse the sand as needed to make sure it is safe to put back in the tank. 

If you use other methods to clean your sand, leave a comment below. If you have any questions about basic tank care, ask us below, and we may answer your question next!

image of how to clean aquarium sand in fish tank

Up Next: 7 Best Aquarium Plants Can Grow in Sand (Easy To Care and Maintain)

Scroll to Top