How To Clean Aquarium Sand: A Definitive Guide

Cleaning Fish Poop

Cleaning aquarium sand is a paramount task if you want to keep your tank admirable and fish healthy. Consequently, cleaning aquarium sand is as easy as cleaning ravel. If you are unaware of how simple it is to perform the task, read on and you are bound to clean the sand like a pro.

How do you clean aquarium sand? There are different ways to go about it. The most common is the siphon method. You basically siphon water out of the sand bet. You can also introduce sand sifting fish, snails and brittle stars. We recommend using the siphon method since most of the dirt is removed in an eyelash.

As we have seen, cleaning aquarium sand is similar to cleaning the gravel. To help you go about it without a fuss below is a detailed guide. Let’s cut the chase!

How to Clean Aquarium Sand

Aquarium sand is typically found in a saltwater aquarium. It’s rare to find sand in the freshwater aquarium since most keepers prefer gravel. Nonetheless, if you have sand in your aquarium we recommend using the siphon method which we will look at in detail.

If you play by the book, you are bound to have a clean tank and your fish will be happy.

Siphon method

What do you require?

  •    Large buckets
  •    Gravel vacuum
  •    Stirring stick

Having said that, there are crucial aspects that you need to consider before you start cleaning the sand.

  •    Width of the pipe: the wider the pipe the faster the water will flow out and vice versa
  •    Height of the drop: the longer the drop the faster the follow and vice versa
  •    Width of the vacuum: a wider vacuum will suck a wider surface area hence the sand is lifted gently.

Once you have all the equipment and considered the above aspects, it’s time to clean the sand. Here is how you seamlessly go about it

Remove decorations

Dip your hands in the tank and gently remove all the decorations placing them in a clean bucket. Clean them with warm water as you scrape any visible algae.

Finally, keep them in a clean bucket. Removing decorations is a bone of contention since many experts and hobbyists urge that it cleans useful bacteria.

Siphon up to 25% of the water

Next, remove 10-25 percent of the water by draining it in an empty bucket. Always remember to perform water change at least twice a month. Since you won’t need the water, you can dispose it.

At the same time, add drops of water conditioner in the replacement water. The conditioner will neutralize the chlorine in the tap water and remove impurities.

Use the gravel vacuum to remove debris

Place the gravel vacuum over the sand surface and slowly move it above the sand until you find a perfect height where the waste is sucked whilst the sand remains. 1/2” above the sand is recommended by most hobbyists.

Move the siphon back and forth manner preferably targeting large particles. This ensures that most of the debris is sucked in. if however the sand is sucked, you can re-rinse it and then introduce it to the tank.

Move your fingers through the sand

After the first siphon, gently move your hands through the sand turning it over. This ensures that all the debris that was in the sand is exposed. Run the gravel vacuum in the pattern described above. By the end of the process, the sand will look brand new.

Move sand around to prevent the anaerobic condition

Once you are done with siphoning, it is time to move the sand around using a stirring stick. The essence of this process is to prevent the development of the anaerobic condition. The condition occurs when trapped food and fish waste decay forming a black layer that produces toxic gases that are harmful to your fish.

Conduct several swirls until you are sure there is no debris.

Put the decorations back in the tank

Now it’s time to place the decorations in their rightful positions. Ensure that they are clean and are tightly anchored.

Replace the water

Once the decorations are in place, replace the 10-25 percent of the water that you removed. You can add directly from the bucket although this method is known to disrupt the fish. Alternatively, you can use a jug to go about it. Ensure the water has the same temperature as that in the tank to avoid shocking your precious fish.

Reactivate tank components

As soon as you are done with all the above, which on the lights, filter, and heater. You, however, leave the lights off for a few hours for the fish to relax. Consequently, ensure all components are working properly and the conditions of the water are optimal.

That’s how you clean aquarium sand without much hassle. So, if the cleaning has been the reason you didn’t buy aquarium sand, we believe you can confidently clean it after sharing the above tips.

It is no brainer that you will need tools to carry out this task. So, let’s have a look at some of the best aquarium sand cleaning tools out there.

Which are the Best Aquarium Sand Cleaning Tools?

1. BOXTECH Aquarium Gravel Cleaner Cleaner Kit

This is arguably a must-have tool for any fish keeper. Not only does it clean the sand but also ideal for changing the water and absorbing excrement. Do you hate touching dirty water? Then the BOXTECH cleaner is just the thing for you.

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Additionally, it is made of eco-friendly material that doesn’t alter the conditions of the water. It is easy to install and use giving you top-notch results. You can seamlessly use it on various tanks with ease. Moreover, you can use it for long periods of time.

It comes with a very strong air pressure feature that allows strong suction. And a water flow controller to control how much water is being sucked. It has two inlet pipes – 11.8” and 15.7” that can be used together bolstering its effectiveness.

If you are looking for a top-notch cleaning tool, we recommend purchasing this stellar gravel cleaner.

2. Genuine TERA PUMP Aquarium Fish Tank Gravel Sand Cleaner

This is another stellar aquarium sand cleaner that you ought to have. Be on the lookout as the product is prone to counterfeits. According to the company, you should purchase the cleaner with the TERA PUMP brand and not TERAPUMP DIRECT.

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The tool comes with two types of nozzles – shorter and longer nozzles. The shorter nozzle is ideal for water changing tasks while the longer one is ideal for sand cleaning – sucking fish dropping, food waste, and other debris.

The chief benefit of this cleaner is that as you suck the waste, the other nozzle is replacing the dirty water with clean water. More like killing two birds with one stone. You will clean the sand like a pro and whilst saving precious time.

3. Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer and Siphon Kit for Aquarium

Well, if you have a large tank, then this cleaning tool is for you. Built with an extremely flexible and high-quality material, the tube folds easily without cracking. The kit successfully separates the debris as it is being sucked without much hassle.

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In fact, you don’t have to the assembly as it comes ready to use helping you maintain aquarium cleanliness. This simple but effective sand cleaner is a must have for any hobbyist.

4. Kabble Genuine Aquarium Cleaner Siphon Pump

The Kabble aquarium cleaner is designed to give you convenience as you clean your tank. It allows dirt and sand to get discharged along with the water. Moreover, the product is cheap given the amount of service it offers you.

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It is designed for quick and seamless gravel and sand cleaning since it comes with high powered discharge. It comes with two nozzles – a shorter and longer nozzle. The shorter nozzle is used for drainage while the longer nozzle is used to suck in fish poop, food waste, impurities, and other debris.

Those are some of the best sand cleaning products out there. We recommend the BOXTECH Aquarium Gravel Cleaner since it is easy to use, high quality and does a stellar job. Moreover, it is highly recommended by numerous hobbyists.

Related Questions

Is sand good for a freshwater aquarium?

Well, sand is ideal for freshwater aquarium only when you have burrowing fish. Why? Because without the sand being stirred, it can facilitate anaerobic conditions which are harmful to your fish.

Nonetheless, if you have burrowing fish such as kuhli loach, corydoras catfish, and plescostomus, then you can rest assured your tank will remain clean.

Also, you should consider the type of plants you want to introduce in the aquarium. Some plants do well in gravel and others in the sand.

Do you have to wash aquarium sand?

Yes! Who wants to view an aquarium with a black layer of waste? Washing the sand should be done whenever you are performing the regular water change.

Doing so will keep the sand free of debris mitigating anaerobic conditions and also make your fish happy. Clean it at least twice a month.

How do you clean sand before putting it in the fish tank?

Well, it’s quite simple.

  • Pour the sand in an empty tank and then fill it with water. Stir the sand with a strong stick until the water becomes cloudy.
  • Next, you are going to drain the water and repeat the first step at least 6-8 times until you see no cloudiness when you stir the sand.
  • (Optional) you can sundry the sand to kill harmful bacteria and also help the sand stay in good shape.
  • After sun drying, pour it back to the tank and add water.

How can you clean aquarium sand without siphon?

Although the process is time-consuming and tiresome the results are almost the same as cleaning using a siphon. So, how do you go about it?

  • Using a jug or container, fetch some water from the tank and drain it in a bucket where you will hold your fish as you clean.
  • Scoop the fish out of the aquarium.
  • Remove all decorations and accessories from the tank.
  • Using a large jug, remove more water from the tank until it is light enough to lift it.
  • Pour the rest of the water and place something that will catch the sand.
  • You should at least put aside some sand to save useful bacteria.
  • Using your hand and a hose, thoroughly rinse the sand.
  • Clean the tank to free it from debris and algae that might be on the glass.
  • After this, put the sand, decorations, and accessories back in the tank and then refill with water. Make sure the water is at the right temperature and pH level.
  • Final, put your fish back in the tank.

How can you clean poop from the sand?

You just need to use a siphon such as the TERA PUMP Aquarium Cleaner. The longer nozzle will seamlessly suck the fish poop within seconds.

How can I ensure the tank is clean throughout?

To keep a clean tank, you need to do the following:

  • Before adding the sand, always rinse it first
  • Use a net to trap floating debris
  • Keep snails that feed on algae. Moreover, they burrow hence stirring the sand mitigating the risk of anaerobic conditions.
  • Always change the water at least twice a month

How much sand should I put in the tank?

The amount of sand varies with the size of the tank. Experts recommend a thickness of 2inches. As such a 55-gallon tank will require 80 pounds of sand.

Which sand is ideal for a freshwater aquarium?

The best sand for your aquarium include:


As we have discussed, cleaning aquarium sand is quite easy. You only need the right equipment and follow the laid down procedure. That way, you can rest assured of a clean tank and healthy fish. Ensure you conduct water change at least twice a month.

Saurabh Kumar

I am a passionate fish keeper, with years of experience. You will find some really useful tips and information on this blog about Freshwater Aquariums.

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