7 Best Sand For Reef Tank – Top Picks in 2021

Any reef tank owner knows how important it is to have the best sand for a reef tank. It comes with a number of benefits and most importantly it will create a natural environment for your pets. Finding the best, however, can also be very difficult with different brands claiming in to have the very best.

Luckily I will review some of the best to help you make the right decision. Your reef tank deserves a good sand substrate and that is why I will throw in a buyer’s guide so that you know what to look out for. Read on to find out your best option.

Carib sea ocean direct substrate comes coated with a mixture of beneficial bacteria to help prevent ammonia levels from rising in the tank. It is a live sand mixture which will also ensure that your tank receives bacteria boost to give your pets and natural environment. Carib sea utilizes the best preservation process that guarantees that all the beneficial bacteria in each bag arrive when they are alive and breathing.

What I like

The thin coating of ocean water that will allow continuous gas exchange and beneficial bacteria growth without toxic buildup. On top of that, it utilises one of the best preservation processes that keep the beneficial bacteria coated on each grain alive and breathing.

What I don’t like

The sand is finer than beach sand meaning it will take a while to clear when added in water. Also, it is not ideal for tanks with Sifting or burrowing fish. It is hard to clean and it will reduce the flow in the tank due to its small grain sizes.

  • Great preservation process
  • Each grain is coated with beneficial bacteria
  • Comes as two bags of sand of 20 pounds each
  • Covered with a thin layer of ocean water
  • Allows continuous growth of beneficial bacteria
  • Takes days to clear
  • Hard to clean
  • Reduces flow through the tank

I personally love this Sand substrate because of its numerous good bacteria. You never have to replace this substrate. This is because once added in the tank it will work with the natural bacteria in it to keep your reef healthy at all times. With the millions of good bacteria, it will be able to reduce waste and cycling time taken as you set up your tank.

What I like

I love that it can be enough for your tank and you don’t need to worry about buying more if you don’t want to. The clarifier that is included will ensure the water clears quickly. It has millions of beneficial bacteria that will reduce waste in your tank. Moreover, it is specially made to reduce any new tank setup issues.

What I don’t like

Some bags come when they are totally dry so you need to check them carefully.

  • Comes in different styles
  • Contains millions of good bacteria
  • Ideal for any type of marine tanks
  • Reduces waste in the tank
  • Comes included with a water clarified
  • Some customers found the bags came dry

This sand substrate is of premium quality and it is totally natural ocean sand. It has all the live marine bacteria that will help you to stabilize your tongue as soon as you set it up. You don’t have to worry about dead bacteria on arrival because nature’s ocean has a cool preservation process that will surely keep the beneficial bacteria alive and breathing.

What I like

Plenty of beneficial bacteria which ensure that the water quality is balanced. It is capable of maintaining pH levels and control in nitrate levels thanks for the live Aragonite contains. It also has a good preservation process that keeps the beneficial bacteria alive to quickly adapt to your aquarium.

What I don’t like

This substrate only has one Style. Also, it has got a chalky white colouration which can take a while to clear.

  • Maintains suitable pH levels
  • Can restore a natural organic balance
  • Comes with plenty of natural beneficial bacteria
  • It is 100% natural marine substrate
  • Has only one Style
  • Takes a while to clear

If you are looking for fine Lake like sand for your tank, then you need to try that pure water peoples African cichlids substrate. Comes with plenty of beneficial bacteria which will ensure ideal inorganic chemical balance. All the bacteria come properly preserved to maintain them in their natural live conditions.

What I like

The preservation process that keeps the beneficial bacteria in their live natural state. It is natural, meaning you won’t get any biofouling. The live bacteria will help you stabilize your tank quickly.

What I don’t like

It forms a cloud in the water once it is added. This will take days to clear. Aside from that, I didn’t find other downsides on this Sand substrate.

  • Natural Lake substrate
  • Well-preserved beneficial bacteria
  • Will help jump-start the natural cycle
  • Helps in the filtration process of water
  • Ensures inorganic chemical balance
  • Forms a cloud once it is added
  • It will take a few days to clear

Tropic Eden substrate includes numerous bacteria that can also be got natural coral sandbeds. It is also mixed with some strains of marine bacteria as well as microbes. This will provide you with the best denitrification and nitrification.

What I like

The substrate promotes the growth of coral reefs. It doesn’t need to be raised before adding to the aquarium. It will effectively reduce the cycling time. Also, the substrate can eliminate diseases and algae build up in the tank.

What I don’t like

I did not find any downsides or setbacks with this substrate, in fact, most users claim it is an excellent substrate.

  • Doesn't require rinsing
  • Has a mixture of natural coral bacteria and marine bacteria
  • It will reduce the cycling time
  • Prevents harmful bacteria from striking
  • None

This reef sand is 100% natural substrate which contains a combination of both bacteria and minerals. These will ensure that your tank pets get proper water balance at all times. It will turn your tank into a reef-friendly environment. Rest assured that everything in it is ideal for your reef tank since it is harvested from ocean water.

What I like

It is capable of maintaining the pH levels at 8.2 without any addition of chemical. It will ensure proper water balance in your tank. Also, it is natural as it is harvested from ocean water. Its large surface area encourages beneficial bacteria to form more colonies.

What I don’t like

It is slightly expensive compared to other substrates.

  • Maintains pH levels without help from chemical
  • Capable of keeping proper water balance
  • The large surface area supports good bacteria growth
  • Has plenty of useful bacteria
  • Comes at a higher price

If you are one that loves products made in the USA then you will love this substrate. It is not like the other ordinary substrates it features a wheat colour and a great texture which will make your tank look really good. This substrate is suitable for use in hard water freshwater aquariums as well as marine aquariums.

What I like

It’s treated from any impurities to keep your tank habitat safe. You can easily add it to any tank system want to set up. It comes with a unique colour and the texture will provide a natural environment to your tank pets. They want to be at detritus build-up thanks to the grain size of the substrate.

What I don’t like

It will require you to read it in clean water because it has dust on the granules.

  • It is an excellent substrate
  • Comes free from impurities
  • Wonderful colour and texture
  • Perfect for any aquarium system
  • Prevents detritus build-up
  • It will require you to rinse off the dust

Buying Guide

There are a number of things that you must keep in mind when you want to get the best sand for a reef tank. Below, I will discuss some of the most important ones.

Type of sand

The type of sand you will get for your tank will determine how long the beneficial bacteria will take to grow. Their growth will ensure that water chemistry is regulated. There are mainly two types of sand dry sand and live sand.

The dry sand doesn’t come with this beneficial bacteria but rather when added into the tank they take a few weeks to start forming in the substrate. The live sand, on the other hand, comes coated with bacteria therefore them accumulating in the tank will begin immediately. When selecting send for your reef tank choose live sand if you immediately want to fill your tank with creatures because it will come when it is already cycled. If you wouldn’t mind waiting then you can opt for the braai stand.

What’s in your tank?

Consider a sand substrate that will not pose a risk to what you are keeping in your aquarium. For example, if you are keeping fish that get some food from the substrate then you will need a sand substrate that features soft fine grains. This way your fish skin will not be hurt by the rough texture and it will have an increased surface area for the fish to get a snack.

Some pets will need a substrate that has a larger surface area so that they get where to hide. In this case, a large grain the substrate will not be ideal. I suggest you check your sand substrate manufacturer’s recommendation to see what it is ideal for.

Grain size

The grain size of sand will affect the flow in your tank that is why it is very important to consider it as well. Small grain sizes will reduce the flow of water at the bottom of the tank which can cause detritus to build up. Large grain sizes, on the other hand, have got large spaces in between the grains. This means some creatures will not have protection and space to hide especially burrowing fish. I suggest you weigh your options well and see which grain size can be ideal for the creatures you have.

How you want the bottom of the tank to look

The best sand substrate with the needs of your tank pets in mind, then you can start looking at the color, style or texture you want. This will determine how your tank floor will look. Go for a substrate that will bring out the best look in your tank.

What amount of sand is ideal for a reef tank?

How do you figure out the amount of sand suitable for your reef tank? Well by now you know that your sandbed depth is very essential. It requires you to put the correct amount of sand so that you don’t have too much or less of it. For you to figure out which amount is perfect depends entirely on your choice.

First of all, you will need to understand whether you want a shallow sand bed or a deep sand bed.

Shallow sand beds

These are constantly oxygenated and will require maintenance to maintain your tanks water chemistry.

Deep sand beds

These don’t have oxygen under the bed and this will encourage bacteria to carry out denitrification to balance nitrogen levels. These require less or no maintenance.

To figure out the right sand amount for your tank, I suggest you use the gallons of your tank. For example, if you have a tank of 10 gallons then you can get 10 pounds of sand so that you get a 1-inch sand bed.

How to maintain the sand in a reef tank

Sand for a reef tank is not the same as other substrates. It doesn’t require you to change it often. To maintain it you only have to do a few things.

One of the most important things you can do is to add more creatures into your reef tank. These creatures can be jawfish, shrimps or even hermit crabs. In most cases, these are also known as cleaners originators as they will help you turn the live sand. In a way, this will clean the sand properly.

Also, you can use as a siphon or what some call an aquarium vacuum. This will help you maintain your reef tank sand. It will remove debris food and fish waste thoroughly from the sand. It will also get everything that may be hiding in between the plants and the rocks.


Q: Can I use beach sand for my reef tank?

A: I would strongly disagree with that although some people tend to use it. Beach sand is usually silica sand meaning it will not be safe for some of the creatures in your reef tank. Also, the pH has to be low for the sand to dissolve which in the long run may end up killing everything.

Q: Should I clean my substrate before adding it in my reef tank?

A: Well, some may require you to clean it while others won’t. Those that require cleaning come with a lot of dust that needs to be removed before adding to the tank. If you add it without cleaning, it may form a cloud which will take days to clear.


Any reef tank owner would love to build a good environment for their fish, live plants or any other creatures that may be in the tank. That is why it is very important to get the best sand for reef tank. Below, I have reviewed some of them and each is individually tested to provide your pets with the healthy environment they deserve.

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