fish tank sand

Should I Use Sand In My New Fish Tank?

Before you decide to use sand in your new fish tank, you need to learn a little more about it.

Why choose sand?

Well, sand is great for live plants. They’ll root very nicely in it. Sand doesn’t shift as gravel does and the plants will not get loose.

Some fish – such as Eels – like to bury themselves, so sand is a great option if you have fish like that.

Sand can give your aquarium a tropical look.

Let’s begin with the different types of sand you can choose from:

Play Sand

A lot of people use play sand or silver sand, fine white sand used in gardening. Play sand is cheap. However, it might create excessive algae growth in the tank

Silica Sand

This is what we know as pool filter sand. Some people say it stays better on the bottom. This is the one I recommend.

Aquarium Sand

This is typically silica sand that can be artificially colored. Aquarium sand is just a little thicker than silver sand but it costs a lot more.

Marine Sand

Marine sand is usually made up of crushed corals or crushed seashells, and this kind of substrate will alter the pH of your aquarium, and it’s really not recommended for most tropical fish. However, marine sand is suitable for fish that require high pH such as African cichlids. Do not use it for freshwater setups!

Beach Sand

The sand you can freely find on a beach contains a huge amount of salt in it and it’s almost impossible to get rid of it completely. You could use beach sand for marine setups but remember that many beaches are polluted in some way and that could end up being very damaging to your aquarium. So unless you can get it from a pristine beach in the middle of the ocean, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Never use building sand in your aquarium since it might have chemicals added to it to help with creating mortars.
Whatever sand you use, make sure you read the labels to check for added chemicals. Some brand of sand sold in big home improvement stores comes sterilized and totally inert.

How much sand do I need?

If you have live plants, I would cover the bottom with a minimum depth of 1″ and a maximum of 1.5″ of sand. If you don’t have live plants 1″ or less will be perfect. If you put over 1.5″ you can cause anaerobic bacteria to build up in pockets and create toxic gasses like methane and high levels of CO2, which might be deadly to your aquatic life. To avoid this, stir the sand a couple of times a week. You can use your fingers gently, or a very thin object, always watching out for the roots of your plants. You can always add some critters to keep your sand free 

of uneaten food. You can have scavengers such as a sea cucumber.

What kind of filter do you need?

A UGF will not do. In just a few days the filter will become useless. A canister filter is safe, as long as the filter intake is at least 1″ above the sand. In any case, you have to use a very good filter, maybe one stronger than the one required for your tank capacity, at least 3 times the power.

You must turn off the filter on your tank when you first start to use the sand. It always starts very cloudy and you have to give it time to settle.

Keep in mind that sand might be a little tricky to clean. Always maintain the siphon at least one inch over the sand. Once you get the hang of it, it should be very easy, since the debris does not get buried in the sand as it does in gravel. Now, since the debris does not get buried, it’s much more visible, but with the right setup of filters and pumps or powerheads, you can have all the waste get pushed away behind a rock or back in a corner.

Once you get your sand, make sure you rinse it thoroughly until the water comes out clear.

Also, do some research to decide what fish will thrive with a sand substrate and which won’t do as well.
Sand can be used in salt and some freshwater tanks. Don’t use sand with Goldfish, for example, because they will just grab mouthfuls of it when looking for food, and obviously, that’s not good for them.

Some sands, like marine sand, can change the PH in the water, so make sure the change your particular will create will not be harmful to the fish you want to keep. You can get away with coral sand in an African cichlid tank because coral sand will raise the pH naturally and freshwater African cichlids actually like that.

Setting up a new tank with sand is easy if you follow the precautions about the filter, the siphoning technique and you research the kind of fish you want. But it’s also possible to convert from gravel to sand in an already established tank, it’s only a little bit more complicated since you have to take out plants, decorations, and fish to do it, but once done, your tank will look so beautiful you will forget all about the hard work.

Set Up Your First Fish Tank

I still remember every minute of the day I got my first fish tank. Of course, I said I wanted to start small, so I got my 10-gallon tank with 3 small Goldfish… and I found out 10 gallons is waaaay too small for 3 Goldfish. Six months later, I had a 75-gallon tank with 9 Goldfish, and then I found out I should have had more than 7… but one learns The reason I tell you this is because, if you don’t want to repeat the whole process very soon, I would recommend getting the largest tank that you can accommodate. It’s actually easier to clean a bigger tank than a smaller one. Small tanks and bowls require a lot more maintenance, believe it or not, plus, no fish should be kept in a tank of less than 5 gallons, and that is for a very tiny fish, or maybe a Betta. You can find more information about all that throughout the site.

For now, let’s hope that this guideline can help you set up your fish tank. As I said, you can start with a 10, 20, or 30-gallon tank or bigger, made of glass or acrylic. Glass is traditional, but the advantages of an acrylic tank are many. It’s a lot lighter, seamless, and the clarity is unbeatable. Just remember to buy cleaning tools for acrylic and not glass.

You can buy a complete setup without ornaments for a low price, and this is a great beginning. You also need a stand that can hold the tank. Remember it’ll be very heavy once you add the water. Start out with plastic plants, and plastic or resin, maybe wood, stone or ceramic decorations. Be careful, not every rock or toy is good for your tank. Some have toxins that can kill your fish. Remember, a larger tank is easier to maintain than a small one and it can hold many more fish, which will lead to a more pleasant experience of fish keeping.

Once you have the equipment, the rest is easy. Choose a good place to set the tank and it’s stand in your home.

Once it’s filled you won’t be able to move it without emptying it first and you don’t want to do that try not to put it under the direct sunlight of a window or a very hot area, since heat makes algae grow faster, which means, cleaning will be harder, and high temperatures can actually harm some fish.

Rinse the gravel or sand well and spread it so you get an even layer. You always have to rinse everything very well before putting it in the tank.

If you have a hanging heater, hang it off the back, where you can still see it and tell if it’s on. 

A submersible heater should go near the bottom of the tank because the heat rises.

Powerheads are great for aquariums, but some species, like Goldfish, can’t tolerate the currents very well. Powerheads draw water from under the UGF and pump it out of the power head, creating water movement as well as delivering oxygen to the fish and the beneficial bacteria that live in the gravel (substrate).

It’s important to have filtration in the tank. You could use an under-gravel filter (UGF). These sit on top of the glass at the bottom of the aquarium. Lift tubes are inserted into the risers at the rear of the filter, and then the under-gravel filter is covered with gravel. If you have an underwater filter, find a location for your air pump and put your airline and air stones in. You will also need a gang valve for the airline, which will let you run two lift tubes off of a single outlet air pump. Run a piece of air line from the air pump to the gang valve. Run another air line from the gang valve to each of your lift tubes. Read the instructions for your filter to see exactly how to attach the air line to your particular air stones.

There are also mechanical filters on the market. I prefer and use a power filter with a Bio-Wheel. The Bio Wheel is a paper like cylinder that rotates as the water is returned to the tank. Beneficial bacteria live on the wheel and help increase the biological cycle.

Now place your ornaments in the tank and see where you want them before you get your hands wet. Expect some ceramic or plastic decorations to float or tip over as you put water in the tank.

Once your decorations are in place, you are ready to add water. You can just pour tap water into the tank and since you have no fish, plants, or a biological filter to worry about, add the treatment after the tank is full. Be careful that the water doesn’t dig a hole in the gravel as you pour it in.

You can use a good conditioner like Prime, and your water will be ready to add fish.

Then you’ll be ready to start the biological cycling process.

fish tank cleaner

Changing the Water in Your Fish Tank

Yes, the most important thing for your new freshwater fish tank is changing the water.  Why? Well, water changes involve more than just removing water from the tank and replacing it. You have to consider the condition of the water you are replacing it with, and the amount of water to remove. These can affect the water quality, and the state of your aquarium’s health.

Colonies of beneficial bacteria grow on every surface in the tank. These bacteria are part of the biological filter; allowing them to thrive will help improve the quality of the biological filtration system.

Every time you clean your fish tank, you should remove 10-15% of the water and replace it with fresh, dechlorinated tap water (bowl and small tanks need larger water changes more often). While you are doing this, you should use your siphon to vacuum some of the debris collected in the gravel. If you have an underwater filter it is very important to clean the gravel when you do your water changes every week, or every other week, and this will remove waste particles, and oxygenate the substrate as well, allowing nutrients and oxygen to reach the biological bacteria living on the gravel. Usually, you can clean 25-33% of the gravel when you siphon 10-15% of the water.

What do you need?

  • A siphon
  • A dedicated brand-new 5-gallon or larger bucket
  • A source of water

Place the bucket and the siphon next to the aquarium in preparation for the water change.

Turn off all electricity to avoid any dangers. Heaters can break if exposed to excessive air as it will try to heat the room’s temperature. Filters can go dry if water levels go below the suction tubing.

Place the vacuuming part of your siphon in the tank and start suctioning. How you do this depends on the type of siphon you have.  Make sure the other end is below the end in the tank so that gravity pulls down the water into the bucket.

Remove any solid wastes inside the fish tank by gently siphoning the gravel to pick up any settled debris. Imagine a checkerboard on the bottom and clean square by square. Keep the vacuuming end close to the gravel so you won’t suction any fish.

When the bucket is almost full remove the tubing from the fish tank to break the siphon, and dispose of the water.

After removing the desired amount of water, you can start adding your fresh water. If you add water from the bucket, rinse it first and use any conditioner while the water is still in the bucket. If you use an auto-filling siphon that connects to your faucet, dissolve the conditioner in a bit of water and add it as soon as the tank is full.

Plug any electrical equipment that you unplugged before.

Just some notes:

Siphon-Use a gravel cleaning siphon whenever you do a water change to remove all the trapped particulate from the gravel and dissolved pollutants.

  • Although I love to use the auto-filling siphons and so far I have not had any problems, be aware that adding untreated tap water into your tank can lead to disaster. You should precondition the water before adding it to your system.
  • Always use water at room temperature, never use hot water to adjust temperature. Hot water contains a greater quantity of heavy metals like copper and lead. Heavy metals can be removed from tap water by the addition of “slimy” water conditioners. These products contain chemicals that will bind these metals, rendering them harmless. Carbon and certain resins will also remove heavy metals from the water.
  • It’s better to do smaller water changes more often than one large water change. Doing this will keep the water quality from changing too drastically.
  • You can change the water during cycling. Normal water changes will not affect this process after 2-3 weeks.
  • Always allow your tap water to run for at least five minutes before using it. This will help decrease the dissolved 

heavy metal content.

Happy fishes!!

aquarium water heater

Why Use an Aquarium Water Heater?

A typical oversight of many beginner aquarists is the use of a heater in their tank, but just like the filters, heaters are a major component of a healthy environment for your fish.

One of the most important aspects of having a thriving tropical aquarium is keeping the water temperature at a good level. Both saltwater and freshwater fish do best in warm water with no drastic temperature variations. Only 

Goldfish are sturdy enough to handle colder temperatures.

A drop in temperature of only one degree over a twenty-four-hour period might affect the health of your fish, making them susceptible to diseases that might wipe out your whole tank population. Water temperature affects their immune system, wound healing, and digestion. It is vital to be vigilant of the water temperature during the change of seasons, particularly as winter approaches and temperatures drop. You might not think about it, but when the temperature in your home changes, your fish tank water changes temperature too.

Overheating can also be a problem. As the temperature rises, the oxygen saturation in the water tends to fall. But it’s a lot easier to cool down the water than it is to heat it. You can turn off the lighting, float ice packs on the water, run a fan over the water surface, or add cooler water to your water changes.

So the real problem is cold water.

The best way to avoid sudden temperature drops is to have a reliable aquarium water heater in your tank. There are many heaters in the market at various prices. The cheaper ones are more likely to break or malfunction, costing you more money in the long run, and they might not give you an accurate heat setting, which makes maintaining the right temperature in your tank quite difficult.

A mid-priced heater will do a very nice job. Their thermostats are reliable and they can maintain a constant temperature without having to make many adjustments. Make sure you check your aquarium heater periodically and think about replacing it at least once a year.

Titanium heaters are highly recommended because they’re durable and virtually indestructible. Some are designed to automatically shut off when the water level drops or they are exposed to air when plugged in. Most heaters will break when this happens. They are also resistant to corrosion both in salt and freshwater tanks.

Another good investment for your aquarium is a thermometer. You can get thermometers that stick to the outside glass of the tank, making it easier to monitor the temperature at a glance.

The best place for the heater is near the filter, that way the heated water can be distributed throughout the tank avoiding hot and cold spots around the tank. A heater is a very important part of any aquarium ecosystem and keeping the water temperature at a constant level will allow your fish to live happily and disease free for many years.

A minimum of 3-5 watts per gallon is recommended to keep aquarium water temperatures at optimal, so always get the right size heater for your tank. If you want to heat 20 gallons of water, you should buy an aquarium water heater of 200-300 watts. If you own a large tank, you should consider using more than one heater. If one of your heaters goes, having multiple heaters safeguards your tank from crashing.

So, when planning your setup, take into account purchasing a good and reliable aquarium heater.

Acrylic Fish Tank

Choosing a Glass or an Acrylic Fish Tank

What are the benefits of acrylic fish tanks?

Using acrylic to make fish tanks changed the aquarium-keeping hobby for everybody. In the 1800s, fish tanks were mainly metal boxes with one side made out of glass. Aquarists could only keep fish from their own region because they were the only ones available, and they had to be freshwater fish because salt water corroded the metal frame that held the panes together.

When silicone adhesive appeared in the picture in the 1960s, metal frames ceased to exist and gave way to glass and people were able to keep saltwater fish in their aquariums.

Then came acrylic. Acrylic is greatly flexible and made aquariums break-proof, unlike their glass counterparts. With glass fish tanks there is always the danger of shattering the glass if stroked with a heavy object, creating a big mess of water and fish all over the place. Acrylic tanks don’t run this danger

The possibilities of design with acrylic are endless. You can turn anything from an old television set to a gumball machine into a fish tank.

Acrylic fish tanks are very lightweight. Especially if you compare them to glass tanks, acrylic tanks are very light. Of course, when you put the water in it, the tank is going to be very heavy, but the transportation of the tank will be much easier. Acrylic tanks are also very clear. The visibility of the fish will be much better than with glass.

Another advantage of acrylic tanks is the variety of shapes you can find! Bow-front aquariums are my favorite. They look so much nicer than regular rectangular tanks. You can get the tiniest tank for your favorite Betta fish or a gigantic aquarium for your wall. I personally like to buy everything separately, but you can purchase a starter kit that has everything from gravel to plastic plants, lights, and filters. Obviously, acrylic aquariums also have their problems.

Acrylic can scratch easier than glass. You have to be very careful when cleaning your tank and use only supplies made especially for acrylic. Scrubbers have to be made of rubber or plastic and never metal. Be very careful not to pick up a piece of gravel with your sponge and scratch the surface of the tank with it.

However, if you accidentally scratch your acrylic tank, there is no need to despair. Acrylic tanks can be repaired. There are acrylic repair kits available. When you get the occupants for your new tank

Only make sure to buy your fish from reputable specialty fish stores. Fish bought at regular pet shops normally carry diseases and won’t last you long. And, it’s always good to be able to ask questions about their care from someone knowledgeable. Look at the tanks. There shouldn’t be any dead fish floating around. Choose the most energetic fish you see and have the employee give you the one you choose.

fish tank filter

The Importance of Your Fish Tank Filter

The fish tank filter is the most important component of a successful aquarium setup. Filters are what keep the water from becoming stagnant and lifeless. Filters have three purposes

Back to Top
Product has been added to your cart