Substrates for goldfish tanks: Sand

A relatively modern addition to the range of substrate options for keeping goldfish is sand; an alternative to the traditionally used gravel, and one that can provide a wider range of options for aquascaping and designing the layout of the tank.

If you are setting up a goldfish tank or thinking about re-landscaping a tank that you already have, read on to learn all about using sand as your substrate.

About goldfish tank sand

Sand specially produced for use in fish tanks is high quality soft sand that is filtered and sieved to remove any debris and particles, and is often artificially colored to give fish keepers a choice of shades to match or contrast with the rest of the aquarium décor.

If you are considering using sand as the base for your goldfish tank, it is important to ensure that you buy sand that is specially designed for use with freshwater fish. Marine fish require a sand substrate that is known as “live sand,” and contains salt, bacteria and microorganisms that are designed to work well with a saltwater fish tank, but that will be unsuitable for a freshwater set up.

Goldfish tank sand is often available in a wide range of different colors, and you can mix and match them to create new designs, such as by layering different colors of sand or mixing colors to create a unique design all of your own.

How to add sand to the goldfish tank

Begin by adding water to your tank, to around a third or half full. Then, place your ornaments within the tank before adding the sand. Rinse out the sand you are going to use thoroughly to remove any dust until the water runs clear before adding it to the tank.

Then, slowly pour the sand into the tank, using it to support the base of any ornaments present and ensuring a good, even coverage to a depth of an inch or two.

You may wish to slope the sand from the back of the tank to the front, so that debris and waste will fall towards the front of the tank for easier cleaning.

When you first add sand to your tank, it may cloud the water and take some time to settle; this is normal, so give it some time to settle down.

Is sand a good substrate for goldfish?

Fish keepers as a whole are rather divided in opinion as to whether or not sand makes a good substrate for goldfish or not. One school of thought is that sand can irritate the gills of goldfish, but there is no firm evidence to back this up, although it is of course worth mentioning in order to give a full picture of the pros and cons.

Goldfish like to dig about in the substrate of their tank and sift through it, something that a sand base very much enables. Sand is a good substrate for promoting natural foraging behavior in your fish, and so, can help to contribute to keeping your goldfish happy and well by enabling this natural behavior.

How to clean a sand substrate

Unlike gravel, waste products do not generally fall through sand and become suspended between the grains, but will generally sit on the surface of the sand. This can make it easier to clean than gravel, as you will not need to sit through it to remove waste products.

However, using a siphon with sand can be a challenge, as the siphon will suck up the sand along with the water! You will need to filter out the surface of your sand with a siphon and then skim it for solid particles, before returning the cleaned sand to the tank.

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