5 Best Sand for Reef Tank – Buying Guide

sand for Reef Tank In the past, the only thing you can add to your tank to add color to it is the colored aquarium gravel. The choices were limited to primary colors and artificial fluorescent. At present, there are lots of natural colors and gravel sizes to choose from. The material used at the bottom of the aquarium is called a substrate, and that includes colored gravel, pebbles, natural gravel, natural crushed coral, construction sand, and marine sand. Sometimes it is also referred to as soil.

Choose the right sand for your reef tank to help your coral live healthy. Actually, the best sand for the reef tank provides an environment that mimics a natural ocean habitat with the use of sand from the ocean floor that contains the beneficial bacteria.

To help you on your quest in finding the best sand for a reef tank, we have reviewed five brands that you can consider buying:


5 Best Sand for Reef Tank Reviews


1. Nature’s Ocean Bio Activ Aragonite Aquarium Sand

Nature’s Ocean is a brand known for its premium-quality sand that is all-natural. It originates from the ocean and comes with live marine bacteria to help stabilized your tank fast. The bacteria on it were preserved using a unique process that easily adapts to your tank.

Setting up and placing your coral, including the fish into the tank, can be done on the same day. The instant cycling easily restores a natural balance to tank water, eliminates ammonia, and nitrate easily and efficiently.

The sand has live aragonite that helps in controlling nitrate levels and keeps the right pH level. There are also lots of natural living good bacteria in this sand that includes heterotrophic, chemolithotrophic, and autotrophic to provide the best balance to the water.

Nature’s Ocean Aquarium sand also provides a wider surface area for helpful bacterial colonies to continue to grow and live, producing the best environment for your reef.  The grain is covered with a biofilm to ensure the natural state of the bacteria and remove the toxic waste.

Things We Liked

  • Contains over 10 million live bacteria in every pound of sand covered in a natural biofilm
  • Contains live chemolithotrophic bacteria
  • Removes nitrogenous waste
  • Prevents biofouling
  • Provides proper inorganic chemical balance

Things We Didn’t Like

If you are looking for large grains, this is not your sand as it measures only about 1 millimeter

The sand has a chalky white color rather than white sand beach colors


2. Caribsea Super Naturals Sand

With Caribsea Super Naturals Reef Sand, you can create a great experience by imitating the natural world in your home. This aquarium sand is the first product of Caribsea, and they claim it is the best sand type. It is made in the USA, and it does not contain any artificial colors or dyes. So, if you want to prevent any build up in your fish tank, this is the best option.

Also, it has neutral black sand that is quite versatile that you can use for any type of aquarium system and enables you to recreate some of the best natural underwater world’s right at the comfort of your home.

If you want a unique look in your aquarium, experts would recommend this sand from Caribea as it is carefully crafted and chosen for a supernatural experience. It is also available in different colors that will perfectly suit the fish tank design.

Things We Liked

  • It does not contain artificial colors or dyes
  • Made in the USA
  • pH is neutral and is safe for all types of aquarium system
  • Grain size minimizes built up
  • Available in different colors

Things We Didn’t Like

  • May cause fish tank cloudiness
  • Not suitable for coral growth


3. Pure Water Pebbles African Cichlid Bio-Activ

The Pure Water Pebbles African Cichlid is designed to recreate the natural habitat of your fish. It made to mimic the bed of an African rift lake. This aquarium substrate is a nutrient-enriched material with live bacteria that can easily stabilize your tank so you can place the fish the same day you set it up.

It gets rid of nitrogenous waste and brings back the natural organic balance to give your aquatic pet a safe environment to live on. Also, it helps minimizes harmful nitrate, enhance buffering capacity, and maintain proper pH. At the same time, it provides essential inorganic elements needed to maintain clear water quality.

One of the critical benefits of Pure Water Pebbles is that the process of collecting the substrate preserves all the bacteria in their natural state. The live autotrophic, chemolithotrophic, and heterotrophic bacteria provide proper inorganic balance. The instant cycling removes the nitrogenous waste that includes nitrite and ammonia and brings back the natural balance for a safe place to live for your fish.

Things We Liked

  • Nutrient-enriched material
  • Maintains proper pH
  • Eliminates nitrogenous waste
  • Prevents biofouling
  • 100% natural ocean sand

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Causes some cloudiness in the water


4. Carib Sea Ocean Direct Substrates

This brand of substrates uses a cooling preservation process. Each grain of sand is covered with bacteria that came from the ocean during the time it was collected. It is covered with a thin film of ocean water that is open to the air for continued gas exchange. This enables beneficial bacteria to continue to grow without any build-up.

Every bag includes a clarifier to easily get free-floating bacteria to that rocks, sand as well as other biological filtration media. Upon purchasing the tank, you can use it right away. The live sand mixture is designed to start up your aquarium’s cycling and control the level of ammonia from rising by providing a highly concentrated blend of good bacteria.

The substrate is finer than the sand you can find at many beaches, so it will take several days to clear up after adding the media. The grain is very small in size that when blown into the water, it will not settle back right away. Because of this, the sand is recommended for a tank with deep sand beds and do not require much maintenance.

Things We Liked

  • Does not require rinsing
  • Manufactured in the USA
  • It has beneficial bacteria for biological filtration
  • Dark color brings out the best coloration
  • Great value for your money

Things We Didn’t Like

  • pH level is high
  • Not recommended for growing plants


5. Carib Sea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand

Carib Sea Arag-Alive is yet another form of Live Aragonite sand that is quite popular for the last few years. Each bag is chock full of heterotrophic, autotrophic, and chemolithotrophic bacteria to maintain the fish tank’s health. This only means that you spend less time maintaining the tank as the sand’s natural bacteria do.

Arag-Alive can help stimulate a living, natural environment that works well when your tank is new, and you need to add fish into it right away. The sand has natural filters that will keep the contaminants down and the water clean. This acts as a natural filter.

Another vital benefit of this pink sand is that it will keep the water very clear. Because of the neutral pH levels in the sand, it will not shock the water, so you need to add more chemicals or supplements.

You can take the most unusual reefs in your home through the help of Carib Sea Arag-Alive sand. It is designed from CaribSea’s collaboration with zoological parks and aquariums when you need something unique.

Things We Liked

  • The pack contains good bacteria to aid in removing waster material
  • It acts as a natural filter to keep the water clear
  • It will not cloud the water or produce a clay-based fog
  • The bag contains a neutral pH level that requires no additional chemicals

Things We Didn’t Like

  • It can be expensive than other sand.

How to Choose the Best Aquarium Sand

In choosing the best aquarium sand, there are factors that we need to consider. If you search online, you will be overwhelmed with the result. Without knowing these factors, it will be hard for you to decide. Here are some factors that will help you choose the best aquarium sand:


Not all aquarium sands are created equal. If you have a small freshwater tank, it may not be a wrong choice if you purchase one intended for a bigger saltwater tank. Searching for the right sand for your particular needs and aquarium type is essential to ensure that your tank is healthy, or you may require more maintenance as needed.

Most brands included in the label the applications and the specific uses of the sand. Some sands are made for various situations, while others are for specific cases only. It is best to choose the one they will fit most of the reef tank. If you are aware that the tank needs a particular setup, make sure that the sand you choose is designed for that particular need.

Your Budget

When choosing the best sand for a reef tank, price is also a big factor. You need to know if you are getting the best deal if you purchase cheap sand. Also, if you buy an expensive one, is it worth paying for, or are they just good at marketing the product.

For those who are on a budget, they tend to buy the cheapest aquarium without thinking that it will cost them a lot in the long run. Cheap sand is usually made of low-quality materials, unlike the expensive ones. It means that you look at the value being offered by a company and compared it to the other brands.

Keep in mind that the best sand for the reef tank offers value, quality, and price.

Grain Size and Flow

These two factors are always at odds in an aquarium, which can result in compromises for aquarium owners.

Higher flow at the bottom of the tank is good because it prevents the accumulation of waste, which can is bad for water health. But, media with small grain sizes such as sands cannot handle high water flow rates that much.

You might encourage to buy a larger grain size, but there might be some drawbacks as the grain size increases.

Bigger grains will have larger spaces between each grain, thus providing less protection and habitat for digging creatures. Also, the bigger pore spaces can enable waste to accumulate in any areas where the flow of water is not strong.

Bacteria and pH Levels

In maintaining the aquarium, the bacteria and the water’s pH level are essential factors that you need to consider.

An increase in water’s pH level can damage your fish and plants. To prevent these problems, purchasing aquarium sand that has a stable pH level is vital.

Sand with a stable pH level makes adding it to your tank worry-free. You don’t have to add a supplement in the water or have to change it completely.

This is also the same for the bacteria levels in the water. Healthy bacteria cannot be shocked, as they will die, and you need to start all over again.

The bacteria remove the waste and nitrates from the water, so consider sand that helps promote the bacteria needed to keep the tank healthy.


Final Thoughts

After reviewing five of the best sand for a reef tank, our top pick is CaribSea Arag-Alive 20 Pound Pink Fiji Sand. It is very attractive, and contains all the elements required to keep the aquarium water safe for the plants and fish, contaminate free, and the pH level is balanced.

The substrate does not require replacement, and it won’t need additional chemicals in the water. It will help your tank to live longer. If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment below.