Should You Clean The Sand In Your Aquarium

Keeping the aquarium clean is imperative to maintaining excellent water quality but should you clean the sand?

Well this depends upon what type of sand bed you have implemented into your aquarium.

If you have installed a deep sand bed to aid with aquarium filtration then no you should not manually clean it. With a deep sand bed the cleaning needs to be performed by what I call critters. These are things like small starfish, micro fauna etc. The burrow through the sand and keep it clean on your behalf – natures cleaners.

If you have a shallow sand bed, use sand for decorative purposes etc then yes you should clean it. Over time a sand bed which is not used for filtration will end up with uneaten food, fish waste, detritus etc contained or clogged within it.

I always recommend to install a clean up crew into an aquarium. Putting a clean up crew is basically purchasing hermit crabs, snails, shrimps etc to assist you with the cleaning of the aquarium. Some of these animals will assist in the cleaning of the sand and others will not.

Even if you have a clean up crew in the aquarium I would still recommend that you manually give the sand bed a bit of a clean.

Basically all you need to do is gently stir the sand when you are doing your water change. When you stir the sand all the detritus etc will lift up into the water column and you can siphon it out with the water. Dependant upon the size of the aquarium you might not be able to clean the entire bed so just start at one end and clean as much as you can. The next time you do a water change start where you left off.

Simple to do but definately worth it.

  1. How deep is a deep sand bed? I have a 24-gallon AquaPod with 30 lbs of sand. I think it’s about 3 inches thick. Also, the “deep sand bed” link within the article isn’t working. 😉

  2. Hi Jeffry,

    In my opinion a deep sand bed is anywhere between 2 and 6 inches in depth. After 2 inches deep anaerobic areas will start to form.

    It is imperative that the deep sand bed is made up of sand which is of the correct size in onder for the sand bed to perform at full efficiency and not become clogged. It needs to be ‘turned over’ times in order to be kept clean by the various ‘critters’ which live in it – of course we have to ensure that there are enough in there by introducing them in the first place.

    I am also of the opinion that a deep sand bed must be fed at the beginning so that the critter population will increase.

    A deep sand bed in my opinion is one of the best filtration medias available as it is the only one which can process all the way through to nitrogen gas.

    In your aquapod 3 inches of sand would equate to a deep sand bed – what size of grain did you use and are you feeding it?

    Thanks for letting us know about the link – should be working now.


  3. I’ll stick my nose in and upset Peter! Maybe! Joking apart, deep sand beds do process the full nitrogen cycle – and so does live rock of good quality. The two together make great filtration. I feed my deep sand bed once a week to maintain the population in and on it, taking care not to overfeed of course.

  4. Useful tips! I personally clean the sand to make certain that there are no food particles left there when I’m doing my aquarium maintenance. Thanks.

  5. Hi.

    You’ll be cleaning a decorative bed then, need to be careful with a DSB.

  6. I don’t clean my DSB but use critters suck as dimond goby, snails and sand sifting sea stars. I have found that disturbing the DSB increaseses ammonia levels and will desimate bacteria needed for ammonia conversion.

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