Sand is used as a substrate primarily in marine, reef and brackish water aquariums. This substrate has been found to be conducive to increased survivability of the marine organisms kept in the aquarium. The sand bed is a living organism that becomes home to microorganisms and will become a driving force in the tank’s ability to perform adequate biological filtration. When you are initially setting up your tank you can choose to use live or inert sand. Live sand is more expensive but gives the tank a head start on biological filtration. Over time any sand bed becomes live as microorganisms begin to thrive.
A question many aquarists have is how much sand to use in setting up their aquarium. To properly answer this question, it is required that some planning be done regarding the inhabitants, filtration method and decor of your tank before purchasing the sand. I would not recommend sand as the substrate if you plan to use an under gravel filter as the particles are too fine and will cause issues with your system. A canister filter would be a better choice for your aquarium.
Depth Of The Sand Bed
The aquarium’s sand bed can be classified as shallow or deep. A shallow bed will be 1 to 2 inches deep, whereas a deep bed can go upwards of 4 to 6 inches. All sand beds need to be cleaned by regular vacuuming and shallow beds are easier to clean. Some aquarists prefer the look of a shallow bed, especially in reef tanks as it tends to produce a more natural look. On the other hand, a deep bed is better for placing large rocks or driftwood as they can be more securely anchored in the deeper sand. One potential drawback of the deeper bed is that thorough cleaning or stirring or the sand needs to be done to prevent buildups of gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide that will negatively affect your fish.
The marine organisms you choose to keep are another factor that will influence the depth of sand bed required. In any depth you certainly will benefit by including some sand stirrers in your community. These include crabs, hermit crabs and snails. Any depth sand bed will benefit from having these creatures around. Burrowing fish such as gobies and wrasses are also good sand stirrers. These fish will do better in a tank with a deeper bed of at least 4 inches as they will thrive in an environment where they can burrow as they would in the wild.
A deeper sand bed will allow for more microorganisms to thrive, and some aquarists find watching the growth of these worms and other creatures to enhance their enjoyment of their aquarium. As you can see there are some decisions you need to make to determine what kind of sand bed you desire.
Calculating The Amount Of Sand Required
Once you determine the depth of the sand bed you would like to have in your aquarium it is a fairly straightforward process to determine the amount of sand required. Using the tank’s dimensions and the sand depth desired there are calculators available that will give you a very good estimate of the amount of sand to purchase. For example let’s take a 55 gallon tank. Its dimensions are 48.25 inches by 12.25 inches. Running these numbers through the sand bed depth calculator gives us 24 pounds for a 1 inch bed. This number just needs to be multiplied by the depth you plan to use and you have your estimate. For a four inch be you should plan on about 100 pounds of sand. There is a link to a sand bed depth calculator included below. I hope this information helps you in deciding how much sand you need for your aquarium.
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