Can I Use Home Depot Sand in My Aquarium?

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fish tank sand

When you start your first aquarium or any aquarium for that matter, substrate is one of the choices you will have to make.

People usually end up choosing between sand or gravel.

If you decide to go with sand, you will have to decide how much you are going to spend. When you decide how much you are going to spend, you may come across people saying they got their sand really cheap at Home Depot or Amazon. This sounds crazy but you will probably end up asking at some point, can I use sand from Home Depot in my aquarium?

The answer is: There are two types of sand you can get from Home Depot for your aquarium. You can get play sand or pool filter sand. Make sure the grain size of either sand you buy is # 20 mesh or higher, so it doesn’t get sucked into your filter as easily. People buy Home Depot sand for their aquariums because it can cost around 20 cents per pound versus ‘made for aquarium sand’ which is usually a dollar per pound or higher.

The reason they are so much cheaper than aquarium sand is that they are meant for other things which require a large volume of sand that doesn’t need to be prepared the same way as aquarium sand.

It really just depends on which sand you like the appearance of better.

You can also get blasting sand from Home Depot or Amazon for your aquarium but it is more expensive than other places, so it really isn’t worth it.

There is a lot more to explain when it comes to using Home Depot sand in your aquarium. If you read this whole article, you can become an expert in a few minutes.

Home Depot Play Sand for Your Aquarium

Play sand is different than pool filter sand because it is silica free. It is meant for children’s sandbox’s if you want to make your kiddo a sandbox in the backyard. It is silica free because silica is not healthy for children.

What does any of this have to do with an aquarium? Well, most fish are used to living with a sand bed.

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The problem with aquarium sand is the price.

It usually costs at least a dollar per pound. If you have a 55-gallon tank and you want to put live plants in it, you may need to spend at least 250 dollars on aquarium sand. If you buy play sand from Home Depot or Amazon, you can get a 50 lb. bag of Quikrete play sand for between 25 – 50 dollars.

You would spend less than 50 dollars versus at least 250 dollars for aquarium sand.

I don’t know where or when it started but at some point in time, someone decided to use play sand in their aquarium. After all, sand is sand, right?

Cheap prices come with consequences. If you buy play sand for your aquarium, you need to wash it before you put it in your aquarium. Before we get to the washing part, let’s talk about pool filter sand.

Home Depot Pool Filter Sand for Your Aquarium

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Qwikrete is also the brand name for the pool filter sand at Home Depot or Amazon. It is usually silica-based sand and is a little larger grain size than play sand.

Like play sand, it is actually designed for something else and not to be used in aquariums. But again, at some point in time, someone was looking for a cheaper alternative than aquarium sand tried pool filter sand and it worked.

It comes in tan, brown, and white. I think white sand would look cool in an aquarium, but it is a matter of preference.

A lot of people who have used both play and pool sand prefer to use pool sand in their aquariums.

The consensus of opinions seems to say that pool filter sand is easier to clean before you put it in your tank, and it is easier to vacuum pool filter sand during water changes.

Both grains of sand can be difficult to vacuum but we will talk about that later.

Home Depot Blasting Sand for Your Aquarium

Some people really like this blasting sand better than pool or play sand. Home Depot or Amazon has blasting sand, but it is too expensive.

However, you’re better off getting a 50 lb. bag of ‘Black Diamond Fine Blasting Abrasives’ from a tractor supply company. If you can find some cheap blasting sand at your local hardware store or on Amazon it usually comes in black. Some people really like the black color at the bottom of their aquarium.

Cleaning Your Home Depot Sand

Whether you get play sand or pool sand from Home Depot, they are cleaned the same way.

Both grains of sand are too dirty to just dump into your aquarium right away. You need to rinse both grains of sand thoroughly.

Pool filter sand cleans quicker but not by that much.

The most common way to clean play or pool sand is to use a 5-gallon bucket outside with a water hose.

Steps to Cleaning Home Depot Sand

  • Fill the bucket at least half full of the sand.
  • Fill it with water and shove the water hose to the bottom of the bucket (most people prefer to use a sprayer at the end of the hose).
  • Work the sand with your hands or stir it with something while the bucket is filling with water (this will help work the dust and debris loose while the water is flushing out).
  • Let the bucket overflow until the water flows out clearly (it helps to keep working the sand while the water is flowing).

Once the water flows out clear, you are done!

This is the basic way to wash any sand before you put it in your aquarium.

Extra Tips for Cleaning Aquarium Sand

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It is easier to use a wheelbarrow if you are cleaning your sand outside. You can also fit more sand in a wheelbarrow.

Use the same method as listed above. Rinse and work the sand until the water rinses out clear. Tip the wheelbarrow a little bit to let the water flow out.

You can buy a wheelbarrow from Home Depot or Amazon.

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You can buy paint strainers from Home Depot or Amazon and clean your sand this way.

Fill the paint strainer with your sand. Keep dipping the paint strainer full of sand in the bucket with the water running. Repeat until the water runs out clear.

You can also hold the paint strainer full of sand up and spray it with your water hose until the water runs out clear.

Putting the Clean Sand in Your Aquarium and Filling with Water

When the water rinses out clear from cleaning your sand, it is time to put it in your aquarium.

After you put it in the bottom of your aquarium, you should put a dinner plate or Styrofoam plate on top of the sand to catch the main flow of the water.

This keeps the water flow from hitting your sand too hard and splashing it around. The plate catches the water and then lets it trickle over the sides of the plate.

This will keep the sand from floating up into your water and make your water cloudy.

Vacuuming Your Sand

Play sand is the harder of the two to vacuum. It is thinner than pool sand. Because it is thinner it is harder for detritus to sink below its surface. The method for vacuuming both grains of sand is basically the same.

Nitrogen gas can get trapped in pockets below the surface. Just run your fingers through your sand before you vacuum or do water changes. If you run your fingers through your sand it will release any gas pockets or detritus trapped below the surface.

After you run your fingers through the sand, try to get your aquarium vacuum as close as possible to the surface of the sand without sucking any sand up into the vacuum.

You should see the layer of gunk on the surface get sucked up first.

Some people like to touch the surface of the sand with the vacuum and as soon as sand starts to go up the vacuum, they just crimp the hose and let the sand fall back down.

The Bottom Line

It is perfectly fine to use one of these cheaper sands in your aquarium.

Just remember that they were not originally meant for your aquarium, so you need to rinse the sand as described above before adding it to your tank. It really can go a long way in saving you money on your first aquarium.

When it comes to the play or pool filter sand, the bigger your aquarium, the more money you are going to save.

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Pet Aquariums

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