Play sand really as problem free as people suggest? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 07-19-2017, 09:14 AM Thread Starter
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Play sand really as problem free as people suggest?

I am just setting up a new juwel rio 400 which is 450L for my piranha setup. I am wandering if play sand really is as problem free as people suggest? Ill probably need about 30 to 40kg of sand so obviously the price is an issue. £20 for 25kg of unipac aquarium silver sand or £3 for 15kg of play sand? I know a lot of people have used it and claim it to be problem free but I suspect these people are not advanced aquarists and simply don't notice or pay attention to most of their aquariums parameters unless its a major issue. I suspect these people probably have algae issues and other things that they are ignoring. I have used it in the past with my first tank and had major algae issues and the sand eventually turned brown and smelly. I have since got into the marine hobby and as such have learned a lot more about water chemistry and the issues it causes in both fresh and salt water aquariums. If you suggest using play sand in a marine reef keeping forum people scream at you not to use it as it causes so many issues. It leaches silicates and phosphates into the water as well as other potential contaminates which are a major cause of algae blooms in both fresh and salt water. I now know that most likely cause of the algae in my first fresh water tank was high phosphates but nobody ever advised me to measure it in the fresh water hobby. I now no that even my tap water has quite a high phosphate count and the only way to beat it is to use RO water or phosphate remover in my filter.

So since this tank is so big I want to get it correct from the start and dot want to have to strip it down and dump 40kg sand in 6 months time.
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post #2 of 6 Old 07-20-2017, 06:46 AM
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I did not like play sand one bit when I tried it - tossed it all. I never made it far enough to see if it caused a problem. Pool filter sand is much, much better in my experience, and nice looking. However, my experience is based on the products that are available to me in my area, so I must concede that there may be brands of play sand that are much better than what I had. Due to the nature of the product and it's intended use, I don't think there is such a variance among pool filter sands.


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post #3 of 6 Old 07-20-2017, 10:56 AM
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the phosphates in your tank come overwhelming from the livestock not the sand, rocks, glass, water, or whatever.


With a planted tank it makes no difference anyway because the nutrients will be consumed by the plants.


any algae blooms are easily controlled by killing the lights until the algae dies off. Then restarting with less light and adjusting until the plants thrive and the algae stays away.




my .02

maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish and marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

see: https://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/a...-build-295530/
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post #4 of 6 Old 07-22-2017, 09:22 PM
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As someone who has a tank with play sand, and be doing it for some time Ive never noticed a problem. In fact, I have had more success in keeping a planted aqua in comparison in using gravel and larger grained substrates.
but then again, Im not an advanced keeper...

Owner of fish, hermit crabs, shrimp and plants!


Hermit Crab Association (HCA) is a great resource for hermit crab care
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post #5 of 6 Old 07-25-2017, 07:56 AM Thread Starter
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I ended up just buying some B.D trading aquarium sand. £24 for 25kg :mad: but it looks like a much better quality of sand than play sand.
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post #6 of 6 Old 07-25-2017, 12:45 PM
Play sand has its positives and negatives. Sand in general brings a new set of problems that gravel does not. Firstly, sand compacts and it can compact real tight. This creates situations where you get anaerobic pockets and the gas from those bacteria is toxic. Secondly, sand is much lighter than gravel, it has a much higher chance of getting kicked up by fish or blasted by your current and sucked into the filter. Both are fairly easy to solve. Anaerobic pockets can be avoided by poking the substrate every so often to avoid it compacting too much or getting burrowing snails that will turn it for you. The second problem can be solved with proper rinsing, pouring out the lightest particles so youre only left with the heavier material.

Sand has a lot of benfits, for one, it doesn't trap organics as readily as gravel since larger organics will just sit on top of it. It is also gentler on bottom dwelling fish and the small grains are often more aesthetically pleasing.

Many people use play sand simply because its the same thing as aquarium sand unless you need one of those specially colored sands. BD sand claims it doesn't compact, I've never tried it but I doubt it works because sand, or anything that's small particles, will compact when wet because it is denser than water and will push the water out from between its particles over time. You would need sand at the same density as water for it to not compact, which, of course would be a nightmare since any current would send it everywhere.

Your source of sand is very important, in the US, I use sakrete, which does not have organics and is mostly quartz, which is inert. I have never had a problem with it. Marine tanks have sand specifically made for marine aquariums, although play sand can be used, argonite has buffering capabilities that you need to help stabilize the PH values of your water.

Play sand should not leech a significant amount of silicates or phosphates for freshwater tanks. Although quartz is silica, it is inert. However, purity matters here, and normal playsand is not 100% pure, which is why we do water changes, but even at around 98% pure, the amount of silicates leeches is insignificant as long as its not left sitting for months or years without changing the water.
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