Gravel vs. Sand

Posted in All About Equipment

 By michaelm053, edited by Kmuda

The one main question we hear going from topic to topic is “Gravel or Sand?” There are many ups and downs to having either gravel or sand. There are many types of sand and many types of gravel but it all depends on

  1. How much patience you have.
  2. What look you are going after
  3. How much are you willing to spend.

The many sands ranging from play sand to crayola even to pool filter sand all have there ups and downs.

Play sand


Play sand is great looking sand but is not for the people that do not have very much patience. At the beginning the play sand will make the water very cloudy no matter how many times you clean it before putting it in. But all you have to do to clear it up with out making your filter pads brown is put some cloth like quilt batting or a sock over the intake tube and your tank will be clean within 4-5 hours, Much better the 4-5 days.

Blast Sand or Pool Filter Sand

Pool Filter Sand may be the best selection of any substrate. Provides the benefits and improved appearance of sand without all of the headaches of a finer grained sand. The added benefit is it is inexpensive

Pool Filter Sand also has a great look and does great with plants. Unlike Play Sand, Pool Filter sand is pre-rinsed for use in swimming pool filters, so it does not take nearly as much cleaning (although it does require rinsing.) Pool Filter sand gives the tank a natural look with the ability to make small hills as seen in the picture. It does not get sucked up by the siphon but will allow debris to go through.

Crayola Sand

Crayola Sand

Crayola sand looks great in any tank with any plant under any light. It comes in many different colors and is easy to find. The assortment of colors makes it ideal for décor because you can find just the right color for your fish.

The issue with this type of sand is that it may be fine grained. As a result, it may require significant rinsing and you will need to protect your filters. Sand particles pulled into a filter can damage the impeller or, even worse, the impeller housing.


Gravel has many colors, shapes, sizes and sizes to choose from for instance I will use some white gravel that you can get from your local fish store.

Good ole gravel.... White will not stay white for long though.


You can choose the right color to match your fish, décor, and even your room color. It is a great way to go if you can not make up your mind.

And if none of this works for you try mixing the two. You will find hundreds of possibilities if you experiment with different kinds of gravel with different kinds of sands.

The prices of substrate and differ dependent on how much you get, where you get it and what kind you get.

Thanks to Wow_it_esploded for allowing use of his picture (figure 1) and unscarred473 for allowing use of his picture (figure 2).