Over the years I have experimented with many types of substrates for saltwater aquariums and with the amount that is put in. In this article, I hope to explain to you what is most practical and visually pleasing.

Sand Type

In my mind, there is no reason to use anything other that aragonite sand such as the CaribSea brand or the Nature’s Oceans brand. Aragonite sand looks great and resembles the white sands we often see in photos and videos (or in person if you’re lucky) of the coral seas. Aragonite sand also aids in keeping the PH in balance which is something we can always use. Aragonite sand also provides surface area for beneficial bacteria to live on and aid in the nitrifying process. It is worth mentioning that we like to use the live sand versions which ship wet vs the dry sand bags. Using live sand eliminates the need for rinsing and also has beneficial bacteria already present in the sand.

Sand Amount

We like to achieve a sand bed that is anywhere from 1″ – 2″ deep. We like this amount because it is financially practical, less work, less weight in the tank and looks great. Using a deeper sand bed can add another surface area that is visible through the aquarium side panel where algae grows. Deep Sand Bed of 4″+ is a thing of the past for most aquarist. Although it may have been beneficial for denitrification, the downsides of a “crashed” sand bed or disturbance of the low oxygen areas in it were not worth the price of a deep sand bed. Again, it doesn’t look so good either :)


Using aragonite sand is ideal for any saltwater aquarium. It looks great and has benefits to the aquarium. Using a shallow sand bed of 1″-2″ is ideal and practical as we have covered.