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How To Make Sand Settle Faster In An Aquarium? 5 Tips & FAQs

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By Lindsey Stanton

two spotted cory catfish in sandy rocks

So you have put sand in your aquarium as your chosen substrate. Now, you’re watching a cloudy mess of an aquarium with sand swirling around. Things don’t look so good. You wanted to add the fish ASAP, but now you are not so sure. This is why we are here today, to find out how to make sand settle faster in an aquarium.

Now, it is going to take time for the sand to settle. There is no getting around that. However, there are some things you can do to expedite the process, such as not moving the tank, not turning a filter on, performing daily water changes, and more.

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The 5 Ways To Make Sand Settle Faster In An Aquarium

Ok, so to be fair, to a certain extent, there is really not all that much you can do to make the sand in the aquarium settle faster than it normally would. Sand is light and it is going to float around in the water. Some people report that it can take up to 7 days for the sand to settle.

However, there are a few little tricks in your aquarium arsenal you can put to use to try and speed up the process. So, how do you make and settle faster in an aquarium?

1. Do Not Run The Filter

fish tank filter pip and little fish
mariait, Shutterstock

Some people claim that running the aquarium filter is beneficial in this sense because it will suck sand out of the water that is floating around and has not yet settled.

Folks, those people could really not be any more wrong. The fact of the matter is that while the filter might suck some sand out of the water, that same sand is going to wreak havoc on your filter. Does having a filter clogged with thousands of grains of sand sound like a good idea? No, it does not.

Moreover, when you run a filter, it creates water flow and water movement. The only thing you are accomplishing by running your filter is to actually further agitate the sand. That water that comes out of the filter, back into the aquarium, is going to prevent sand that is floating around in the water from settling. So, do not run your filter if you want the sand in the aquarium to settle as fast as possible.

2. Do Not Move The Tank

Another mistake that many newbie aquarium owners make in regard to this issue is to place the sand in the tank with the water, then move the tank to a different location. Once you have the sand and the water in the aquarium, do not handle or move the aquarium. Once again, the only thing you will accomplish by doing this is to agitate the sand further and slow the process down.

Pick a spot for your aquarium, then put the water in, and then the sand. Moreover, it may seem counterintuitive to put the sand in the aquarium after the water, but this is the way to do it. Don’t go pouring the water over the sand because this is how you make a big mess.

The water goes in first, and then you gently put the sand in, not the other way around. Ok, so some people prefer to put the sand in first, and some after. Both methods might have their merits, but we prefer adding the sand afterward.

3. Perform Water Changes

A man with hose and bucket, changing the water in a well planted, large aquarium
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

Another thing that you can do to help the sand in your aquarium settle faster is to perform daily water changes.

Yes, you will lose a bit of sand this way, but if you do daily water changes of about 50%, you can cut the time it takes the sand to settle in half. Just try to not agitate the water and sand too much when doing these daily 50% water changes. The gentler and smoother you can be when doing this, the better off you will be and the faster the sand will settle.

Performing daily water changes for a few days should allow the sand that has already settled to stay there, and it will remove a lot of the sand that is floating in the water.

4. Do Not Add Anything Into The Tank Until Everything Is Settled

Yet another tip for you to follow to allow the sand in the aquarium to settle faster is to not add anything into the tank until it has settled. If the water is still cloudy and sandy, putting plants, decorations, filters, and anything else into the aquarium will only serve to further agitate and agitate the sand which has not yet settled.

Allow all of the sand to settle, and then add in everything else.

5. Just Be As Careful As Humanly Possible

Ok, so this might be a bit of a no-brainer, but when putting sand into the aquarium, just be as careful as you can. In other words, if you have the water in the tank, take handfuls of sand, pack it together firmly, kind of like a snowball, then slowly put the hand with the sand in the tank, very slowly moving towards the bottom.

Instead of just letting the sand go, try to press it against the bottom of the tank. Literally, everything and anything you can do in terms of moving slowly and being careful is recommended here.

Just don’t make any quick movements that will cause sand to disperse or that will cause quick water movements.

Image Credit: ed2806, Shutterstock

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How To Prepare Sand For Aquarium?

When it comes down to it, it really does not matter what kind of sand you choose in terms of preparation. All sand should be properly prepared before being put in any aquarium, which more or less means washing it (if you need some suggestions, here are our 5 favorite aquarium sands).

So, how do you prepare sand for an aquarium? Let’s go over a quick step-by-step process right now.

  • First, simply weigh out the amount of sand you will need for your aquarium.
  • You now need to rinse and clean the sand, which is easily done. Simply fill a big bucket with the sand, and then add the sand, stir it up, and pour out the cloudy water.
  • Keep repeating this until the water is more or less clear. This will remove the dust and fine particles that you do not want in the sand. The main point here is to rid the sand of dust and other fine particles.

Can I Add Fish To Cloudy Sand Water?

No, you should never add fish to cloudy or sandy aquarium water. The sand will get in the fish’s mouths, their eyes, and can get stuck in their gills too. Just imagine walking around in a sandstorm in the Sahara Desert. This is what you are doing to your fish if you put your fish in cloudy or sandy aquarium water.

It is not enjoyable and due to breathing issues may actually be lethal.

Can I Use River Sand In My Aquarium?

Another thing you need to avoid doing at all costs is to use random sand, river sand, or really any other kind of sand you find outdoors for your aquarium. Simply put, you have no idea what the mineral content of that sand is, what else the sand has in it, you don’t know what chemicals, pesticides, or fertilizers are in it, and you don’t know how it will affect the pH level of the aquarium water.

Never use river sand for your aquarium. It is not going to turn out well.

large planted tank with sand amazon sword plant angelfish cichlids
Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock

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There you have it—always wash your sand first to ensure that it has as little dust and causes as little cloudiness as possible. Then follow all of the tips we have provided here today in terms of making the sand settle faster, and you should be just fine!

Image: Dimitris Leonidas, Shutterstock

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