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The 9 Best Substrate Options For Goldfish Tanks

Every goldfish owner knows that goldfish are notoriously sloppy pets.

Garbage abounds, and they have the nasty habit of rearranging your aquarium layout to better suit their preferences on any given day.

Because goldfish will swallow practically anything, gravel causes serious concern because fish tend to swallow large chunks of it.

A common complaint about goldfish is that their owners have to remove grit from their mouths.

And then what do we do instead? Some are like tanks without a base, but others are different from the looks of these tanks.

Goldfish tanks should have substrates like sand because they improve the quality of the water, help good bacteria grow, and keep the fish from suffocating.

However, sand is not without its problems, and therefore precautions must be taken to prevent it from blocking the filter fan.

To avoid gas build-up, the tank should be stirred regularly unless it already contains rooted plants.

If you want to give your goldfish the best substrate options for goldfish tanks, BestForPets (bestforpets.org) suggests that you buy the item reviewed below. 

The Ultimate Buying Manual


Your goldfish tank may not be in the best possible shape, so after reading these recommendations, what do you think will work best to improve its environment?

With small particles, stable color, and a large surface area for beneficial microorganisms, Aqua Terra Aquarium Sand is our top choice.

We find that Imagitarium White Aquarium Sand is the ultimate goldfish base sand for the money because of its low cost, vibrant colors, and granular texture that even the most dedicated gravel lover would also appreciate.

With beachy yellows, brown and black spots, and an uneven appearance between grains, Carib Sea Sunset Gold Sand is a beautiful, natural-looking premium sand.

The substrate you use in your aquarium, such as aquarium sand, can have a significant impact on the health of your goldfish, but finding the right substrate can be a challenge.

Then, with the help of these reviews by BestForPets (bestforpets.org), you can choose the best substrate options for goldfish tanks to carry out your plan and improve the health of your goldfish tank.


The Best Aquarium Sand Is Aqua Terra

We found Aqua Terra Aquarium Sand to be the greatest all-around option for a goldfish aquarium. Goldfish that like to dig and scavenge will find this sand to be an excellent choice.

Cloudiness in the water is normal when introducing a new substrate, however this substrate will not fog your water for very long (if at all) if you clean it thoroughly first.

This sand is inexpensive even for tiny tanks because it comes in 5-pound sacks. There is a wide range of colors available, but the most organic choices are a pure white and a tan that seems like it came straight from the beach.

Acrylic coating ensures that the sand’s color will not fade or seep into the water.

By providing more real estate for bacteria to colonize, this substrate will help your tank’s water quality improve over time. Fish, insects, reptiles, and amphibians may all play in this sand without harm.


  • Miniscule in size
  • Little cloudiness in the water
  • Foraging’s Gentler Side
  • Colorfast
  • It comes in several hues.
  • Promotes the growth of helpful microorganisms
  • Does not affect the chemistry of water.
  • No harm to fish, crustaceans, or reptiles


  • Must be thoroughly washed so as not to cause water cloudiness.
  • Multi-packs required for extra-large tanks


Best Price on Imagitarium White Aquarium Sand

If you want to keep your goldfish in the healthiest environment possible, Imagitarium White Aquarium Sand is your best bet. This product is the most cost-effective option for tanks of any size, and it is available in both 5- and 20-pound sacks.

Many reviewers remarked that they were pleasantly surprised by the sand’s extreme whiteness. Your aquarium’s fish, plants, and decorations will really “pop” against the white backdrop.

An additional color, black, is offered. The grainy appearance is an excellent representation of the real world and would look great on your tank. Since it is still quite little, it poses none of the suffocation hazards seen in gravel environments.

Fish that are actively foraging won’t get hurt by the surface roughness since it is too smooth.

This won’t promote beneficial bacteria development nearly as much as Aqua Terra sand since it has a smaller surface area, but it still gives a lot of surface area and is good for your tank anyway.


  • Cost-effective
  • Extraordinary whiteness
  • The fish should be safe to eat despite the gritty appearance.
  • Two different sized bags are on hand.
  • A more secure option than gravel
  • Fosters the development of helpful microorganisms
  • Little cloudiness in the water
  • There are two color options.


  • Compared to finer-grained sand, it provides less surface area for bacterial colonization.
  • A temporary cloudiness in the water is possible, even after thorough rinsing.


Sunset Gold Sand from the Carib Sea ACS05839: Your Best Option

Carib Sea Sunset Gold Sand is our top pick for high-quality aquarium sand because it helps maintain a healthy environment for goldfish.

You can see the same variety of hues you’d find on a beach in the particles that make up this gorgeous sand’s golden tint. It comes in 5-pound sacks and is completely free of colorants.

This sand has a variety of textures; some grains are very fine and silky, while others are coarser and somewhat bigger. However, even the largest particles are harmless and do not pose the same choking concerns as gravel does.

Fish that scavenge and dig won’t hurt themselves on it either. This sand’s varied texture provides more flat areas for bacteria to colonize.

It’s important to thoroughly rinse this sand to prevent it from clouding the water. Assuming there is any cloudiness, it should dissipate rapidly.


  • Splendid, all-natural gold is the dominant hue.
  • Fish and crustaceans may still safely consume the muck.
  • The opportunity for bacterial colonization is heightened.
  • Not colored with any artificial means.
  • A more secure option than gravel
  • The cloudiness of the water should dissipate soon.
  • Excellent choice for water gardening


  • Is more expensive than alternative choices
  • Cloudiness of water possible even after thorough rinsing
  • Lacking a uniform hue


Coastal sand that is both stony and white

Multiple 5-pound bags of Stoney River White Aquatic Sand can be ordered in bulk. The granular texture is like more expensive Imagitarium White Aquarium Sand, but without the latter’s pristine white color.

The sand from Stoney River is also white, but not quite as brilliant as the sand from Imagitarium. An additional color, black, is offered.

Despite the coarser texture, this sand is suitable for digging and foraging. Although it won’t promote as much bacterial development as finer-grained sand, it’s still good for the tank’s overall health.

Users have said that this sand is great for rooted plants and that it makes a stunning contrast against dark backdrops and furnishings. While it will need to be rinsed, it shouldn’t need as much water as other choices.


  • Multiple-unit packaging is readily available.
  • The rough surface is beneficial to plant growth.
  • Fishing and digging can go without danger.
  • There are two color options.
  • Promotes the growth of helpful microorganisms
  • Uses little water while rinsing
  • In no way affects water chemistry


  • Is more expensive than alternative choices
  • Compared to finer-grained sand, it provides less surface area for bacterial colonization.
  • There is less vibrancy in the colors used.


Pure Aragonite Sand from the World’s Best Ocean

Aragonite Sand from Nature’s Ocean is a saltwater sand that is suitable for freshwater aquariums. Its brown hue and seafaring provenance make it an oceanic treasure.

Though it’s coarse, this sand is just fine for goldfish and other aquarium inhabitants who like to forage and dig.

The hardness of the water will rise when trace minerals from the sand dissolve into it. This can also increase the tank’s pH, so check it frequently if you have goldfish, which thrive in a neutral pH environment.

As a result, your tank’s nitrate levels will go down and good microorganisms will flourish. This sand has been pre-washed and heat-sterilized, so it won’t need any more cleaning before use.

This sand comes in only one hue, tan, making it unsuitable for those who have color preferences. It’s the most expensive product we looked at and comes in just 20-pound packages.


  • Eliminates or greatly reduces nitrates
  • Larger tanks might benefit from the 20-pound bag size.
  • Suitable for both marine and freshwater aquariums
  • Pre-rinsed and sterilized by heat
  • Water quality may be enhanced by trace minerals.
  • Goldfish may safely forage in the grit.


  • Evaluation of the most expensive product available
  • There is just one natural hue to choose from.
  • The hardness and pH level will rise.
  • Compared to finer-grained sand, it provides less surface area for bacterial colonization.


The Sands of the Namale Nature Aquarium

Nature Aquarium of Landen Namale Sand is fine grained sand in its natural hue. Those who have tried it say that the granular surface is comfortable for fish to dig through and explore while yet providing adequate traction for walking. In comparison to finer grains, it provides less surface area for bacterial colonization.

Neither paint nor dyes have been used in the production of this sand, thus it should not affect the chemical composition of water. No additional color choices exist; it comes exclusively in a natural tan hue. It’s one of the more pricey alternatives for the weight you get (4.4 or 11 pounds) and comes in two sizes.

This sand is not ideal for tanks with plants that require a nutrient-rich substrate since it lacks the chemicals that would make it such. For planted aquariums, it’s recommended to mix in nutrient-rich aquarium soil, which might quadruple the price.


  • Gentle enough for digging and foraging
  • Tannins are a natural pigment.
  • Zero artificial ingredients


  • Insufficient soil nutrients.
  • Bacteria have a less surface area on which to colonize when using coarser sand.
  • Assembled in only one hue
  • Quite inefficient in terms of cost
  • Just 11 pounds for the largest bag!


AquaQuartz-50 Pool Filter Sand by FairmountSantrol

As its name suggests, FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz Pool Filter Sand is designed to be used in pool filtration systems. When it comes to sand substrates for aquariums, pool filter sand is among the most budget-friendly options.

Aquarium sand is a fantastic alternative to pool filter sand since it is not designed to clog filters.

When using pool filter sand in an aquarium, it is important to ensure that the sand has a pure white color and does not include any extra chemicals.

There are no color or texture options for this sand because it is intended solely for practical purposes. As a result of its high price per pound and limited availability (it comes in only 50-pound sacks), this product is best suited for big tanks but is not recommended for smaller containers (less than 50 gallons).

You may feel at ease foraging and digging in this sand because of its softness and fineness. Due to its fineness and small weight, however, it is not recommended for use in tanks with strong water currents.

Due to its small weight, this sand is not recommended for goldfish tanks, since the fish will happily re-scape your tank when you turn your back.


  • Pure white
  • Economical for big tanks
  • Easy to forage on, soft surface
  • An abundance of available space for microbial growth.


  • This is not a cost-effective solution for smaller tanks.
  • Available only in 50-pound packages.
  • Assembled in only one hue
  • Fine and light enough to be carried by air or water currents.
  • This sand is so fine that goldfish may easily uproot plants in it.
  • Possible gravel-vacuum pick-up
  • Filtration and cleaning have the potential to eradicate them, but they’ll need to be replaced eventually.


Fluorite Black Sand from Seachem

Seachem Fluorite Black Sand is a nutrient-poor, clay-based sand for planted aquariums. Although it shouldn’t need replacing very soon, it’s not very cost-effective.

Because of its greater density compared to standard sand, fluorite can cause harm to plants if they are pushed straight into the substrate.

You can probably dig and forage in this sand, despite its abrasive texture. Its porosity makes it a promising candidate for colonization by helpful microbes.

There may be a dark cloudiness in the tank if it isn’t rinsed off first. This sand, when agitated, may also emit a cloudy substance into the water. In addition to not changing the water’s pH, it shouldn’t affect any of the other parameters.

Some reviewers have noted that the black hue of this sand is more of a dark grey than genuine black, thus goldfish and light-colored décor may not “pop” as much against it as they could on a pure black background.

As they re-landscape the tank to their satisfaction, goldfish may produce a huge, black mess with this sand.


  • Not a change in the parameters
  • Beneficial bacteria colonization is encouraged by this choice.


  • Definitely not worth the price.
  • Possible water discoloration (black cloudiness)
  • It’s not always easy to keep goldfish clean.
  • Ideal for use in aquariums with live plants
  • Plants might be harmed if not planted properly.
  • Not as nourishing as some other options for planted aquariums

Author Image

Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler


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