The difference is really in the grain size, which is slightly larger.
It is also made of quartz.
The larger crystals are very easy to clean.
Benefits of Sand for Goldfish
Sand has many benefits for goldfish.
Does not trap debris, requiring less maintenance
Provides natural sifting behavior stimulation for foraging goldfish
Prevents hydrogen sulfide pocket production
Allows plants to root (unless your goldfish dig them up)
Enhances appearance of the aquarium
The Cleanlier Option
If you’ve ever had gravel in your aquarium, you know firsthand how downright nasty that stuff can get.
It seems like you can clean for AGES and never get all the debris out!
Fishkeepers who switch to sand from gravel almost always heave a massive sigh of relief:
“It’s so much easier to keep clean!”
This is because the fine particle size prevents waste from settling down into cracks and pockets, where it would sit and pollutes the water until someone disturbs it.
And the best part?
The waste tends to gather in areas of the tank where the current circulates, making vacuuming up all that poop in one fell swoop as easy as falling off a log.
Natural Behavior Encouragement
Bare-bottom tanks are definitely the easiest to keep clean…
… But they deprive the fish of the delights they have in sifting through and picking at things at the bottom.
In captivity, goldfish will be happiest when they can do what they would do if they lived in their natural environment – a pond or slow-moving river.
This behavior comes so naturally to them and gets them moving around their habitat longer, meaning more exercise and stimulation.
Why not let them do what they love?
I think it’s always a good idea to think of different ways to enrich their behavior and mimic natural conditions, especially by providing foraging material for them to graze on throughout the day.
How Deep of Sand Should You Use in Your Tank?
This is a good question.
My recommendation in general is not to use more than 1/2″ of sand at the bottom.
This prevents hydrogen sulfide pockets from forming.
(Nasty toxic pockets that can harm or kill your goldfish.)
Yes, with goldfish a shallower substrate depth can be a bit annoying because they really like to dig.
And you might have to sweep the sand every week or so to cover up any bare spots they might create.
The current from your filter can also cause bare spots.
But this isn’t a big deal to me since I usually have my hands in the tank doing cleaning or maintenance each week.
I don’t think you need to worry about really stirring it up each week like some fishkeepers do – since it’s not a deep layer. I certainly don’t go crazy with this.
All that aside, if you have some deep rooting plants in your tank such as Amazon Swords, you can probably get away with using more than 1/2″ because the roots help to aerate the substrate and prevent these pockets from forming.
An avid goldfish keeper for nearly 20 years, Meredith Clawson is the founder of the Pure Goldfish website and author of the book The Truth About Goldfish. Pure Goldfish has been featured in Wikihow, Wikipedia, The Aquarium Guide and more.