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Rocks or Sand for Cichlids?

In this article I share what I learned about the following question – Rocks or Sand for Cichlids? The million-dollar question… “should I use rocks or sand in my cichlid tank?”. I have my own personal opinion about the matter but I’m here to provide you with all the options.

So, I’ll give you the pros and cons of both and then let you know which I prefer and why. Cool? Cool.

Rocks or Sand for Cichlids


Using Rocks for Cichlids

When I say rocks, I’m referring to the tiny pebbles or aquarium gravel that you see in the pet stores. Of course, you’re not limited to purchasing it there. All the gravel comes from same the place… the ground.

It doesn’t matter if you buy it from the pet store, from a landscape supply company, a home improvement store or if you walk out your back door and grab a shovel. In the end, you get the same result. Just be sure you take proper measures to rinse and clean the rocks before putting them in your tank.

It’s always best practice to rinse everything off thoroughly before it goes in your tank. In some cases, you may need to take even further precaution using an aquarium-safe disinfectant.

So, here are the benefits of using rocks for your cichlid tank:

  1. It’s not easily sucked up into your cleaning siphon, making the cleaning process less time-consuming
  2. It doesn’t get into your filter intake
  3. It’s not as easy for your cichlids to make mounds and valleys (but they’ll still find a way

Using Sand for Cichlids

Much like the rocks, sand can be purchased from a number of different places. Of course, pet stores carry it (look for the cichlid sand which includes special nutrients just for cichlids), you can get it from landscape supply stores, home improvement stores and a few other places.

Like the rocks, it’s always necessary to rinse and clean the sand before putting it in the tank. I came across a post on a forum a while back where someone mentioned using a pillow case in your bath-tub to clean the sand. It acts like a filter and allows the dirt to drain out while keeping the clean sand inside. Once the water runs clear, you’re good to go.

Here are the benefits of using sand:

  1. Sand is usually a more natural substance for most cichlid species. They love sifting through it and making caves, tunnels and mounds. It’s really a neat thing to watch.
  2. Some argue that it’s easier to clean the sand because the waste doesn’t fall to the bottom of the substrate like it does in gravel. The sand packs itself down and the waste will normally sit on top. By circling the bottom just above the sand with your siphon, you can stir up the waste without disturbing the sand.
  3. If you use Aragonite based sand it will naturally help buffer the water and maintain a solid pH level.

My personal preference, which I know doesn’t much matter to you, is sand. I personally like the way it looks in the aquarium. It’s more natural for the cichlids and I feel like they act more naturally in a sand aquarium.

But again, that’s just me. I’d really like to hear what your preference is in this case. Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you use and why. Thanks!

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