There are a number of different popular substrate options that you are able to use in your aquarium with each having their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
With the popularity of keeping planted tanks increasing, we are seeing more and more people have issues with their substrate resulting in some pretty specific questions being asked about what you should be doing to try and manage any potential problems cause by your substrate of choice.
One thing that we do often recommend for some of the more common problems with some of the more common substrates such as algae and biofilm rapidly growing on it is to add some sand sifters to your tank.
This is much easier in a marine tank as there are a huge range of suitable sand sifters that can do the job very well but this is much harder in a freshwater tank.
Due to this, we wanted to publish an article going over what we consider to be the best freshwater sand sifter options on the market that you will be able to use in your tank.
What Are Sand Sifters Used For In A Freshwater Tank?
The most common use for sand sifters in a freshwater tank is to try and combat the growth of algae on the substrate in the tank but this is not essential in some setups.
Other people will use sand sifters as a way to eat diatoms and other small creatures in their tank as well as to eat the biofilm that can form on the substrate of their tank too.
Please note that the tern “sand sifter” is just a generic term that comes over from the marine tank world. They perform well with any fine, lose substrate option so they can still help with these problems in a freshwater tank using a non-sand substrate.
Are There Any Real Freshwater Sand Sifters?
Technically, there are no actual freshwater sand sifter species available but there are some other fish and snail species that come very close and essentially fill the same roll in a freshwater tank to a sand sifter in a marine tank.
These alternative sand sifters are what we will be focusing on for today’s article and although we are only focusing on the more commonly kept options, there are other options available too.
What Are The Best Freshwater Sand Sifter Options?
The best freshwater sand sifters are usually cory catfish or Malaysian trumpet snails with each having their own advantages over each other. There are a number of other great options that you can use in a freshwater tank too though.
We will quickly go over the best alternatives available for freshwater tanks below to give you an advantage of your main options.
Cory catfish are one of the most popular aquarium fish for a number of reasons with their love of sifting through substrate being one of them. Corys are a relativley peaceful fish that do well in a number of tank setups.
They can eat a wide range of algaes and small creatures in your substrate to help prevent potential problems in the future.
One of the main reasons that Corys are so popular though is their appetite for waste in the aquarium and their love of sifting through substrate. This means that they are constantly on the lookout for food which can help to keep your substrate clean and free from any build-up of detritus or waste.
Cory catfish are a very easy to care for but many people fail to realise just how long some of the types of cory catfish can actually get. Although there are small cories available, some of them can get very large very quickly if there is enough food in their tank.
Malaysian Trumpet Snails
Malaysian trumpet snails are a very popular aquarium snail that does a very similar job to cory catfish but in a slightly different way. Malaysian trumpet snails are also known as “MTS” and they are one of the most common types of snail kept in freshwater tanks.
MTS are very popular with aquarists that want to keep their substrate clean but don’t necessarily want the hassle of having to constantly vacuum their gravel or sand.
MTS are very good at aerating the substrate in your tank which helps to keep it healthy and they also consume a lot of detritus and waste as they move through the gravel or sand.
This means that your substrate will stay cleaner for longer periods of time which can be very helpful if you have a lot of plants in your tank and there are high levels of nutrients encouraging algae growth on your substrate.
MTS are very easy to care for and they will quickly reproduce in your tank if they have the chance. They are very good at eating algae and detritus from your substrate and they will also help to aerate your substrate too.
Clown loaches are a very popular freshwater fish that is known for their love of sifting through substrate. Clown loaches are a very active fish that spends a lot of their time swimming around looking for food.
This makes them an excellent option for foraging around in your substrate and eating many of the unwanted things in your tank that can lurk there.
Please note that clown loaches can grow larger than many beginners thing and are usually not suitable for the beginner tank sizes ruling them out for people keeping smaller tanks.
Nerite snails are a very popular aquarium snail that is known for their love of eating algae. Nerite snails are also very good at sifting through substrate and they will help to keep your tank clean as a result.
Nerite snails are very easy to care for and they reproduce slower that other snail species in captivity which means that they are very unlikely to take over your tank.
Nerite snails are a great addition to any freshwater tank and they will help to keep your substrate clean and free from any unwanted build-up of detritus or waste.
Kuhli loaches can be hit and miss as freshwater sand sifters and the personality of the fish will definitely come into play.
Some will be great sand sifters where as others will be terrible. The suitable food options in your tank can play into this but even if food is scare, some kuhli loaches will rarely forage through your substrate where as others will do it for large periods of time.