Freshwater Sand Sifters – Little Tank Cleaners For Your Aquarium

Experienced aquarium owners are purchasing sand sifters to replace old and bulky substrate systems to clear their tanks efficiently, which is both convenient and hazard-free for the fish. However, it might be difficult to find the right type of sand sifters for freshwater tanks.

Let’s find out what freshwater sand sifters are and how to choose the best sand sifters for your aquarium!

What Are Sand Sifters?

Sand sifters are types of aquatic animals that help clean the tank by sustaining algae and microorganisms growing in the aquarium. They were produced from dust and life within the tank.

“Sand sifters” derived from the marine tank world is a general term, so it is not necessarily a fish. If you have large tanks, it is recommended to have some sand sifters to keep your other fish healthy. They will also keep your tank clean for longer between sanitizing sessions.

Without further ado, let’s check out our list of the best sand sifters for your freshwater aquarium!

Best Freshwater Sand Sifters Options

Cory catfish should be crowned with the best fish for cleaning sand freshwater, followed by the Malaysian Trumpet Snails, Clown Loaches, Nerite Snails, and Geophagus.

Cory Catfish

Cory catfish works wonders for tanks of all sizes. They are a small and peaceful species that swim on the bottom of the tank. Their main food source is a wide variety of algae, moss, and most of the mess they find from digging up the bottom, which can help with cleaning efficiently.

Despite being relatively small in size, a group of cory catfish can clean all debris on the surface within a small amount of time. However, they tend to flip the bottom dirt to the higher water layer, so you should have a couple more cleaning fish to assist in those areas.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails

Despite being snails, they are not harmful to aquatic life. They can aerate the air within the tank and collect dust and moss to keep the water clean. They prefer open and cool areas, so the best place to keep Malaysian trumpet snails is in your outdoor aquarium.

These tiny little guys are very easy to care for. If the conditions are right, they will reproduce quickly. You should keep an eye on your aquarium and remove potential enemies such as golden apple snails. Remember to occasionally take out some of these snails since they might overpopulate your tank quickly!

Clown Loaches

Loaches, in general, are popular for their ability to sift through the substrate at a high rate. Clown loaches are also relatively large, so they might not be ideal for a small tank. As energetic as they are, they will leave no stone unturned in your aquarium.

With a beautiful color pattern, clown loaches will add more colors to your aquarium while keeping their habitat spotless. Two birds hit with one stone!

Nerite Snails

Similar to Malaysian Trumpet snails, Nerite snails are famous for their ability to clean algae and moss effortlessly. They take a bit longer to sneak through the substrate, but ultimately your tank will be almost dust-free for a long time before needing to be cleaned.

Nerite snails are also easy feeders, while their reproduction rate is a bit slower than other snails; therefore, you wouldn’t need to worry about snail overpopulation in your tank.


Last but not least, on our list of the best freshwater sand sifters, the Geophagus is a hard-working species that stays determined to finish its job. They will be dwelling at the bottom of the tank while continuously grabbing sand in their mouth and spitting them out, cleaning the dirt and moss in the process.

These fish are about 6-10 inches in length, so they are more suitable for large tanks. Be cautious that they can dig up aquatic plants while searching for food, so keep some heavy rocks around your plants if you have them.


What Freshwater Fish Burrow In Sand?

Frequently keeping your tank clean is a tiresome job, so why not let some fish help you out? Check out the following freshwater fish that burrow in the sand!


Corys are small and peaceful bottom dwellers that enjoy scavenging algae and moss. They often swim in small schools to look for food and avoid predators. They also don’t take up too much space in your tank, so you should keep some to do the cleaning for you!


As another bottom-dwelling type, eels tend to bury themselves beneath the mud and moss at the bottom. They are known to be both shy and energetic and can move anywhere underwater, but they may be aggressive to smaller fish. It is recommended to keep them in spacious aquariums with a lot of large fish around.


Loaches have about 1200 subspecies identified, yet they all share the same love for burrowing in the sand. Most of them do so to hide from predators and direct light. This habit makes them an effective cleaner for your small tanks, where no dangers may harm them.


Which Goby Is The Best For Sand Sifting?

The best Goby fish for saltwater sand sifting are:

  • Diamond Goby
  • Court Jester Goby
  • Blue Dot Goby
  • Tiger Watchman Goby
  • Sleeper Banded Goby
  • Twinspot Goby
  • Orange Crosshatch Goby

What Is The Best Aquarium Sand For Freshwater?

If you are looking for the best freshwater sand for your aquarium, consider the following option to spruce up your living place!

  • CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight Sand: A very light sand that consists of beautiful natural color patterns making it very easy for fish to move around.
  • Aqua Terra Aquarium Sand: 100% non-toxic acrylic colorfast coating with two vibrant colors that will spice up your aquarium.
  • CaribSea Super Naturals Crystal River Freshwater Sand: Designed to make your aquarium look closest to a natural habitat.

What Do You Feed A Sand-Sifting Goby?

Sand-sifting gobies’ favorite foods are algae and moss. They also feast on larvae and little black worms as well.


When purchasing freshwater sand sifters for your tank, remember to ask the aquarium expert to choose the right type of fish for your aquarium, or else they might fight each other. Moreover, having more sand sifters means better sanitization for your fish’s living place.

Thank you for reading!