Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
I use a 30 mesh pool filter sand in several tanks. The local material has small black flecks in it and is very slightly tan in color. Looks nice, IMO. Not stark, glaring white.
Go to whatever local rock yards, masonry or soils places and to swimming pool supply places closest to you. Some sell bagged sand in different sizes (sand sizes, and bag sizes) and most will have sand in bulk that they can bag for you. They should not mind you taking a handful as a sample.
Put your samples in some water (a separate glass for each sample) and stir them. The cloudier the water the more rinsing that sand will need.
What is local to me may not be the same as is local to you.
Pool filter sand is graded for particle size. 20 to 30 mesh is common.
Blasting sand has similar sizing to pool filter sand.
Play sand is not good. Has way too many fines. by the time it is rinsed you would lose as much as half the material.
Lapis Lustre brand name product line. Packages a golden colored sand in several grit sizes, and even calls one 'Aquarium sand'. Nice looking sand, if you want to avoid the stark white.
Olympia #1 and #2 are bulk sands for masonry work. Fairly fine, and need rinsing.
Fill sand is dredged from the local river and bay, and is no good for aquariums.
If I looked even further I am sure I could double this list.
You need to look locally and see what material you like.
Avoid limestone sand. This will raise the hardness and pH of the water. This is OK for hardwater tanks (Livebearers, rift lake tanks) but not so good for soft water tanks.
Avoid coral sand. Same reason.