I personally liked planting in sand, it grabs the plants well. You don't want the sand to get compacted, it will kill roots and possibly animals too if the sand goes anaerobic. Don't get anything too fine and add some MTS(Malaysian trumpet snails). If you rinse it well it shouldn't get into the filter. You vacuum by holding the vac or tube just about the surface so that it sucks up the bad stuff, but leaves the sand. I would suggest a dark color. It makes the fish and plants stand out and it won't show all the crap as well as light colored sand. That's another thing, every bit of fish/snail/shrimp waste sits very visibly on top of the sand. Sorry no pics, I don't have the sand anymore.