Yes, I prefer sand also. But since I'm just real amateur, I use the specialized one, the Onyx sand from Seachem. I heard it contains nutrients, iron etc not like regular play sand. The plants seem to love it. I have more success using sand also to create the lawn effect. Also they hold plants down. The bad thing I heard is getting compacted overtime. I don't have that problem yet. Maybe the tanks aren't that old yet.