Theres no need to sift no matter what cap you're using. Dump it into a bucket of water, let it sit for an hour, then scoop off anything that is still floating. The rest is ready to go into your tank.
In my experience, sand is the best cap. I have better growth in my sand capped tanks and its easier to plant and move plants. No idea where you heard that sand wasnt recommended, as the majority of people with mgopm use sand caps. I have used both, and prefer sand.
The Fraternity of Dirt
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for Current LED+ and other IR switchable lights.