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Any recommendations on cheap sand brands that I can buy at a local Lowe's or Hobby Lobby in bulk, that will be safe for an aquarium.
I've used "quikrete 50 lb. pool filter sand" from either lowes or home depot in all of my aquariums for years. It has larger grains of sand that are less likely to go anaerobic, or at least in my experience.
It comes fairly clean, but I still dump a little bit at a time into a 5 gallon bucket and wash it really well before putting it in my aquarium.
 

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Be aware that this is one where going too cheap can cost you double. There are cheaper than the pool sand costs but watch out if you try some from the lumber stores like all purpose or play sand as they are not very closely regulated and you can get some really bad stuff, both in size and color. For those they just scoop wherever they find sand and pretty much throw it all in the bag. That means getting the right stuff the first time is lots cheaper, even if it costs more the first go!
 

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I have never had issues with Home Depot play sand. I use it a lot with our seed germination studies in the lab I work in. My walstad bowl has the exact same sand, but I prewashed it and baked it before use.
 

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Black diamond sand is popular but be very very careful about the grit. I tried to go that route. But my local tractor supply tried to sell me the fine (I think) even though it was listed as "medium" on their website.

The black diamond bags I bought and returned don't say anything about grit, nozzle size, "medium", "fine" or anything else that would let you know what size grain it is. There were checkboxes for nozzle size on the bag label that presumably one of them would be checked to indicate the nozzle size (grain size is measured by the size of nozzle needed to blast with it, bigger the nozzle, the bigger the grain), but no check marks - they sell blasting sand with no way to distinguish the grain size! They apparently used to sell a red labelled bag and a black labelled bag, one was fine and one was medium, but they don't do that anymore (or at least my Tractor Supply said that).

You'll see many posts on here and elsewhere of people accidentally using the fine black diamond and having a very cloudy aquarium for days/weeks. I decided against and it went with Seachem Flourite Black Sand for peace of mind. Substrate is a one time deal, so I ate the cost. The black diamond looks great, buying it is just risky. The Seachem Black Sand is gorgeous.
 
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