I use play sand from Home Depot (or Lowes) in 3 of my tanks. It looks great and it's cheap... a 50 lb bag costs only about $4. You just need to rinse it really well before you put it in your tank. Put some sand in a 5 gallon bucket. Use a garden hose with a pressure nozzle and fill the bucket with water about an inch or two higher than the sand. Stir with your hand then slowly dump the water out. Repeat until the water rinses clear. It takes awhile but I didn't have any clouding when I put it in my tanks.You can look at my aquariums to see what it looks like. It's easy to clean. The poo sits on top of the sand whereas with gravel stuff tends to work its way down into the gravel. To vacuum you just hover the gravel vac just over the sand to pick up the poo. Also, with each water change, I use a chopstick or a plastic fork and drag it through the sand to keep it stirred so it doesn't compact and to prevent any anerobic pockets.
The 10 gallon tank has had sand for 1-1/2 years and the 37 gallon for just about a year and I've had no problems with compacting. I also used sand in my Betta tank since I had some left over (the 50 lb bag was plenty to do all 3 tanks).
Sand won't limit what types of fish you can have. In fact, some prefer it such as cories and loaches.
Last edited by jeaninel; 06-09-2009 at 04:56 PM.