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Sand filter systems are particularly suitable for larger pools due to their higher power compared to cartridge filter systems.

However, in addition to the typical filter material, filter sand, there are other filter media to choose from. 

Today, we take a closer look at the options and show advantages and disadvantages.

Overview of the different filter media

As the name already suggests, sand is classically used as a filter medium in a sand filter system, or it is still explicitly recommended by many manufacturers.

However, in addition to the frequently favored quartz sand, there are other materials that can achieve very good results when used in a system that frees the pool water from the smallest dirt particles through the filtering process.

In the following text sections, these will not only be explained individually in detail, but the positive as well as negative aspects of each method will also be addressed.

Filter sand

In most cases, filter sand traditionally consists of specific quartz sand, which often has a grain size between 0.4 millimeters to 2.5 millimeters, although for the ideal dimensions to be used, one should always consult the individual operating instructions with the corresponding specifications of the producer of the sand filter system in front of it, as there can be deviations depending on the model.

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With a correctly selected filter sand and a running time of the filter system adapted to the factors on site, such as the usage behavior of the bathers, quartz sand in particular fulfills its cleaning function very reliably and only needs to be replaced approximately every 2 years, which makes the comparatively low purchase price even more noticeable.


  • A proven and continuously developed method
  • Very good cleaning performance with adequate grain size
  • Inexpensive filter medium
  • No high operating costs


  • Replacement of the filter medium necessary after 1-2 years

Filter glass

An alternative option to the use of sand as a filter medium is filter glass, which in principle follows a similar model as a sand filter system, which is why a conversion can be done very easily in many cases.

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The glass beads that replace the sand offer foreign organisms such as bacteria one more time less attack surface, so the expensive price can be seen in an even better quality of the pool water.

In addition, according to some manufacturers, filter glass must be replaced only after a period of 4 years.


  • Longer service life
  • Improved cleaning functions in all areas


  • A comparatively high purchase price

Filter balls

More and more often, so-called filter balls, which are balls made of filter wadding based on the plastic polyethylene, are replacing both filter sand and filter glass.

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This comparatively very new technology originates from aquaristics and, due to its even finer structures as well as the increased surface area associated with it, is also supposed to be able to remove sunscreen from the water of a pool, for example, although the filter medium, which is light in terms of weight, will only show in the following years whether it actually delivers what it promises.


  • Filtering of organic foreign bodies
  • Increased cleaning performance
  • Home washable
  • Light weight


  • No empirical values yet regarding longevity etc.
  • High cost factor


So-called filter beads, like all the methods mentioned above, can be used in most cases without further problems in a conventional sand filter system, which is normally operated with filter sand, after an uncomplicated conversion has taken place.

The relatively new filter medium is said to have a higher cleaning performance than filter glass and, according to the information provided by a large number of manufacturers, can remain in the filter system for up to 6 years, which means that it would have a very long service life.

As with the filter balls, however, it remains to be seen whether the filter beads actually deliver what they promise, given their comparatively expensive purchase price.


  • Efficient cleaning of the water
  • Longevity, which can last up to 6 years


  • High cost
  • No reliable empirical data on performance, etc.

What is the best filter media for sand filter system?

In this day and age, owners of a sand filter system are spoilt for choice with regard to the filter medium to be selected, as not only filter sand, but above all the frequently recommended quartz sand, is now available.

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Especially the newer methods, such as filter glass, promise an improved function, which should allow an even more efficient cleaning of the water let into the pool of one, although this is noticeable with a higher price.

Especially with the options of the so-called filter balls and filter beads, which have only been introduced in recent years, it remains to be seen to what extent they actually deliver what they promise.

It is not possible to speak in general terms about the best filter medium for a sand filter system, as this depends on a variety of factors, first and foremost the individual financial situation as well as the specific wishes with regard to physical pool and water care.

While conventional sand filter systems can usually be upgraded with any of these filter media without issue, both filter beads and filter balls are likely to be the cause of an unpleasant surprise in some cases due to the lack of experience.

Assuming that one does not wish to place one’s trust in the time-tested silica sand that most sand filtration systems have been designed to use, investing in filter glass appears to be a promising and possibly worthwhile alternative.

Larry has been a true water rat since childhood. Pure pleasure turned into a passion. That's why he is the first point of contact for friends and acquaintances when it comes to pool-related problems. He is an integral part of the PoolHandbook editorial team.