Sand is fine. Lighter, smaller grained, sand can be a pain to clean, but it all works the same. If it sucks it up, just hover and swirl. Seems to work well for those that have the smaller stuff.
As far as filter media, you shouldn't really have to replace any. You don't need carbon, you don't want ammonia removing chemicals, and the rest just needs rinsed. Once it's falling apart, then it's time to replace it.
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