Best Substrates For Planted Aquariums – Complete Guide

Best Substrates For Planted Aquariums – Complete Guide

Almost all aquariums need some type of substrate to cover the bottom part of the tank. The best substrates for planted aquariums come in a vast variety of materials and colors, this gives you many choices on how you want your aquarium to look and feel.

If you are going for a specific theme you will have go for a substrate that matches that theme. For example, aquariums geared towards kids might have substrate that is bright in color and accentuates the feel of your aquarium.

If you are going for a more natural and realistic environment, then you might opt for more natural colors such as brown or grey. Other than being an aesthetic element, substrates are also quite crucial to the actual functioning of the ecosystem of an aquarium. It acts as a medium for Bactria that is beneficial for the health of the fish to grow on.

Substrates also function as a site that helps in breaking down the waste that is excreted by the fish. So, if you are thinking about going for an aquarium then you are going to need substrate to fill the bottom part as well.

How to Choose the Best Substrate for Your Planted Tank?

There are a few things that you need to keep in mind when you are deciding on substrate. It is an important decision because the substrate is going to set the mood and vibe for your aquarium. Not only that, it is also going to have an effect on the health of the live plants and the fish that you put in your aquarium. There are 4 things that you need to consider before making a decision on which substrate you are going to buy.

aquarium substrate for fish

Particle Size – Substrates come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The size that choose if going to have a direct impact on the health of the fish in your aquarium. Large particle sizes allow for more waste to be stored in the aquarium which can overtime lead to a potentially toxic buildup.

Small sized particles can cause the lack of oxygen in certain areas of your tank. The right substrate particle size really depends on the type of fish that you plan on keeping in your aquarium. The size that is suitable for the habits and behavior of your fish will be the best one.

Color – This is a matter of aesthetics. It is a matter of personal choice or preference. Substrates are available in almost every color imaginable, go for the color that matches the theme of your aquarium and jells well with the fish and plants that you are going to put in your aquarium.

Reactivity with water – This is a very important factor to keep in mind as it can prove to be lethal for your fish. You have to keep in mind the needs of the type of fish that you plan on putting in the aquarium.

Different types of fish require different water parameters. Some fish prefer and do well in a low pH environment while some fish like a high pH level. Different substrates react differently with water. Choose the substrate that will be suitable for your fish.

Keep the fish in mind – As we have discussed above the type of substrate you choose is going to have an effect on the health and behavior of your fish. Keep this in mind.

Try not to go for any kind of substrate that will hurt the fish. For example, if you choose a very bright colored substrate under bright lighting conditions it will scare the fish and cause them to hide. Keep the health of your fish always in mind.

What Is Substrate?

If you have ever owned an aquarium or seen one then you already know what substrate is. It is the base of your aquarium. It can vary in types but whatever you use to cover the bottom of your tank is the substrate. It can be sand, pebbles or gravel.

Choosing Your Substrate

There are a few different types of substrates that you can typically choose from, all of them have their own unique uses and properties. It is important to know your substrates before you put them in the tank.

Understanding Different Substrates For Planted Aquariums

The two most common types of substrates that are most popular among aquarium owners are:

Sand – Yes, the thing that you step foot on when you go to the beach. It comes in a variety of colors and grain sizes. It is the most natural of all the substrates. For example, sand substrate goes well in a kuhli loach aquarium or ember tetra tank.

The big plus point of having a sand substrate is that it has no gaps, so waste and food have no place to hide in. It is also the easiest to maintain and clean.

Gravel – This also a very desirable substrate. The best part about going for gravel is that they come in a wide range of materials which can be very helpful when you are trying to create a certain theme. Just like sand, gravel is also easy to clean and maintain. For example, fine gravel goes good with paradise fish and the siamese algae eater.

gravel substrate for aquariums

Complete Substrates

If you plan on adding live plants to your tank, then you are going to need a complete substrate to help them grow. Complete substrates are crucial for live plants in the tank because they are nutrient rich and stimulate plant growth.

Multi Substrate

Multi substrates are the best way to imitate the organic aquatic environment. It is great way to make sure that both your live plants and fish do well. It usually works when you add a substrate to act as base then you add aquarium soil on top of it and cover it with a layer of another substrate to trap in and prevent it from spreading in the water.

Best Substrates For Planted Aquariums

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Below we have covered 4 different substrates that are the best on the market.

1)  Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

best substrates for planted aquarium

If you are looking for the best substrate for planted aquariums that you can possibly find on the market for your planted tank, then you don’t need to look any further. It contains all the minor and major nutrients that the plants will need for strong and healthy growth.

It is completely natural.It can in certain cases raise the hardness level of the water.
It is free from any form of artificial paints, chemicals and dyes.
It is rich in all the crucial nutrients like iron, calcium and magnesium.

All in all, Eco Complete Substrate is a great product that works well with all sizes of tanks. If you opt for this substrate you will not have to worry about adding anything else for the growth of your plants.

2)  Flourite Dark, 7 kg / 15.4 lbs

Flourite Dark Substrate

Not only does this substrate offer a nice and natural visual appeal but it also does not compromise on the plant growth part. It is especially attractive for tank owners who pan on having rooted plants as it provides the plants with a solid base to grow in.

Its color is great for highlighting your fish and plants.It can create a sort of very thin film on the plants in the tank.
It is perfect for rooted plants.
It has a great absorbent quality which helps in retaining nutrients.

If you want a substrate that will accentuate the beauty of your fish and plants while providing them with all the required nutrients for their growth then this is the substrate that you should go for.

3) Carib Sea ACS05832 Super Natural Peace River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound

Carib Sea Super Natural Sand

If you are looking for a substrate that will not affect the pH level of the water in your tank then this is the right product for you. It also provides ample surface area for the natural growth of beneficial bacteria. It also provides a natural and glowing look to your aquarium.

It provides good anchorage.It is not the easiest substrate to clean.
It provides a comfortable environment for the fish.
It has a neutral pH level.

This product is great choice for anyone who wants to give their tank a natural feel and wants a solid substrate that will allow for sustained and healthy growth of the live plants.

4) Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

This unique thing about this substrate is that it is derived from volcanic soil. It offers great benefits and support for healthy live plant growth. It gives the plants the perfect environment for flourishing.

It contains several nutrients such as iron, sodium etc.It is a bit on the expensive end.
The porous nature of this substrate is ideal for root growth.


We hope that this guide helps you understand the different types of substrates and assists you in making the right choice. Please feel free to post any comments you may have down below and we will help you, thanks!

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