If you are confused as to what substrate is, it is the layer of stuff that sits at the bottom of your fish tank. Some people use sand, some use gravel, potting soil, peat, clay, and some use little smooth rocks, or even a combination of 2 or 3 of the above. One thing is for sure and it’s that every fish tank needs this stuff. A substrate is necessary because it helps to add beneficial bacteria to the water.
What Does Substrate Do?
Substrate can also help filter out unwanted bacteria, toxins, and contaminants. Substrate also keeps fish feces sitting at the bottom instead of floating freely around the fish tank. Different substrates have different qualities and various substrates can help to add various nutrients into the water. This is our top pick.
Moreover, if you have a planted aquarium, you need substrate in order for the plants to grow. After all the plant’s roots can’t grow on the glass and the need something to hold on to.
Here are our top 6 and we personally recommend: ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia.
- ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia
- Seachem Flourite
- CaribSea Eco-Complete
- Mr. Aqua Soil Substrate
- Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum
- Hermit Habitat Substrates
The 6 Best Substrates For Planted Aquariums
Here we have the 6 best substrates that you can use for your planted fish tank. Each of these items is a little bit different, but each one will serve its own specific purpose.
1. ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia
This aqua soil is a great choice for people who have planted aquariums with a ton of different plants in them. It’s not very expensive, it’s natural, and it definitely does the trick.
This aqua soil comes with a variety of benefits for your fish tank. One of our favorite parts about this substrate is that it is made of specially processed material straight from the earth and it is completely natural.
This soil is very rich in nutrients and provides for an excellent base for aquatic plants to grow in. The granules are ideally sized and perfect for aquatic plants to set their roots in and grow into a healthy root system.
Another great thing about this substrate is that it helps lower the pH levels in water, something that is great for many aquatic plants. A lower pH level means that aquatic plants can more easily absorb nutrients to stay healthy with.
It’s also a great option to go with because it makes the water clear, adds a bottom layer, and won’t cause the water to become discolored. The next benefit that comes with this type of substrate is that it also serves to soften the water.
There are a few cons that come with this aqua soil. These cons have mainly to do with the fact that this type of substrate will lower pH levels and also cause the water to soften. This may be a good thing for plants, but different fish need different conditions and lower pH levels might not be right for your fish.
Another thing to note is that you should not vacuum your planted tank if you use this substrate. It may get sucked up by the hose. In terms of substrate, it is a little more expensive than some other options, but it is well worth the price.
Aqua Soil is a great option for planted aquariums with fish that thrive in softer water and lower pH levels. It has a decent price in terms of its quality and it’s completely organic too.
2. Seachem Flourite
This is a great substrate that will last a very long time, provide nutrients to your plants, and looks great in any aquarium too
There are a number of benefits that come with using Seachem Flourite as a substrate. One of those benefits is that it never needs to be replaced for as long as you have your planted fish tank. This is a very porous clay gravel ideal for plants and their root structures and has never been chemically treated so you know that it’s all organic.
Another great part about this kind of substrate is that it will not cause the water to soften and it also won’t alter the pH levels in the water, something that many other substrates do. This is one of the best substrates for planted aquariums because it is chalked full of essential nutrients to allow plant root systems to flourish.
There aren’t really many bad parts about the Seachem Flourite substrate. The only thing that we can think of is that the appearance is more suited towards planted aquariums rather than those that primarily have fish.
Another small negative aspect is that you need to clean it before putting it in the tank because it is quite dirty and will slightly discolor the water.
This is a great basic substrate for planted aquariums, plus it works decently for aquariums with fish too. It provides optimal nutrients for plants and allows root structures to grow big and strong.
3. CaribSea Eco-Complete
This is a fantastic option to go with because it looks cool, adds some great texture to your aquarium, and it has a ton of nutrients in it.
This substrate is made out of volcanic soil that is chalked full of nutrients. It contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium sulfur, and over 25 other nutrients, all of which are great for spurring on plant growth. It provides a great base for roots to grow in and it also creates a biological balance which makes cycling out water much easier.
Another great part about CaribSea Eco-Complete is that it is iron rich and doesn’t need you to add any extra laterite. Plus it also doesn’t contain any artificial chemicals, dies, or any other additives. The next benefit to be had from using this substrate is that it contains heterotrophic bacteria which help to naturally convert fish waste into organic matter that those same fish can eat.
Something else we really like about this substrate is that it doesn’t need to be rinsed first and it won’t discolor your water either.
Pretty much the only thing we have to say in terms of cons is that it smells a little bit and has a distinct odor when you first open the bag. The other thing is that it is not ideal for salt water tanks, only fresh water tanks.
This is a fantastic choice to go with because it provides for a great root system and has a ton of nutrients to feed your plants with.
4. Mr. Aqua Aquarium Soil Substrate
This is a really convenient substrate that provides nutrients for your plants, lowers pH, and is great for fish too.
One of the best parts of the Mr. Aqua Soil Substrate is that it provides a ton of nutrients for plants, plus it also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. This is good for both your fish and the plants. This is a great bottom layer for plants to set their roots in.
Another benefit that comes with using this substrate is that it naturally lowers the pH levels in your aquarium, thus reducing the need for your to treat your water. This formula is fantastic because it is specially designed for fish, betta fish, dwarf shrimp, and of course aquarium plants too.
Really the only con when it comes to this substrate is that will make the water slightly cloudy for a few hours when you first add it in.
If you need some substrate for your planted aquarium that is rich in nutrients, this one definitely makes for a great option. It’s also a great option if you plan on having lots of fish in your planted aquarium.
5. Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum
If you have a planted aquarium that also has shrimp this is definitely a good option. It’s volcanic, rich in minerals, and it looks nice too.
We really like the fact that this substrate is made of natural, mineral rich organic volcanic soil. Volcanic soil contains many different nutrients, all of which are fantastic for spurring on healthy plant growth, both because of the nutrients and because roots systems have a good base to grow in.
Another great part about this substrate is that it is light, non-compacting, and porous. This makes it easy for nitrifying bacteria to grow, bacteria which help to keep the water quality at optimal levels. This stuff ideal for tropical fish, shrimp, and of course plants too, not to mention that it provides a good hiding place for young shrimp to grow up in.
The only thing wrong with this stuff is that the bag it comes in is not big enough. You may need to order 2 bags.
If you need a great substrate for your plants and your fish, this is the way to go. It is all natural and contains a ton of nutrients that are fantastic for plant growth.
6. Hermit Habitat Terrarium Substrates
This is a great basic type of substrate that will add some color and shine to your planted aquarium.
One of the biggest benefits of the Hermit habitat Terrarium Substrate is that it is blue, beautiful, adds nice color to your aquarium. It’s completely coated in acrylic that doesn’t leach into the water and won’t cause discoloration either.
We also really like the fact that it’s all natural gravel that provides for a great base for plants to grow their roots in. This stuff can be used for planted aquariums, normal fish tanks, and terrariums too.
This kind of substrate needs to be replaced every 6 months, which means you will have to keep buying it. There is also the fact that this stuff doesn’t contain any essential nutrients either.
This is a great option in terms of substrate if you need something that is cheap and looks great. It will serve well as a base, but won’t supply your plants with any nutrients. This is one of the best substrates for planted tank that is smaller and less work instensive.
The best substrate for planted tank depends on what you have in your tank. It might take a bit of trial and error to find the right one, but any of the above options make for good starting points. Just keep in mind that the substrate you get should have nutrients, provide for a good base, and look good too.