substrate for planted tank
Plants | substrate | Tanks

10 Best Substrate for Planted Tank | Planted Aquarium Substrate Review for 2020

Every planted aquarium needs a substrate; it does not only give your planted tank a rich base to let the aquarium plants grow. A substrate is also an appealing look to your aquarium, which can make your fish tank a beautiful place for your fish to thrive and live plants to bloom. Of course, any aquarium keeper would want a healthy and beautiful planted fish.

Therefore, it is important to know that if you don’t have a suitable substrate for your planted tank, it will be challenging for you to grow your live plants.

If you are still exploring substrates and are having a hard time picking one, sit and take a grab because, in this article, I selected the best ten substrates most suitable for your planted tank.

Best Substrate For Planted Tank

What is a Substrate?

For better clarification, let us look over what a substrate is: the soil covering the ground of your aquarium. It serves as a sea bed, and it is typically where your live plants will gain their nutrients and minerals to bloom.

Substrates are known to add an appealing look to your aquarium as they are responsible for your plants’ blooming. Many companies have sorted and conducted research to help aquarium plants thrive, but have you wondered the best type of substrate? Let us find out!

Benefits of using a Substrate for your Planted Aquarium

When there is a substrate in your planted tank, you will see an aquarium’s real beauty. A lot of people love substrates because of the appealing look it adds to a tank.

  • A substrate is vital for the growth of your plant. Your plant needs a substrate to thrive without a substrate your tank plant can’t grow and will only float in the water.
  • Some fish species require substrates in their environment. An example of this substrate is the aquarium sand. A san substrate gives your fish a welcoming home environment, while for some other fish, they require it to help them adjust to their environment.
  • A substrate can make your fish pop its head out. For example, a dark-colored fish is easier to point out in a light-colored substrate, and light-colored fish can be spotted in a dark substrate.
  • Having a substrate creates room for healthy bacteria to grow. These bacteria have the responsibility of breaking down organic matter in the aquarium; this is termed the nitrogen cycle. The presence of a substrate welcomes enough healthy bacteria to the harbor, which results in a healthy aquarium.

Best Planted Tank Substrates Review

In the section of this article, we will take a glance at 10 top picks of the best substrates for the planted tanks you can purchase.

CaribSea Eco-Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

This product is a gravel substrate manufactured by the Carib Sea; it is best known for its top quality as an aquarium substrate. It is blended with minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, for the deep nourishment of your aquarium plants.

The CaribSea substrate is a complete packaged nutrient of all you want in a substrate, it works in a heavily planted tank and promotes the growth of your plants. You can be assured that your tank will be fully cycled because this excellent substrate establishes a natural biological balance, which makes cycling faster and much safer.

Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel Natural Planted Aquarium Substrate

Seachem’s Flourite black is best suited for a natural plant tank; it is a natural blend of clay without an additional chemical. It gives your planted tank a new aquarium look.

This substance is pre-washed, but it requires rising before use. It is a fine mesh of gravel with a mixture of nutrients that is safe for your live plants to grow.

Mr. Aqua N-MAR-067 8 L Course Pet Habitat Water Plant Soil

This aquarium soil provides all the essential elements needed for the growth and nourishment of plants. It is known for its durability (over a year or more) and long-lasting fine texture.

With this substrate, you don’t need an additional supplement for your plants; they will thrive and bloom for as long as you least expected.

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia

The aqua soil is made from a particular type of Japanese soil, and It is obtained from a decomposed leaf from mulching. This substrate will work well on your plant tank. Some planted tanks can increase to a high PH level, leading to the heavy consumption of substrates nutrients by the live plants.

However, due to this high PH in the planted tank, the substrate will only provide limited nutrients for the plants to feed. With the Aqua soil substrate, decreases the water hardness and brings the PH of the planted tank to a lower level, so that plants can feed and receive adequately and promote their growth and health. This substrate is an ideal choice for any planted tank.

Caribsea Flora-Max Sand


The Carib sea flora max planted aquarium, which contains iron, calcium, and other essential elements that promote plant growth. The substrate is natural and helps to maintain a biological balance without interfering with the pH of the plant water.

It is ideal for both saltwater and freshwater tanks. It is extremely healthy and helps your plants to thrive.

Activ-Flora Lake Gems for Aquarium, 20-Pound

The active-flora is a planted aquarium substrate enriched with gravel. This rave contains an extensive collection of nutrients such as magnesium and nitrogen, which provides instant cycling without interrupting the pH of your aquarium.

The substrate helps aquatic plants bloom and thrive quickly; it provides optimum growth and the right quantity of iron, so you did a supplement like lateritic. The micronutrients are the right nutrients for your plants, so these substrates have proven to be self-sustainable.

UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants


Some people don’t believe that sand substrate is durable. But here I present to you UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants, they are non-toxic and are a sure bet for your planted tank.

The aquarium sand is a substrate specially designed for aquatic plants for the stable maintenance of PH to 6.5. It does not break down easily. It is odorless and makes your tank look beautiful, less maintenance, and durable.

While adding the substrate to the tank, you should start by pouring it slowly. Add little to cover the sand, and you can start planting as soon as you introduce it to your tank. The sand is light and easy to handle.

Because of its unique role, it is an ideal choice for you to add to your planted tank.

Carib Sea Super Natural Sand


Some people don’t believe that sand substrate is durable. But here I present to you UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants, they are non-toxic and are a sure bet for your planted tank.

The aquarium sand is a substrate specially designed for aquatic plants for the stable maintenance of PH to 6.5. It does not break down easily. It is odorless and makes your tank look beautiful, less maintenance, and durable.

While adding the substrate to the tank, you should start by pouring it slowly. Add little to cover the sand, and you can start planting as soon as you introduce it to your tank. The sand is light and easy to handle.

Because of its unique role, it is an ideal choice for you to add to your planted tank.

Estes Gravel Marine Sand Black

Wherever you go about buying a substrate for your tank, ensure that it is suitable and safe for your plant and aquarium. This black sand aquarium is premium sand that is manufactured for both freshwater and saltwater plants.

It does not affect your tank’s pH level; as you know, some substrates can make the plant water increase in pH level. The product is highly safe for your tank and safe for your fish.

Carib Sea Super Naturals Crystal River Sand

If you are on an average or low budget, this substrate is your go-to, so here you go, you can have a premium substrate even with a little amount of cash. It is good news to know that such quality exists in the market with only a limited price.

However, this said is specially designed to contain a balanced pH, it is essential because no one wants to take in a substrate with a high pH, its stable pH makes the product safe for the growth of your aquarium plants.

The substrate is black, the absence of dye; therefore, you can say it is purely natural and a quality product from the USA.

 

Choosing the Best Substrate for your Planted Tank

The compliment exhibited by your planted tank depends on the substrate you want.

For example, if you have a planted aquarium, you will want a substrate that will give your plant roots the support that it needs. However, that will depend on you because you are to select the substrate to use.

Do you know you can place your substrates on layers to grab the advantage it provides? Well yes, substrates are amazing if you select the right and most suitable substrate for your planted tank.

Before going into purchasing a substrate think closely about how you plan to run your tank, do you want to overstock or not? What type of fish and plants are you planning to keep? Your answer will determine the best substrate you should pick.

Note that it is essential to choose the right substrate for your planted tank because, along the run, if you try changing substrate, it will be challenging and time-consuming for you.

Different types of Substrates

Indeed there are different types of substrates, so here, you have plenty of options to pick from. Below is the generally used substrate.

Pebbles

substrate for planted tank

Pebbles are the most popular substrates used in a planted tank. They range from the size 6mm to 50mm or even more.

They are usually made from natural products such as glass, river rocks, and plastics that can shine during the dark hours.

However, because pebbles are like little stones, they have spaces between them, and your fish excretions and food droppings may enter these spaces and harbor bacteria. It doesn’t just build up bacteria and nitrates. It makes the tank untidy and dirty to look at. Also, because of the spaces pebbles create between themselves, plants are unable to thrive because their roots will find it challenging to take hold of a beautiful spot to grow.

Sometimes, pebbles are not recommended and not safe if you are a beginner due to this solid disadvantage.

Gravel

substrate for planted tank

Gravel is better off and safe to use compared to Peebles. They are smaller, measuring about 2mm to 4mm; gravels are seen in a wide range of materials to pick any gravel substrate design you want.

This substrate, just like the pebbles have spaces between them, and food drops can be caught in these spaces and harbor unfriendly bacteria. Gravels are easy to take off during tank maintenance.

Sand

substrate for planted tank

A sand substrate is available in textures, colors, and sizes. You can feel the sand. Some can be coarse to fine and available in a range of grain sizes, from rough to fine, and a wide range of colors, and are also a popular substrate.

Sand substrates are welcomed because fish come from a natural environment of sands, mud, and silt, so fish are safe in the sand environment.

Sand substrates don’t have gaps between them, so if food eventually falls, you can see them easily and clean. So, they are considered easy to clean.

 

Soil

substrate for planted tank

Have you tried mixing water and soil? This mixture will result in muddy water.

However, this muddy water has its downsides.

1. The muddy water is dark, so you can’t see anything in your planted tank.
2. Muddy water is not safe for your fish and can cause your fish stress.

Soil is best used for planted tanks, so if you don’t have plans to have plants in your tank, you should go for another substrate.

There are other substrates, but the ones explained are the most used and popular substrates. Note that these substrates (pebbles, gravel, and soil) are available in different sizes and colors; this includes sand so you can choose any color you feel is best suited.

FAQs

#1 How deep should my substrate be in my planted aquarium?

The depth of your substrate depends on the type of plants you want to keep. Plants that have deep roots and dense structures will need a substrate with a deeper layer. A plant that needs a simple base to grow its roots will need a lighter substrate in reserve.

#2 What amount of substrate should I use?

The amount of substrate to use for your substrate depends on the type of planted tank you have. If your tank is large now and overstocked, then a large amount of substrate will be suitable for your tank, and if you have a smaller tank, they will not require a large amount of substrate.

#3 Which Substrate will be suitable for my tank?

All substrates are good if they are purchased from a branded store. Sometimes changing different substrates can cause some even balance in the fish tank.

How to maintain your substrate?

In this section, I decided to pull out an exciting and informative YouTube video so you can learn the best way by seeing how you can maintain your substrate. Be sure to watch it.

Conclusion

Finally, if you had read through this point of the review, you can now pick from my best-selected reviews, which you can select which is best for you. Ensure you research deeply on a substrate you want to purchase for your planted tank.

Reviews from other buyers are important; you can find out the details of a particular substrate, testimonies from other buyers; you will consider whether you should go for that substrate. Remember that your substrate gives an appealing look to your tank, the beauty and health of your life plants depend on the substrate you select and choose the right substrate for a beautiful planted tank.

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