Best Substrate For Planted Tank- A Healthy Growth Medium

Written by Dennis

“A healthy fish population is the sign of healthy planted aquarium.”

Certainly, substrate of a fish tank plays a crucial role in maintaining the water chemistry and checks the well-being of aquatic plants and other inhabitants.

By introducing the best substrate for planted tank, you can provide the necessary ingredient for cultivating plants in an aquarium.

However, substrate also enhances the aesthetic appeal of an aquarium.

Let’s start with basic details-

What Is Substrate?

Substrate is the material used for creating a layer on the bottom of the aquarium on which aquatic organisms obtain nourishment.

Benefits Of Substrate

Each substrate has its own characteristics due to the presence of various components. If you are interested in setting up a nano tank you should check out this previous post.

Either directly or indirectly, each of them has its own advantages that include-

  • Increases the count of beneficial bacteria
  • Improves the water quality
  • Checks the health of the entire system
  • Helps in maintaining the water chemistry
  • Functions as a biological filtration system
  • Provides space for fish feces to sit at the bottom

Let’s check out how specific substrate could serve the purpose-

List Of Top 3 Substrates Available On The Market

  1. CaribSea Eco-Complete
  2. Seachem Flourite
  3. Fluval Plant And Shrimp Stratum

The CaribSea Eco Complete is the ideal substrate for fish tank-

1) Importance Of CaribSea Eco-Complete

It is a fantastic product that adds great texture to a minimum of 10 gallon planted tank.

Particularly, this substrate comes with nutrients such as iron, calcium, potassium, sulfur, magnesium and other more than 25 different nutrients.

With its addition, any aquarists get the ideal biological balance of cycling out water for the nominal growth of roots.

As it doesn’t contain any artificial chemicals and a rich source of iron, there is no need for the addition of laterite.

Additionally, it contains heterotrophic bacteria for converting fish waste into organic matter naturally. One can simply add this substrate to the freshwater tank without rinsing it.

Seachem Fluorite comes second on the list-

2)Importance Of Seachem Fluorite

It is a great product, readily available on the market.

Seachem Fluorite is porous clay gravel, chemically tested and ideal for planted tanks.

It won’t alter the water chemistry. With its addition to the home aquarium, you can notice roots of the aquatic plants flourish in the tank.

The only thing keeps in mind is cleaning of the gravels before introducing it to the tank water.

Fluval Plant And Shrimp Stratum is the third best substrate-

3)Importance Of Fluval Plant And Shrimp Stratum

Another great product, rich in minerals and a good option for the planted tank.

It contains organic volcanic soil with several nutrients for fantastic growth of healthy plants. This makes it the best substrate for planted tank.

Fluval Plant And Shrimp Stratum is porous, easily grow nitrifying bacteria and provide optimal support to the aquatic inhabitants.

It is also suitable for shrimp, tropical fish as well as plants too.

Other than these considerations, there are a few factors that should also be checked.

Types Of Substrate

In general, aquarium substrates are classified into two categories i.e., freshwater substrate and saltwater substrate.

Depending on the category of the aquarium, the choice of appropriate substrate is made.

  • Gravel

For freshwater aquariums, it is the most common type of substrate.

When you are looking for cheap substrate for planted tank, it is a perfect choice.

Considering the size of the gravel, 1 mm to 3 mm is ideal substrate for planted aquarium. But if the size increases beyond 5 mm, it won’t produce a similar effect as earlier.

At first, you need to cover the bottom surface with peat moss layer or laterite layer and place gravel on top.

The underlayer of peat moss or laterite provides the necessary nutrients for ideal plant growth.


With the combination of commercially ready substrate, gravel is the best aquarium substrate.

  • Sand

Sand is another most common planted aquarium substrate.

With its addition, the appearance of aquarium becomes more natural. But some other nutrients are required to be added such that it provides the necessary support for plant growth.

Silica sand, pool sand and onyx sand are mostly available for providing adequate nutrition.

If Fluorite is used with common sand, it acts great.


Always wash sand before introducing it into the tank to remove adhered dust particles.

  • Laterite

Laterite (rich in iron) is clay used as a lower layer of substrate for ideal plant growth.

This can also be used as an upper layer of substrate because of its porous structure.

Before introducing laterite to the aquarium, it is imperative to wash the substrate.

  • Fluorite

In modern aquariums, fluorite is highly used as planted tank substrate.

It is porous clay gravel, completely different from common gravel.

Fluorite is light and remains loose in the bottom of the aquarium. It is advised to rinse Fluorite before introducing it into the fish tank.

  • Eco-Complete

Eco-Complete is a commercially manufactured product, contains up to 25 necessary nutrients and rich in iron content.

Additionally, it contains heterotrophic bacteria. It helps in converting waste into useful substances for aquatic plants.

There is no mandatory requirement for washing Eco-Complete planted aquarium substance.

Some Of The Criteria Before Setting Up Substrate Include-

  • Substrate Size

Some aquarists prefer large granules for their aquarium.

Unfortunately, it has the tendency to block root growth prominently. Suppose the granules are too small, it can crush the roots.

The ideal choice will be mixing of these two granules intelligently.

At first, mix the large granules with fertilizers and place it on the bottom surface. Now, add two additional layers of small granules without fertilizer.

  • Substrate Depth

For determining the depth of substrate, it is important to consider the type of aquatic plants you have or want to grow.

In general, it is ideal to have 2 – 3 inches deep substrate such that roots won’t be tangled.

Listed below are the types of aquatic plants-

  1. Anubias, Bolbitis and Microsorium attach their roots to rocks
  2. Aponogeton and Nymphaea have large rootstocks
  • Hygrophila and Rotala have long stems with shallow roots
  1. Echinodorus and Cryptocoryne are deep-rooted plants

So, consider the aquatic plants for selecting the depth of a substrate in the fish tank.

  • Substrate Material

There are several planted aquarium substrate available on the market.

With two big names i.e, EcoComplete and Fluorite, you can add benefits to your tank.

Depending on the natural, synthetic and commercial substrates, the growth of aquatic plants will vary.

How To Step Up Substrate In The Tank?

To maintain the pH level of the tank water, it is imperative to choose appropriate substrate.

It is advised to go with the natural substrate or purchase the best substrate for planted tank. It maintains the ideal pH level of tank water i.e., 6.8 – 7.2, varies on the types of plants.

Setting up the fish tank is quite simple. Just check out the step-by-step guide listed below-

  • Make the purchase of the best aquarium substrate
  • Wash the substrate properly (if it is essential)
  • Introduce the substrate at the bottom of the tank
  • Fill water to the appropriate level
  • Place aquatic plants and animals
  • Maintain proper pH level of the tank water

Fortunately, the best substrate for planted tank does not have very small breaking period.

Maintenance Of Substrate

Undoubtedly, there are no hassles of cleaning and maintaining the substrate.

It is recommended to vacuum the substrate once a week so that it won’t block the voids. It is also advised to rake the sand to prevent waste collecting and maintain the porosity.

Apart from this, nutrients deficiency might be followed. So, the addition of fertilizers for rooted plants is beneficial for their ideal natural growth.

Final Words

I know how it feels when you see your loving aquatic organisms unhealthy or inactive.

Being an aquarist, I advise you to take necessary care of the aquatic inhabitants by choosing the best substrate for planted tank, maintaining the ideal tank conditions and introducing all elements for better results.


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