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Top 3 Substrates to Use in Planted Aquariums


May 10, 2016 Photos by: Subin Pumsom/Bigstock

The key to the perfect planted tank is to get the balance between fish and plant needs just right. The solution is finding the ideal type of substrate for your tank.

Nothing is more beautiful than a lushly planted freshwater aquarium. Cultivating a planted tank can be a challenge, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. The trouble with planted tanks is that you have to strike a delicate balance between meeting the needs of your aquarium fish and meeting the needs of your live plants. The key to success is finding the right substrate.

Best Substrates for Planted Tanks

When it comes to choosing a substrate for your aquarium you have many options to consider. Not all substrates are recommended for planted tanks, however, because they may not provide for the nutrient needs of living plants. Here’s an overview of the top three planted tank substrates you should consider:

  1. Eco-Complete: This type of planted tank substrate is produced by CaribSea and it consists of coarse- or fine-grade red or black granules supplemented with more than 25 essential minerals. This substrate contains calcium, iron, potassium, sulfur, and magnesium plus more than 20 other minerals to ensure complete nutrition for your live plants. Eco-Complete is also supplemented with live heterotrophic bacteria which help to maintain the delicate biological balance in your planted tank. This type of substrate does not need to be rinsed before use and it can be used as your sole substrate for a planted tank.
  1. Flourite: This substrate is a type of porous clay gravel produced by SeaChem. Flourite comes in red or black and it consists of fine clay gravel that can be used alone or mixed with existing gravel to provide for the nutritional needs of live plants. This substrate contains a variety of minerals essential to healthy plant growth and it comes in rich colors that will look striking against a living background of green plants. Flourite is particularly rich in iron which means that you do not need to supplement your tank with laterite for optimal tank growth. One thing to be wary of with this substrate is that it must be rinsed prior to use so it doesn’t cloud your tank.
  2. Aquasoil: This substrate is rich in a variety of organic nutrients to promote the growth of aquatic plants. Aquasoil is produced by ADA (Aqua Design Amano) and it comes in three different varieties – Amazonia, Malaya, and Africana. This substrate offers an attractive dark color which will enhance the appearance of brightly-colored fish, and it has the unique ability to buffer tank water, helping to keep it at a stable pH. If you choose Aquasoil for your planted tank, just be sure to select the right product for the type of tank you have. The Amazonia variety is best for Amazon biotope tanks, the Malaya variety for Southeast Asia-type tanks, and the Africana variety for African biotope tanks.

Whether you want to maximize the growth of a few live plants or provide for the needs of a tank full of plants, choosing the right substrate is incredibly important.

Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor’s degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.


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