Best Substrate For Your Aquarium Experience To Be a Complete Success

substrate for your aquarium

Choosing the right substrate for your aquarium is extremely important for the health of plants, fish and other aquatic life.

Choosing the right substrate for your aquarium is crucial to the health of your aquarium and its inhabitants. Planted freshwater tanks will require something drastically different than a basic empty aquarium. It is therefore imperative that you select the right substrate.

If you’re in the market for new or replacement substrate for your aquarium, then we’ve got just the list for you. Check out the best substrate for almost every aquarium below.

Top 10 Substrate For Your Aquarium in 2020 Reviewed

1. Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

Caribsea offer substrate for your aquarium that is pH neutral and will not increase carbonate hardness.

It has very unique sand-sized grains that resist the accumulation of detritus, fish waste and food within the substrate bed.

The substrate is very easy to maintain.

Caribsea has the following advantages:

  • Keeps water crystal clear
  • Resists packing channeling and anaerobic “Dead Spots” beneath rocks and coral
  • Maintains proper pH levels
  • Does not contain toxic metal impurities, petroleum residues or pesticides
substrate for your aquarium
caribsea substrate for your aquarium

Get the Caribsea substrate for your aquarium HERE

2. Flourite Black Sand, 7 kg / 15.4 lbs

Flourite Black substrate for your aquarium is a premium natural sand for the planted aquarium.

It is a specially fracted stable porous clay gravel that is best suited to planted aquaria, but may be used in any freshwater aquarium environment. Flourite Black Sand is good for the life of the aquarium and need not be replaced.

Flourite Black Sand is most effective when used alone as an integral substrate bed, but it may be mixed with other gravels.

NOTE: Although it is pre-washed, because Flourite Black Sand is a natural product, it may become dusty in transit and require rinsing before use to remove any residual dust.

When adding water to aquarium, fill slowly to avoid disturbing Flourite Black Sand substrate bed. Place a bowl in the aquarium and add water directly to the bowl, allowing water to overflow softly on to the gravel bed. Initial cloudiness is normal. To remove cloudiness, use mechanical filtration (such as filter floss).

Flourite Black Sand has the following advantages:

  • It is not chemically coated or treated
  • It will not alter the pH of the water
  • You do not need to add gravel modifiers such as laterite
substrate for your aquarium
Flourite substrate for your aquarium

Get the Flourite Black substrate for your aquarium HERE

3. Onyx Sand, 7 kg / 15.4 lbs

Onyx as substrate for your aquarium is a carbonate rich fracted, stable porous gravel for the natural planted aquarium.

It provides an advantage to any plants able to utilize bicarbonates.

Onyx sand can be used in any aquarium environment.

NOTES:

  1. Onyx sand is most effective when used alone as an integral substrate bed, but it may be mixed with other gravels.
  2. Onyx sand has a slight buffering capacity that may raise pH by 0.1 – 0.5 pH units (depending on source water characteristics).

Onyx sand has the following advantages:

  • Gravel modifiers such as Laterite are not necessary
  • Onyx sand is not chemically coated or treated
substrate for your aquarium
Onyx substrate for your aquarium

Get the Onyx substrate for your aquarium HERE

4. Carib Sea ACS00110 Aragonite Crushed Coral

Carib Sea substrate for your aquarium is a good economic choice that is really not crushed at all, but rather a natural product that is screened to size.

It provides up to 25 times the buffering power of other crushed corals, dolomite, or oyster shell.

As a substrate, it is used in under gravel filtered systems or reverse flow beds.

Carib Sea Crushed Coral has the following advantages:

  • It is the only crushed coral with aragonite
  • It provides over 25 times the buffering capacity of other crushed corals. 
  • It can be used alone or as a textural admixture.
substrate for your aquarium
Carib Sea Aragonite substrate for your aquarium

Get the Carib Sea substrate for your aquarium HERE

5. Carib Sea African Cichlid Mix

CaribSea’ s African Cichlid substrate for your aquarium can help recreate a variety of environments because it is offered in six varieties to suite every aquarist’s taste.

Carib Sea African Cichlid Mix has the following advantages:

  • It comes in bold colors that encourage a vibrant natural coloration of your fish.
  • It acts as a natural buffer for the life of the aquarium simplifying the process of matching water quality parameters to the Great Rift Lakes of Africa.
  • The mixes do not affect the pH in long established or crowded systems.
  • It is easy to maintain water quality
substrate for your aquarium
African Cichlid mix substrate for your aquarium

Get the Carib Sea African Cichlid mix substrate for your aquarium HERE

6. Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

As a substrate for your aquarium, Fluval Stratum helps with the stimulating the growth of aquatic plants in freshwater aquariums.

It is only available from Japan where is is collected from the mineral rich foothills of the famous Mont Aso Volcano in Japan.

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum comes with the following advantages:

  • Plant roots easily penetrate and spread throughout the substrate, allowing plants to obtain a variety of key, readily available nutrients that will make them flourish.
  • The addition of Fluval Plant Micro Nutrients will ensure a full complement of essential macro and micro nutrients.
  • The substrate’s light, non-compacting, porous structure is also highly beneficial to nitrifying bacteria, which rapidly colonize the vast porous surface, providing optimal water quality for plants.
substrate for your aquarium
Fluval substrate for your aquarium

Get the Fluval substrate for your aquarium HERE

7. Landen Aqua Soil Black – Normal 5L

Landen Aqua substrate for your aquarium is made from specially processed natural material from the earth and is ideal for cultivation of aquatics plants and is also suitable substrate for shrimps.

Landen Aqua Soil Black comes with the following advantages:

  • It provides fundamental minerals and trace elements, which promote the health and growth of shrimps. 
  • Aqua soil helps lower the hardiness and pH level of water. It is ideal substrate for most aquatic plants and it provides healthy plant root system.
  • Ideal substrate for most aquatic plants, provides healthy plant root system and for shrimps requiring softer water
  • Developed for cultivation of aquatics plants and is also suitable substrate for shrimps. It provides fundamental minerals and trace elements, which promote the health and growth of shrimps.
  • Made from specially processed natural material from the earth
  • Soil does not require rinsing and can be used directly in aquarium.
  • Black Color, Normal 3-5mm grain size, Volume 5L Per Bag, Approximate weight 10 lbs (1 Bag 5L)
  • Soil does not require rinsing and can be used directly in aquarium.
substrate for your aquarium
Landen Aqua substrate for your aquarium

Get the Landen Aqua substrate for your aquarium HERE

8. ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Ver 2 (9L)

ADA Aqua substrate for your aquarium is a combination of natural Japanese black soil and Amazon concentrate supplement.

It ensures that tropical fish and aquatic plants thrive with enhanced vivid colors and a beautiful Nature Aquarium can be achieved.

It is recommended for beginners because it is also easy to use.

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia comes with the following advantages:

  • It is made with rare Japanese plant-based black soil
  • It includes a bag of Amazon concentrate supplement separately that enable local enhancements of organic components and essential elements that accommodate different layout patterns with various types of aquatic plants
  • It helps to naturally buffer and lowers the pH level and hardness of the water to an ideal level for most aquatic plants
  • Composed of granules of size and density ideal for the fast development of healthy plant root systems. Granules have a natural irregular shape that produces a natural look
  • Ideal and easy to handle for beginners seeking to make a beautiful fully planted aquarium with crystal clear water
substrate for your aquarium
ADA Aqua substrate for your aquarium

Get the ADA Aqua substrate for your aquarium HERE

9. Stoney River White Aquatic Sand

Stoney River substrate for your aquarium is a white (although there are other colors) that is ideal sand for all marine and freshwater tanks.

Stoney River White Aquatic Sand comes with the following advantages:

  • It is fine which makes it perfect for beautiful aquascaping
  • It is clean and requires very little maintenance
  • It comes with white which gives you plenty of options for your other aquarium decorations
  • It is pH neutral
  • More importantly it is non-toxic which is perfect for fish and plant
substrate for your aquarium
Stone River substrate for your aquarium

Get the Stone River substrate for your aquarium HERE

Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand

Imagitarium Black substrate for your aquarium gives your aquarium a bold look.

The black aquarium sand stands still as you set the surreal scene with iridescent fish and vibrant coral reefs. This fish tank gravel facilitates beneficial bacteria while offering fresh or saltwater fish a wonderful world.

With the Imagitarium Black substrate, you can style a vast valley of shimmering silicon. This bold black aquarium sand crafts a background where glittering pets pop while assisting in a healthy environment for your fresh or salt water species.

Imagitarium Black Aquarium Sand comes with the following advantages:

  • Helps simulate a positive pH natural environment
  • Promotes the growth of healthy bacteria which breaks down waste
  • Reduces the amount of unhealthy debris in the water
Imagitarium substrate for your aquarium

Get the Imagitarium Black substrate for your aquarium HERE

Facts to remember and questions to answer when buying substrate for your aquarium

So that you get an appealing underwater world in an aquarium , the substrate is the most important basis. There are many different ways in which you can design the substrate in an aquarium. The following explains what tasks the substrate fulfills in an aquarium, which classic substrate types there are and how the design can be carried out.

What functions does the substrate have in the aquarium?

The substrate fulfills a variety of tasks in the aquarium. It works as a biological filter, serves as a settlement area for bacteria and as a root substrate for the plants, but it can also promote rotten spots and hoard nutrients. The substrate therefore has a decisive influence on the positive, but also on a possible negative development of an aquarium.

With the help of the substrate, a greater similarity to the natural habitat of the various animals can be created. Some animals use the soil very heavily. They even rummage through it, for example to find something to eat. 

It is also ideal for orientation and protection of the animals. As a result, the animals are often more balanced and it is more harmonious in the aquarium.


The plants in the aquarium also need a good substrate. The soil gives the plants support, as their roots can dig through and then anchor. The subsoil also provides the plants with important nutrients.


The substrate helps the water quality if it is not too dense and so water can always flow through it. This creates the important bacteria that are responsible for the biological balance in the aquarium. If you choose a permeable substrate, you should take good care of it, otherwise waste materials can settle in the gaps, which then start to rot there.

What classic types of soil are there?

Aquarium gravel and aquarium sand are known as classic substrate types. Both variants can be obtained in different natural or artificial colors. However, they must not contain any harmful substances, as these would otherwise be released into the water and only cause damage there.

How do I design the aquarium using the substrate?

Since you get the aquarium gravel or the aquarium sand in many different colors, you have many different options when designing the aquarium. However, if you attach great importance to a natural environment in the aquarium, then you can also achieve an optical upgrade here with the right substrate.

In most cases, the gravel or sand in the aquarium is placed so that it becomes higher towards the back. This gives a higher and more interesting depth effect and it is also useful. If the layer of the substrate becomes higher towards the rear, then the larger plants in the background have more space and this allows their roots to develop better and the thinner layer in the foreground ensures that the roots of the front plants do not develop as much as the plants then don’t get so big.


Furthermore, the dirt that accumulates falls further forward and can then be discovered more quickly by the operator of the aquarium and can also be removed more easily. However, if it is not enough for the substrate to rise towards the rear, you can also create terraces with the help of the substrate. Usually, however, you also need other things such as larger stones.

How can I properly introduce the substrate into my aquarium?

When you design an aquarium, of course you first start with the substrate. But before you start doing anything in the aquarium, you should of course check whether the aquarium is intact. If the aquarium has cracks, this can usually be seen straight away. However, you should also check the seals on the sides, as you cannot immediately tell whether something is leaking. If there are no defects in the aquarium and if the aquarium has not been cleaned with any chemical means, then the substrate can be started.


The aquarium gravel and sand should first be cleaned very well. One should use detergents dispense. In most cases, cleaning has to be carried out several times so that the dust and other particles are completely removed. If you don’t use a plant substrate, then the gravel or sand can go straight into the aquarium. 

However, only gradually and not all at once, otherwise the aquarium could be damaged. You should also make sure that the substrate is sufficiently high. A height of at least 5 centimeters should be reached. In the rear area, however, there may also be more so that the large plants, which are usually placed in the background, have enough space and can anchor themselves.

A primary question arises before setting up a new aquarium: Which substrate do I use? What looks good and what is the best soil substrate for my aquarium inhabitants? Here it is important to look very carefully at the needs of the aquarium animals and only then to make a selection.

Which substrate is the right one?

The search for the best substrate can quickly lead to despair with the huge selection. The question that actually arises here is: What is the purpose of the substrate? Basically, a distinction is made between two types – active substrates and neutral substrates.

What is an Active substrate / soil?

Active substrates, also known as soil, influence the water parameters and make the water softer, for example – ideal for most water plants, for aquascaping and for aquariums with soft water shrimp such as bee shrimp or Taiwan shrimp. 

What is a Neutral substrate / gravel and sand?

Neutral substrates do not influence the water values ​​in the aquarium and have a long tradition in aquaristics. When to choose sand, when gravel makes sense and what the frequently used and often scolded colored pebbles are all about.

How much substrate should I use?

The height of the substrate also depends on the intended use. In general, sand should not be piled up too high so that no anaerobic zones, aka rotting spots or rotten spots, form here. In aquascaping, soils are often piled up very high towards the rear in order to enhance the visual spatiality and depth of the aquascape.

In shrimp farming, on the other hand, sometimes only a fine layer is applied – just so that the ground is covered – in order to prevent feed from penetrating deeper layers of the soil and thus also to reduce water pollution. 

Since the entire substrate is often changed in breeding tanks for shrimp, a fine layer is easier to handle and replace. In this case one works more with epiphytes such as mosses (for example giant spring moss) or Java fern, Anubias , Bucephalandra and so on.

In a standard aquarium or community aquarium, an average substrate thickness of around 2-3 cm is completely sufficient for the plants to anchor themselves well with their roots.

Do I really need substrate for my aquarium?

In shrimp farming you can actually see bare glass floors in the aquarium every now and then – without any substrate or really only half a handful of gravel or soil. This method has the advantage that the aquarium can be kept clean very easily. Forage residues and sludge can be easily vacuumed without having to be careful about getting the substrate as well.

The disadvantage here is the smaller settlement area for bacteria – the filter performance should therefore be somewhat larger in such a bare basin than in a basin with a substrate. The shrimp itself does not seem to bother the missing ground, especially not if them in the aquarium for example, stones or roots staked moss cushion or moss balls are available where they are looking for volunteers, in something to hide can.

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