Top 10 Best Substrate for Planted Tank – [Latest 2023 Review]

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Top 10 Best Substrate for Planted Tank: All plants, whether terrestrial or aquatic, have some form of root system. Some of these systems are simple, while others are very complicated.

Regardless of the complexity, all the roots are used for nutrient intake. Thanks to these nutrients, plants can stay alive and healthy.

Comparison Table

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Top PerformanceADA Aquasoil Amazonia4.7/5.0Check Price
cheapestSeachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel4.6/5.0Check Price

As you know, land plants have soil. What about aquatic plants in your aquarium?

Have you ever wondered how to keep them “standing” in your aquarium and provide them with the nutrients they need?

That’s why you need substrate for your tank.

Not only for plants, the substrate is also necessary and important for your fish.

Since it is an essential element of your aquarium, it is essential to choose the best substrate for the planted tank.

The substrate is the basis for a healthy and successful planted aquarium.

Without a good substrate, you will have difficulty growing beautiful lush plants.

But it’s not just about picking a good substrate for your planted tank.

You need to understand the type of plants you want to keep as they dictate the type of substrate you need.

And that’s what you’re going to learn. In this article, I will describe how to choose the best substrate for the plants you want to keep.

In the end, I will look at my best options for the best substrate for planted aquariums.


How to choose the Best Substrate for Planted Tank

Before going further and examining the individual types of substrate for your planted tank, you will need to understand some basic facts.

Learning this will allow you to make the right decision for your tank.


What is the substrate?

It is the martial at the bottom of your aquarium to root plants. However, substrates can also influence water chemistry, filtration and the aesthetic appeal of the planted aquarium.


Choose your substrate

This is important if you want to have a successful aquarium: you need to know how your plants get their nutrients.

You have plants that get most of their nutrients from water and these are called water column feeders.

And then you have root feeders, these are plants that get their nutrients from the substrate.

This can affect the type of media you decide to purchase. Because it makes no sense to invest in an expensive substrate that is full of nutrients if you want to maintain column water feeders.

I’m not saying that a nutrient-rich substrate does nothing for your aquarium. But if you have a limited budget, your money could be better spent elsewhere.


Understand different substrates

Let’s analyze the popular options:



Whenever you choose field sand, it can be an Best Substrate for Planted Tank.

However, sand grades below n. ° 3 may increase the risk of hydrogen sulphide formation during the nitrogen cycle.

If you wish, you can add iron supplements to your aquarium to help control hydrogen sulfide that your plants can’t handle.



If your plants are column feeders, gravel can work as long as it doesn’t produce a lot of waste.

You can also use gravel as the top layer of a multilayer tank.

If you are thinking of adding gravel, you should consider which fish you are going to store.

Some fish can eat small pebbles (gold fish) and some can be injured by sharp gravel (betta fish).

So be sure to keep that in mind and choose accordingly.


Complete supports

Substrates such as ADA Aquatic Soil or CaribSea Eco-Complete contain ideal nutrients for maintaining root feeders.

Complete substrates are great for starting the nitrogen cycle because they tend to cause an ammonia spike.

This means you just have to add this substrate to the new fish-free aquarium. After pedaling the tank and testing the pH levels, fish can be added.



Adding a subsequent sand base, an intermediate layer of aquarium soil and a top layer of gravel, will mimic a natural aquatic environment.

This type of layering can create a good base for the roots of your plants and offers them an excellent environment for growing.

And by overlapping the substrates, the gravel will help prevent smaller particles from misting up the water in the tank.


Top 10 Best Substrates for Planted Tanks Review


1. Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

Top 10 Best Substrate for Planted Tank - [Latest 2020 Review]

This product is supplied in a twenty pound bag. It is a complete substrate for use in freshwater tanks. This substrate meets all the needs of your plants without having to add other substrates or additional chemicals.

This substrate uses a new formula to improve root development. It’s all in one package. Your advertisement compares this substrate with the fertile soil of Hawaii or Costa Rica.

The complete Eco substrate contains only magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, sulfur and over 25 other elements. This product is perfect for feeding your aquatic plants.

Not only is it beneficial for plants, this product is also good for fish. The substrate has highly porous spherical granules for greater diffusion performance, so debris is less likely to remain on the surface, but will be diffused and absorbed in the substrate layer.

This substrate also contains live heterotrophic bacteria, which help to quickly convert fish waste into natural and nutritious foods for your aquatic plants. With the Eco-Complete substrate, there will be a natural biological balance in your tank, ensuring that all nutrients and waste are recycled and reproduced as naturally and quickly as possible.

However, there is a problem with this almost perfect product. It is the pH level. Being a combination of many nutrients at the same time, it is very difficult to have a neutral pH level. This product has a slightly alkaline characteristic.

Before placing the fish in the tank, you need to check the overall pH level of the entire tank to make sure it is in the correct range for the fish and plants.

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2. ADA Aquasoil Amazonia

Top 10 Best Substrate for Planted Tank - [Latest 2020 Review]

ADA Aquasoil is an excellent choice if you want to keep many different plants.

In general, nutrients will be good in the tank for a year. Therefore, it will be necessary to provide a liquid dose.

This substrate will lower the pH and soften the water in the tank. Now this is good for many aquatic plants, but it may not be for the fish it preserves. So keep that in mind.

If you need to lower your pH, ADA Amazonia Aquasoil will help you.

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3. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

Top 10 Best Substrate for Planted Tank - [Latest 2020 Review]

This product is available in 15.4-pound packs. It is black in color (hence the name), which makes it more suitable for planted aquariums, but it can also be used in any other aquarium environment you desire.

It is not coated or treated with any chemical product, therefore it will not contain any harmful substance for the tank. It also has the ability to maintain the pH level of the tank without altering the overall quality of the water.

The basic product alone is sufficient to provide a level of essential nutrients for aquatic plants. The substrate encourages root development for a healthier plant and can be mixed with any other type of nutrient substrate it deems appropriate.

However, it is not necessary to mix with something additional. It is fully functional without gravel modifiers such as laterite.

This substrate is a stable and particularly fractured porous gravel. Facilitates the dissolution of fish food residues in the substrate layer, keeping the water clean and healthy for fish.

This substrate has a particularly long lifespan. When using Fluorite Black, you never have to worry about replacing it with a new batch, as the substrate remains effective for the life of your aquarium.

There are very few complaints about this product from customers. If there is a problem, it is clay powder. Thanks to its formulation, the substrate can release a lot of clay dust when used for the first time in the aquarium.

This clay powder can cloud the water for a few minutes. However, it will sink and dissolve quickly and the water will be cleaned again.

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4. ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Powder Type

This substrate consists of a rare Japanese soil derived from decomposed leaves. It is rich in organic materials, which helps create a perfect environment for many different types of plants, fish and even shrimp.

Another great thing that this substrate does is lower the pH to a good level. It also helps to reduce the hardness of the water. Both of these things help create an ideal environment for plants and fish.

Since this substrate has a fine grain size, it is a good choice for nano aquariums, although it can also be used with the normal substrate. Just layering the dust and the normal substrate. This allows you to keep costs low, but still get surprising results.

When you are looking for a substrate to create a delicious carpet in the herb and plant tank, this is also a great option. The small size of the grain allows the plants to anchor easily to the substrate, improving the health and growth of the roots.

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5. Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

If you have an aquarium that does not only have plants and fish, but also shrimp, this substrate is definitely the one for you. This is definitely one of the best substrates out there.

This product is composed of natural and mineral-rich organic volcanic soil. Yes, it is not normal soil but volcanic soil. Volcanic soil contains many special components that are different from standard soil.

All these special volcanic nutrients are very useful for stimulating healthy plant growth. The substrate also contains nutrients that are good for promoting the development of the root system.

The texture of this substrate is also excellent. It is light, not compact and porous. These characteristics facilitate the growth and development of nitrifying bacteria in the tank. These bacteria will help maintain the health and cleanliness of the water at its best levels.

The substrate is designed to promote a neutral to only slightly acidic pH level.

A particularity of this substrate advertised to make this product particularly suitable for shrimp is the size of the particles. The particle size allows the crayfish to hide inside the substrate until they are large enough to leave the “ground” to defend themselves against other crayfish and fish.

However, there is a small problem with this shrimp announcement. Although the substrate is similar to gravel, the particle size is rather small.

Although it can act as a refuge for shrimp, it won’t be long before the shrimp exceeds the size of the substrate and can no longer hide. However, overall it is still a great product.

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6. CaribSea Eco-Complete

Made in volcanic soil, it is rich in nutrients.

This substrate provides an excellent base for growing plant roots and creates a biological balance, facilitating the water cycle.

It does not contain artificial chemicals, dyes or additives and does not discolour the water.

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7. Mr. Aqua N-MAR-066 1 L Fine Pet Habitat Water Plant Soil

This substrate contains an impressive amount of nutrients which are very good for aquatic plants. They provide an excellent source of nutrients to help plants grow and stay healthy.

The substrate also encourages the development of strong roots, helping plants to grow strong in the corrugated environment of the reservoir.

The substrate is light and highly porous. This feature creates an environment that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria that are essential for the overall tank environment.

A further advantage of this substrate is its ability to maintain and control the pH level of the tank. Unlike other types, this substrate lowers the pH in the aquarium. This medium rejects the water pH level from 6.6 to 6.8 depending on the water parameters.

Thanks to this, it is not necessary to treat your water so often. In addition, many freshwater crayfish and dwarf fish prefer the acidic and freshwater environment created by this substrate.

A difference between this and other substrate brands is the size of the package it arrives at. It only weighs 1.85 pounds, so you’ll need a pack and a half to put a fairly thick layer of substrate on the bottom of a 5.5 gallon tank. This isn’t a big deal, it just takes a little more planning when buying the packages and it will be fine.

This substrate can release a lot of dust when it comes out of the bag. When the substrate is first placed in water, the water will become slightly turbid for a few hours, then sink and be perfectly clean and clear again.

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8. Hermit Habitat Terrarium Substrate

If you want to add some bright colors, this could be the one for you.

Hermit Habitat terrarium substrate is a completely natural gravel that provides a basis for plant roots.

However, it does not offer any nutritional value, making it suitable for plants that mainly obtain their nutrients from water.

It’s less work, but you’ll have to replace it every 6 months.

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9. UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants

UP Aqua Sand is one of the best substrates for aquarium plants on the market.

Almost no dust is released when the substrate is placed in the tank, so the water does not mist up when the tank is filled. It is impressive how clear the water is when installed with this substrate.

The substrate supplies many nutrients to the plants and is independent: it does not need any additional component or other substrate to support the mini ecosystem inside the tank. This substrate alone provides enough nutrients for healthy plants to grow and develop.

The texture of this substrate is round, light and porous. Thanks to the porous shape, it is easy for this substrate to support the roots of plants. This product also encourages strong root development, making plants more stable.

The substrate does an excellent job of maintaining and controlling the pH level of the water. The substrate reduces the pH level to a range from 6.5 to 7.0 which is perfectly neutral or slightly acidic. This pH range is a perfect environment for many fish and aquatic plants.

The substrate has an incredible longevity. It will last as long as your aquarium.

This is a great product. There are almost no complaints from customers. The only small problem is a very slight complaint that the bag sometimes rips before reaching the door. But this has happened rarely, so it’s not something to worry about too much.

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10. ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Light

With natural color and high customer feedback, ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Light is an excellent choice when looking for a substrate to place in your tank. It is a beautiful color, although it still adds incredible beauty to any aquarium.

This substrate contains rare black soil from Japan which promotes the growth of most aquatic plants. It also contains numerous organic materials and the perfect nitrogen level to create an ideal environment.

If there is a caveat on this fantastic substrate, it is that some report that their tanks mist up a little for a couple of days after using it. This is generally due to the high level of organic compounds. It is normal and will disappear in a couple of days.

In addition, this substrate helps keep the tank slightly acidic, perfect for most fish and tropical plants. This substrate is also ideal for beginners who want to make their tanks more beautiful and hospitable for their fish.

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Benefits of the substrate in an aquarium

The substrate can perform many functions inside the tank.

If you have an aquarium with plants, you should definitely use the substrate to grow plants inside the tank. The roots of aquatic plants cannot be supported on the glass surface, so a substrate layer on the bottom is an absolute requirement.

The substrates also help keep fish feces and food waste on the bottom of the tank instead of floating freely around the fish tank and contaminating the water. The bottom substrate layer holds debris inside after the debris sinks to the bottom of the tank.

The substrate provides an aesthetic and natural environment for fish. In nature, the depths of the oceans, lakes and rivers are not bare. They are covered in sand, mud, pebbles or some type of natural material. Having these materials on the bottom of the tank helps fish and other creatures to feel more familiar and comfortable in their living environment.

In addition to aesthetic purposes, some animals actually require the existence of a substrate in the lower part to live their normal lives. Some fish and snails have to bury themselves in the substrate to hide or find food inside.

This substrate provides a source of multiple nutrients. Many of these are necessary for plant growth and the general environment of the water in the tank. Different media have different qualities and characteristics.

Adding a specific type of substrate can add a particular type of nutrient or substance to the water, which can influence and control the pH level in the tank based on the needs of fish and plants.


How much substrate for the planted aquarium?

The answer to this question depends a lot on your preferences. You can use as much substrate as you want, depending on how you want your tank to look. You should be careful if you are using a substrate that can change the characteristics of the water, such as altering the pH levels. In this case, after adding the substrate, you will need to monitor the water quality and adjust it according to your preferences.

Although there is no maximum level for the amount of substrate that can be placed in the tank, there is a minimum level. The level of the substrate in the tank must not be less than 1 “.

The rule of thumb is to get a 1 “bed, you will need to use 1 kg of substrate per gallon the size of your tank. For example, to create a 1 inch bed in a 10 gallon tank, you will need 10-20 pounds of substrate. If you want a 2 “bed, use 2 pounds per gallon and so on.

How to configure the substrate for the planted aquarium?

Here’s how to apply a complete aquarium substrate. All of the products listed above are substrates for complete aquariums, which means that you will not need anything more than that product to install your aquarium.

First of all, just pour the substrate into the tank and position it according to your tastes and preferences. Then fill the tank with water.

Secondly, if you are using a fertilized substrate or any substrate that is believed to contain many nutrients and chemicals, you need to wait about a week before adding the fish to the tank. During that time, ammonia and nitrite levels will increase, creating a very suitable environment for growing useful bacteria in the planted aquarium, but making the environment uninhabitable for fish. To be sure, check the ammonia and nitrite levels before putting fish in the tank later.

Finally, plant your plants in the substrate. Wear decorations and devices. And then put all your beautiful fish in the tank.


Right now there are many types of substrates on the market, with different characteristics and qualities. Choosing the best substrate is not that simple: one that makes your aquarium beautiful, healthy, and safe for fish, while encouraging plant growth. That’s why we present you with a list of the best Substrate for Planted Tank, so it would be easier to choose the best one for your aquarium.

Now, when you already know which one is the best, what are you waiting for? Go find an excellent substrate for your beloved aquarium with plants.

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