How to Choose and Understand Substrate for Aquarium

Substrate is an important part of any aquarium. Not only it provides more natural look, but also provides additional benefits for your fish as well. But choosing the right substrate for your fish tank can be a bit confusing at first, but it is a vital part in creating the perfect environment for your fish. In this article we will tell you about the nuances of selecting the soil for the aquarium, will provide useful recommendations and advice.

There are several types of substrate, and to make the fish comfortable, it is important to make the right choice. After reading this aquarium substrate guide, you will learn about its types and will be able to easily choose the best substrate for aquarium of your choice. In this way, you will be able to create a good ecosystem in your aquarium where fish will grow and develop properly.

Types Of Substrate

Sand aquarium substrate

In addition to the fact that the bedding in an aquarium performs an aesthetic function, it also plays the role of a filter. The decomposition and decay of fish waste and food residues produce poisons. It is the soil that can neutralize them. Therefore, it is important to approach responsibly the selection of the substrate. It is necessary to make a choice based on what kinds of fish will inhabit the aquarium, what plants and in what quantity will be there, etc.

First of all, it is worth knowing that there are 3 main varieties of aquarium substrate:

Natural Aquarium Substrate

Includes only natural materials that have not been treated. It can be peat, gravel, sand, quartz, various rocks and other materials. There are practically no nutrients in them, so if you want to accelerate the growth of plants, it is worth fertilizing the soil with special capsules, tablets or pellets.

Artificial Aquarium Substrate

Such bedding is made of various polymeric materials. This is the best substrate for planted aquariums with plants that do no require substrate and will attach to anything or if you do not have any live plants at all. For the most part, artificial substrate plays an aesthetic role.

Our recommendation - Carib Sea Gemstone Gravel

Mechanical Substrate

Mechanical substrate contains both artificial and natural substrate, and is subject to mandatory chemical or mechanical treatment. It is very useful because it can change the acidity of the aquatic environment, absorb gases and perform other useful functions for the inhabitants of your fish tank.

Our recommendation for a planted fish tank with tropical fish - Aqua Sand or Fluval Stratum.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the main types of substrate, you will be able to make the right choice. If aesthetic design is the most important for you, the first two types will work, but if you want to provide the most useful and livable environment, you should choose the third type of underlay (mechanical).

It is also worth noting that all substrates are divided into two main types, depending on the functions performed: nutritious and neutral. The first type is enriched with various useful microelements and can be used as an additional layer under the main substrate. Neutral substrates are designed to create special aesthetic environment in the aquarium, so they are not particularly useful for live plants that require soil and fish.

Choosing the right substrate for your aquarium

Choosing aquarium substrate for fish

To make the right choice, you need to figure out what would be the best choice for the type of aquarium you have (planted or not) and what is the natural substrate of the fish you have.

For example, if you have an ordinary aquarium where unpretentious fish live and grow standard plants, the most suitable is sand and gravel, as well as natural soil, which has undergone special treatment. Sand and gravel are the most common substrate for aquariums. These two elements are capable of fulfilling their biological role and have a sufficient number of useful properties to ensure the normal life of fish and plants.

If you have decided to go with natural substrate, it is necessary to pay attention to the size of particles (for sand optimum would be under 0.1 inch (2 mm), for gravel - 0.1-0.2 inches (3-5 mm). It is better to choose gravel stones that are smooth to avoid hurting the inhabitants of the aquarium.

The drawbacks of such substrate is it does not contain nutrients for plants and is not suitable for fish species that are buried in the ground. However, in general, this is the best option for the average aquarium. Gravel with sand does not change the chemical composition of the aquatic environment, have a very affordable cost and they are quite easy to clean.

If you want to pick up substrate for abundant vegetation, the perfect solution would be a special nutrient mixture. With it you can create the most favorable environment for growth and development of plants. It usually contain various mineral components, peat, trace elements and useful bacteria. Thanks to such substrates it is possible to provide good purification and circulation of water. This type of substrate will stimulate plant growth over a long period of time. In addition, nutrient mixtures are often used as shrimp feed, so it is advisable to buy them for a shrimp tank.

If you have a pseudo marine aquarium or cichlid, the best solution is to buy coral chips. They contain pelleted particles, have a good porous structure and are able to make the water harder. Therefore, it is not suitable for all varieties of aquarium fish. The disadvantage of coral chips is their ability to darken quickly enough. Therefore, you will need to regularly clean the upper layers of the substrate.

Remember that the best substrate will be the one that is most suitable for the inhabitants of the aquarium. Therefore, the first thing you need to decide on is the type of fish, and only then choose the substrate for aquarium.

Things to consider when choosing substrate

Aquarium gravel substrate

Do not buy substrate of unknown origin with a specific chemical smell. When choosing a substrate, pay attention to the following:

  • Size

Follow the basic rule: the smaller the parameters of your fish, the smaller substrate particles should be. If the rhizomes of the plants are fragile enough, you should choose small particles.

  • Behaviour of fish

If your pet fish like to dig at the bottom, it’s a good idea to opt for large particle options. It is important that the water does not become cloudy quickly. However, there are fish that are buried in the ground and live there. For them, the soil of a very large fraction may not be suitable.

  • Parameters and shape of particles

Make sure that the particles are flat, pelletized, chipped and free of other defects. In order to ensure that the water permeability is correct, care must be taken to ensure that all particles are approximately the same size.

  • Composition of the soil

It is the composition that can influence the different characteristics of water (change its acidity, hardness, etc.). Be sure to study all the characteristics of the soil and how they can affect the water in the aquarium and how that can affect your plants and fish.

When buying a substrate, you can always use the help of a consultant. However, it is important to be aware of the main features of the choice of soil for the aquarium, to understand how it affects the life of pets and plants. Hopefully you found this article useful and have better understanding about the characteristics of different substrates out there so you can choose the best substrate for your aquarium. If you found this useful, please share this article with your friends and subscribe for more helpful fish keeping advice at the bottom of the page.