Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The best aquarium substrate for your aquatic plants

The nitrogen cycle in aquariums makes the beginning stages tricky, especially if you have delicate fish and plants. A good aquarium substrate helps you during this sensitive stage by allowing helpful bacteria and plants to grow so your fish can swim in purified waters. We’ve done the work and researched the top planted aquarium substrates to help you find the right material for your tank.

The typical planted aquarium substrate has essential nutrients like magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and other minerals. Some will turn your water slightly acidic, while others have no effect on your tank’s pH. Keep this in mind as you search for your substrate, as it might affect how well your fish and plants adapt to their new home.

Some common substrates include volcanic soil and synthetic clay gravel. Both contain high levels of nutrients that support plant, fish, and bacterial growth, so some things to look for are whether they’ll affect water pH, whether they’ll stain the water, and how well they’ll work with other parts of your aquarium. Now, let’s take a look at our candidates.

CaribSea Eco Aquarium Substrate

Best Complete Substrate

CaribSea’s substrate is a nutrient-rich basaltic material that encourages good bacteria and aquatic plants to grow. This complete substrate contains more than 30 minerals needed for a healthy aquarium like potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium. When you mix this into an already established tank, gradually introduce a pound or two a day over a week or longer.

Fluval Plant And Shrimp Stratum

Best Volcanic Soil

The Fluval plant and shrimp substrate is sourced from nutrient-packed volcanic soil sourced from Japan’s Mount Aso. It’s ideally used for plants or juvenile shrimp in freshwater aquariums. Its light, porous surface makes it an attractive breeding ground for beneficial bacteria that keep your aquarium water clean. This substrate does not stain your water.

Seachem Aquarium Substrate

Best Clay Gravel

Seachem’s aquarium substrate is the best clay gravel alternative to volcanic soil. It works best as a single substrate, but feel free to mix this material with other gravels in your tank. This neutral gravel will last forever as long as your aquarium is in use.

Planted aquarium substrates are fundamental to healthy plants, fish, and your overall water tank system. They support healthy bacteria growth that helps purify your water so it doesn’t get loaded with waste and debris. Incorporate a layer of nutrient-filled substrate to your aquarium to discover just how much cleaner your water is and how much happier your precious aquatic pets are. Luckily, any of the substrates on our list is compatible with most water tanks, plants, and fish.

PawTracks Contributor
PawTracks Contributor
What do painted turtles eat? This is the only feeding guide you’ll need
Find out what to feed them and what not to feed them
Painted turtle eats a mealworm

You bring home a little turtle to a beautiful habitat and realize you forgot one big thing: What do painted turtles eat? Because these turtles are an aquatic species, they spend most of their time in the water — both in the wild and in your house. This greatly impacts their diet, especially because as they consume meals, they must swallow under the surface.

Painted turtles are also omnivores and like a wide variety of foods. While many of these can be placed in their housing, you should also have a separate feeding tank, which will massively cut down on the mess. All food from the main tank will have to be scooped out daily; otherwise, it rots. Nevertheless, feeding your turtle can be fun, and occasionally they can even eat what you do.

Read more
Why do birds bob their heads? These are the reasons parrots and other birds do it
This behavior is a natural response
Parrot bobbing his head

Parrots are hilarious and clever birds that make for a wonderful pet. They will fill your home with well-timed squaws and maybe some funny catchphrases. They also have one of the most incredible body languages in the animal kingdom and are often recognized for their peculiar head bobbing.

Bird owners spend hours observing the many messages these guys send with their movements. So, why do birds bob their heads? We'll explain why parrots head bob and also why other types of birds do it as well.

Read more
Best hamster bedding: The safest options for your furry friend
Try out these hamster bedding options in the cage
Hamster in wood shavings in cage

To be healthy and happy, your hamster needs bedding that he can burrow into. Bedding absorbs urine and gives your hamster a soft, safe surface. But finding the best hamster bedding can take time, especially if you're new to owning a hamster.

Best hamster bedding
While it's sensible to look for cheap hamster bedding options, it's just as important to ensure that you're buying a product that's also safe for your little guy. The following bedding types are not only affordable but also pet-friendly and available at stores and online retailers.
Aspen shavings
Wood shavings are probably the most widely used type of small-animal bedding available. Shavings are a great, cheap hamster substrate, and when you buy a larger package, you can get even better value.

Read more