Best Substrate for Planted Tank-2023: Choose the Best One

For maintaining a healthy aquarium environment, the planted aquarium is essential. Plants provide hiding spots for fish; maintain oxygen level and algae growth. Proper lighting, water circulation, and the best substrate for planted tank are needed to ensure the optimum growth of plants. The nutrient-rich substrate provides space where aquatic plants and beneficial bacteria grow. Generally, type of substrate depends on the aquarium plants species. Let’s Compare the top 6 Best Substrate for planted tank briefly first.

Comparison Table of Top 6 Best Substrate for Planted Tank

Product Name Image Suitable for

Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

Freshwater plants, fishes, and other aquatic life

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia

Freshwater aquarium plants and fish

Seachem Flourite Black

All planted aquarium

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

Freshwater fish, plants, and shrimp

Mr. Aqua  Plant Soil

Freshwater Aquarium plants, dwarf shrimp, the Siamese fighting fish (Betta) and other fish

UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants

All Planted aquariums

Now it’s time to discuss in details why we consider them as the Best Substrate for Planted Tank. Almost all the substrates of the list has the potentialities to top the list but we had to make a particular product staying in the top. For doing that we studied each of the products a lot, we took actual users opinion and finally our specialized experts team made this list. Let’s read deeply about each one.

Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

Eco-Complete aquarium substrate is a very well known among the aquarium enthusiasts.  It is a complete product which contains iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sulfur and more than 25 other elements suitable for growing aquatic plants.

This substrate is made using a new formula for developing plant’s root system. In the pet business sector, this product is available in a twenty pounds bag.

It has a spherical shape with lots of pores which gives higher diffusion performance. It is perfect for both plants and fish. Live Heterotrophic bacteria are present in this substrate which helps to break down fish waste into food and nutrients suitable for plant growth.

If you use this Eco-Complete substrate, it creates a natural biological balance in your tank and recycling all the nutrients and waste in your tank very first.

Slightly alkaline characteristic is also found in this substrate. This product does not contain any artificial chemicals, coatings, paints, additives or dyes. It never releases any dusty materials and does not discolor your water in your tank.

Eco-Complete is nitrate and carbonate free substrate which does not increase water pH or carbonate hardness in your aquarium for a long term.

It is a beautiful dark substrate which makes a dazzling contrast that promotes the body coloration of plants, fishes, and other aquatic life. It also minimizes any stress of fishes.


  • It does not contain any dyes, paints or chemicals;
  • With essential live bacteria;
  • It promotes the body coloration of fish and plants in your aquarium;
  • It never discolors your tank water;
  • It contains important minerals with essential nutrients;
  • It has a spherical shape with lots of pores;
  • Available in appealing colors;
  • It does not increase pH and carbonate hardness in your tank;
  • It promotes the growth of plants and its root system;


  • Sometimes waste materials are visible  due to its black color;
  • When you first open the bag, you will get bad smells;

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia  

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia is a very popular and brand new substrate material which is made by the famous ADA Company using processed natural material that comes from the earth.

This type of substrate is ideal for those aquarium enthusiasts who keep lots of different plants species in the aquarium.

It contains rich organic acid and nutrients that create outstanding base suitable for growing aquarium plant`s root.

It maintains the pH level of aquarium water in such a way that is suitable for most of the plants. They also provide a pleasant environment for fishes in your aquarium that need soft water condition. 

This type of soil makes transparency water in your aquarium which enhances healthy environment suitable for aquatic plants.

Aqua soil has the perfect shape and granule size which is suitable for aquatic plants. Underwater condition, shape, and structure of Aqua soil granules remain intact for a long time which helps for developing the faster growth of plant’s root system. 

They also help to enhance water circulation for increasing oxygen in water suitable for fish. If you use this substrate, it provides an excellent bottom layer and will never release any dirt and your aquarium water always remain clear.


  • It is nutrient rich substrate;
  • It has perfect size of granules suitable for plants;
  • It is suitable for that aquarium where lots of different types of plants are kept together;
  • It maintains pH level down and creates soften water;
  • It helps to reduce algae blooms in your tank;


  • Shape and structure of soil may break down; needs replacement;
  • It is relatively expensive than another substrate;
  • It does not provide brilliant look like natural gravel;

Seachem Flourite Black 

Flourite Black is a clay-based substrate which is rich in iron with other essential nutrients. It has lots of pores which are suitable for developing plant`s root system. You can also use it with another substrate in your aquarium.

This type of substrate does not have any chemical and harmful substances. It maintains the pH level and does not influence other water quality in your aquarium.

In the market, it is found as black in color which is available in a package of 7 kg (15.4 lbs). It helps to develop root system for plants and makes your plants healthier.

It is long lasting and durable that never need to replacement because it always stays up to the life of your aquarium if proper maintenance is taken. 

This substrate releases lots of dusty in your aquarium water during the first use and makes your water unclear for sometimes. After few minutes, the water becomes clear again. 

This substrate is not suitable for plants that have the more delicate root system. It is recommended to clean the substrate carefully before adding it to your planted aquarium to eliminate any dust.


  • It is clay-based porous substrate;
  • With lots of essential nutrients;
  • It maintains the pH level and other water parameters in your tank;
  • You can use it with another substrate;
  • It never needs to replacement due to their long-term stability;


  • It is not suitable for plants that have delicate root system;
  • It makes the water cloudy when first used;
  • It is comparatively expensive than another substrate;

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum 

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum substrates are perfect for those aquarists who keep fish, plants, and shrimp in the same tank.

This type substrate is made using volcanic soil that contains natural and mineral rich organic substances which are very useful for the rapid growth of plants and their root system. 

These substrates have natural properties that help to maintain slightly acidic to neutral pH. It is suitable for most plants species, freshwater tropical fish species, and shrimp. 

This substrate has a porous structure with light and non-compaction characteristics which help to encourage the growth of nitrifying beneficial bacteria and makes your tank water perfect for plants species. These nitrifying bacteria help to retain the water level optimum in your tank.

Besides plants and other fish species, this substrate is particularly well suited for shrimp due to their size of the particles. This Fluval substrate also gives safe haven for newly born shrimp species and save themselves from predation from other fish species.

It is an extremely appealing substrate that never discolors the tank water and prevents organic staining from natural driftwood.


  • It gives slightly acidic to neutral water;
  • It is made using mineral-rich volcanic soil;
  • It promotes plants growth and their root system;
  • It is light with a porous structure suitable for growing beneficial bacteria;
  • It is suitable for freshwater aquariums ;


  • It needs to wash several times before using to prevent cloudy water;
  • It is comparatively expensive than another type of substrate;

Mr. Aqua  Water Plant Soil 

Mr. Aqua Aquarium Soil is the fantastic substrate and its demand is increasing among the pet fish enthusiasts day by day due to attractive black coloration.

It contains all the necessary nutrients which are essential for growing plants in your aquarium. This substrate also promotes the healthy root system of plants and makes your plants strong and stable in the aquatic environment.

It is smooth and round shape with 0.5 cm in diameter.  The substrate has lots of pores which help to grow healthy bacteria that need for making a suitable environment for aquarium inhabitants.

Mr. Aqua plant soil helps to clean the aquarium water by removing stain caused by driftwood. It always controls and maintains the pH level between 6.6 and 6.8 in your aquarium which is ideal for aquatic plants.

The substrate is black in color which makes your aquarium more attractive among bright green plants. It is designed using a special formula which also helps to support dwarf shrimp and the Siamese fighting fish (Betta).

It is a long lasting plant substrate which lasts for 12-18 months and continues release nutrition into the aquarium.

In the market, it comes in a smaller package. You can use one bag substrate for approximately 36″ x 12″ at 1″ deep or 20″ x 11″ at 2″ deep.

This substrate releases a little dusty which can make your water cloudy for a few hours during the first time putting the substrate into the water.


  • It is nutrient rich substrate;
  • It always controls and maintains the pH level between 6.6 and 6.8 in your tank;
  • It helps to promote plants root development;
  • It is suitable for Betta or Dwarf Shrimp;
  • It durable and lasts for 12-18 months;
  • It cleans the water;
  • It makes your aquarium more attractive;


  • It contains some dusty materials which make cloudy water for a few hours;
  • It needs wash for several times before placing inside the tank;

UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants 

UP Aqua Sand is the preferred substrate among the aquarium enthusiasts who keep fish and plants in the same aquarium. Because this substrate is made particularly for the aquarium plants.

It has lots of pores with light and round shape which encourage the growth of plant`s root development into the substrate and makes your plants strong and stable.

This substrate does not release any dusty materials into the water. The grain of the substrate is very strong and does not break down easily and lasts as long as for your aquarium.

The substrate contains enough nutrients which help to increase the growth of your plants and make your plants healthy. You can make good aquatic ecosystem using this substrate. In this case, another substrate does not add with it at all.

You can also maintain and control pH level by using this substrate in your aquarium between 6.5 to 7.0 which is suitable for the most of the fish and plants.

Overall, it is a perfect product for the planted aquarium. It does not make your tank water cloudy.

One bag contains 11 pounds substrate which is enough for a 20 gallons tank. We prescribe you to use this favorite substrate to make your plants strong and healthy.


  • It contains enough nutrients for proper plant growth;
  • Durable and long-lasting due to their non-breakable characteristics;
  • It always controls pH level between 6.4 and 7.0, ideal for aquatic plants;
  • With lots of pores and round structure, suitable for plants root development;
  • It does not need to wash the soil before using in your aquarium;
  • It never makes your tank water cloudy;


  • Complaint about the bag ripped during delivery;

Aquarium Substrate Facts

The substrate is a very important item for any Aquarium which makes the floor of the tank where aquarium plants keep their root system. It plays an important role to get sufficient nutrient through proper development of plant’s root system.

Enough organic products are produced in the aquarium by the aquarium inhabitants which are deposited in the substrate and finally it helps the growth of plants.

Some substrates adversely affect the water quality by lowering or raising water hardness and pH. In this case, you should always use the suitable substrate that does not adversely affect the water quality.

In the pet fish business sector, several substrates are available with sensible cost. You should not use crushed coral or shells because they make a high carbonate hardness and high pH.

The depth of the substrate should be between 3 and 8 mm thick. Longer rooted plants need deeper substrate than shorter rooted plants. Avoid synthetic gravel which is coated with epoxy or glass beads and colored ceramics.

The substrate should not have a large particle size and particle sizes should be approximately 1 to 3 mm in diameter because particle sizes act as a debris trap and allow more water to pass through.

Benefits of Substrate

  • To make a healthy root system, plants need suitable substrate;
  • Substrate helps the growth of plants;
  • Substrate makes the natural environment in your aquarium;
  • This helps to make a safe home for aquarium fish;
  • It provides spawning ground for many fish species;
  • Substrates help to keep feces and fish waste from floating around;
  • Substrates act as natural filters to keep your fish happy and healthy;
  • It reduces stress;
  • Substrates provide areas where fish search food;
  • It gives the aesthetic value in any aquarium;
  • The substrate offers a space for the beneficial bacteria to make colonies;

Different Types of Substrates

In the pet fish market, different types of substrates are available. Among them, aquarium sand, gravel, common pea gravel, nutrient-rich substrates, soil-based substrates, lime-free gravel, and clay substrates are best for your aquarium plants. To get a suitable environment for your specific types of plants, you should mix different substrates together.


Sand is used as a very common and important substrate for plants in the aquarium. Sand makes the aquarium like in a natural environment.  Aquarium inhabitants such as fish and other animals use sand substrate where they search food and make hiding spot or spawning ground.

In nature, sand is available in river beds, ocean floor, and coral scenes. At present, in the pet business market, different types of sand such as Silica sand, pool sand, onyx sand, and other commercial types of sands are available which will make your aquarium natural. These types of sand substrates do not contain sufficient nutrition.

Sand holds the plant`s root more tightly.  In the pet market, commercially sand is available, such as Fluorite. You should use commercial sand together with common sand in the planted tank.

Generally sand, especially silica sand contains lots of dusty. In this case, you must wash any type of sand to remove any dirt before using in your aquarium.


For the freshwater aquarium, gravel is the most commonly used substrate. Gravel helps to make the natural environment in your aquarium. It is inexpensive and easy to use in the aquarium.

Gravel size should be small that should be ranged from 1 to 3 mm. Gravel should be smooth to prevent any damage to your fish. Small sized gravel makes a good surface for aquatic plants where plants develop a good root system easily. In this case, you should always use any kind of chemicals free substrate.

Always top layer of the tank bottom should be covered with gravel where the plants develop their root system. For optimum growth for your plants, the high-quality substrate should be used. In this case, you can use a combination of gravel and commercially ready substrate (eco-complete). This type of combined substrate helps to provide the proper iron which is essential for optimum growth of the plant in the aquarium.


Laterite is one kind of clay which is suitable for your planted tank. Generally, the main component of Laterite is cat litter which contains clumping and perfumes additives. Before using it, you should handle it carefully. You can use it as a lower or upper layer substrate.

It has the porous structure which contains high-level iron-oxide suitable for plant roots. If you use it an upper layer, you must wash it before using.

This type of substrate has reddish or brown appearance due to high levels of iron-oxide which contribute to a high cation exchange rate. Laterite holds nutrients with their porous structure and plants use it through their root system.


Fluorite is a very preferred substrate for the natural planted aquarium. It is also lightweight clay gravel with lots of pores which can be used to make a natural environment for any freshwater aquarium. It contains high levels of iron which is essential for developing plant`s root.

This type of substrate is not cheap but you can use it in your aquarium for a long time without replacing it. For better growth of your plants, you should use a mixture of sand, gravel, and fluorite.

It does not contain any chemicals which are suitable for any aquarium inhabitants. It does not alter the water chemistry (especially, pH) in your aquarium. You should wash it before using.

Marble chippings

Marble chippings are the favorable aquarium substrates. It is inexpensive and contains more calcium carbonate. It has a nice looking appearance with lots of pores which help filter out the water.

Sometimes, a layer of marbles is used as a substrate in breeding tanks to keep eggs for egg-scattering species. This type of substrate makes gaps between the marbles where female fish lay eggs to prevent eating the eggs from other fish.

Soil or soil-like substrate

It is a good substrate for any planted tanks. It is ideal for such plants that need strong root systems.  Soil must be porous to ensure the exchange processes.

If you collect soil from natural reservoirs or other sources, careful treatment should be done to remove any debris or any contaminants. In this case, the soil must be washed carefully until the water becomes clear.

In the pet business sector, many manufacturers offer sterile soils which do not need rinsing.


Marble is also used in the aquarium as substrate. It has many colors which are usually used for decoration purposes by many aquarists. When you use marble as a substrate, they provide a colorful look to your aquarium and make a large gap between each marble.

Egg-laying fish lays their eggs in this gap to prevent eating the eggs from other fish in the tank and the eggs remain safe. These gaps are also used to trap any food item which prevents to grow beneficial bacteria in the aquarium.

Crushed Coral

It is a good substrate for an aquarium. It helps raise the pH and buffering capacity of the water in your planted tank. This type of substrate is suitable for those fish species which prefer hard alkaline water.

This substrate also provides lots of space for beneficial bacteria. Crushed corals never need to be replaced. If you use it in your aquarium, in this case, grain size should be 2.0-5.5 mm. It should be rinsed before using in your aquarium to eliminate any dirty materials.

Large River Rock

Large river rocks are also used as a substrate in a planted aquarium by many aquarists. They provide an attractive look in your aquarium.


Eco-Complete is one of the best substrates for the freshwater aquarium. This type of substrate contains high levels of iron with more than 25 necessary nutrients suitable for plant growth.

It also contains a live Heterotrophic bacterium which helps to convert fish waste to a useful material in the water for your plant. You can use it directly in your aquarium without rinsing.  


It is also a very preferred substrate among the aquarium enthusiasts. It contains high cation exchange rate with different types of mineral such as magnesium, aluminum, and iron suitable for plant growth.

Generally, it is used as a lower level substrate and it should be used with gravel or laterite. For a long period of time, this substrate slowly releases nutrients for plants in your aquarium.

Selection of Substrate

Before selecting the best substrate for planted tank, following key characteristics should be kept in mind:

  • The substrate should have lots of porous which is essential for developing plants root system;
  • They should have the capability to store sufficient nutrients for your plants;
  • The substrate should contain both trace elements and macro-nutrient;
  • The substrate should not have any chemical or dying coating materials;
  • The substrate should be purchased from the well-known manufacturers;
  • The substrate should be carefully washed to remove any debris before using it in the aquarium;
  • Regular care of the substrate should be taken to prevent waste collecting;
  • It is recommended to vacuum the substrate once a week;
  • You should choose the correct substrate for plant life in your aquarium;
  • The substrate should be nutrient rich for optimum growth of your aquatic plants;

Concluding Remarks

Today, there are many different substrates available with sensible cost in the pet fish business sector. It is very difficult to choose the best substrate for planted tank. For this reason, we have done deep research to make a list of the best substrates for planted tank. You touch the above-reviewed articles and take a decision easily to select the best one for your aquarium without hassle.

You might also like to read: Best Aquarium Plants For Betta Fish

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