The 8 Best Substrates for Aquariums of 2022

Substrate for aquarium – Buying Guide, Opinions and Analysis

The use of substrate in an aquarium is essential to root the plants that form the habitat of the fish. In addition, these types of products have a series of nutrients, which are transmitted to the vegetation to improve its condition, accelerate growth and extend its lifespan. For example, a product with great benefits for plants and fish is Ocean Free Aqua Gro, which helps to accelerate the development of plants and balance the pH of the water. Another purchase alternative for those who have a freshwater aquarium is Tetra CompleteSubstrate, whose presentation of five kilograms yields for structures of 12 liters.

The 8 Best Substrates for Aquariums – Opinions 2022

Below, we present a selection of eight aquarium substrates recommended in the main purchase portals as the best of the year 2022.

Substrate for planted aquarium

1. Ocean Free PM219 Gravel Aqua Gro Plant Substrate

This product is recommended as the best aquarium substrate, thanks to the fact that its granules, no more than four millimeters in size, have a series of beneficial nutrients for plants and fish. Thus, it helps aquatic vegetation to take root and grow in a healthy way in the shortest possible time.

The substrate has the peculiarity of balancing the pH of the water, keeping it below 7. This happens because, when it comes into contact with the liquid, the product manages to transform the ammonia or toxic gas into ammonium ion, which is a substance that is not harmful to the gills of fish. In addition, this planted aquarium substrate has some clay components, which are responsible for the dark color of the grains. 

Regarding the presentation of the substrate, we have that it was packed in a three-liter bag, made of resistant paper, which will keep the granules protected against external agents.

This could be the best aquarium substrate of the moment, because it nourishes the plants and balances the pH of the water for the well-being of the fish. Here, other details.


Packaging: Thanks to its robust bag, the product will remain protected from humidity.

Nutrients: Its properties stimulate the growth of plants with a good level of nutrition.

pH: With this substrate it is possible to stabilize the pH of the water, because it eliminates bicarbonates and carbonates.

Granulated: The grains have a size no larger than four millimeters, which will allow proper rooting.


Clay: Due to the clay elements in the substrate, the water could become cloudy.

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Nutrient substrate for aquarium

2. Tetra CompleteSubstrate Nutrient-rich substrate with fertilizer

Recommended as one of the best aquarium substrates for 2022, this product stands out on the market, aimed at the care and nutrition of freshwater plants. It is a formula enriched with a series of minerals such as iron and micronutrients, which help the healthy growth of vegetation. In addition, this substrate improves the appearance of the plants, giving them a more vibrant tone in each of their leaves.

On the other hand, there is the issue of rooting, which occurs rapidly because the laboratory incorporated quartz sand into the grains. In fact, with this nutritious aquarium substrate, the root filaments gain resistance and, therefore, the plants have a longer life.

Finally, we must mention the presentation, for which a plastic jar with an easy-open lid was used, in which there are five kilos of substrate, which yield for 12-liter aquariums.

Tetra is commented as the best brand of substrates for aquariums, since it offers high quality products. Next, the details about one of them.


Rooting: You will achieve rapid rooting of the plants, thanks to the integrated quartz sand.

Nutrition: The substrate has iron deposits, which are favorable to increase the greenness of the plants.

Presentation: The yielding presentation of five kilograms is designed for aquariums of 120 liters.

Container: Its plastic jar-shaped container will keep the substrate protected from external agents.


Use: After placing the substrate it will be necessary to add a layer of gravel, which suggests an extra expense.

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black substrate for aquarium

3. Novopet JBL Manado Dark

With this black aquarium substrate you will create a contrast of great visual appeal, with respect to the tone of the plants and the color of the fish incorporated into the structure. In addition, it is a granulate with a particular porous body, which facilitates the rooting process of the vegetation. In this way, the successful transmission of nutrients and iron through the root filaments is possible, with the purpose of strengthening the plant and having a long life.

These are just some of the reasons why some people say they have found, in this product, the answer to which is the best aquarium substrate. Likewise, there is the fact that its presentation of five kilos is profitable, which will allow you to place a layer of at least four centimeters in the bottom of a fish tank with a capacity of no more than 12 liters.

If you are wondering which aquarium substrate to buy, you might be interested in the pros and cons of this product.


Rooting: The plants take root in less time, due to the porosity of the grains.

Presentation: Its presentation of five kilograms was contained in a plastic bag, which you can easily store.

Granulated: Thanks to the dark brown color of the granulated, you will achieve an interesting contrast with respect to the green of the plants.

Nutrition: The iron concentrate helps the plant to have a more intense tone in its leaves.


Washing: It is necessary to wash the substrate before use, otherwise it could give the water a cloudy appearance.

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Other products

4. Croci A4000140 Aquarium Gravel

Among the cheapest aquarium substrates in this selection of products we have this product marketed by Croci. It is a limestone rock gravel, whose grains are no larger than five millimeters in size and have a particular color that will contrast with the tones of the plants and fish.

On the other hand, the product has been packed in a reinforced plastic bag, so that moisture does not enter and, therefore, the grains remain in good condition. In addition, with its five-kilogram presentation, you will cover the bottom of a medium-sized fish tank without having to purchase several packages, since it is a profitable substrate.

It is also important to mention that it is a decorative product for the aquarium, which could release a low percentage of carbonates in the water. In this sense, it is considered a non-toxic salt, but one that could certainly alter the pH a little.

This is an aquarium substrate with a number of positive aspects and others that could be less favorable, which we present below.


Granulated: The granulated has a size of five millimeters, so it allows the free flow of water in the aquarium.

Use: This is a substrate for decorative use that, due to its color, will help create an aesthetically harmonious habitat.

Packaging: Its plastic packaging allows for practical handling and safe storage.

Durability: You can transfer this granulate to another aquarium, since it has a long duration.


Dirt: It is important that you wash all the grains beforehand, as they could contain dirt.

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5. Fluval 12694 Plant & Shrimp Substrate

Mount Aso, located in the island nation of Japan, has a series of volcanic hills from which this aquarium substrate has been extracted, whose composition is loaded with essential minerals for the healthy growth of aquatic plants. Likewise, this substrate has the ability to stabilize the pH of the water.

The granulate is characterized by having a soft body and great porosity, which is convenient for plants, since this allows them to take root more easily and, in this way, absorb all the nutrients. In addition, the dark brown color of the grains helps to visually enhance the green tone of the plants, the color of the fish and other decoration elements incorporated into the aquarium.

The presentation of the product is 4 kilograms or 8.8 pounds of substrate, which have been packed in a bag duly identified with all the details about the composition and use of the granules.

Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of an aquarium substrate extracted from the volcanic hills of Japan, which will provide essential nutrients for plants.


Rooting: Thanks to the porosity of the grains, the plants will take root easily.

Growth: The plant will grow quickly, due to the nutrient load of the substrate.

Shelf life: This is a product that can be used for a whole year, without losing its properties.

PH: You won’t have to worry about changing the pH of the water, since the substrate helps stabilize it.


Consistency: The grains have a slightly soft body, so they could fall apart if not handled carefully.

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6. Marina Gravel Rainbow stone

This is a product made in China with export quality, which will give the aquarium a fun and vibrant touch, thanks to the color of the grains. In addition, with the use of this gravel you benefit the health of the water, since the surface of each of the grains is suitable for some of the bacteria that coexist in the fish tank to colonize. In this way, it is possible to achieve a successful biological filtration. 

This is possible thanks to the epoxy-type resin, applied to each of the grains, whose composition is free of any type of toxic agent that is harmful to fish.

On the other hand, there is the issue of product packaging. For this, a robust blue plastic bag was used, on which all the information regarding this gravel is printed, as well as the step by step of its use and some recommendations.

If you want a colorful aquarium without chemical alterations to the water, this product is a good option. Next, more aspects about him.


Healthy water: The water will have a natural filtration, because the surface of the grains allows some bacteria to colonize.

Colorful: Thanks to the colorful grains, it is possible to give the aquarium a fun and vibrant aesthetic.

Safety: The chemistry of the water will remain stable, because the grain coating is non-toxic.

Presentation: Its plastic bag contains two kilograms of content, which is sufficient for small aquariums.


Mold: With the passing of days, it is possible that mold begins to appear on the grains, if they are not preserved correctly.

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7. Amtra Fine Quartz for Aquariums

This product has been commented on the web as the best value for money aquarium substrate, whose presentation of two kilograms has been packed in a transparent plastic bag, which allows you to appreciate the shape of the quartz. In addition, said wrapper was pressure sealed at the top and bottom, to prevent spills and the passage of moisture inside.

On the other hand, the granules of this substrate are white in color and have a format no longer than a millimeter in length, so it is an ideal grit to create backgrounds in any freshwater aquarium. In fact, the fish will be able to dive under it without fear of being hurt.

It is important to mention that this substrate is of a natural type, so it is free of carbonates or any toxic agent that is capable of raising the pH levels of the water or clouding it.

Among the cheapest aquarium substrates, this sand presentation stands out, which will help you create the bottom of the fish habitat. Here, more data.


Grains: Its grains, no larger than one millimeter, allow the fish to dive under them.

Non-toxic: The product is free of toxic agents that can alter the water.

Use: With this product you will create decorative backgrounds in freshwater aquariums.

Presentation: The proposal of two kilograms is suitable for small and medium aquariums.


Color: Although the package indicates that the color of the quartz is white, we will find some golden grains and others black.

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8. Blau Aquaristic 7740009 Terra Active Normal

Blau Aquaristic is a highly recognized brand of aquarium substrates in the market, whose products are characterized by offering benefits for the growth of aquatic vegetation. An example of this is this two-liter presentation, packed in a resistant plastic bag that has all the information on the manufacture and use of the product printed on the outside.

The granules are dark brown in color and their size does not exceed four millimeters. In addition, the body of the grains is soft, which is favorable for the rapid rooting of plants, allowing them to more easily absorb all the nutrients contained in the substrate.

On the other hand, it is important to mention that this product has been specially designed for those who are interested in shrimp farming, since it slightly acidifies the water, providing the conditions that favor these species.

Next, you will be able to know the pros and cons of an aquarium substrate that will help aquatic plants grow green and healthy.


Growth: This granules provide the plants with an important concentration of nutrients, which accelerate their growth.

Cleaning: The substrate keeps the water clear by not dissolving, therefore, your aquarium stays clean.

Packaging: Its packaging is resistant to keep the product protected from the action of external agents.

Kernels: Because the kernels are soft, plants can take root easily.


PH: If your aquarium must maintain alkaline levels in the water, this substrate may not be the most appropriate.

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Shopping guide

There are many types of aquarium substrate on the market, allowing people more options when evaluating quality identifiers on such products. In this way, it is possible to bring a presentation that really adapts to the needs of the aquatic plants that will be in the fish tank. Here is a guide to buying the best aquarium substrate.


The type of granulate is evaluated in any comparison of aquarium substrates, since, for example, if it is a grain with a size of less than one millimeter, the fish will be able to submerge under them easily without hurting themselves. In fact, this type of grit is usually used to create decorative backgrounds.

On the other hand, there is the substrate with a format less than or equal to five millimeters. This grain can have a soft and even porous body, which is favorable for the rapid and successful rooting process of plants. In this way, the roots completely surround the grains as if they were integrated into them, allowing them to better absorb nutrients for their healthy growth.

Plus, there’s the equally large, but colorful granulate. It is a product manufactured with a decorative purpose, since each of the grains has been coated with resin, so that dirt particles do not come off them that end up making the water cloudy.

nutritional properties

When purchasing an aquarium substrate, it is certainly important to consider how much the product costs, but this does not mean that we will only select it based on its cost. It is necessary to know the properties offered by the granulate and what impact the incorporation of said substrate will have on the fish habitat.

Ideally, it should be a product rich in nutrients that, over the days, are transmitted to the plants through their roots, so that they grow quickly, are strong and have an intense green color. In this sense, there are clay substrates with a high concentration of magnesium, iron, aluminum oxide, among other minerals. In addition, some products are characterized by balancing the pH of the water. Thus, the substrate grains convert ammonia into ammonium ion, that is, the toxic gas is transformed into a harmless substance for fish.


When talking about the presentation of the product, reference is not only made to the design of the packaging, but also to the practicality that it offers to be handled and stored. Similarly, there is the amount of content offered, which must be acquired according to the size of the aquarium.

With regard to packaging, manufacturers usually use plastic bags. If this is the case, the ideal is to verify that the material is robust, to prevent it from breaking easily. In addition, it is recommended that it be a recyclable plastic, free of BPA or other toxic agents that can be released and contaminate the substrate. This same recommendation applies to jar-type containers.

On the other hand, there is the amount of granules incorporated into the package, which can normally vary between two and up to five kilograms, this being the right amount to cover the floor of a fish tank with a small or medium format. Similarly, there are brands that offer presentations of eight or more kilograms. However, the selection of the grammage is a decision that will depend on the size of the aquarium.

Substrate cleaning

It is important to keep in mind that these granules, despite being of natural origin, have dirt, which can be transmitted by contact with water. Therefore, regardless of whether it is an economic substrate or one with a high acquisition cost, it is essential to review the information provided by the manufacturer on the package. In this way, we will know if it is necessary to wash the granules and, if so, we will know the step by step to do it.

In this sense, most substrates must be placed in a pot with fresh tap water, to be gently stirred and remove the excesses. This procedure must be repeated at least three times, in order to remove all the dirt or grit detached from the soft-bodied clay grains.

In this way, it will be safe to plant the substrate at the bottom of the aquarium, and thus prevent the pH of the water from rising, as this would affect the health of the plants and fish.

Frequently asked questions

Q1: How to make aquarium nutrient substrate?

There are many formulas to prepare nutrient substrate for aquarium. You just need to collect some materials and plant them.

For example, you can use sand, which is an inert granule; that is, it does not alter the pH of the water. Likewise, you can also use volcanic gravel, characterized by being organic and having great porosity to enhance rooting. For its part, the ground brick has a clay body and, finally, the black earth is the result of decomposed organic matter, so it has a large amount of nutrients.

In the same way, you can combine volcanic sand and gravel with humus, which is the well-known organic earthworm and clay fertilizer, whose mineral contribution is important, because it has magnesium, iron and aluminum oxide.

Q2: How to prepare aquarium substrate?

The aquarium substrate must be prepared in layers, that is, do not mix all the ingredients. For this reason, it is necessary to spread previously moistened mud at the base of the aquarium, to continue with an ingredient that contains said humidity and, therefore, the nutrients. In this sense, pipe moss or petmoss could be used.

Next, place compost and, on top of it, a material that helps acidify the pH of the water and retain minerals, such as coconut fiber. To finish, it is important to incorporate a layer of unfertilized soil and another of gravel, whose function is to stabilize the plants.

Q3: How to clean the aquarium substrate?

Cleaning the aquarium substrate is a simple task. All you have to do is take the granule packaging, open it and empty the entire content into a container with fresh water. Afterwards, it is necessary to carefully shake the substrate, to then pour it over a sieve. Thus, the dirty water will go down the drain and the grains will be free of dirt.

Q4: How to change the substrate of my aquarium?

To change the aquarium substrate, the first thing to do is move the fish to a container along with 80% of the water, the heater and the respective filter. Then, remove all the decorative elements and the gravel.

To continue with the task, you will have to put on some gloves and begin to remove the layers of substrate, trying as much as possible not to dirty the walls of the aquarium. In this way, you can replant the commercial or homemade substrate and re-incorporate the decorations, water and fish.

Q5: How to calculate the substrate for an aquarium?

The amount of substrate required by the aquarium should not be calculated lightly. It is necessary to know the width, height and volume of the structure, to apply a formula to these dimensions with which the exact volume of the granules to be used will be determined.

It is about knowing the amount of substrate in liters (CS), multiplying the height (L) that the aquarium has, the width (A) and the thickness (E). All this expressed in centimeters. Then, it must be divided by 1000, since this is the conversion factor to convert the centimeters of the measurement to liters. Thus, following the simple formula CS= (L x W x E) / 1000, we will be able to calculate the substrate for the aquarium.

Q6: How to put substrate in aquarium?

To place the substrate in the aquarium, it is necessary to start by calculating the amount of product that we will need, according to the dimensions of the structure. To do this, we can use a mobile application or a website.

Then, place a layer of between five or eight centimeters of the purchased substrate. Remember that this will depend on the type of vegetation, since there are some plants that require greater depth to take root.

In addition, it is important to fertilize the granulate and spread a layer of gravel or grit over it. In this way, it will be protected and, therefore, the nutrients will be retained for a better use of the plants. Likewise, this last surface serves as a decorative element for the soil of the ecosystem, while helping to maintain the stability of the vegetation.

Q7: When to change the aquarium substrate?

Normally, the substrate planted in the aquarium lasts between one and up to two years. Of course, this will depend on the impact of the pH of the water and the intensity of the light used in the habitat.

These are determining factors for the conservation of the substrate, which could deplete the nutrients of the granules. Likewise, it is likely that the requirements of each plant have an influence, since some of them need a higher load of minerals to develop. For these reasons, it is convenient to frequently fertilize the substrate planted in the aquarium, to extend the useful life of the granules.

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