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10 Best Substrates for Aquarium Plants



10 Best Substrates for Aquarium Plants

When setting up your aquarium choosing the best substrate is a must. Good substrates not only keep your fishes healthy but also are extremely important for the survival of your aquarium plants.  

Now there are plenty of different types of substrates from various brands to choose from. So, obviously it can get pretty confusing for new aquarium owners. So, in this article, I would like to talk about the best substrate for aquarium plants. 

Importance Of Choosing The Right Substrate  

Substrates are pretty important for your aquarium. Good substrates keep your plants healthy and thriving. And these plants are later used by your fishes for shelter and hiding. This keeps them physically and mentally well.   

Moreover, reflections inside your tank can stress fish out. Substrates keep reflections to the minimum! The benefit? Healthier and happier fish! Substrates impact the quality and chemistry of the water too! It can regulate the pH levels. 

So, as you can see, substrate is an essential part of the aquarium environment. And you must take special care when choosing one for your tank.  

10 Best Substrates for Aquarium Plants 

A quick search will give you hundreds of results for aquarium substrates. Here is the deal though, not all of them are worth your time.  

I rounded the top you can buy right now. All these are perfect for aquariums and will give you a healthy and lively tank. So, let’s get started. 

1. Glofish Aquarium Gravel 

If you want the absolute best of the best, then this one from the guys over at Glofish is the one to get. You will love the color it gives your aquariums. Plus, it comes in a range of colors so you can pick the one that works for you. And if you happen to have some LED lights, then prepare to bask in the fantastic glow! 

These are completely environmentally safe and also healthy for your fish. So, there is no need to worry about harming your aquatic life. The formula in it is also quite hi-tech. Its stress reducers and immune boosters will help your Glowfish thrive. It removes chlorine and chloramine as well. 


  • Great choice of colors  
  • Gets rid of chlorine and chloramine 
  • Completely environmentally safe 
  • Visually looks great


  • Granules might be too small for some fish 
  • Colors can fade with time

2. Seachem Flourite Black Sand 

If you have a live aquatic aquarium, this one is the best overall you can find. It is very nutrient-rich and will give your plants all the nutrition it needs. The best part? Replacement is unnecessary. That takes away the hassle altogether. 

It provides all the needed nutrition your plants need to thrive in the aquarium. Replacement is not needed either. That takes some of the maintenance hassles away. And it will give your aquarium a very natural look overall. 


  • Easy to use 
  • Natural look 
  • No replacement needed 
  • Gives all the required nutrition 


  • Needs to be rinsed from time to time 

3. AquaNatural Betta World 

AquaNatural’s substrate works just as well as it looks. The packaging is super-premium. So, you can rest assured that it means quality. I was not disappointed at all! If you have Beta fish in your aquarium, you will love this. It will bring out the color. 

This is a 100% natural product too. So, you do not need to worry about your fish health either. That is always a good thing if you ask me. One of the best parts is it has very little effect on the water pH. 


  • No effect on the water pH 
  • Healthy for fish 
  • Completely natural 
  • Brings out fish color 


4. UP AQUA Sand 

If you want something easy to use, then this one deserves a look. Let’s be honest, as awesome as aquariums look, they are a hassle to clean and maintain. You do not need to rinse before use.  

These will last long too! They are pretty tough and will not break down that easily. The Co2 levels in your aquarium will be on point. The pebbles look great too. They are almost perfectly round that giving your whole aquarium a nice overall look.


  • Keeps pH around 6.5 
  • Gives your aquarium a nice look  
  • No need to rinse before use 


  • Might start to break down a bit after some time 

5. Seachem Fluorite Onyx Sand Substrate 

Easy to use, premium, and safe. That is how I would describe this substrate from Seachem. The name is cool, isn’t it? Well, a cool name does not necessarily mean a good product. Thankfully, that is not the case here. 

It is a completely natural product. That means your aquarium plants and fish will not have any kind of health problems at all! That does mean you need to wash it before use. It can get dusty. So, rinsing it will get rid of all the residual dust. 


  • Completely natural 
  • Easy to use 
  • Removes cloudiness 


  • Needs to be rinsed before use 

6. Fluval Aquatic Peat Granules 

Ask anyone who knows their aquariums, and they will tell you that Fluval is a trusted brand in the substrate space. That trust comes from its great benefits. It softens the water.  

If you have fish like angelfish, discus, or Amazonian cichlids that love soft water, they will love it! It will also enhance the coloration and fish behavior for some species. 


  • Gives you perfect pH 
  • Aids fish coloration  
  • Softens water 


  • Only for freshwater aquariums 

7. Coarse Aragonite 10lb 

At first glance, the packaging of this will catch your eye. The cool graphics and cute little clownfish on the package might just be enough to make me like it. But I had to put my critical hat back on, and see how it performs. 

And boy does it perform. It has an almost unsurpassed buffering capability. It will keep your pH at a very respectable 8.2, stable. There are no impurities either. It is 98% pure calcium carbonate. It has renewable oolitic aragonite. They are sourced sustainability, so you will not harm the environment.  


  • Keeps pH stable 
  • Genuine Marine aragonite 
  • Phosphate-free 


  • No color choices 

8. Aqueon Plant and Shrimp Aquarium Substrate 

Rejoice, freshwater aquarium owners. This substrate from the guys over at Aqueon is something you will love if you own freshwater fish or plants.  

These promote the growth of freshwater plants and are ideal for fish as well. Especially if you have freshwater shrimp, they will love it. These are made from clay-based material that makes this substrate great for aquascaping. 


  • Great for aquascaping 
  • Perfect for freshwater plants  
  • Ideal for shrimps and freshwater fish 


  • The color might not be everybody’s cup of tea 

9. Pisces 22 LBs Gunsmoke Aquarium 

This natural gravel is triple washed to give you the safest substrate around. It is a bit pricey compared to some of the other ones on this list though.  

However, for the quality, I think it is completely worth it. It is easy to use and also comes in all kinds of different sizes. Choose from 4.4, 11, or 22 LBs bags. 


  • Triple washed 
  • Easy to use  
  • Completely natural 


  • Marbles may start to wear a bit 

10. CaribSea Arag-Alive 

This Fiji pink Arag-Alive from CaribSea is a substrate that looks just as great as it performs. It comes with beautiful aragonite that will work well with most aquariums. So, it has the versatility part covered. 

Then there are the millions of marine bacteria. Yes, you read that right, millions. These help the biological function of aquariums! Overall, this is a top-notch choice. 


  • Looks great and natural 
  • Helps the biological functions of aquariums 
  • Versatile 


  • The pink might be a bit underwhelming for some. 

Wrapping Up  

There you have it. Now you know all the 10 best substrate for aquarium plants. Remember that the substrate is not just for show. They perform crucial functions inside an aquarium. So, investing in high-quality substrates is definitely worth it. 

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