Best Soil Substrates For Planted Tanks – Reviews & Guide

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The success of any aquarium or aquascape depends on the planted tank substrate used. Aquatic plants, just like garden plants, have a complex root system which helps them absorb the necessary nutrients they need for their survival. These nutrients play major role in the health, growth rate and coloration of aquarium plants. Substrates that are rich in nutrients can help combat the growth of unwanted algae by allowing your plants to grow and overtake the growth of these weeds, absorbing all the nutrients, and killing them by starving them to death.

They are many manufacturers of plant substrates today which are popular for their success and good prices. However, the competition in the substrate market is overwhelming as many companies are trying to outsmart each other by offering unique products with extra features. This article takes a look at some of these brands and the product they offer.

awesome live plant gravel - Editor's Choice
  • awesome live plant gravel
  • best substrate for healthy aquariums
  • useful and simple plant soil
  • great for planted tanks
Great Substrate - high quality
  • crystal clear water
  • keeps tank bottom looking clean
  • hel maintain good water condition
  • perfect for shrimp, live plants and bettas
Beautiful And Genuine - Best Value
  • Beautiful and genuinely plant friendly
  • easy to clean gravel
  • can make your plants grow healthy
Wonderful Substrate - Highly Recommended
  • has a lovely black color
  • Great for shrimp or plants
  • easy to maintain
  • beautiful and easy to use
Great Soil - Money Saver
  • designed for aquatic gardens and long term use
  • great for shrimp
Simply The Best - Best Quality
  • Great Soil for Shrimps and plants
  • Great soil for carpeting plants and some stem plants.
  • soil is very tough and does not break apart easily
Great Look And Easy - Great Value
  • Beautiful black substrate for planted aquarium
  • Good weight in water

Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate - Awesome live plant gravel

The Eco Complete planted black aquarium substrate is designed with a new formula for enhancing the root development of your aquatic plants. This substrate outperforms other substrates with its greatly enriched natural soil formula that mimics the rich soil in Hawaii, Costa Rica and Bali – the regions are known for the lush and exuberant growth of the plants.

The secret of this substrate lies in the fact that it is composed of rich basaltic volcanic soil that contains iron, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, potassium and a host of another element to effectively nourish your aquatic plants. Besides, this substrate also contains live heterotrophic bacteria that convert fish waste to natural food for aquatic plants hence establishing a natural biological balance that will make cycling a new aquarium safe and faster.

Pro Tip


The eco complete aquarium substrate has the right biological and mineral composition, thus giving you the desired luxuriant aquatic plant growth and preventing the growth of unwanted algae. The substrate contains natural iron with no artificial dyes, paints or chemical coatings, so it will not compromise your tank water quality. If you are finding a cheap, reliable and easy-to-use planted tank substrate, this is the perfect choice.

Fluval plant and shrimp stratum is the right substrate for stimulating the healthy growth of aquatic plants in a freshwater aquascape. Being made from mineral-rich volcanic soil plus the addition of Fluval micronutrients, the Fluval soil will ensure a full complement of essential micro and macro nutrients for your plants to grow.

Besides providing your plants with many nutrients, this soil is made with granules that make it easier for plant roots to penetrate throughout the substrate. This allows the plant to absorb a variety of available important nutrients from the soil to flourish. By this design, the Fluval stratum also protects newborn shrimps by providing them the ideal refuge to escape predation until they are big enough to roam.

Unlike the Eco Complete aqua soil containing live microorganisms, the Fluval soil encourages the growth of nitrifying bacteria with its light, non-compacting porous soil structure. The nitrifying bacteria can easily colonize the vast porous surface, this will provide the optimal water quality for aquatic plants.

Pro Tip


The Fluval substrates have been carefully made so you should not worry as it will not compromise your water clarity, it even controls organic discoloration which is usually present with the use of natural driftwood. Moreover, the properties of this stratum support a natural to slightly acidic pH. This is ideal for most plant and tropical fish species and for shrimps that are normally kept in planted aquariums.

The best thing that makes this planted aquarium soil substrate standing out from others is its beautiful red coloration. The red color of the product is non-toxic for your aquarium life because it is 100% natural and contains no artificial dyes or additives. This soil also provides plenty of trace elements including iron for nourishing your aquatic plants, so you don’t need to supplement another laterite substrate.

Pro Tip


Its grains are well shaped and extremely microporous for better aeration and promoting the growth of the root system of your plants. It also contains live microorganisms that promote the nitrogen cycle in your aquarium. This feature makes it a good choice for new planted tank setups.

Mr. Aqua Aquarium Soil Substrate - wonderful substrate

The Mr. Aqua aquarium soil is designed with a special formula for freshwater shrimps, aquarium plants, and fish. This plant substrate is carefully created using a specific exclusive blend of organic and inert ingredients. It is well-granulated and provides essential elements for the root development of your aquatic plants.

Pro Tip


The Mr. Aqua soil is also a good buffer that is able to soften water and maintain the pH levels in your planted tank in an optimal range from  6.6-6.8 for the health of your plants and fish. It is designed for long-lasting and can last up to 12-18 months.

The S.T International aqua soil are specially designed for aquatic gardens. This special substrate is formulated with special ingredients for producing a long-lasting, nourishing enriched soil. It is ideal to use the soil for aquatic plants, little fish, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, and snails.

Pro Tip


This aqua soil has been designed for long term use and does not disintegrate easily. The pH values of this professional grade soil range from 6.7 to 7.0. The substrate can be readily used immediately after purchase as you do not need to wash it before use.

The ADA aqua soil is designed to replicate the image of the fertile South American rain forest in your planted tank. This substrate is made from specially processed natural material from the earth for the healthy grow of your plants. Unlike most other substrates that bring cloudiness to your tank, the ADA aqua soil gives better clarity.

ada-aqua-soil

ADA Aqua Soil

The size and density of the soil granules are optimized for the rapid development of the healthy root system of your aquarium plants, rather other types of substrates like sand. The beauty of this product is that the granules maintain their shape and density for long periods underwater, this ensures good circulation of water and oxygen through the substrate.

Pro Tip


As you know, planted tanks are usually suffered from high pH and water hardness because of the addition of different types of substrates, driftwood, stones, and etc. The ADA soil helps decrease the water hardness and lower the pH level to a degree at which the nutrient absorption of most aquatic plants is optimized. By this way, the ADA Aqua soil is suitable to grow even difficult plants like Tonina sp. and ideal for fish that thrive in soft water.

Seachem Fluorite is designed to be used alone or with other gravels. The product contains essential nutrients necessary for growing a healthy planted aquarium and doesn’t need to use along with another laterite substrate. It is designed for a long term of use that decides the success of any planted aquariums.

Pro Tip


The Seachem Fluorite is absolutely non-toxic and will not change aquarium pH. Please note that your aquarium water may be slight cloudy initially, but don’t worry because it will be clear right after 2-12 hours. You should also clean the substrate thoroughly before use to reduce initial cloudiness.

Affiliate links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2019-11-22.

Top Editor's Choice on Aquarium Soil For Planted Aquarium

SaleBestseller No. 1
Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel - Stable Porous Natural Planted Aquarium...
GRAVEL: Seachem Flourite Black is a specially fracted stable porous clay gravel for the natural planted aquarium. Its appearance is best suited to planted aquaria, but may be used in any freshwater aquarium environment.
SaleBestseller No. 2
SaleBestseller No. 3
API POND AQUATIC PLANT MEDIA Potting Soil For Pond Plants 10-Pound Bag
Contains one (1) API POND AQUATIC PLANT MEDIA Potting Soil For Pond Plants 10-Pound Bag
Bestseller No. 4
CaribSea Eco-Complete 20-Pound Planted Aquarium, Black
Complete substrate for freshwater planted aquariums
Bestseller No. 5
Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum, 4.4-Pound
Mineral rich volcanic soil
Bestseller No. 6
Mr. Aqua N-MAR-066 1 L Fine Pet Habitat Water Plant Soil
Composed of organic and inert ingredients providing all essential elements
Bestseller No. 7
ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia II Normal Type (3L)
Made of 100% fine natural black soil (a rare Japanese plant-based soil ) in the ingredients, it promotes the growth of almost all aquatics plants, except plants that prefer specific water quality.
Bestseller No. 8
Ultum Nature Controsoil Freshwater Planted Aquarium Substrate - Fine Black...
Formulated for freshwater planted aquariums, tropical fish, and freshwater dwarf shrimp.
Bestseller No. 9
Mr. Aqua N-MAR-068 8 L Fine Pet Habitat Water Plant Soil
Composed of organic and inert ingredients providing all essential elements
Bestseller No. 10

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