A Guide On How To Choose The Best Substrate for Your Aquarium

A substrate is an essential part of setting up your aquarium fish tank. Asking yourself why? Well, here's why, the substrate not only adds to your fish tank's aesthetic but also benefits from cultivating bacteria.

We understand it's not easy to make a choice, especially if you have so many options to choose from. And it doesn't get easier if you don't know that the material and size of your aquarium substrate influence your fish tank pets and maintenance schedule. Luckily, we have put together a guide on choosing the best substrate for your aquarium.


The best substrate for freshwater fish aquariums is the inert types. This is because the substrate is mainly for aesthetic purposes. A fine substrate like sand is ideal for burrowing fish. Sand has more visual appeal and will keep your burrowing pet happy and healthy.

On the downside, it's hard to maintain an aquarium with sand as it can get stuck in filters and pumps, damaging them. Sand can work if you have a fish that won't kick the sand into the water column. Avoid having the filter too close to the bottom to avoid the downside.


A substrate is essential for plants in the same way they need soil to thrive. Go for a substrate that's fine and nutrient-rich. This will help the plant's roots to grow because of palletized soil or fracted clay in your aquarium. Each type comes with its benefits and considerations.

For example, coarse substrate works well for all kinds of freshwater fish. Pea gravel is the most popular type and comes in different colors. The coarse gravel is easy to maintain and works well for anchoring plants.


The pH is the main difference between the substrate for saltwater fish and fresh fish. Go for aragonite or calcium-based substrate. These types of substrate help maintain the pH level at 8.2–8.4. There are various sizes in the market.


Go for standard gravel, sand, or river stone. These substrates are inert, meaning they will not alter the pH of your aquarium.

You can also make your aquarium more attractive by using a mixture of gravel, soft shells, stone, sand, decorative or attractive substrate. The type of substrate should mimic the fish's natural habitat.


The type of substrate you go for will influence the health of your aquarium. For freshwater fish, you want a substrate that's easy to maintain. But, if you have burrowing fish, sand is preferred.

Salty water fish require a substrate that provides the right pH. If you plan to have natural plants, you should use a substrate that gives them hold and promotes growth. Contact us to learn more about the right substrate for your fish tank.

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