Best Aquarium Substrates – Reviews and Buying Guide 2021

If you are an old fishkeeper, you know what substrate is. For the new aquarium owners, a substrate is the base of the aquarium. Basically, a substrate is any loose material under the aquarium.

You can keep pebbles or sand, even soil in the bottom of your aquarium. They all are known as substrates. Basically, anything that pleases your mind can use as a substrate. The possibilities are endless.

With this amount of possibilities, here comes a sheer amount of confusion as well. Do not worry. In this paragraph, We have got you covered. From researching the best aquarium substrates, we have picked the 5 champions of aquarium substrates.

Also, we are adding an aquarium substrate guide to help you pick the Best Aquarium Substrates according to your need. So let’s get started.

A Quick Comparison Table:


Our RatingPreviewProductView


palashbd 5 starFluval Plant and Shrimp Stratumview on amazon


palashbd 4.5 starSeachem Flourite Black Clay GravelSeachem Flourite Black Clay Gravelview on amazon


palashbd 4.5 starCaribSea Eco-CompleteCaribSea Eco-Completeview on amazon


palashbd 4 starThe Landen Namaule SandLanden Namaule Sandview on amazon


palashbd 4 star

The Wayber Natural Quartz

Wayber Natural Quartzview on amazon



Our Picks

The Best Aquarium Substrate

Wayber Natural Quartz
Shiny and gorgeous 

Most Nutritious Substrate

CaribSea Eco-Complete
Volcanic soil with high mineral counts 

Best Natural Gravel

Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel
Natural gravel helps plants to grow 

Best For Underwater Plants

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum
Helps the growing of underwater plants

Best for Beginners

Landen Namule Sand
Pretty and easy to maintain  


Do You Need A Substrate?

If you ask us, the answer is no. You do not need a substrate. There is a thing called “Bare Bottom Tanks.” Surprisingly bare bottom tanks add some benefits to your tank.

These tanks are easier to work with. Having no substrate makes your tank cleaning easy as a cake. If you have messy aquarium pets, a bare bottom tank could come in handy.

However, Having substrates adds a lot of benefits as well. Some reasons are obvious, and others.

Firstly, Having an aquarium substrate helps with the aquarium’s aesthetics. A fine quality substrate can easily change the outlook of the aquarium drastically.

Secondly, Substrates are generally natural substances. As fish are native to nature, not glass tanks adding a substrate makes their current habitat a bit more naturalistic.

Thirdly, Aquarium substrates house good bacterias. And bacterias are an essential part of the ecosystem of the aquarium. They take part in the tank’s nitrogen cycle to break down the fish poop and create a better environment inside the tank.

Fourthly, Substrates helps your fishes to pop out. Dark substrates make light-colored fishes pop out in our eyes. And the light color substrate does it vice-versa.

And finally, If you want to keep any plants, artificial or live aquarium substrates must. Without a substrate, the plants will float over water. So it looks like aquarium substrates are not that useless after all. You should consider getting one for your tank as well.

Best Aquarium Substrates

Here are the best aquarium substrates available in the current market. We have tested and researched extensively on the most sold substrates, and these five substrates came on top of our list.

1. Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

Fluval plant stratum is a specialized volcanic soil that stimulates strong plant growth. This aquarium substrAte promotes acidic pH to the water.

If you are looking for substrates for your aquarium plant or shrimps, this is the one for you. The Fluval Plants and Shrimp SUbstrate comes in 3 different sizes.

The soil comes from the eastern pacific. These particular volcanic soils are obtained from the Volcano Mount Aso, Japan. You can use this fantastic substrate for every freshwater aquatic plant.

The substrate is very light. So that plants have an easy time laying their roots through the soil.

On top of that, the soil is full of nutrients as well. It ensures both macro and micronutrients. The nutrients are beneficial for plants well being. The dark brownish color also adds a different contrast.

Green top and dark bottom with colorful fishes swimming around will surely make up your mode. The Fluval Stratum has a non-composite nature.

This particular structure is of great benefit to nitrifying bacteria. These bacteria ensure the optimal quality of the water. Like everything in the world, the Fluval stratum has issues of its own as well.

This substrate is a pickle to clean. If you have a messy fish, avoid this one. Also, the soil tends to soak up salts from water. You have to keep an eager eye on that.

Above all, If you need an excellent plant growing substrate, the Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum is the best one to get. This soil will not discolor the water and works perfectly as an aquarium substrate.


See The Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum On Amazon


Highlighted features:

  • made of mineral rich volcanic soil.
  • Stimulates strong aquarium plant growth.
  • Suitable for live plants or shrimp.


  • Brand: Fluval.
  • Product Dimensions :3 x 8 x 15 inches; 8.82 Pounds.
  • Best Sellers Rank: #9 in Aquarium Décor Plastic Plants.


  • Packed with minerals.
  • Doesn’t cloudy up the water too much.
  • Very safe and comfortable for new-born shrimps as well.
  • Great for plants and shrimps.


  • Too lightweight.
  • Softens the water.


2. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

If you want a natural river flourish outlook inside your fish tank, the Seachem Flourite Black Gravel could be perfect for you. These gravels are made with clay.

They are the ideal option for aquarium beds. And unlike other gravels that require mixing, the seachem clay gravels work best unmixed.

They are one of the best aquarium substrates for plant aquariums. You can lay them on the bottom of your aquarium, plant your favorite live water plants, and watch them grow.

One of the best things about the Seachem Clay Gravel is that it does not need any gravel modifiers. They are perfect and ready to be placed out of the bag.

Though the substrates are made with clay, they will not soften or decompose, staying at the tank’s bottom. They will remain intact in their shapes after months and months of submersion. The fine substrate is beneficial for the aquarium’s lives.

They are not coated with any chemicals. Also, this gravel substrate does not hamper with natural pH levels of the water as well. Though not suggested still, you can use this search clay gravel mixed with other gravels or other substrates. They will still perform as they always perform.

In short, This aquarium substrate is easy to clean and maintain while using. However, after buying them, you need to clean them carefully as they come with a certain amount of slits, which can cloud your tank.

Just wash it before you use it, and you’re ready to go. The Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel is one the best aquarium substrates available in the marketplace.

If you want a planted aquarium with a rocky outlook, they are the best solution for you.

Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel


See The Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel On Amazon


Highlighted features:

  • Gravel.
  • Aquarium Bed.
  • Compatible.


  • Brand: Seachem Laboratories, Inc.
  • Product Dimensions :17 x 11.75 x 1.75 inches;
  • Item weight: 16 Pounds.
  • Best Sellers Rank#8 in Aquarium Gravel.


  • Long lasting quality.
  • Porous clay gravel.
  • Provides plenty of essential nutrients.


  • Not good for plants with delicate roots.
  • Can cloud your aquarium at first.


Read more about the best low light aquarium plants– review and buying guide here

3. CaribSea Eco-Complete

As its name suggests, the CaribSea Eco-Complete is a complete aquarium substrate. It is basically a black soil substrate for freshwater tanks.

The soils consist of highly porous spherical grains and are collected from various exotic islands from around the world. They are one of the best aquarium substrates in case of nutritional values.

Firstly, This wonderful substrate comes directly from the exotic islands of the world. They are collected from various volcanic islands found in the pacific.

The volcanic islands of Hawaii, Bali, the Philippines, and Costa Rica are rich with these rich, nutritious volcanic soils. These black soils contain exclusive minerals that are not available in other kinds of soils. Or if they are available, are not in this sheer number.

Secondly, These black soils contain more than 25 exclusive minerals. Which helps with the rapid growth of the aquarium plants. The CaribSea Eco-Complete is a mineralogically complete soil.

Also, they are biologically engineered for keeping away unnecessary algae from the tank. Usually, aquarium plants need literate for their growth.

But if you have this wonderful aquarium substrate, you won’t need any extra literate. It got enough iron to make plants bloom. The good thing does not end;

these substrates house heterotrophic bacterias, which helps to dissolve the fish waste stores in between the substrate.

The CarbSea Eco-Complete can quickly create a natural balance inside the water tank. If you are getting a new aquarium, you need substrates to quick cycle your aquarium, this one’s for you.

In conclusion, the CarbSea Eco-Friendly has a bad rep for being a bit dusty, you can not overturn its nutritional values. Or even the overall aspects of the substrates are wonderful too.

If you want a healthy ecosystem inside your aquarium and want it fast, pick the CarbSea Eco-Friendly.

CaribSea Eco-Complete

See The CaribSea Eco-Complete On Amazon


Highlighted features:

  • Substrate for freshwater planted aquariums.
  • Substrate make your plant healthy.
  • Contains major and minor trace elements to nourish aquarium plants.


  • Brand: CaribSea, Inc.
  • Product Dimensions : 18 x 12 x 2 inches.
  • Item weight: 20 pounds  .
  • Best Sellers Rank: #8 in Aquarium Décor.


  • Natural and clean look.
  • Won’t discolor your water.
  • Contains no artificial substances.
  • Available in appealing colors.
  • High in iron and other trace elements.


  • Smells bad.
  • Inert (doesn’t contain many nutrients right out of the bag).


4. Landen Namaule Sand

This is one of the finest aquarium substrates distributed by Landen. The Landen Namaule sand comes in a light wheat color. And itself is easy to maintain substrate.

The Landen Namaul Sand is easy to look after and set up. For these reasons, this one is considered one of the best aquarium substrates for beginners.

If you are just starting fish keeping, the Landen Namaul sand is the perfect substrate for you. These sands are suitable for every kind of fish. The substrate is 100% non-toxic.

This means that your plants and fishes are harm-free from this substrate. Also, the Landen Namule Sand Is friendly towards the water as well. Because the substrate does not contain any hazardous matters.

Landen Namule Sand is 100% all-natural sand with a moderate level of pH. Also, this substrate does not need much cleaning. If so, it is fairly easy to clean too.

The best part of the substrate is you can easily shape it as you want. However, If you want to make hills inside your fish tank, you can do it. If you want it to replicate the river bed, you can easily do that as well.

Possibilities are endless with this fantastic Landen Namule Sand. The Sand substrate is all fine, but however, in setting up, it causes a bit of mess than regular substrates. This is the only downfall of this fantastic substrate.

If you want fewer hassles and want a fine substrate for your community tank, this Landen Namule Sand is the one for you. You can pick this up and stay pressure free throughout the whole set up process of the aquarium.

The Landen Namaule Sand


See The Landen Namaule Sand On Amazon


Highlighted features:

  • Nature Landscaping.
  • Natural Color.
  • Quality Assurance.
  • Safe to Use.


  • Brand: Landen.
  • Product Dimensions; 16 x 12 x 2 inches.
  • Item weight: 11. 02 Pounds.
  • Best Sellers Rank: #29 in Aquarium Sand.


  • Soft enough for foraging and digging.
  • Natural tan color.
  • No chemical additives.


  • Lacks nutrients for planting.
  • Not very cost-effective.
  • Largest bag size is only 11 pounds.


5. Wayber Natural Quartz

Here are the most beautiful and shiny substrates you can find. The Wayber Natural Quartz is gravel substrates. They come in six different and bright, pretty colors.

These quartz gravels are made from all-natural raw crystal stones.

The Wayber Natural Quartz are fantastic choices for aquarium substrate. As they can turn up an aquarium’s beauty a whole 360 degrees. Suitable substrates for decorating the fish tank.

These gravels are all-natural and 100% non-toxic. Harm to the fishes from these, not happening. On top of that, the gravel pieces have rounded edges.

So that fishes do not cut themselves rubbing against them. The gorgeous way ber quartz is sized perfectly. Not too big, again not too small. Its small size compliments it more.

As the gap between substrate components gets much harder for the wastes get trapped between them. Also, this gravel size makes them easier to clean also.

Nitrating bacteria are really important for an aquarium ecosystem. And bacterias tend to grow on natural substances. This Wayber Natural Quartz Gravel houses useful bacteria for the safety of the aquarium.


Stones Shine Like Treasures Underwater

We haven’t talked about the beauty of the substrate. The bright quartz stones shine like treasures underwater. They shine and sparkle inside the water.

Also, their light-reflecting ability creates a different atmosphere inside the aquarium. Though the beauty does not come cheap. It is quite pricey in the compassion of other substrates of this list.

You will need about 5 to 5 packets of this substrate to completely cover your 1-gallon tank. If you don’t want to spend so much, you can always use it mixing with cheaper gravels too.

The gorgeous Wayber Natural Quartz will easily brighten up any aquariums instantly. If you want to raise up your aquarium aesthetic or generally like shiny stones, go and pick that up. They are one of the best aquarium substrates currently available.

The Wayber Natural Quartz


See The Wayber Natural Quartz On Amazon


Highlighted features:

  • Natural Material.
  • Best Gift.
  • Useful Decorative Helper.


  • Brand: WAYBER.
  • Product Dimensions54 x 4.8 x 1.02 inches;
  • Item weight: 01 Pounds.
  • Best Sellers Rank : #2 in Aquarium Sand.


  • Beautiful smooth rocks.
  • Nice design for a good price.
  • Looking more awesome with artificial succulent.


  • Some of people thinks the crystal stone turns clear after 2 – 3 weeks.


Aquarium Substrate Guide: Things You Should Know Before Buying

As we all know, aquarium substrates come in various shapes and sizes. Before going to the store and buying a random pack of substrate, you have to know what kind of substrate suits your needs.

This aquarium substrate guide will help you to determine the perfect substrate for you.

Various natural substances are used as aquarium substrates. Each substance has unique perks of its own. Also, they add different kinds of flairs to the aesthetics of the aquarium.

So first, let’s see what kind of substrate you can pick for your fishy tank.


If you want rocky substrate, pebbles are a suitable candidate. Pebbles come in different sizes. They are fairly large substrates. But can be of any color. Different color pebbles can make your aquarium more vibrant.


Gravels are smaller pebbles. They also can be made with any kind of material like pebbles. Gravels also help to achieve the rocky aesthetic of your aquarium; beginners are instructed to use gravel as substrates because they are easy to look after.


The soil used in aquariums is not our everyday piece of earth. SUbstrate soils are totally different. They are engineered to not fuse with water.

If you want to have live plants in your fish aquarium, you need soil substrates.  If you are not planning to have any live plants, you do not need soil in your aquarium.


Sands are one of the easiest substrates to keep clean. Substrate sands are available in various grain shapes and sizes. They are considered the most natural substrate as all-natural fish habitats have sand.

Water Changing Substrates

These substrates play with the nutrition values of the aquarium. Also, these substrates make your aquarium maintenance much easier. These substrates are “Argonite,” “Peat” and “Vermiculite.”


What Substrate Is Suitable For My Aquarium?

You should make sure the right substrate for your fish tank, at first. Because changing the substrate can be a real pickle if you want to change it after you have set up your fish tank.

Choose a substrate that would be in harmony with other things in your aquarium. To be completely honest, there is no best aquarium substrate. Because each substrate offers a different experience.

Like if you want plants in your aquarium, you must need soil there. However, if you do not prefer the dark brown soil aesthetic, add another layer of any substrate you like.

The possibilities are endless. So before going out and buying the first substrate you see, give a thought about what you actually want your fish tank to be like. It will determine the right substrate for you.


How many substrates Do I Need?

Usually, aquascapes suggest about 3 inches of the substrate below the water. But if you have live plants, make sure your substrates are deep enough to lay their roots into them.

As there are no limits on how many substrates to pour, you have to keep something in the back of your mind always.

  1. The thick substrate can eat up spaces for fish to roam or plants to grow.
  2. The substrate needs to be cleaned. Not frequently as the aquarium water, but it needs to be cleaned. So if you have more substrate, you have more cleaning to do.

In addition to these, substrates look odd from the side of the aquarium. Aquarium substrates do not
need to be exactly level.

You can spread them unevenly, where you want to put them. Creating land slopes, hills can add a new edge to the looks of your aquarium; it is quite a general practice in aquascaping.



In conclusion, If you have read through the article, you have surely learned two or three new things about the best aquarium substrates. Just make sure the substrate you chose complements the rest of your aquarium.

Don’t rush. Think thoroughly about your whole aquarium before buying anything. With the help of our aquarium substrate guide, we hope you will find the perfect substrate for your aquarium. Happy fishkeeping.

We hope that your days of holding the fish will be blessed with thousands of moments of pleasure.