7 Best Substrate For Low Maintenance Planted Tanks 2022

Let us agree on one point that all of us like vibrant aquariums. Be it a reef tank or a freshwater tank, an aquarium full of healthy fish and fresh, lively plants are all an aesthete could ever wish for.

Now, one vital point to remember here is that if you wish for delicate lively plants to adorn your aquarium, you should have firm knowledge about substrate and its efficiency.

Choosing a single type of substrate isn’t as easy as it seems. After my personal experience, I have found Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel to be the best among all. 

In case you are entirely clueless, let me help you!

The 7 Best Substrate For Low Maintenance Planted Tanks

Now presenting you our list of the best substrates for your fish tank. So here I am with a detailed discussion on the best substrate for plant aquariums.

Let’s Get Started!

1. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

Seachem Flourite Black is the first and the best, according to my personal experiences. This one is specially manufactured stable porous clay gravel for the planted aquarium. It is best to use as a whole substrate for a tank. However, you can mix it up with other substrate particles if you wish. It is porous enough for the roots of the living plants to grow. And can be comfortably used with under gravel filters. 

One feature of this substrate that people have loved the most is its non-chemical components. Most of the clay or soil gravels are active. Which means they can bring chemical changes ( such as pH level) to the tank water. But the manufacturers have claimed this one to be safe from that side.  

What We Like:

  • Porous clay gravel 
  • Can be used in any freshwater aquarium environment
  • Will not soften or decompose
  • Long-lasting
  • Does not bring chemical changes
  • Provides all necessary nutrients

What We Don’t Like:

  • Can make the tank water cloudy at first
  • Not ideal for plants with delicate roots

2. ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia 9 Liter Normal T

Next, we have the ADA Aqua Soil that has been the most preferred choice of many enthusiasts. It is an organic substrate made from Japanese plant-based black soil and decomposed leaf. It is enriched with nutrients and can provide the best health boost to your plants. Besides its nutrient factor, the standard-sized granules are good enough for the plants to grow their roots properly. 

However, this substrate is an active one. That means it will bring slight changes to the chemical balance. This might or might not be suitable for your pets and plants. So keep that in mind. 

What We Like:

  • Rich in nutrients
  • Ideal for tanks containing different plants
  • Made from Japanese plant-based black soil
  • Proper granules size for plant growth
  • Gives a natural look
  • It contains high levels of natural humic acid 

What We Don’t Like:

  • Can lower the pH 
  • Can make the water cloudy initially

3. CaribSea Eco-Complete

The next one on our list is the CaribSea Eco-Complete substrate. This is a whole and complete substrate for plant aquariums, especially for freshwater plants. Since it is made from volcanic soil, it is rich in nutrients.

Minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, and many others are found in it. So your plants are bound to grow fast and well. You can trust the organic nature of this substrate blindly.

No external chemical coating or artificial colours has been used. Therefore, your pants will be nourished naturally with this substrate. 

What We Like:

  • Full of nutrients
  • Live Heterotrophic bacteria included
  • Iron-rich, so no external laterite is needed
  • No chemical coating
  • It Will never cause discolouration

What We Don’t Like:

  • It May smell bad at first

4. Hermit Habitat Terrarium Substrates

This one is not the best option for living plants. But you may try your shot once if you wish. 

Some aqua hobbyists prefer the natural look the most. That is why their inclination toward brown and black is legitimate. But some others like to experiment with the colour pop in their tanks ( For example me). 

What We Like:

  • Colourful gravel
  • Make the tank beautiful with their shine
  • Will not fade away
  • Can be used in regular fish tanks also
  • It Will never bring chemical changes

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not ideal for root establishment.
  • Does not provide nutrients for living plants.
  • Should be replaced every six months.

5. Mr. Aqua N-MAR-066

The last option that we have curated for you is the Mr Aqua Aquarium Soil Substrate. The company has claimed this to be created from organic and inert materials to nourish living plants. Also, once filled in the aquarium, you need not worry for about one year. This one can help you while lowering the pH of the soil.

However, the pH changes may or may not be beneficial for your fish. Hence, before choosing, know the details well and then purchase.

What We Like:

  • Enriched with nutrients.
  • Supports root growth.
  • Lowers pH level.
  • Ideal for planted aquariums.

What We Don’t Like:

  • May cause discolouration of water
  • pH changes may not be suitable ( if you do not wish to do so).

Editor’s Choice:

After all these discussions, can we say that you have made your choice? Well, you must have. Congratulations!

But we have promised to provide you with every in and out and guide you throughout the process. So here we are with our verdict. After experiencing and examining all of the listed substrates, our winner’s award goes to Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel. Its top-notch quality and impressive nourishments have left me in awe! So, you may also get your hands on this. 

What is substrate?

Keeping substrate in your aquarium is more than essential for you, especially when you have a plant aquarium. It basically refers to the base of the aquarium. Often, you will see some material added to the base or bottom of an aquarium. And those materials are called the substrate. Now you might ask why they are essential for plant aquariums? 

Well, living plants do need a ground where they can establish their roots. The substrate acts as the root ground. However, there are some floating plants as well which do not need substrate at all. 

There are different types of substrates in the market. One can choose whatever they want. However, knowing about each one of them prior to getting it is suggested. 

In this section, we will know about different types of substrates and their usefulness. Hold on!


The first and foremost substrate that you should know about is gravel. Gravels are small stone chips that are found in river beds. These can range from bigger riverbed stones to tiny pebbles. Most new fish parents choose these because of their inexpensiveness.

Some aqua enthusiasts love to keep the tank’s look very natural, whereas some others wish to have creative colour pops. Both can be accomplished with gravel.

While these can be great options for beginners, you must remember the problems associated with them. Gravel may come in different sizes and shapes. Some can be rounded; some can be sharp-edged. 

Now, if you keep some bottom-dwelling fish in your tank like dinosaur bichir, there are fair chances that your pet may get injuries while hinting for food through the substrate. Hence be wise while choosing your gravel. Try to choose something round-shaped or maybe blunt-edged stones. 

These are chosen for live plants also. However, one must not think it to be the best option for the living plants. But they provide enough space for the plants to grow their roots. So, you may expect a well-spread plant surface. 

Gravels can cause issues due to the space. These tend to hold the debris, uneaten food, and dead bodies and thereby promote diseases. Hence filtering and refining them is necessary. 


This is another type of gravel that has been the first choice of some enthusiasts. Sand is the smaller version of gravel. It is made of the smaller and fine particles of stones and pebbles. If you wish for a more natural look in your tank, you may think of including sand in your aquarium. 

They work great for bottom dwellers. Also, it is easier to clean them. And plants can also grow if you have sand. 

But one thing to keep in mind is that since sand does not provide much space or gap, it is hard for the living plants to insert their roots. Like gravel, sand also can not provide any nutrients to the plants.

However, many people have taken sand as their option and have successfully grown plants, So, you might think of these. 


Aquarium soil is undoubtedly the best substrate one can ever think of for plants. This is basically a clay-based granule substrate that can provide nutrients to the plants. 

Unlike other substrates, this one is active. Which means it can provide all the essential minerals and valuable materials for plant growth. And it is spacious enough for the plants to grow their roots.

But one problem that you may face is that they do not come in much variety. There is a standard shape, size, and colour for the aquarium soil. Also, it can bring some chemical changes in the Tank water. Hence, you need to be careful while making the substrate of your tank with aquarium soil. 


Aquariums, in short, recreate the natural ecosystem in an enclosed area. So the natural components of the wild habitat should be there in the tank. Otherwise, your fish will start hating you. And that is probably the last thing you want. 

So, having an aquarium with living plants may help you a lot. And for the healthy nourishment of the plants, the substrate is necessary. Choose wisely and ace the art of keeping a plant aquarium. 

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