Everything you need to know about aquarium substrate

Aquarium is not just about beautiful fish, attractive plants and clean water. Many essentialities contribute to an eye-catching and striking fish tank. Aquarium substrate is one of them and holds an important place for a flourishing tank.

Here is a beginner’s guide to aquarium substrate that will help you know every important aspect about it. So continue reading and get a more in-depth insight into this another essentially of the aquarium.

What is an aquarium substrate, and why do you need one?

Aquarium substrate could be any loose material that you can use at the bottom of the tank. It is not just the soil or gravel that comes under the aquarium substrate but the pebbles and stones as well. Anything which complements the aquarium and can cover its bottom is called an aquarium substrate.

There are many reasons to have an aquarium substrate. Some of them are:

Substrate makes the aquarium look good- Substrate acts as a beauty enhancer for the tank. It contributes to giving a real look and mimicking the natural water ecosystem, thereby increases its visual appeal.

Fish feel contented- Since substrate gives a natural look to the tank, fish feel more comfortable as if, floating in a real water ecosystem. You create a more happy and relaxed ambiance for the fish after adding substrate to it.

Pop up the fish- You can experiment with different types of substrate and modify the colors to enhance the fish. For example, dark fish get enhanced when a light colored substrate is used at the back and vice versa. So you can make the tank look more appealing.

It nestles bacteria- Bacteria are essential to sustain the nitrogen cycle in the tank. Apart from the filter, the substrate is also an excellent medium to pet beneficial bacteria. As a matter of fact, you can use the substrate of an already established aquarium which will help in cycling your new tank faster.

Plants need substrate – Roots of the plants require a substrate to establish. In the absence of a good substrate, plants float on the top of the tank and eventually die.

So, these are some of the reasons due to which aquarists need to have aquarium substrate.

What are the different kinds of aquarium substrate?

There are multiple kinds of aquarium substrate, and you can use any one of them in your tank. Some of the most common are listed below:

Pebbles- Pebbles are the largest among the different kinds of substrates. They range from 5 mm to 65 mm. This category of the substrate can be found as river rock, glass, colored plastic, quartz, and much more. Pebbles being large in size leave gap when layered one above the other. Although it is not problematic, it can create a problem over time when fish waste and uneaten food stuck between the voids.

Gravel- Looking almost same as pebbles, gravels are smaller in size ranging between 2 mm to 5 mm. The benefit of using gravel is they create less space when layered one above the other, so the chances of food getting stuck lessen.

Sand- Sand is one of the most popular substrates which are available in different sizes from coarse to fine. Moreover, you can also find them in different colors to add variety to the tank. Apart from this, another benefit of using sand as a substrate is it mimics the natural water ecosystem perfectly. Also, the issue of gaps between the layers is not there.

Soil- The soil substrate used for aquariums is little different from the natural soil. It is formulated to prevent the mixing with the water and make it hazy. Moreover, it is also equipped with essential nutrients that enrich the quality of water for the plants. Soil is a must if you have plants in the tank.

Note: Always buy the substrate from the store or a reliable ecommerce website instead of picking them up from the garden. Commercial substrates are treated that ensure fish safety. On the other hand, garden substrates are dirty and may contaminate water.

Other than these common substrates, peat, vermiculite, and aragonite are also used in the tanks.

Which substrate to choose?

Choosing the right substrate is very important to make the tank look good and remain good. If you have a planted tank using soil is essential to support the roots. Likewise, if the fish are bottom-dwelling using smooth textured substrate becomes a must.

You can experiment with the substrate, use different colors, layer up alternatively, and see how the tank appears. So there is no particular substrate for a particular tank. You need to see what will look good and what will prove beneficial for plants, fish, and appearance of the tank.

However, make sure you buy the right substrate in the beginning because once the aquarium sets up; changing the entire setup just to change the substrate will become highly time-consuming.

Quantity of substrate

One of the questions that pop in mind is how much quantity of substrate is required in the tanks. In general, it is recommended lying at least 3 inches of substrate. This quantity is perfect for the roots to anchor easily and set the plant. However, you can also go for more than 3 inches.

But at the same time, keeping some crucial points in handy is essential like:

  • Avoid using thick substrate if the tank is small. There will be less room for the fish, plants, and decoration items.
  • Cleaning or replacing too much substrate after a year will become tiring.
  • Thick substrate looks odd.

How to maintain the substrate

The care and upkeep of the substrate depend upon what kind of material you are using. River rocks require a thorough washing before introducing them in the tank. Likewise, gravel requires regular vacuuming to combat fish waste, dead plant materials, and uneaten food. Soil, on the other hand, needs frequent replacement as plants soak the essential nutrients after some time.

Can you skip getting substrate?

Of course, bare bottom tanks are also common where you can entirely skip using any type of substrate. Although it has its own advantages and disadvantages, people prefer a bare bottom tank equally. However, you cannot use fish that require hiding spots in the aquarium. Also, it will not be able to have live aquatic plants.

So, if you are finding substrate a complex thing to deal, skip it entirely and enjoy a bare bottom tank.

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