When it comes to setting up your aquarium for the first time one of the most important decisions you can make is what type of substrate to use. Many first-time aquarium hobbyists do not even realize that they have a choice beyond natural or colored gravel. While gravel serves its purpose well as an aquarium substrate, there are other options and some of these options have additional benefits for your tank. If you plan to keep live aquarium plants in your tank it is especially important for you to choose a substrate wisely.
Different Types of Substrates
Gravel : As one of the most readily available types of substrate, gravel is also one of the most popular. Not only is gravel easy to find and inexpensive to purchase but it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes which makes it a great option for hobbyists who want to customize their tank. Another benefit of gravel substrate is that it can be relatively easy to clean – you can simply remove it from the tank and rinse it in warm tap water until the water runs clear. Gravel can also serve as a base for the growth of beneficial bacteria but it does not provide any nutrients to support the growth of live aquarium plants.
Sand: Sea sand is not recommended for freshwater aquariums but it is popular for use in marine aquariums. This type of sand often contains impurities which can cloud the water and it may also contain pieces of shell or coral that can raise the pH in the tank. Play sand, however, makes an excellent substrate for freshwater aquariums because it has been sterilized and requires less-frequent cleaning than aquarium gravel. Aragonite is another popular type of sand substrate that is useful in buffering pH levels in saltwater aquariums.
Vermiculate: This substance is a substrate composed of the minerals aluminum, iron and magnesium. This substrate has a high cation exchange rate which helps aquarium plants to utilize nutrients. Vermiculate is an excellent substrate for planted tanks because it releases nutrients over a long period of time which negates the use of fertilizers. The best way to use this substrate is as a lower layer on the bottom of the tank covered or mixed with a layer of gravel.
Laterite: Laterite is a type of porous clay, often reddish in color, which can be used as a substrate in freshwater aquariums. This type of substrate attracts and holds nutrients, storing them until they can be utilized by aquarium plants. Like vermiculate, this substrate is best used as a lower layer in the home aquarium, covered by a layer of sand or gravel.
Tips for Using Aquarium Substrate
Do not think you need to limit yourself to one particular type of substrate. If you have a planted tank it is wise to combine several types of substrate, like vermiculate and laterite, with gravel or another substrate in order to provide the necessary nutrients. In conjunction with the right substrate, introducing an EcoBio-Stone is a great way to keep your tank clean and healthy. EcoBio-Block products are made from porous volcanic cement that has been infused with beneficial bacteria. Once introduced into your tank, these bacteria multiply and help to keep your tank water clear and odor-free which results in less maintenance on your part and a healthier environment for your fish.