Which Aquarium Substrates Should I Use?
What's The Best Substrate?
How many and what types of aquarium substrates are out there? What are the cons and the benefits of each of these types of tanks? In today's post, we take an in-depth look at the more common aquarium substrates used today.
Gravel substrate is one of the more common substrates used today. These small stones provide many options for tank owners to choose from. Gravel has wide variations of color. The color can vary from a bright neon to a more realistic river stone. Grain size is another criterion for which people may select. Gravel sizes can vary from small pebbles to finely grained stones akin to stand.
Pros Of Gravel Substrate
Gravel substrate is great for aquarium plants. Plants easily anchor themselves between the gravel in the bed. Gravel is also an inert substrate which will not influence the water parameters of your tank. Gravel is easily found and lasts for many years.
Cons Of Gravel Substrate
Some fish species, if they are big enough, might try to eat or peck at the gravel. This might become a problem if they swallow or choke on these stones. Goldfish, for example, love to peck on the substrate and might accidentally choke on a stone.
Depending upon the grain size of the gravel, food particles might get stuck in between stones, leading to possible water quality issues as the food breaks down. Along with this, many bottom feeders have been known to get sick with a gravel substrate.
Corydoras species like to shift into the bedding and gravel which can be quite harsh on their barbels leading to bacterial infections and possibly death. Regular gravel vacuuming strongly is recommended to help remove any waste that may have fallen in between the rocks.
Sand is also a very common substrate used in the hobby. Sand compacts easy which allow food particles to stay on the surface for easy cleaning. Sand comes in different size particles and many colors as well.
Pros Of Sand Substrate
One of the main benefits of having a sand substrate is that they collect waste on top of the sand. This can be easily removed with a powerful filter or a gravel vacuum slightly above the sand bed.
A Lot of bottom dwelling fish love sand. These fish species are happiest when they are given the chance to bury or forage for food.
Cons Of Sand Substrate
Sand compacts easy and over time anoxic zones might develop in deeper pockets of your substrate. If these pockets are disturbed they can release toxins into the water that have the potential to harm your fish. Small regular stirrings of your sand bed will help protect you from this. Also, some tank inhabitants that burrow into the substrate will help stop these zones from forming.
Some softer sand types can be rather messy during cleaning and can be easily be picked up in the water-column if stirred by fish.
Some plants don’t do well in a sand substrate due to the easy compaction of sand making it harder for heavy root growth to develop.In addition, sand doesn’t offer many nutrients for plants to grow in.
Specialized substrates are substrates that are advertised for their unique qualities. These substrates run the gamut on to what they offer.
Pros Of Specialized Substrate
Specialized substrates offer a wide degree of applications for many aquarists. These substrates are great for people knowing what they want to achieve with their tanks. Eco-complete, for example, is a plant substrate that many aquarists swear by when trying to set up a heavily planted aquarium. These substrates might contain live bacteria to help convert fish waste and heavy nutrients and minerals to help maintain plant growth.
Cons Of Specialized Substrate
Cost is one of the more common cons associated with specialized substrate. These substrates cater to specific groups of people. Whether it's for a high-tech planted tank setup or a substrate dedicated to maintaining sensitive shrimp species specialized substrate can be a boon for the more advanced aquarist.
Some of these specialized substrates might be too specialized or complicated for first-time fish keepers. There have been some reports that some of these substrates require extra care when setting up due to the possibility of leaching ammonia in the tank. Another risk is that some of these substrates might alter pH of your tank. This is fine for people who are looking for this desired effect. Just make sure you read the directions carefully before purchasing any of these substrates.
No Substrate Aka Bare-Bottom
There is a daunting array of substrates from which fellow hobbyists may choose. However, there is still another option that an aquarist might choose when setting up their tanks. Bare-bottom tanks are tanks which have no substrate added to the tanks. While this might confuse some people, it has a valid purpose.
No Substrate Pros
Breeding tanks and hospital tanks are two types of tanks that come to mind when people use bare-bottom. Bare-bottom tanks have the decided benefit of being easily cleaned compared to their substrate counterparts. This allows for easy removal of uneaten food or wastes build up allowing for optimal fry growth and extra care for sick fish.
No Substrate Cons
While there are many pros with going with this method there are several cons associated with it. Bare-bottom tanks aren’t aesthetically pleasing to most people and in some cases, might stress the fish out if they see their reflection in the bottom of the glass.
Going bare-bottom means missing out on making a planted tank an option. A bare-bottom tank is harder to cycle compared to a substrate tank. While it’s true that most good bacteria in your tank colonizes the filter, there is also a good amount a growth on the substrate of tanks. This isn’t so much an issue with fish breeders or hospital tanks as they do massive water changes which will offset waste that accumulates in these tanks. Along with this, there are certain fish species need a soft substrate bedding to dig around in. Without this, these fish will easily become stressed.