The #1 Best Soil For Aquatic Plants

The best soil for aquatic plants will help them grow, stay healthy, and keep your tank clean. Find the best options here!

Aquatic plants can add color and life to your aquarium. You can grow them alone or get some aquatic animals for an even better view! Having a healthy aquarium should be your number one priority. To achieve this, you’ll need the best soil.

In this article, I share what exactly aquatic plants are, what they need to survive, and rank the five best aquatic substrates that will act as soil in your tank. 

What Are Aquatic Plants

Simply put, aquatic plants are plants that have adapted well to water. Hydrophytes and macrophytes can live in or near water but differ from algae.

Aquatic plants can be entirely submerged in water and grow from the bottom of an aquarium. Some plants are only half submerged and float on top while feeding off the nutrients flowing in the water. 

What Are Aquatic Plants

The aquatic plants you get will depend on the type of aquarium you have. Some substrates work better in freshwater aquariums, while others are suited for saltwater aquariums. The substrate you choose will influence your aquatic plants’ growth. 

Your aquatic animals will also influence which plants you choose. If you aren’t accommodating any animals, you can create a planted aquarium. For these, you only need to know what substrates or combinations of substrates best support the environment and ecosystem you are trying to build.

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What Aquatic Plants Need – Best Soil For Aquatic Plants

Water: You need to clean your aquarium water twice a week, especially when you’re just starting out. Doing this will reduce the chances of algae outbreaks. 

Light: Aquatic plants need at least 10 hours of light daily. If your lighting is weak, you can leave it on for longer. I suggest using a timer to establish a good day and night routine. 

Nutrients: Most aquatic plant life thrives when you feed them Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, and Iron. If you have fish in your aquarium, your plants will get Nitrogen and Phosphorus from their feed and waste. If you want to keep your tank healthy, regularly add the other minerals. 

Carbon Dioxide: Your aquatic plants need carbon dioxide for respiration and growth. This helps them photosynthesize. 

Substrate: Aquatic plants need to grow in and from a substrate. Finding the best one will ensure your plants stay healthy. 

The #1 Best Soil For Aquatic Plants

#5 Sand-Based Substrate

Sand-based substrates are easy to clean and have a decent weight. It creates the perfect environment for carefree planting and is the best for burrowing fish species. 

Unfortunately, most sand is compact, and some plant roots can struggle to grow and spread out. Sand, like gravel, doesn’t provide nutrients to plants. You’ll have to add root tabs to solve this issue.

#4 Clay-Based Substrate

These substrates are compact and allow for a more permanent planting method. It’s best used with other substrates and will help your aquatic plants thrive.

You can use clay-based substrates in a freshwater aquarium as a stand-alone substrate without needing to add additional plant nutrient supplements. Its pH is neutral, and it isn’t chemically treated.

Note: A high clay concentration can inhibit healthy root growth. 

#3 Peat-Based Substrate – Best Soil For Aquatic Plants

Peat-based substrates soften water and release potassium and magnesium to aquatic plants. It works best in moss aquariums or aquariums that contain moss since it also releases high amounts of tannins that can darken the water. 

If you’re using a peat-based substrate, ensure that it’s organic and without fertilizers. Place it in a bag for soaking to remove most tannins. This will help keep your aquarium water clearer and keep its pH balance intact. 

Aqueon Plant and Shrimp Aquarium Substrate 5 Pounds

Best Soil For Aquatic Plants

If you already have soft water, avoid using peat-based substrates. 

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#2 Gravel-Based Substrate

Gravel is better for freshwater aquariums and plants. Water can freely flow throughout this substrate, preventing amoeba and bacteria blockages. 

The small gravel pieces allow easy root growth, especially when mixed with soil. Use gravel-based substrates for larger aquatic plants. 

#1 Soil-Based Substrate

Soil contains many helpful and required nutrients for aquatic plant roots. Most soil substrates are simple to use and have a high nutrient count that allows aquatic plants to thrive.

Soil is typically used alone, but you can combine it with other substrates for even better results. It mixes easily and boosts red plant shades. 

Aquarium soil also lowers the pH value of your aquarium and slightly affects the water quality. You should add water accordingly. 

How To Choose The Best Aquarium Substrate

It isn’t necessary to choose one substrate. You can combine different ones until you have the best result for your aquatic life and plants. 

The substrate you choose should keep your aquarium plants wet. Pick one that doesn’t dirty the water, either. 

How To Choose The Best Aquarium Substrate

To Sum It Up – Best Soil For Aquatic Plants

Choosing the best soil for your aquarium can be a little tricky. You need to pick one that will work with your plants and aquatic animals. 

A soil-based substrate is an excellent option, but mixing it with other substrates is even better.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. If you have more questions about aquatic life, ask them in the comments!


Can potting soil be used for aquatic plants?

You can add potting soil to your aquarium, but you'll need to prepare it for this purpose. Organic potting soil works best.

What soil should I use for pond plants?

The best compost for pond plants is a medium to heavy loam. You can use garden soil if it contains no fertilizer or herbicides.

Can you use garden soil for aquarium plants?

You shouldn't take soil from your garden and use it in your tank. Your aquarium plants and animals can die. If you want to use regular soil, you'll have to prepare it for use in an aquarium.

Can pond plants grow in gravel?

You can easily grow pond plants in gravel. Remember to add nutrients to the water since gravel won't provide any.