Aquatics
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Substrates

Aquarium substrates help to create a decorative and aesthetically pleasing appearance in the aquarium. They also house beneficial bacteria which help to break down waste solids and create a biological base necessary to sustain a healthy aquarium. While it is possible to have an aquarium without substrate, it will require more frequent cleaning and closer monitoring of the water quality. Aquatic substrates are broken into two categories: freshwater substrates and saltwater substrates.

Freshwater substrates consist primarily of gravel, sand, and blended substrates designed for specific types of fish. For those preferring a planted tank, specific plant mediums substrates can also be used.

Gravel

Gravel
  • The most common freshwater substrate
  • Available in a variety of colors ranging from natural to neon
  • Comes in an assortment of sizes, from ¼” to ¾”
    Gravel larger than ½” diameter should not be used as the sole substrate because it reduces the surface area available for bacteria
  • Usually a pound of gravel is required for each gallon of tank space
Sand

Sand
  • Available in both regular and extra-fine sizes
  • Comes in an assortment of colors such as natural, green, red, black, blue
  • Creates a better biological base than gravel, but must be stirred regularly to prevent it from becoming compacted
  • A good substrate choice for fish such as freshwater stingrays and flounder which should not ingest gravel
  • Caution should be used when performing maintenance to make sure that sand is not drawn into pumps and filters
Species Specific

Species Specific
  • Comes in a variety of sizes and colors
  • Specially formulated for African cichlids and other fish that require hard water conditions
  • Primary function of these substrates is to create a buffer to help maintain a higher pH than required in other freshwater aquariums
  • Helps to create natural living environments
Plant Medium

Plant Mediums
  • Comes in several different colors
  • Contains elements and nutrients to nourish your aquatic plants
  • Helps to establish a natural biological balance
  • Creates natural looking habitats

Saltwater substrates consist of sand and crushed coral, both of which are primarily aragonite based. These can be obtained in either dry or live formulations, with the live formula already containing beneficial bacteria which reduces the cycle time for new tanks.

Sand

Sand
  • Available in a variety of sizes and colors
  • The most common saltwater substrate
  • Provides a more natural ocean appearance
  • Has a greater surface area and can support a larger quantity of beneficial bacteria than crushed coral
  • Provides an ideal living environment for copepods and cephalopods which can serve as a food source for tank inhabitants such as sand sifting gobies and starfish
  • Caution should be used when performing maintenance to make sure that sand is not drawn into pumps and filters
Crushed Coral

Crushed Coral
  • Natural dramatic colors and textures
  • Easy to siphon
  • Provides a smaller surface area than sand, and as a result cannot support as large a quantity of beneficial bacteria
  • Receives more light exposure, resulting in increased algae growth
  • Acts as a buffer to help stabilize pH
  • Care must be used when keeping certain varieties of sand sifting fish on a crushed coral substrate as impaction may occur.