This subject tends to get a bit touchy and controversial in the aquatic community. There has always been different opinions on the importance of substrate. We will be laying out some basic information and facts on this subject today. An aquarium with some kind of substrate is always going to be more stable than an aquarium without substrate.
The substrate layer acts as a medium harboring beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria are responsible for the breakdown of organics in the aquarium. Known as the nitrogen cycle. These bacteria will colonize on any surface in the aquarium. Having substrate in an aquarium adds much surface area for the bacteria to colonize. A healthy substrate means a healthy aquarium. Thus proper substrate is imperative for keeping a healthy hassle free aquarium.
With advances in the hobby. There has been an increase in substrates available to the hobbyists. With so many options to choose from, one can feel quite overwhelmed by making the decision on which to purchase. Lets go trough and take a quick look at the popular options available.
Substrates available for use comes in a verity sizes, colors, shapes, and even for specific purposes. Lets categorize the more popular selections available. Most common substrate used is Inert gravel/rocks. Nutrient based, and Soil type substrate mainly being geared towards planted aquarium hobbyists. Another commonly used substrate is Crushed Corals mainly aimed at Cichlid aficionado.
Choosing the correct substrate for your aquarium is vital in the health and upkeep of the aquarium.
Inert substrates are commonly sold to hobbyists and comes in a large verity to choose from. These substrates are Inert and will not react in anyways to your water so it will not affect water parameters. Over time, nitrifying bacteria will colonize on this substrate and will become a nice healthy bed harboring beneficial bacteria. Another benefit to this substrate is the grain sizes you can choose from. A larger grain size would allow for better water circulation trough the substrate, which helps break down waste faster. However being inert, this substrate is not ideal for having a planted tank and also has zero buffering capabilities.
Nutrient and Soil based substrates are geared towards planted hobbyists. These types of soil is necessary for proper plant growth and maintenance. Nutrient and Soil based substrate are not inert. Most of the time these substrates are composed of different materials and additive. Nutrient and Soil based substrates tend to have a more organic composition to it. This allows for a natural breakdown process which supplies the plants with food. Additives to Nutrient and Soil based substrates are peat, volcanic ash, carbon, clay, and other organic materials. Depending on the manufactures, each brand varies in compositions. Benefits of having certain additives in the soil is allowing the substrate to have buffering capabilities. Also with the addition of Peat to the substrate will allow for the exchange of heavy metals thus lowering your GH value and PH. Essentially softening the water.
Crushed Coral as a substrate is mainly used for Cichlid aquariums and Salt water aquariums. Certain Cichlids requires the water to be more alkaline. Salt water aquariums requires high levels of alkalinity and ph naturally. Crushed Coral substrate is just that – crushed corals. This substrate is high in calcium carbonate. The calcium carbonate slowly dissolves into the water colum which will raise the hardness level, ph, and buffers the alkalinity of the water. African Cichlids keepers and salt water hobbyists tend to prefer this substrates over conventional ones.
Planted aquariums is a small specialty niche in the hobby of aquarium keeping. However planted aquariums are now gaining popularity. At Sevenports, we can see the trend and it is our goal to provide quality products. We realize the specific condition and care required for having success in the planted aquarium. Being the foundation of a planted aquarium. Substrates have to be of high quality and standards.
The substrates formulated for this purpose has to be of good quality. Lower quality substrate tend to break down extremely fast. Some has a life expectancy of roughly one year. Having the correct substrates can decipher the success of a planted aquarium. Plants requires proper substrate to thrive. A few key points when search for substrate is its buffering capabilities and compositions. Will it help buffer your PH? Will it lower your GH?
Aquatic plants tend to grow best in soft substrates as opposed to hard gravel and rocky substrate. At Sevenports, we offer two different types of substrate. One is the Mr. Aqua Water Plant Soil, which is a nutrient based substrate with buffering capabilities in lowering GH and keeping PH stable. Your values may vary from others as all water sources are different. The second offering of substrate is the Azoo Growers Bed. This is a volcanic ashed based soil substrate. The benefit of volcanic ash based substrate is that it becomes more enriched over time with nutrient. Azoo Grower bed has buffering capabilities as well in terms of buffering PH and lowering GH.
Both substrates are considered soft growing bed. With proper care and maintenance both substrate can outlast the aquarium and plants will thrive under nominal conditions.
Have a great week!
The SevenPorts Team