TOP 10 best soils for an aquarium: pros and cons, reviews


An aquarium is not just a unique home decor, but also a means of relaxation. Watching the unhurried movements of underwater inhabitants, you can perfectly relax after a hard day’s work. To make the fish comfortable, you need to choose aquatic vegetation, but more importantly — choose the best soil for the aquarium. This rating will help to do this.

What to look for when choosing a substrate for an aquarium

The soil is an important part of the aquarium ecosystem. It is in it that underwater vegetation takes root and beneficial microorganisms multiply, which help maintain optimal microflora.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right substrate for your aquarium:

  1. The particle size is determined by the species of fish and plants that are planned to be placed in the tank. Fine sand (up to 0.5 mm) is more often used as a decor, as it quickly cakes and is not suitable for rooting plants. A substrate with particles of 1-2 or 3-4 mm is considered universal, as it is suitable for most fish and plants. Particles larger than 5 mm are used in aquariums with fish that do not live at the bottom, but prefer to swim in the water column.
  2. The color of the soil also plays an important role. It is advisable to use the soil of a neutral natural shade. Part of the aquarium can be decorated with black soil. But the soil of bright unnatural colors is better not to buy. As a rule, it is produced by an artisanal method, and when it enters the water, such a substrate begins to release substances dangerous to fish.

In stores, you can buy both natural and artificial soil. The advantage should be given to the first option, since the natural substrate, unlike the artificial one, allows you to create a full-fledged ecosystem in a closed reservoir.

The best soils for an aquarium

JBL Manado

This German brand provides a wide range of substrates for aquariums and terrariums. There are options for tropical and freshwater fish, as well as beige and black substrates. One of the best is black primer. It can be used in aquariums and terrariums. The product has a neutral acidity, so it will not disturb the aquarium ecosystem. The most popular packaging weighs 2.4 kg and is designed to fill a tank with a volume of 20 liters or more. The substrate is produced in a durable bag of dense polyethylene, so it will definitely not tear during transportation.

Type of Natural
Compound Gravel
Fraction size 3-5 mm


  • ideal for fast rooting of aquatic vegetation;
  • does not contain artificial dyes;
  • does not release toxic compounds and chemicals into the water;
  • makes the color of the fish brighter;
  • universal application: suitable for freshwater and tropical aquariums.


  • small package weight;
  • black primer is not always on sale.

Review: “For a long time I wanted to buy black primer for the aquarium, but I could not find it. I ended up ordering online. Surprisingly, in such an aquarium, the fish look brighter and the plants are greener. I recommend».

ZOLUX Aquasand Nature Quartz Gross

The manufacturer Zolux also produces a wide range of natural soils for arranging aquariums of various subjects. The range includes sand and gravel substrates. They have a natural color and not only set off the bright color of the fish, but also allow you to recreate their natural habitat. For a small aquarium of 25 liters, a small package of soil weighing just over 4 kg will suffice. This soil is not suitable for terrariums.

Type of Natural
Compound Gravel
Fraction size 3-5 mm


  • the universal size of the fraction is suitable for planting aquatic vegetation;
  • does not cake even with prolonged use;
  • sets off the bright color of the fish;
  • does not contain harmful substances;
  • comes in a sturdy package.


  • not always on sale;
  • only suitable for aquariums: not suitable for use in a terrarium.

Review: “We bought this soil on the advice of the seller, since we don’t understand the details of soil selection. It lays evenly on the bottom and really does not cake.

UDeco River Amber

One of the best substrates for setting up an aquarium. It is absolutely natural and consists of small polished stones of various rocks. The composition of the substrate is balanced, so it does not change the acidity and does not increase the hardness of the water. To ensure that the soil is evenly distributed along the bottom and does not cake, the manufacturer recommends using a volcanic lava substrate. The soil from this manufacturer is provided in packages weighing 3.3 or 9.9 kg. This amount is enough to fill the aquarium from 30 liters.

Type of Natural
Compound Amber gravel
Fraction size 0.1 to 5 mm (depending on model)


  • does not change the composition of the water in the aquarium;
  • suitable for creating a tropical and freshwater aquarium;
  • a wide range of fraction sizes for different types of fish;
  • durable packaging made of transparent material allows you to evaluate the soil before buying;
  • affordable cost.


  • before use, the soil must be thoroughly washed, otherwise it will pollute the water;
  • difficult to find on sale, easier to order in the online store.

Review: “Very good primer, I recommend it to everyone. It is absolutely natural, does not affect the water in any way, and the aquarium looks like an untouched corner of nature.”


The manufacturer Prime produces several types of soils for the aquarium. On sale you can find black, blue, white, lilac and even orange substrate. Despite the bright color, the soil does not contain compounds dangerous for fish, and after filling the tank, it does not change the composition of the water and does not disturb the microclimate. The packaging of the goods can also be different, but the fraction is universal and suitable for most types of fish and aquatic vegetation. Experienced aquarists recommend buying a black or white substrate, as it does not change the color of the fish.

Type of Natural
Compound Natural stone
Fraction size 3-5 mm


  • a wide selection of colors;
  • resistant to direct sunlight and carbon dioxide;
  • does not change the acidity of water;
  • suitable for both freshwater and marine aquariums;
  • safe natural dyes are used to give color.


  • not all users like the bright colors of the soil;
  • there is no soil with a very fine or coarse fraction.

Feedback: “I did not dare to buy the blue and orange substrate. I took black. The aquarium looks really luxurious, and the fish seem to look brighter.”

Tetra ActiveSubstrate

A distinctive feature of this soil is that it is intended for filling aquariums in which bottom fish live. All soil components are absolutely natural, do not change the acidity of the soil and do not harm the health of underwater inhabitants. In addition to soil for bottom fish, the manufacturer also produces other types of soil with a large fraction size, so each aquarium owner will be able to choose the right type of substrate. Tetra soils are available in packages from 3 to 10 kg, so it will not be difficult to arrange even a large tank.

Type of Natural
Compound Clay
Fraction size Up to 0.1 mm


  • 6 kg packaging is enough to fill a large 60 l aquarium;
  • affordable cost;
  • easy to find on sale;
  • there is a wide choice of other soils for different types of fish;
  • does not change the composition of water and does not increase its acidity.


  • quickly caking;
  • only suitable for aquariums with bottom fish.

Review: “Only catfish live in my aquarium, so I always buy this kind of soil. Yes, it’s caking, but I haven’t found a better option for my fish yet.”

Dennerle DeponitMix Professional

The nutrient soil from this manufacturer was specially created for the effective rooting and rapid growth of aquatic vegetation. It contains iron in the form of a chelate, which gives the leaves a rich green color. The substrate consists of quartz sand, gravel, clay minerals and peat. Due to this, the soil creates an optimal microclimate in the aquarium and does not harm the health of fish, crabs, molluscs and other aquatic life. The substrate is produced in containers made of durable plastic, so it is not damaged during transportation.

Type of Natural
Compound Clay, sand, gravel, peat
Fraction size 3-5 mm


  • a special composition provides high-quality nutrition and rapid rooting of plants;
  • the neutral color of the soil emphasizes the bright color of the fish;
  • does not change the acidity of water;
  • does not emit chemical compounds and toxic substances;
  • improves the overall microflora in the aquarium.


  • high price;
  • can be found for sale only in large pet stores.

Review: “I can say with confidence that this soil, although expensive, fully justifies its price. The plants look natural, the fish feel great, the acidity of the water does not increase. I recommend».

ISTA Aquarium Substrate Premium Soil

Nutritious soil for aquariums with optimal acidity. It can be used to fill freshwater aquariums and ornamental shrimp tanks. The substrate is produced in a soft bag made of dense material and perfectly tolerates transportation. The granules are porous, painted in a neutral natural color, suitable for rooting aquatic vegetation. The soil does not change the acidity of the water in the tank, does not cake and does not emit toxic substances that can harm the inhabitants.

Type of Natural
Compound quartz gravel
Fraction size 3-5 mm


  • nutritional components in the composition accelerate the rooting and growth of plants;
  • sets off the bright color of the fish;
  • convenient and durable packaging;
  • suitable for aquariums with marine life;
  • does not caking even after prolonged use.


  • high cost, in comparison with domestic counterparts;
  • not always on sale.

Review: “I agree that you can find cheaper soil, but I like this soil both in appearance and to the touch. I specially measured the acidity and hardness of water: it does not change after replacing the soil.


A distinctive feature of the soil of this manufacturer is that it is available in a wide variety of compositions. Each model is designed to fill the aquarium with a certain type of fish. For example, the substrate «Caribbean» consists of fine gravel and is painted white. This allows you to recreate the ecosystem of tropical seas and shade the bright color of the fish. Another type of soil — «Caspian» consists of medium-sized pebbles. Such a soil is not suitable for the rooting of aquatic vegetation, therefore it is usually supplemented with soil with a finer fraction size.

Type of Natural
Compound Pebbles, gravel
Fraction size 3-5 or 5-10 mm (depending on model)


  • a wide range of soils for aquariums of various subjects;
  • reliable domestic manufacturer;
  • affordable cost;
  • only natural ingredients in the composition;
  • there is a choice of soils according to the size of the fraction.


  • small volume of packaging;
  • Some types of soil are hard to find commercially.

Review: “I am a real fan of aquariums. I have three of them at home, and all with different fish. I only buy this type of soil, since its individual varieties are created for certain types of fish. ”


Soil for the aquarium of this brand is also presented in a wide range. For example, for arranging a freshwater aquarium with bottom fish, you can buy decorative marsh soil, and for a tropical one, soils of an unusual color are suitable. Despite the fact that all brand substrates are painted in unusual colors, they are absolutely safe for underwater inhabitants. Dyes are completely natural, do not fade under the influence of direct sunlight, do not change the acidity of water and do not emit toxic substances. The fraction size of all varieties is the same and is more suitable for decorative purposes than for rooting plants.

Type of Natural
Compound Quartz sand
Fraction size 1-2 mm


  • a wide selection of colors for decoration;
  • only natural ingredients in the composition;
  • does not change the level of acidity of water;
  • does not cake;
  • affordable cost.


  • not suitable for rooting plants;
  • not always on sale.

Review: “If you want to plant some kind of plant, this soil will not work. The fraction is too small. But for ornamental purposes, this soil is ideal.”

Dennerle Nano Garnelenkies

The soil of this manufacturer is presented in several color options, but they are all neutral and perfectly set off the bright color of the fish. On sale you can find black, light gray and brown soil. The product was created specifically for small aquariums. The size of the fraction is small, so in large tanks the soil will quickly cake. The substrate is made from natural ingredients, it will not harm the underwater inhabitants.

Type of Natural
Compound fine gravel
Fraction size 0.7-1.2 mm


  • only natural ingredients in the composition;
  • neutral colors emphasize the beauty of fish and underwater plants;
  • perfectly combined with soils from other manufacturers;
  • ideal for small aquariums;
  • does not change the acidity and hardness of water.


  • not suitable for large aquariums;
  • cannot be used to root plants.

Review: “The soil is shallow, but I personally like it. I use it to fill the space between large boulders.

Comparison table

In order to buy high-quality soil for an aquarium the first time, which will not harm the fish and help create a unique composition, it is better to choose several options and compare their characteristics using the table.

Product name Type of Compound Fraction size
JBL Manado Natural Gravel 3-5 mm
ZOLUX Aquasand Nature Quartz Gross Natural Gravel 3-5 mm
UDeco River Amber Natural Gravel 0.1 to 5 mm (depending on model)
Prime Natural Natural stone 3-5 mm
Tetra ActiveSubstrate Natural Clay Up to 0.1 mm
Dennerle DeponitMix Professional Natural Clay, sand, gravel, peat 3-5 mm
ISTA Aquarium Substrate Premium Soil Natural quartz gravel 3-5 mm
barbus Natural Pebbles, gravel 3-5 or 5-10 mm (depending on model)
ArtUniq Color Natural Quartz sand 1-2 mm
Dennerle Nano Garnelenkies Natural fine gravel 0.7-1.2mm

From this top we can conclude that it is better to use natural soil for the aquarium. It does not harm the fish, accelerates the growth of plants, and also allows you to create a unique ecosystem in a closed tank. The best manufacturers of safe soil and the most successful compositions are described above.

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