There are dozens of types of aquarium substrates available on the market and knowing which one to choose can be pretty confusing. Once you settle on a substrate, you may have to be prepared to shell out a pretty penny to get your aquarium substrate at an appropriate depth for your tank’s needs.
That’s where DIY aquarium substrate comes in! Some aquarium substrates can even be made from things you already have, like topsoil, saving you money. It also ensures you end up with a substrate you like that fulfills your needs.
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Purpose of Substrate
Why even put substrate in your aquarium? Substrate is a great addition to aquariums for a number of reasons. The first being that substrate supports the growth of plants in your aquarium. Many aquatic plants need their roots in soil of some kind, and substrate allows your plants to root and thrive.
Aquarium substrate can be a great place for the colonization of beneficial bacteria as well. Most substrates have a high surface area, which increases the real estate beneficial bacteria need to successfully colonize and reproduce.
The simplest benefit of adding a substrate to your aquarium is the environmental enrichment it can bring to your aquarium livestock. Some fish enjoy burrowing in substrate while others enjoy scavenging in and around substrate for snacks. Small invertebrates, like dwarf shrimp, feel safer with substrate and plants, which improves their health and reproduction. Whether your fish likes to pick up mouthfuls of substrate to spit back out or just likes to feel the sand between their toes, so to speak, substrate will improve the quality of your tank.
1. DIY Aquarium Soil #1
2. DIY Aquarium Soil #2
3. DIY Aquarium Substrate with Kitty Litter
4. DIY Aquarium Substrate: The Gravel Cheat
5. DIY Aquarium Substrate: Sand Options
Things to Avoid
The easiest way to go about an aquarium substrate is to purchase the aquarium-marketed versions from pet and fish stores. However, these often carry the price markup of specialty products and you may be able to save money and end up with a healthier aquarium by doing some DIY aquarium substrates. If you are unsure of the safety of a product, though, don’t use it! There are lots of safe options available to you that won’t risk the health of your aquarium.
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Featured image credit: rodimov, Shutterstock