6 Cheapest Substrates for a Planted Aquarium [2024]

The most significant and major portion of your aquarium is selecting the suitable substrate, the cheapest substrates for a planted aquarium are usually the way to go especially for newbie aquarists.

Substrates directly or indirectly impact your fish and water. Here are some most trustworthy and cheap substrates for planted aquariums highly recommended by PondMemo, which have excellent reviews by the buyers and are worth the money.


Best Cheapest Substrates

1. Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum, for Fish Tanks

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum, for Fish Tanks

It is very trustworthy, and well-liked for planted aquariums. Related to the different cheap substrates for planted aquariums, grains of the Fluval is small as well as breakable. For that reason, plants root can develop easily and penetrate instantly with the soil to get nutrients.


1. Dark Colour

Most tropical freshwater fish are comfortable in a heavily planted aquarium with darkness. However, when they feel safe in several locations and lighting, they are more likely to continue their natural practices.

2. Lower PH

Most aquarium plants need slightly low PH water to grow. Fluval is made for these plants. It supports maintaining water slightly acidic.


  1. Very cheap and worth
  2. Roots can easily grow and get nutrients for the soil
  3. Dark colour
  4. ability to lower PH

It is a great product to go. As I mentioned above some points, it has many good highlights related to others. Therefore, I highly suggest you for buying.

2. Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums

Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums

It is also a fabulous product without any question. It continues the climate in your aquarium in a high tone without harming the PH. Unfortunately, several other substrates contain various rocks and hurt the atmosphere inside the aquarium. But It has a big improvement in this topic. The materials of gravel are light enough.


1. Very safe

The Spectrastone contains non-toxic stuff. Due to this, gravels are more reliable than other products. Also, particles are small and don’t hurt the container’s atmosphere. Therefore, it is a fabulous option if you don’t want to take risks regarding damage-related concerns.

2. A good supply of circulation

Due to particles of the gravels being little or average, transmission is good compared to other products.

3. Keeps a great PH level

It can keep a good PH level and doesn’t impact the PH amount of the surrounding ecosystem.


  1. Harmless to place in the fish tank
  2. Great level of transmission
  3. Doesn’t harm the surrounding PH level
  4. It has a decent natural colour
  5. Particle shape is better compared to others

3. Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight Sand for Aquarium

Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight Sand for Aquarium

It is a made-in-USA product as well as a cheap substrate for planted tanks. The biggest benefit is this product can use it in both freshwater and saltwater. It is typically white color sand that forms a satisfying color contrast. It is neither alkaline nor acidic, so the PH value is neutral, which is a good indication. It gives a rich appearance to the aquarium.


1. Stable PH level

Due to stable PH levels, it can use in both freshwater and saltwater. Therefore, it is very good for your exotic fish and also suitable for all aquatic dears.

2. Colour

As it is a natural product, its color is also reasonable. Moreover, as I said before, the contrast of color is charming, giving an aquarium a great stylish look.

3. Natural product

This product is pretty natural; therefore, it never keeps any toxic result on the ecosystem of a fish tank.


  1. A great brand
  2. Work in both fresh and saltwater.
  3. Natural colour
  4. Straightforward and reliable product
  5. Neutral PH value
  6. Looks very clear and attractive

4. Seachem Fluorite Onyx Sand Substrate

Seachem Fluorite Onyx Sand Substrate

Onyx sand is an admirable product and has been particularly enriched for planted aquariums. However, this product can be used in every aquarium environment. In addition, this product is mixed with other crushed rooks, so; we don’t need crushes rock modifier. Therefore, it works best when we accept it for our primary substrates. Onyx Sand offers aquariums that look vibrant due to their dark, simple color. I suggest washing the sand in a new aquarium without a hidden substrate coating to counter supplements flowing into the water.


1. Dark colour

Its color makes the aquarium seems lovely. I said previously; most tropical fish get pleasure in a dark environment because fish feel protected in the Dark ecosystem.

2. Natural product

We don’t need to worry about its safeness. It is a classic, natural and authentic product.

3. Used in all aquarium environments

Onyx sand is suited for many aquarium ecosystems.


  1. a clear organic product
  2. dark coloured
  3. Uniquely refined for planted aquarium.
  4. Onyx sand can be utilised without crushed modifiers.
  5. Used for the main substrate.

5. Estes’ Gravel Products AES06606 Marine Sand Black for Aquarium

Estes’ Gravel Products AES06606 Marine Sand Black for Aquarium

It is also a cheap substrate for planted aquariums. The size of the particles is considerably large, as the grains are larger than coffee beans, but the size is satisfactory. The weight of the sand is excellent for holding plant roots and storing them in place when separated about in the pattern that we want. The only slight downside is this product needs the subtle small shimmers that some different substrates have. But, on the other hand, the component is not too light and has the perfect strong black tone.


1. Organic

It is a natural and pure organic product; therefore, it is safe and non-toxic. 

2. Weight

The weight of the sand is really impressive in comparison to others. Although it is a sand substrate, weight management gives it a 5 star.

3. Perfectly dark colour

The color of the sand is black, which gives attractiveness to the aquarium.


  1. Best for both marine and freshwater tanks
  2. It is secure and non-toxic.
  3. Also, it is environmentally friendly.
  4. Black Colour makes it more awesome.

6. Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium

Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium

It’s a fantastic cheap planted tank substrate. Particle sizes can range from fine to medium. Due to the large size of the particles and solid nature, when tanks are maintained, others aren’t usually removed safely. Here’s a recommendation of substrate I would make if you wished to start a fish tank. Crystal is made of fine grains surrounded by a clear surface that is exposed to light and bright. You may use it on both fish-only aquariums and planted aquariums. If you have excellent lighting, you will see green growth on this sand. A substrate with such small grains means that fish waste and other trash cannot get into it. In addition, it organically removes dangerous ammonia spikes.


1. Size and shape

Size is perfect for easy-to-move from the aquarium. And wastes are not able to get into substrates.

2. Unique transparent nature

Its transparent nature gives awesomeness to the aquarium. In addition, it shines near to diamond, which gives a beautiful look to the aquarium.

3. Contain bacteria

It comes with mixing with bacteria, which naturally removes ammonia from the tank, which is a great sign.


  1. Nice experience
  2. Neutral PH value
  3. Perfect size
  4. Contain nitrifying bacteria
  5. a great colour

How deep substrate for planted aquarium

How much is the substrate deep? It is an interesting question. However, substrate deep doesn’t rely on aquarium size. We should keep a minimum of 2 inches deep substrate in our fish tank. It also varies on different types of substrates. But a suitable deepness of substrate is quite a positive factor for our fish tank.

Type of cheap substrate for planted aquarium

There are three varieties of substrate we can use in our planted aquarium. Those are gravel, sand, and soil. Gravel is one of my preferred substrates to use in my fish tank. Gravel is included nutrients and is also cheap. In addition, its ingredients have different sizes and colors. But it has some downsides also like; it needs a daily wash, and sharp gravel can create problems for fish.

On the other hand, sand is the cheapest gravel among all. Sand also has different sizes and shapes. And sand is an excellent substrate for the bottom feeder. But it doesn’t contain many nutrients compared to others. And also, it is not good for live plants.

Soil has the potential nutrient combination, and it is excellent for live plants and tropical fishes. But it is not cheap compared to other substrates, and it does not have different sizes, shapes, and colors.


So we don’t need a lot of money for our substrate for planted aquariums. If we properly plan our work for choosing the substrate, we can save a lot of money. Substrates are going to vary depending on what plants we are utilizing in our tank. So different plants require different substrates to grow.

If you read this article mindfully, then you can pick the right cheapest substrate for planted aquariums. Plants like Jungle Val and Italian Val are good for freshwater aquariums and easy to manage.

If we consider Jungle Val vs Italian Val, it isn’t easy to choose a plant between them. So if you have any questions regarding our topic, post a comment below, we will be glad to hear your feedback.


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