The substrate of your aquarium

The basis for your plants and the habitat

Breeders of ornamental fish mostly run their breeding tanks without a substrate to make the cleaning faster and easier. But an aquarium with substrate not only looks more attractive, it also functions much better because the substrate supports the filter with its own significant filtering effect. It is furthermore important for the plant roots, and quite a few fish species use it as a hiding place (flounder, loaches, catfish, rays).

These substrates are available

The different grain sizes of the substrate have different advantages and disadvantages.

Fine sand

Ideal for all bottom-dwelling fish which like grubbing or burying themselves. Plants also root perfectly in the sand but only have a good hold with well-developed roots. With the help of plant pegs ( JBL ProScape Plantis ) the fixing of plants in the ground is much easier! Disadvantage of fine sand: You can’t create “mountains and valleys” because the sand levels off after a while. Fine sand is not suited for undergravel heating cables. The heat dissipation doesn’t really work in it.

JBL Sansibar SNOW

Snow-white substrate for freshwater and marine aquariums and aqua-terrariums

  • Very fine sandy soil for all aquarium types: substrate for fresh and saltwater aquariums as well as aqua-terrariums and terrariums
ab 15,71 €

JBL Sansibar WHITE

White, fine substrate for freshwater and saltwater aquariums

  • Perfect hold for plant roots: substrate with 0.2 - 0.6 mm grain size for freshwater and marine aquariums and terrariums
ab 9,15 €

JBL Sansibar RED

Fine, red substrate for fresh- and saltwater aquariums

  • Fine, uncoloured sandy soil: substrate for fresh and saltwater aquariums and aqua-terrariums
ab 12,85 €

JBL Sansibar ORANGE

Orange, fine substrate for freshwater and saltwater aquariums

  • Fine, uncoloured sandy soil for freshwater and saltwater aquariums and aqua-terrariums
ab 12,85 €
Fine gravel

Also perfect for bottom-dwelling fish species because it has no sharp edges. Plants quickly grow healthy and strong roots. For modelling the ground we recommend stones or wood to build terraces. Not ideal for undergravel heating cables, but okay.

JBL Sansibar DARK

Dark substrate for freshwater and saltwater aquariums

  • Perfect hold for plant roots: substrate with 0.2 - 0.6 mm grain size for freshwater and marine aquariums and terrariums
ab 9,23 €

JBL Sansibar RIVER

Light, fine substrate with black pebbles for freshwater and marine aquariums

  • Substrate with 0.8 mm grain size for freshwater and marine aquariums and terrariums
ab 9,23 €

JBL Sansibar GREY

Grey, fine substrate for freshwater and saltwater aquariums

  • Fine, uncoloured sandy soil: substrate for fresh and saltwater aquariums and aqua-terrariums
ab 9,82 €
Medium-sized gravel

Often an inexpensive substrate, but unsuitable for bottom-dwelling fish. Due to its a bit coarser structure the waste enters slightly deeper and needs to be regularly siphoned from deeper layers with a gravel cleaner. Well suited for aquatic plants.

Coarse gravel

Unsuitable for bottom-dwelling and digging fish. Is often used with large fish to prevent them rearranging the tank all the time. Difficult to clean. For plants only suitable to a limited extent. Better insert the plants into small pots.

Natural soil

Just about the best thing there is! This natural substrate has no sharp edges and is ideal for bottom-dwelling and grubbing fish species, such as armored catfish. Plants grow roots very quickly and can be easily removed at a later stage without removing half of the substrate from the tank. The only disadvantage: The JBL Manado substrate is so loose that plants easily loosen themselves from the ground again during their insertion. With JBL plant pegs ( JBL ProScape Plantis ) you can easily and reliably attach new plants to any ground.

JBL Manado DARK

Dark natural substrate for aquariums

  • Perfect for the plant care in freshwater aquariums. Its porous structure promotes the growth of roots. Suitable for digging fish
ab 9,20 €
Lava substrate

Looks very natural but is totally unsuitable for grubbing and digging fish! The animals hurt themselves on the sharp edges! Plants root very well inside and it is perfect for modelling the ground design. Lava substrate is often used for the design to form a solid foundation for wood and stones. Sand or gravel would sink or dug away by fish. The lava substrate becomes firmly interlocked and therefore aquascapers always use it as foundation.

JBL ProScape Volcano Mineral

Volcanic natural substrate for aquascaping

  • Volcanic rock substrate as stable foundation for rock and root wood constructions: dedicated substrate for aquascaping aquariums
ab 9,74 €
Soil

Aquarists who like heavily planted aquariums and are fans of sensitive plants have special demands on the ideal substrate: It has to consist of burnt soil and contain lots of nutrients. JBL offers two options: JBL PlantSoil is loaded with a lot of nutrients and ideal for heavily planted aquariums (aquascaping). Whereas JBL ShrimpSoil has not been loaded with additional nutrients and is perfectly suited for aquariums with invertebrates (e.g. shrimps) and plants.

JBL ProScape PlantSoil BROWN

Brown freshwater substrate for aquascaping

  • Complete nutrient substrate for aquatic plants: special substrate for aquascaping aquariums
ab 14,44 €

JBL ProScape ShrimpsSoil BROWN

Brown substrate for shrimp aquariums

  • Soil without additional nutrients for shrimp aquariums: special substrate for aquascaping aquariums
ab 16,63 €

How thick does the substrate need to be?

Get a calculation from the ProScape substrate calculator , how much substrate your aquarium requires.

This question cannot be answered generally since there are very different types of aquariums. Generally the substrate layer shouldn’t be thinner than 3-5 cm. For many plants the layer thickness certainly has 6-8 cm.

How does the substrate in the plant aquarium need to be layered?

For most aquariums with aquatic plants we advise following the framework: First a layer long-term substrate fertiliser ( JBL AquaBasis plus ) and above a natural substrate ( JBL Manado ).

Only for extremly heavily planted aquariums (aquascaping) the structure is different: With the help of JBL ProScape Volcano Mineral the landscape can be coarsely modelled. On this lava substrate you can directly place the stones or the wood. It prevents a sinking of the heavy decoration elements. Then everything can be covered with JBL ProScape PlantSoil BROWN .

Does the substrate need to be completely renewed?

Sand, gravel and natural substrates, such as JBL Manado don’t need to be replaced. The regular siphoning of the substrate with a gravel cleaner ( JBL AquaEX Set 20-45 ) is a sufficient care measure.

In our experience soil substrates lose their positive characteristics after two years latest and need to be replaced. But since aquascapers are constantly recreating their “works of art” anyway, this is not really a disadvantage.