What is the purpose of the substrate?
There are several reasons why your tanks should have a layer of substrate on the base.
For many, it offers a place for any waste or uneaten food particles to settle and become captured, until the time comes for them to be cleaned up. This prevents them from breaking down as much and making the water cloudy or full of ammonia.
The gravel also acts as a natural bacteria medium, encouraging the production and growth of ‘good’ bacteria which will help your tank filter out when cleaning the water. This bacteria can also help your plants to thrive, which boosts the life of your tank.
Some fish are benthic, so they naturally go along the bottom of the tank floor finding waste and food. Catfish and goby are two commonly found bottom-feeders in home aquariums.
Breeds such as jawfish like having a sandy surface to dig into and hide or ‘hunt’. This burrowing can help them to feel safe, and the substrate also doesn’t reflect the image of the other fish in the tank as glass does, so they can stay hidden.
Of course, the substrate can be aesthetic too. You can choose the colours, styles, sizes and material type if you want your tank to have a certain look, as long as your fish will be happy with it.
When combined with plants, hiding places, rocks and driftwood, it creates a natural mini ocean environment. A well-crafted aquarium also is said to have a positive health benefit on those who gaze at it.
How much gravel should I use?
It is a good idea to use an exact calculator to work out your precise amount based on the size of the tank, your fish and how many fish are in the tank. We have given the equation to use under the ‘Bag Type’ Buying Guide section.
Be aware that too much gravel can cause too many anaerobic zones, which affect the chemical build of your tank. Wash the gravel before it is put in the tank to remove any natural dusty parts or fine bits which may not sink.
How often will I need to replace it?
You can’t really change the gravel in your tank every year to alter the style and colour as you would paint your living room, change your curtains or get a new set of saucepans.
This is the environment of your fish, plus it is a lot of hard work to do this. Gravel helps act as a biological medium, for the promotion of healthy bacteria which in turn helps oxygenate the water and keep it all clean. When replacing this, you’d have to try and maintain this all which is difficult and requires a few days.
Vacuuming it and washing sections occasionally with a dedicated gravel cleaner should be enough to keep it clean. Purchase high-quality gravel and it should remain intact and looking good for years to come.