Shrimp soil and substrate choices

So… what to choose for soil and or substrate / stratum?

So I’m starting my second tank to replace the first – just to upsize a bit now I have an appreciation of what is involved.

My first tank used a base of Tropica Plant Growth Substrate, topped with Fluval Shrimp Stratum. My pH was around 7.5 with this combination with no leached ammonia, great plant growth and within 6 months no algae and always clear water. I had hard water so suspect the pH buffering was used up quick.

I’ve made notes on some that I have found – most say to use alone but other shrimp keepers use a combination. Substrate doesn’t last forever (and if it has to work hard against very hard water, it won’t bring the pH down for very long).

Possible choices I’ve seen include:

1) Scaper’s Soil by Dennerle (link here)

Scaper_s_Soil___DennerleThe website says this is a fertile volcanic soil suitable for shrimp. It is slightly acidic (buffers to 6-6.5) and made from ‘natural soils) to provide plants with trace elements. It has irregular grains 1-4mm and quite loose. It is a deep black colour (although in the picture it looks dark brown). It also reduce kH.

I like the idea of this one – and have always wanted slightly acidic water … but my Nerite (snail) likes to live in slightly alkali water and he is my main algae cleaner – so not so sure about that aspect.

It comes in 4 litres bags – suitable for a 30 L cube like mine (or 8 litres if you are lucky enough to have a 50L tank!). Costs around £15 for a 2.4kG bag.


2) Fluval Stratum -used to be Fluval Shrimp or Fluval Plant – now it appears to just be Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum. (Link here).

Fluval_2kg_Shrimp_Stratum__Amazon_co_uk__Pet_SuppliesThis is from Mount Aso volcano in Japan – so it is mineral rich, loose stratum that feels like little beads. It is dark black and my shrimp love to pick it up and turn it as they feed – which is quite amusing.  Fluvial say it promotes a neutral to mildly acidic pH.

It comes in 2,4,and 8 kg backs and you lay it about 1.5-2 inches deep.

A 2kG bag was fine for my 25 litre tank with a quarter left over (using it as a top soil). It costs around £8 per bag + £10 postage on Amazon (and currently can’t find it anywhere on the net for less). You can wash it to remove dust before putting it in.



3) ADA (Aqua Design Amano) Aqua Soil comes in three types (Africana, Malaya and Amazonia). It is the favoured soil of many highly planted tanks.

Colour varies from red brown to dark brown. They leach ammonia so cycling without shrimp is the way to go.

ADA also comes as a fine grain soil powder for small nano tanks (or layering it under of over other ADA soils. Costs can be £23-£50. Can last many years – but depends if you disturb it. Eventually the nutrients will be used up – so that could be a problem if you don’t use plant fertilisers like me.

*Note that ‘new’ versions of the soils may vary.

Here is a review over on red




4) Fluorite by Seachem.(Link here)

Seachem_Flourite_3_5kg_£12_99_-_Buy_Substrate_System_AccessoriesFluorite is a clay gravel that can be used with other products. It says it never has to be replaced and does not alter pH. You rinse it before use and comes in 3.5 or 7kg bags. (Comes in black, dark, red and also sand variations). The red version contains lots of iron and they are investigating it as a potential source of arsenic at plant toxic levels. See their website for updates.  It is also full of minerals like copper, potassium and they produce a chart to compare. *trace copper should be fine for shrimp. It is priced around £13-15 for 3.5kg.

5) Sands and gravel e.g. granite etc.

Many colours and grain sizes – huge range of good examples over on Aqua Essentials. I’ve used it in my tank to help keep the soil where I wanted it (although long term the soil made its way through). You have to wash it well in tank / dechlorinated water. They generally don’t alter pH but you do need a soil underneath for a planted tank.

6) Tropica Aquarium Soil and substrate range. (Link here)



This is what I used in my tank beneath Fluval and some granite sand. My plants loved it and it is a contender for my new tank. It is also cheap – £7 approx for 1 L which was enough for my Nano tank with some spare. (1 L does up to a 27 L tank)

It is a clay and sphagnum combination with slow release of nutrients to the plant roots. My water was clear (like any soil, dampen it down with the water your will use, top it off with gravel, and fill the tank up by GENTLY pouring water over a saucer – undisturbed the water will stay clear or at least clear up within 24 hrs).

Tropica have a soil range that doesn’t need covering up with a grain size 2-3 mm. It says it ‘naturally reduces KH and pH’ and ensure good water changes in a new aquarium suggesting it leaches ammonia but I’m only guessing.

7) Ebi Gold Shrimp Soil (Link here) or their rubbish website here.

This soil is popular amongst shrimp keepers. It has small grains 1-3mm and buffers the water to a pH of about 6-6.5 and TDS will reduce to around 150-180 (KH 1-2) Different types exist but it is essentially natural clay and volcanic minerals. It might need to be replaced after a year and it does leach ammonia/nitrite – so only introduce in a shrimpless cycle. It is one of the more expensive soils.



One thought on “Shrimp soil and substrate choices

  1. Pingback: Cycling a shrimp tank | criptic thoughts

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