What Soil is Used for Aquarium Plants? With an Easy DIY Soil Guide

Any soil cannot go inside an aquarium and thus to know what soil is used for aquarium plants, read here.

A new aquarium with the best aquascaping will be a great addition to your home. Aquarium plants have an infinite choice of aquarium substrates like sand, gravel, and soil. Choosing the perfect soil for your aquarium starts with choosing the right plant with which you want to decorate your aquarium. Aquarium plants need a mix of all three substrates to thrive in the aquarium. Soil Substrate will help the plant to get essential nutrients and growth along with a healthy fish.

In the rest of this article, you will learn more about different soils for aquarium plants and how to prepare them along with a do-it-yourself soil recipe. Let us start with aquarium plants and help you find out the best soil for your aquarium plants.

What are the Various Types of Aquarium Plants?

Aquarium plants are plants that grow in water such as fresh and saltwater. They give the aquarium a natural appearance and habitat for the fish. There are many aquarium plants and each type of aquarium plant needs different substrates for them to grow. Of all, the soil is most effective for plant growth and such is the same for aquarium or aquatic plants. Some of the Aquarium plants which use soil as a substrate to grow are,

Amazon Sword is used as a background plant with its full green leaves. They need less care and maintenance. Amazon swords thrive in a loosely packed substrate. They can be used with most community fishes.

Monte Carlo Carpet is best used as a carpet of grass inside the aquarium. They can be grown easily to be carpet plants. Monte Carlo carpet is a slow-growing yet thick plant that can grow fully in two months.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of soil for Aquarium Plants? 

Benefits and Drawbacks of soil for Aquarium Plants 

Soil substrates won’t stay the same for long periods, they also have pros and cons. We will read about it below,

Benefits of soil for Aquarium Plants

Aquarium plants benefit a lot from the soil in the tank. Now let us see some of the benefits,


Soil for Aquarium plants can greatly benefit by providing nutrients to the plants. Every Plant needs micronutrients such as Iron, zinc, copper, and boron as well as macronutrients such as Calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur. In the case of plants growing in an aquarium, they need soil to absorb the nutrients. In this way, you don’t want to spoil the water by adding excess fertilizer to it.

Change in Water:

Soil helps the water to maintain the pH level and maintain a balanced environment in the tank. They also release the essential nutrients for the water and help to create good bacteria for the aquarium’s ecosystem.

Booster for Plants:

Large numbers of plants can be grown quickly in an ecosystem with soil. Soil helps to boost the growth of plants by providing the right space for growth.

Drawbacks of soil for Aquarium Plants

Soil for aquarium plants can be messy at times. Read on to know more,

Used as Add-on

Soil being messy and muddy, it needs to be used with gravel. This makes the soil less disturbed and makes it look less messy.

Limited Nutrients:

The nutrients in the soil will be depleted in years according to the plant grown in it. The soil needs to be replaced to grow a new plant in it.


Soil for aquarium plants can be expensive. Compared to sand and gravel, the soil is expensive and needs a replacement after nutrient loss. This makes people avoid soil.

What Soil is Used for Aquarium Plants? Is Soil Necessary for Aquarium Plants? 

Yes, the soil is necessary for Aquarium plants but it varies depending on the type of plant. Aquarium plants need soil as a food source for them. Some aquarium plants can survive without soil by getting their nutrients from their leaves. But live aquatic plants need soil to grow sturdy and upright in a place. Many people simply avoid soil substrate and choose sand or gravel for their aquatic ecosystem because they do not know the valve for their plants. Choose the right plant and then choose a substrate that the plant needs. After this, you will know whether the soil is necessary for your aquarium plant.

Can I use any Soil for Aquarium Plants?  

Can I use any Soil for Aquarium Plants?  

No, you can’t use any soil for aquarium plants. The soil need for aquarium plants changes from the soil need for potting of land-grown plants. Either way, there is a need for soil for the plants. Selecting the right soil for your aquatic plants matters the most while creating the best aquascape for your fish. One can use clay soil, potting soil, garden soil, and many such for aquarium plants. They need to be prepared in such a way that they are suitable for your tank. Continue reading to know more about the soils for your aquarium.

Testing the Soil for Aquarium Plants

If you want to grow Aquarium plants, the first thing you should do is test your soil. Testing the soil for aquarium plants at every stage of growth will make sure the soil is acidic enough for the plant. Starting before planting the plant and at regular intervals, keeping a regular check on soil pH is a must. To do the soil pH test, 

  • Litmus Paper Test– This traditional paper test is used to find if the soil is acidic or not. Mix the water and soil in a container and dip the paper. If the Litmus paper turns red, then the soil is acidic. 
  • Digital Tester– The Digital Tester is used in the soil to find the soil pH. This electronic device is made of metal which also shows the mineral levels that are present in the soil.
  • Lab soil Test– Send your soil sample to a nearby soil lab or extension office to know about the soil. They also give more information to grow the plant along with the soil pH and contents in soil.

Additional testers are also available to check the soil needed from inside the aquarium and always note that the soil pH for aquarium plants should be acidic and around 6.5.

Can I use Red Clay Soil for Aquarium Plants?

Can I use Red Clay Soil for Aquarium Plants?

Yes, you can use red clay for Aquarium plants. Red clay soil is a good solution for deficiencies in your aquarium plants. Let us learn how and when to use them for your tanks,

When should you use Red Clay soil for Aquarium Plants?

  • Red clay soil for aquarium plants can be used as the second layer of nutrients to the soil or as pellets especially to grow the plant. Both ways work fine.
  • Red clay provides many micronutrients for the plants without which the soil can have a deficiency that may destroy the plant.
  • Red clay soil helps to maintain a good water pH by eliminating the problems such as fish waste, algae, and clean hard water. The acidity in the soil will help reduce the alkaline nature of the soil.
  • Red clay keeps the plant clean and green by giving enough iron to the plants.

How to use Red Clay soil for Aquarium Plants?  

  • The first step is to make sure the soil is free from pests and diseases. Organic soil will prevent any harm to the fish and plants from the soil.
  • Choose red clay soil which is used in pottery to make a shape of your choice.
  • Moisten the soil before shaping it and add it to the soil substrate.
  • Adding the balls in between the soil will help the soil to get more nutrients.
  • Use the balls to grow the plants which will soon be rich in nutrients.

Can I use Potting Soil for Aquarium Plants?

Can I use Potting Soil for Aquarium Plants?

Yes, you can use potting soil for aquarium plants. Using organic potting soil or mix is a must while using it for your aquarium. Given below the information on how and when to use the soil,

When should you use Potting soil for Aquarium Plants?

  • Potting soil for aquarium plants should be used when there is a live plant in your aquarium.
  • When the plant needs nutrients to grow effectively you can use potting soil in your tank.
  • Potting soil can be used when there is a need for decoration in your freshwater aquarium.
  • Use the potting soil as the base for filling your tank at least 1 inch, giving space for other substrates.
  • Potting soil can also be used when the tank needs a cleaning or purifying agent.

How to use Potting soil for Aquarium Plants?

  • The first step is to make sure the soil is free from pests and diseases. Organic potting soil will prevent any harm to the fish and plants from the soil.
  • Choose potting soil as a base layer for the aquarium plant of your choice.
  • Soak the soil in dechlorinated water for a few hours before putting it in your aquarium. This will let the bubble out of the soil
  • Use at least 2 inches of soil to the bottom of the tank.  It may take a week for the soil to settle in the tank.

Potting soil can last in the tank for about 10 months but with additives, it can last for 4 years and more.

DIY to make Soil for Aquarium Plants at Home (Guide)

DIY to make Soil for Aquarium Plants at Home (Guide)

This DIY guide will help you to be crafty and spend less money on the soil for your aquarium plants. Here is my method to create a DIY Aquarium soil,

Some tips to know before you start making your soil mix for the aquarium plants. Since it needs soil that holds nutrients as well as aeration. Collecting everything beforehand will be good.

  • Collecting all the ingredients before making the soil.
  • Take time to mix the ingredients.
  • Learn other items like reading a pH tester, types of nutrients, and their uses.


  • Gear up with gloves to avoid dirt from the soil.
  • Measuring cup or instrument to measure the ingredients.
  • Bucket or vessel to make space to mix the soil.
  • A small shovel/ Trowel to mix the soil and strainer.
  • Dust mask.

Now you can start making the DIY with the below-given ingredients and follow up,


  • Garden  soil
  • VermicPotting soil
  • Topsoil
  • Clay
  • Gravel
  • Water
  • Potassium source


Here are my trusted recipes to make your Aquarium Soil:

Recipe 1:

  • Topsoil
  • Water
  • Clay
  • Potassium source


After collecting all the required ingredients and tools add them to the vessel with the help of a trowel as mentioned in the below steps,

  1. Add Topsoil to a bucket and pour water about 3 inches above the soil and leave it for a couple of days.
  2. Drain the water from the bucket and repeat the step twice more. 
  3. Dry the drained damp soil in the plastic sheet and repeat this process to avoid muddy soil in the tank.
  4. After completing the process, strain the excess rock and debris and pour the soil into the bucket.
  5. Use the clay and soil to make a mud-like mixer by adding some water to it.
  6. Add some potassium source to the soil and lay the soil in your aquarium.
  7. Add another substrate of your choice to decorate the tank. Add water and place the plant on the substrate to grow a healthy plant.

Recipe 2:

  • Garden soil
  • Potting soil
  • Strainer
  • Baking tray


After collecting all the required ingredients and tools add them to the vessel with the help of a trowel as mentioned in the below steps,

  1. Collect Garden soil or potting soil in the bucket with the help of a trowel.
  2. Make sure that you are using organic soil or fertilizer-free soil.
  3. Use a strainer to sift the soil and remove the stone, twigs, and other debris from the soil.
  4. Transfer the soil to a baking tray and sterilize the soil for 15 minutes to kill the other organism and pests in it.
  5. Lay the soil on your tank floor and add gravel or sand to avoid a muddy tank.
  6. Plants will get nutrients from the soil even if it is in small amounts.
  7. Add water to the tank from the side to avoid messing with the substrate and add fish to finish the aquascaping.

Where to Buy Soil for Aquarium Plants?

Where to buy soil for Aquarium Plants?

Soil for Aquarium plants can be bought in a nearby commercial store or online. In stores, you can get expert people in the field to explain and give soil according to the plant. Whereas online, you can make your choice based on the review, rating, and the right mix mentioned in the label. With whatever way of buying the soil, make sure your soil is organic or sterilized to use for aquariums. In case of choosing a Commercial soil, select any brand Organic Potting mix of your choice.

Miracle-gro Organic Choice Potting mix is good soil for aquarium plants. The soil contains all the nutrients for aquarium plants with all-natural and organic ingredients. Use it as mentioned above on the usage of potting soil.

Can I use Normal Soil for Aquarium Plants? 

Can I use Normal Soil for Aquarium Plants?

Yes, you can use normal soil like garden soil and backyard soil for aquarium plants only when they are organic. Because using garden soil directly into the tank is harmful to the fish as it may contain peat and organic matter which kill the fish. Choose organic or sterilized soil to avoid all the problems in using garden or backyard soil in your tank.

How to Prepare Regular Soil for Aquarium Plants?

The Preparation of potting soil is easy and cost-efficient. The first step is to collect quality soil which is sterilized or make the collected soil organic. To do that, heat the soil to a certain degree and kill the microorganisms in it. Let the soil cool down and sieve it to remove debris. You can add this soil directly to the tank for your aquarium plant. But many garden soils have the demerit of messing with the tank. To avoid that, remove the dirt beforehand by using water.

How much Soil do Aquarium Plants need? 

The soil needed for Aquarium plants will change depending on the size of the aquarium. Since most of the soil needs additional substrate with it, Considering the aquarium size will help find the right amount. In general, a planted aquarium needs 5 to 6 cm of soil in the tank along with other substrates. For better calculation, add half soil to one-third of the tank height. This will give enough space for other contents in the tank. In case of arranging it sloppily, start with the mentioned height and increase it to your desired level.

Some Alternative Substrates for Aquarium Plants

The Substrates other than soil for Aquarium plants are Sand and Gravel,

  • Sand– Sand is finer material made of earthly materials. Sand with clay makes a good choice of substrate for aquarium plants. They make the ideal substrate for plants that don’t need much nutrients and fish with soft bellies. They come in many colors to decorate your tank. They are easy to clean rather than soil and gravel. They are best used for just decorative tanks.
  • Gravel– Gravel is a stone that ranges in many sizes and shapes. They are affordable and heavy to hold the sand and soil in the tank. Gravel doesn’t change the soil or water nature which is its biggest merit.

My Inference is that planted Aquarium is an excellent choice for people who want to combine their love for fish and plants with soil as an anchor. After a clear statement on soil substrates for aquariums, I hope you have gained some information on how to use soil substrates for your Aquarium plants. You will also know now about the alternate substrates. Thanks for Reading.

Happy Aquascaping!


What Kind of soil should be used for Aquarium plants?

Clay-based soil should be used for Aquarium plants.

Can you put gravel on top of the soil for Aquarium plants?

Yes, you can put gravel on top of the soil for Aquarium plants to prevent a dirted tank.

How do you fertilize Aquarium soil?

Aquarium soil can be fertilized in liquid or solid form. Direct doses of liquid fertilizer or substrate-based methods are recommended.

Can I use normal soil for Aquarium plants?

Organic normal soil can be used for aquarium plants.