Cheap/DIY substrate for planted aquarium?

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an interest in aquariums or fish keeping!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Aquarium Advice Newbie
Jun 28, 2020
Hey guys, I'm wondering if anyone could share some experiences of how to DIY cheap substrate or what cheap substrate you used for planted aquarium and it's a success.

I'm asking this because I just got a 350-gallon fish tank and I'd always prefer real live planted aquarium instead of plastic decorations. I used to use Carib Sea Eco-Complete or Seachem Flourite and of course they work very good but expensive, especially if I want to use all of those in this 350 gallon tank.

I have a few ideas but really don't know if any of them will work because I have never tried to use other substrates besides Carib Sea Eco-Complete or Seachem Flourite.

1. mix of top soil and Carib Sea Eco-Complete or Seachem Flourite? Do I need to process top soil? How?

2. top soil on the bottom and gravel or sand or something above the top soil?

3. some type of dirt on the bottom then something on the top?

As long as the substrate substitute doesn't cloud the tank every time I do water change and also provides plants enough nutrition and foundation for their roots, I'm all up for them. Please share your thoughts! Thank you. :)
I'm not an expert myself, but I plan to start a FW planted tank soon, too. I've seen some videos of guys using organic potting soil as a substrate, topped with sand or gravel, which I think I'm going to try. They do say that because of the organic content, you'll start with an ammonia spike and you have to wait for a few weeks before adding fish.
Top Bottom