Plants are a beautiful addition to your aquarium. The Ada Amazonia and Fluval Stratum substrates are two of the most popular options to help plants grow. If you’ve been looking to add plants to your setup, you might be wondering which one you should use.
Ada Amazonia is richer in nutrients, and more experts recommend it than Fluval Stratum. It will last longer and will provide the perfect environment for plants to grow healthy. However, it is more expensive, will need more time to cycle, and it raises the levels of ammonia in the water.
In this article, we discuss all the different features of Ada Amazonia and Fluval Stratum. It will help you to make a more informed decision on the best one to use. Keep reading to know which substrate is better for your aquarium.
What Are Substrates?
In the aquarium world, a substrate refers to the material used at the bottom of the tank. It can affect the filtration and chemistry of the water and the health of the inhabitants.
Substrates are added to aquariums to increase the reproduction of beneficial bacteria. They also affect the pH of the water and other chemical compounds in the tank. Substrates also help aquatic plants to grow.
There are different substrates, but their features depend on whether you can use them in saltwater or freshwater.
The most common types of substrates are the following:
- Gravel: The most common substrate for freshwater and also the easiest to use.
- Minerals, shells, and corals: You use these to increase water hardness and pH.
- Peat: It is the best for those tanks mimicking the Amazonian river.
- Sand: It will give a natural look to your tank. You should use it if you have freshwater stingrays.
Leaves: You use them for blackwater aquariums.
You should choose one, depending on what you want to accomplish in your aquarium.
Ada Amazonia and Fluval Stratum are premium substrates for planted aquariums.
Note: Many aquariums that use big tanks make use of many different substrates. It is common to divide the tank by substrates, giving you a gorgeous look for your ecosystem.
What Is Ada Amazonia?
The Ada Amazonia is a premium substrate material designed by Aqua Design Amano (ADA). It is a type of natural soil that helps plants grow inside tanks in different natural environments. Ada Amazonia is rich in nutrients and organic acid, which helps make root plants grow.
You can find the product in two different presentations: the standard type or the powder type. Each type comes in bags of 3L (101oz) or 9L (304oz).
You can use the powder in small aquariums and on top of the standard type for a better result.
What Is Ada Amazonia Made Of?
Ada Amazonian is a primary substrate made of actual soil that companies bake into granules. ADA bakes volcanic soil to preserve its nutrients and acids, giving you the perfect ally for your tank plants.
How to Properly Set Up Ada Amazonia?
To correctly set up your Ada Amazonia in your aquarium, you can follow these steps:
- Sprinkle Bacter 100 thinly on the bottom of the aquarium tank. The Bacter 100 will create an ideal layer of microorganisms inside the substrate.
- You can also add Tourmaline BC for an ideal long-term substrate.
- Next, you will spread powder sand. The amount you’ll need will depend on the tank’s capacity.
- Then you will be able to spread the standard type Aqua-soil Amazonia.
- If you want better results, you can also add the powder type Ada Amazonia. By doing this, you will promote a proper environment for smaller plants to grow.
- Spray water to dampen the substrate.
- Now you can plant your aquatic plants. We recommend using tweezers for this to make the planting easier.
- Time to see your beautiful ecosystem grow!
If you want a more visual guide on correctly setting up the Ada Amazonia, you can watch this video:
Note: You can also find the Ada Amazonia Ver.2 and the Ada Amazonia Light. Experts recommend each one for different environments, but the three options are great for your aquarium tanks.
What Is Fluval Stratum?
Fluval Stratum is the premium substrate of the brand Fluval. The Fluval brand has more than 50 years of experience in natural aquariums and underwater ecosystems.
Fluval Stratum is the most economic substrate on the market. You can find it in its three presentations: Fluval Stratum Plant and Shrimp of 2kg (4.4lb), Fluval Stratum Plant and Shrimp of 4kg (8.8lb), and the Fluval Stratum Plant Shrimp of 8kg (17.6lb).
This substrate is ideal for those tanks that feature plants and shrimp.
What Is Fluval Stratum Made Of?
Fluval Stratum is made of natural soil collected from the foothills of Mount Aso Volcano in Japan. This volcanic soil is rich in minerals and acids that are perfect for underwater ecosystems.
The Fluval substrate encourages strong plant growth by allowing the roots to penetrate and spread through the substrate. This means your plants will last longer and you won’t have to replace them as frequently.
This specific substrate supports a slightly acidic pH ideal for most plants, tropical fishes, and shrimp.
How to Properly Set Up Fluval Stratum?
If you want to know how to set up your Fluval Stratum correctly, you can follow these steps:
- If you want to put landscape materials, do it before adding the substrate. Otherwise, the rocks could break the soil’s integrity.
- Next, add the Fluval Stratum around your tank. Use it to cover at least 1.5 inches (3.8cm) of the bottom of the tank. By doing so, you will give plant roots enough space to grow.
- After placing the substrate, add the water. It should be cold water for better results because it interacts better with the volcanic soil.
- Wait approximately 48 hours to see the roughness disappear.
- Now it’s time to plant. Do not plant with your hands; this could compromise the integrity of the ecosystem.
If you want a more visual guide on using the Fluval Stratum and which plants to use for your aquarium, we recommend this video:
Note: If your budget allows it, we recommend using a high-quality underwater plant fertilizer to help your plants grow healthier. Always keep an eye on your tanks’ oxygen levels, as this could be beneficial or damaging to your plants.
Tip: Although we do not recommend mixing different substrates, Fluval Stratum works well if you combine it with Eco-Complete. Use it on top of the Fluval Stratum to achieve better results.
You can also mix both substrates with sand and gravel to create different landscapes.
Ada Amazonia vs. Fluval Stratum
When it comes to these two substrates, there are many similarities and differences. Most people recommend Ada Amazonia for its multiple benefits, like the number of nutrients and its resistance to different ecosystems.
This does not make the Fluval Stratum a wrong choice; it all depends on what you want to accomplish with your tank.
Advantages of Using Ada Amazonia
- It lowers your pH: This could be an advantage or disadvantage, but it will depend on what inhabitants you are planning to add to your tank.
- It has volcanic soil: Using volcanic soil, Ada Amazonia ensures a perfect number of minerals and acids required for specific ecosystems. Ada Amazonia also bakes the volcanic soil, giving you a longer substrate lifespan.
- It is long-lasting: Ada Amazonia lasts longer than most soil substrates. By doing that, it will nourish your plants for a longer time.
- It has a small grain size: This setting is ideal for plants with thin roots, as it gives them enough space to spread around the substrate. The small space between the grains also helps to reduce the risk of hydrogen sulfide production. This is a chemical compound that can kill all life in your aquarium.
Disadvantages of Using Ada Amazonia
- It has a higher cost: Ada Amazonia is one of the most expensive substrates on the market. Most experts believe it is worth the investment, but you can easily replace it by using a substitute like Mr.Aqua Soil.
- It can create high levels of ammonia: Like natural untreated soil, the Ada Amazonia can raise ammonia levels during the first days of use. This chemical compound is harmless in low doses, but you should keep an eye on its levels.
- There are no beneficial microbes: ADA’s formula for the Ada Amazonia takes away some of the microbes present in other soil substrates. This process happens because the soil used in the Ada Amazonian is baked after recollection.
- The substrate needs more time to cycle: Ada Amazonia produces a lot more ammonia than many substrates. Therefore, you’ll need to give the tank a lot more time to cycle. Once the water has cycled, you’ll be able to introduce your fishes to the new environment.
Advantages of Using Fluval Stratum
- It has volcanic soil: Like the Ada Amazonia, the Fluval Stratum is made of volcanic soil. Volcanic soil has many beneficial acids and minerals.
- It is a clean option: The Fluval Stratum is clean and easy to maintain. This is thanks to its strong grains that keep most minerals inside the substrate for a longer time.
- It will hold nutrients for a longer time: This is also thanks to its strong grains. While other substrates allow the minerals to leach into the water, Fluval Stratum keeps them inside to benefit the plants.
- There is minimal production of ammonia: Fluval Stratum will not generate as much ammonia as the other substrates in the market.
- It won’t discolor water: Natural soil is highly beneficial, but it will discolor the water if not cleaned. Fluval Stratum does not present this problem, thanks to its formula.
- It is the best for shrimp: This substrate most benefits shrimp communities in aquariums. Its nutrients provide shrimp with everything they’ll need to grow. Furthermore, the grains act as a cover for baby shrimp to remain safe.
Disadvantages of Using Fluval Stratum
- It requires additional fertilizer: Fluval Stratum needs extra fertilizer to help the plants grow healthy. This is something that the Ada Amazonia does not need.
- It has baked soil: Like the Ada Amazonian, the Fluval Stratum is made with baked volcanic soil, which means that it won’t give you any additional microbes.
- It will break down over time: Although it has a strong grain, the Fluval Stratum will break down if you use many landscape materials over it. To avoid this, you should place the materials before using the substrate.
- It is a lightweight option: If you only use the Fluval Stratum, it won’t be easy to weigh down floating plants.
- It takes time for it to settle: Fluval takes up to 48 hours to settle inside the tanks. During this time, the water will look dirty, and you can’t plant or introduce the fishes.
- It has a higher price: It is not the most expensive substrate in the market, but it is pricey compared to Ada Amazonia.
Which One Should You Choose?
It all comes down to what you want from your substrate. If you are still indecisive, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have a big budget? If so, pick Ada Amazonia. It will give you the best nutrition for your plants, and you won’t require extra fertilizers. If you don’t, combining Fluval Stratum with Eco-complete can give you almost similar results.
- Is plant nutrition an essential feature for me? If the answer is yes, then you should go for Ada Amazonia. It will give you the best nutrients and for a longer time. Ada Amazonia also interacts perfectly with the pH of different waters and does not have a problem.
- Am I planning on keeping the ecosystem for a long time? If you do, then go for Ada Amazonia. It has more durability and does not break down as quickly as the Fluval Stratum.
We recommend Ada Amazonia because it is a complete substrate. However, if you choose Fluval Stratum, you should combine it with Eco-complete to get good results.
Are There Other Alternatives?
When it comes to substrates with high levels of minerals, there are not many options. However, if you do not want the Ada Amazonia or the Fluval Stratum, then we present you with other choices:
Fluorite is a substrate that comes in two presentations: soil or gravel. The Fluorite sand is heavyweight, which means it will hold plants well. It also looks good in the tanks.
Fluorite also supports anaerobic bacteria activity, which benefits your plants and the entire ecosystem. It allows the bacteria to break down decomposing matter and redistribute the nutrients to the aquatic plants.
It will never disintegrate, meaning that it won’t discolor the water. This is ideal if you have your aquarium in a highly visible part of your home/
Fluorite is the most expensive substrate in the market. However, it does not give plants enough nutrients as other brands. This is because it won’t supply CO2 to your plants.
Eco-Complete is a substrate made by the brand CaribSea. It presents many advantages to underwater ecosystems.
Eco-complete will supply the right environment for microorganism’s cycles. This gives plants a friendlier environment to grow in.
It is also low-maintenance, so you won’t have to clean it regularly. Eco-Complete will never disintegrate.
This substrate does present some disadvantages. It won’t supply CO2 to your plants, which is necessary for their diet and proper nutrition. It is a premium substrate, so it is expensive, although not as much as Ada Amazonia or Fluorite.
It is one of the less common substrates in the market, but it still has some advantages for your tank.
Ada Amazonia and Mr. Aqua Aquarium Soil are the only substrates in the market that do not require any additional nutrients. Its dark color will also enhance the natural colors of your fishes.
It has a nice consistency and texture, and its pores will allow bacteria to grow consistently. Mr. Aqua Aquarium Soil will also last over a year, which is a good lifespan for premium substrates.
However, Mr. Aqua soil will bind phosphorus, leeching away some of the essential nutrients that plants need to grow healthy. It is also pricey compared to other brands, but it’s still cheaper than Ada Amazonia, and it can be a good substitute.
When it comes to premium substrates, we recommend Ada Amazonia. It offers explosive growth for your plants. It also is longer-lasting and lowers the pH of the water. However, it is more expensive and produces more ammonia.
If you want to breed a healthy shrimp community, Fluval Stratum is the best option. It has many nutrients, produces minimal amounts of ammonia, and doesn’t discolor the water. However, it doesn’t break down over time and needs additional fertilizers.
Overall, both substrates are good options. Therefore, you should consider your needs and choose the one you think will help you the most.