CaribSea Super Naturals, Stoney River White Aquatic Sand, crushed coral and pool filter sand are the best white substrates for planted tanks.
The best way to gravel vacuum planted tanks is by lightly syphoning the top layer of the substrate for loose debris without uprooting plants.
Most aquarium plants grow best in nutrient-rich substrate that contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Inert substrates can be supplemented with monthly root tab fertilization. Epiphyte and floating plants do not require substrate at all.
A layer of sand can be put over other aquarium substrate to make it easier to plant it, to achieve a specific look, and to promote the growth of beneficial anaerobic bacteria. Blasting sand, pool filter sand, commercial aquarium sand and other sand varieties can be safely used as sand caps.
It’s best to have a 1 to 2-inch layer of nutrient rich substrate as the base layer, capped with a 1 to 2-inch layer of insert sand or gravel. A thicker cap layer is important for dirted tanks to prevent it from leeching into the water column.
A 2-inch deep aquarium substrate will provide more area for roots to grow, will last longer and will be easier to secure plants in. Aquatic plants may not grow sufficiently if the substrate is too thin. However, certain plant species require little or no substrate at all.
The following article will be one of the most comprehensive explorations into the role substrates play in the fishkeeping hobby, what types are available, and how to choose a substrate that’s best for your tank.