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Substrate: How Much Do I Need?

How much substrate do I need for my aquarium?

Determining how much substrate to buy for your new aquarium depends on the size and shape of your tank, as well as the depth of the substrate bed you wish to achieve. Other factors include the type of aquascaping structure you are planning, the grain size of the manufacturer's substrate of choice, and the needs of the aquatic life that will inhabit your aquarium.

While this may sound complicated, don't worry - you do not have to possess a degree in mathematics to get started!

How do I compute the substrate needed?

The simplest rule of thumb to use is to plan 1 pound of substrate per gallon to achieve a 1" bed (for a 2” substrate, use 2 pounds per gallon). Since aquariums come in a variety of shapes, tall or long, we recommend the following guide for your reference:

Substrate calculator
Aquarium Size* (gallons) #s of Substrate Aquarium Size* (gallons) #s of Substrate
10 10 - 20 15/20H 15 - 30
20L/29/37 29 - 58 50/65 50 - 100
40L/55 55 - 110 75/90 75 - 100
120 120 - 240 125/150 125 - 250
180 180 - 360    

*Does not apply to bow, hex, or corner-shaped aquariums.

Many aquarium hobbyists will tell you it is advisable to get more substrate than you think you need, because then you will have some on hand for future renovations or additional setups.

Using this simple advice, we hope you have the confidence to get to the bottom of your substrate needs.


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