Fluval Stratum Shrimp & Plant Substrate Customer Reviews

Estimated read time 20 min read

Fluval Stratum Review

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum, For Fish Tanks, 4.4 lbs., 12693

Today, I’m reviewing one of the most acclaimed substrates for the healthy growth of both plants and shrimp. In this Fluval Stratum review, I’ll discuss its features, how it can be unique from the others, and what downsides it might have.

Get Fluval Stratum

As you might already know, the substrate provides much more than esthetics to your aquarium. It’s essential for proper bacterial growth and, by extension, the processing of ammonia into non-toxic materials.

Make sure to stick around till the end of this post. I’ll present some alternatives in case the Fluval Stratum isn’t good enough for you.

Without any further ado, let’s get going!

Table of Contents

Fluval Stratum: Pros and Cons

In a hurry? Well, you can save time by quickly browsing the following list of pros and cons. It should tell you all the basic information you need to decide on whether you’ll purchase this substrate.


  • It contains lots of beneficial nutrients thanks to its volcanic nature
  • The delicate roots can penetrate it easily
  • The baby shrimp can hide in its pores for protection
  • It maintains perfect pH for plants and shrimp
  • Its dark color makes the small shrimp stand out more


  • The light soil might not provide enough anchorage for large plants like the Amazon Sword.
  • Baby shrimp can outgrow the small pores quickly
  • It might cause water turbidity
  • It’s a bit expensive

What’s Unique About Fluval Stratum

I’ll begin by highlighting the top features that set the Fluval Stratum apart from any other substrate.

It’s Based on Mineral-Rich Volcanic Soil

Over the course of history, anthropologists were always dazzled by the behavior of our ancestors. They think that several civilizations chose to migrate and live beside an active volcano that pushes flaming rocks every now and then.

When they looked closer, they knew it had to do with agriculture. As it turned out, the fresh nutrients coming from the center of the earth provided a multitude of healthy nutrients for plants. We’re speaking about potassium, sodium, iron, and more.

As you can tell, aquatic plantations aren’t that different from the plants in your backyard. In fact, some aquatic setups might be a bit harder for the plants due to the absence of proper light and photosynthesis.

For that reason, volcanic soil is the ultimate substrate for a planted aquarium. Fluval sources its volcanic rocks from the foothills of Mount Aso in Japan, which is currently the largest active volcano there.

Its Granules Are Delicate With Lots of Pores

Unlike most of the other substrates, Fluval is keen on keeping the granules small and delicate. This way, the small roots recently grown by the plants can easily infiltrate through the soil and pick up nutrients.

Thanks to the lightweight granules, the surface can maintain a non-compacting state. In other words, the substrate will enclose lots of small pores throughout its whole volume. And that’s where the true benefit of this substrate emerges.

After the shrimp eggs hatch, the delicate newborn shrimp might be sent into the most dangerous environment. They can be harassed or even eaten by the bigger, stronger fish. That’s why it’s crucial for them to hide until they’re big enough to fend for themselves.

That’s where the Fluval Stratum comes in handy. The baby shrimps can easily dig into this delicate substrate and hide themselves whenever the environment gets risky. That’s why Fluval markets this substrate as “plant and shrimp stratum”.

Fluval Stratum General Features

After highlighting the unique aspects, we’ll take a look at the general features that you can find in most of the other commercial substrates.

It’s Dark

The color choice of the substrate varies considerably between aquarists. It depends on your setup, light, tank size, etc.

If you’re growing shrimp, a dark substrate will be preferred. It should make the shrimp and plants stand out more than white or yellow substrates.

It Lowers the pH

Generally speaking, most shrimp and plant species prefer slightly acidic, soft water. Without getting into chemical details, the Fluval Stratum is built to do that. It has the ability to lower the pH of tap water to make it perfect for the delicate shrimp.

That’s why I generally recommend it for beginners. It’ll take one variable off your plate to let you focus on what’s more important.

The Drawbacks of Fluval Stratum

Nothing is perfect, right? In this section, I’ll highlight the things that might not be that great about the Fluval Stratum. You’ll be left to judge whether these disadvantages are that critical to your setup or not.

It Might Not Provide Enough Plant Anchorage

Earlier in this post, I stated that the granules of Fluval are kept delicate with interstitial porosities so that the small roots can penetrate it easily. Well, that very advantage might also be a significant drawback.

The lightness of this substrate limits your plant choices to some extent. You’re restricted to small, short plants that don’t need anchorage. If you put a plant with numerous large leaves and long stems, the roots will probably stick out of this substrate.

The Baby Shrimp Will Outgrow It Quickly

Unfortunately, you can’t depend on Fluval Stratum as the only hideout for your shrimp. The small pores between the granules will be too small for the shrimp to hide once they get a bit older.

But to be fair, this can’t be considered a major disadvantage. No substrate can provide shelter for small and large shrimp at the same time.

That said, you can pair the Fluval Stratum with a bunch of other hideouts to get the best result.

For baby shrimps, Java Moss is a must-have. Its spaces are small enough for baby shrimp, yet it has a bit of freedom to accommodate them as they’re getting bigger. Best of all, shrimp is the best inhabitant of Java Moss. It’s capable of cleaning algae and debris off the leaves without causing damage to the dainty structure.

For adult shrimp, placing a couple of cholla wood pieces should act as a hideout and food collector simultaneously.

It Might Cloud the Water

Just like any dark substrate, the Fluval Stratum can make the aquarium dark and cloudy. Some aquarists believe that the volcanic ingredients might accentuate this effect even more.

But truth be told, water cloudiness depends on the aquarist more than the substrate. Some aquarists wash the substrate before getting it into the aquarium to get rid of any lurking organisms like pest snails.

While this works for hard substrates like gravel, it’s absolutely wrong for granule-based substrates like Fluval Stratum. Washing with water crushes the grains into small particles that would flow around the tank and cause turbidity.

The same effect also happens when you move the stones and driftwood too much after filling the tank. Likewise, avoid filling the aquarium with water in an aggressive or rapid manner, or else the substrate will be disintegrated and disturbed.

It’s a Bit Expensive

When compared to other substrates, you’ll find that the Fluval Stratum costs nearly double the average. But since it doesn’t need to be changed that often, we can’t view this as a significant flaw.

Check out this video from Fluval describing Stratum in their own words.

Fluval Stratum Alternatives

If you don’t think Fluval Stratum can satisfy your needs, no worries! Here are two of the best substrates that can be used alternatively.

Tropica Aquarium Soil

This substrate from Tropica also lies on the expensive side. It’s even pricier than the Fluval Stratum. It comes in two sizes: 3-liter and 9-liter bags.

The Tropica Aquarium Soil is an active substrate. This means that it can actively lower the pH to make the tank more suitable for shrimp. This makes it a worthy competitor to Fluval Stratum.

Although Tropica didn’t build it from volcanic rocks, it still provides exceptional nutritional value for growing plants. This is possible through its high cation exchange capacity (CEC). In simpler words, this substrate absorbs some of the nutrients from the water and keeps them available for the plants over a long period of time.

If you’re planning on breeding shrimp, make sure to buy the version with the large particle size. Tropica produces a compacted, powdered edition that won’t provide enough hideouts for shrimp.

The Downsides

Just like the Fluval Stratum, this substrate has a high probability of clouding your water. But this can be controlled by avoiding pre-washing, rapid water filling, and aggressively relocating items in your aquarium.

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia

ADA produces its Amazonia substrate from decomposed leaf mulch that it sources from Japanese farms. This way, it has all the amazing organic perks while including small amounts of volcanic ash. That said, it can provide the highest amount of nutrients for plants.

But unfortunately, the small grain size of the Amazonia isn’t suitable for breeding young shrimp. Also, it has a much higher tendency to cause cloudy water. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners.

Customer Reviews on Fluval Stratum

Aquarists from around the world have shared their real user experiences with Fluval Stratum, and the consensus is clear: this substrate has garnered a reputation for excellence. Planted aquarium enthusiasts, both beginners and seasoned hobbyists, have praised its performance and benefits.

Real User Experiences with Fluval Stratum

Fluval Stratum has left a lasting impression on those who have incorporated it into their freshwater aquariums. Users have reported a noticeable improvement in the growth of aquatic plants since switching to this substrate. Its porous structure provides an ideal refuge for plant roots, allowing them to establish and thrive.

Success Stories from Planted Aquarium Enthusiasts

Planted aquarium enthusiasts have shared their success stories with Fluval Stratum. They’ve documented lush, vibrant underwater landscapes that serve as a testament to this substrate’s effectiveness. The optimal water quality created by Fluval Stratum supports neutral to slightly acidic pH levels, which is crucial for the health of aquatic plants.

What Customers Say About Fluval Stratum’s Performance

Customers have been effusive in their praise of Fluval Stratum’s performance. It’s not just about supporting plant growth; it’s also about creating the perfect biological environment. The substrate’s vast porous surface provides ample room for beneficial bacteria, essential for a thriving nitrogen cycle in your aquarium. Users have also noted that Fluval Stratum helps prevent organic discoloration in their aquarium water, keeping it crystal clear.

Benefits of Using Fluval Stratum

Achieving the Ideal pH Level in Your Aquarium

One of the key benefits of Fluval Stratum is its ability to help aquarists achieve the ideal pH level in their freshwater aquariums. With its influence on acidic pH, it caters to the requirements of many species of tropical fish while promoting the growth of aquatic plants.

The Porous Structure: Key to Healthy Plant Growth

The porous structure of Fluval Stratum is a game-changer for plant enthusiasts. It offers an attractive substrate that encourages root development and acts as an excellent refuge for small shrimp and fish. This ideal substrate supports the growth of aquatic plants, making your planted aquarium flourish.

Creating the Perfect Biological Environment

Fluval Stratum’s mineral-rich properties, sourced from the foothills of the famous Mount Aso volcano, contribute to creating the perfect biological environment in your aquarium. These properties not only foster plant growth but also benefit the overall ecosystem by supporting beneficial bacteria essential for a balanced aquarium.

Supporting the Nitrogen Cycle with Fluval Stratum

Maintaining a healthy nitrogen cycle is crucial in any aquarium. Fluval Stratum’s inherent properties help establish and sustain this cycle, ensuring that harmful ammonia and nitrites are efficiently converted into nitrates, thus maintaining optimal water quality for your aquatic inhabitants.

Enhancing Plant Growth with Fluval Stratum

How Fluval Stratum Promotes the Growth of Aquatic Plants

Fluval Stratum’s organic-rich composition provides the necessary nutrients for the growth of plants. The substrate’s mineral-rich content, along with its porous structure, creates an ideal environment for plant roots to absorb available nutrients for robust growth.

Providing a Vast Porous Surface for Root Development

Plant roots require enough room to establish themselves and take up nutrients effectively. Fluval Stratum’s vast porous surface offers an ample area for roots to spread out and thrive, resulting in healthier, more robust plants in your aquarium.

The Addition of Fluval Plant Micro Nutrients

In addition to its support for plant roots, Fluval Stratum can be further enhanced with the addition of Fluval Plant Micro Nutrients. These supplements provide a full complement of essential macro and micro nutrients that are essential for your aquatic plants’ vitality.

Optimal Water Quality for Your Planted Aquarium

Fluval Stratum’s ability to maintain optimal water quality is paramount for successful planted aquariums. It helps keep the pH level in check, which is crucial for the overall health of your aquatic plants, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrients for flourishing growth.

Comparing Fluval Stratum to Other Substrates

Fluval Stratum vs. Tropica Soil: Which is Better?

When considering substrates for your planted aquarium, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons. Fluval Stratum and Tropica Soil are often compared, and while both have their merits, it’s essential to understand which one suits your specific needs.

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia vs. Fluval Stratum

Another popular choice among aquarists is ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia. Comparing it to Fluval Stratum can help you make an informed decision when selecting the substrate that will best support your aquatic plants.

Ideal Alternatives: Choosing the Right Substrate

While Fluval Stratum has garnered much praise, it’s crucial to explore other ideal alternative substrates to find the one that matches your preferences and requirements for your planted aquarium.

Maintaining Your Fluval Stratum Substrate

Does Fluval Stratum Break Down Over Time?

A common concern among aquarists is whether Fluval Stratum will break down over time. Understanding its durability is essential for long-term success in maintaining a planted aquarium.

Should You Rinse Fluval Stratum Before Use?

Preparing Fluval Stratum correctly is vital for its effectiveness. Learn whether you should rinse it before use and the reasons behind this recommendation.

Can You Mix Fluval Stratum with Gravel?

Some aquarists may want to mix Fluval Stratum with other substrates, such as gravel. Discover whether this is a viable option and the potential benefits or drawbacks of doing so.

Routine Maintenance for Long-lasting Performance

To ensure that Fluval Stratum continues to perform optimally, it’s essential to follow a routine maintenance plan. Learn about the best practices to keep your substrate in excellent condition for years to come.

Fluval Stratum for Specific Aquariums

Fluval Shrimp Stratum: Ideal for Shrimp Tanks

If you are a shrimp enthusiast, Fluval Stratum’s properties make it an ideal choice for creating a thriving shrimp tank. Discover why it’s the go-to substrate for many shrimp keepers.

Planted Aquariums and Fluval Stratum

Planted aquariums, in particular, benefit from Fluval Stratum’s features. Explore how this substrate enhances the aesthetics and health of your underwater garden.

Creating an Attractive Substrate with Fluval Stratum

Beyond its functionality, Fluval Stratum also contributes to the visual appeal of your aquarium. Learn how to create an attractive substrate arrangement that complements your aquascape.

Expert Insights and Tips

Fluval Stratum’s Inherent Properties Explained

Gain a deeper understanding of Fluval Stratum by delving into its inherent properties, including its origins in the mineral-rich foothills of the famous Mount Aso volcano and how these properties benefit your aquarium.

Maximizing the Benefits of Fluval Stratum

Experienced aquarists have discovered ways to maximize the benefits of Fluval Stratum. Explore their tips

and tricks for achieving the best results with this substrate.

The Role of Heterotrophic Bacteria in Fluval Stratum

Heterotrophic bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining an aquarium’s ecosystem. Learn how Fluval Stratum supports the growth of these beneficial bacteria and contributes to a balanced environment.

Addressing Common Concerns

Preventing Organic Discoloration in Your Aquarium

A common issue in aquariums is organic discoloration. Discover how Fluval Stratum can help prevent this problem, ensuring your aquarium water remains clear and appealing.

Dealing with Cloudy Water: Is It a Common Issue?

Cloudy water can be a concern for aquarists. Understand whether cloudy water is a common issue with Fluval Stratum and how to address it if it occurs.

The Experience of Large Shrimps in Fluval Stratum

For those with large shrimps, Fluval Stratum offers an environment that supports their needs. Learn about the experiences of aquarists who have kept larger shrimp species in aquariums with this substrate.

FAQs and Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions About Fluval Stratum

Find answers to frequently asked questions regarding Fluval Stratum, addressing common queries and concerns that aquarists may have.

Finding YouTube Reviews and Video Demonstrations

Visual learners and those seeking YouTube reviews will discover a wealth of video content showcasing Fluval Stratum’s usage and performance.

If you’re considering purchasing Fluval Stratum, explore affiliate links to reputable sellers, ensuring you get a quality product for your aquarium.

Important Updates and Last Update Information

Stay informed about any important updates related to Fluval Stratum, ensuring you have the latest information for your aquarium needs.

Choosing Fluval Stratum for Your Aquarium

Is Fluval Stratum the Right Choice for First-Time Aquarists?

For first-time aquarists, the choice of substrate is crucial. Learn whether Fluval Stratum is suitable for beginners and why it might be a great option for your inaugural aquarium setup.

Satisfying the Needs of Various Species of Tropical Fish

If you have a diverse collection of tropical fish species, discover how Fluval Stratum caters to their needs, offering a comfortable and suitable environment for all your aquatic inhabitants.

Determining the Ideal Amount: How Many KG Bags Do You Need?

Calculating the required amount of substrate is essential. Find guidance on determining how many KG bags of Fluval Stratum you need for your specific aquarium size.

Setting Up Your Aquarium with Fluval Stratum for the First Time

For those embarking on their first Fluval Stratum setup, get step-by-step guidance on how to properly prepare and install this substrate in your empty aquarium.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Fluval stratum break down?

Fluval Stratum is known to break down more easily than other types of substrates. It could be one of the reasons why it makes a powdery mess when first introduced to your tank. But once it settles on the bottom, the water becomes clear once again.

Should you rinse Fluval stratum?

It really depends. I personally don’t rinse it before use, but others recommend that it’s rinsed. In my experience, if it’s rinsed before use it starts to become muddy and is difficult to work with.

Typically you would place stratum in your tank, place your decor add a little bit of water so you can start to add some live plants, then fill the rest of the tank. That said when you fill your tank be sure to protect the stratum with either a plate or a plastic bag.

Can I mix Fluval stratum with gravel?

Stratum is lighter than gravel so if mixed the stratum won’t mix well. However, if used as a base gravel or sand could be used as a cap for the stratum which is a very common thing to see in dirted tanks.

The Final Word

As you saw, the Fluval Stratum is among the best substrates intended for breeding shrimp and plants at the same time. Since it’s based on volcanic ash, it provides exceptional levels of nutrients to grow the plants in the fastest time possible.

Remember, I strongly advise against washing this substrate before placing it in the aquarium. This would disintegrate some of the soil, leading to dreadful water turbidity.

Further Reading: Be sure to check out our round-up Best Substrate For A Planted Tank and learn which substrates promote the fastest plant growth.

Wishing you all the best!

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