Safe-T-Sorb Substrate for Planted Tank

Designing your tank can be a laborious process, learning what you can and can’t use, which plants pair best with which creatures, and which substrates to use.

Here we will discuss the use of safe-t-sorb as a substrate in a planted tank. We will cover everything from exactly what safe-t-sorb is to its safety and how good it is as a substrate in a home aquarium full of live plants.

What is the substrate?

The substrate is the very base layer in your tank. Your plants can ground themselves in the substrate, allowing their roots to grow throughout it. 

A substrate is also a place where smaller creatures can bury themselves and hide out of sight during the day. It is also a breeding ground for bacteria and so it can serve as a good source of nutrients for some of the creatures in your home tank.

There are three main types of substrate:

  1. DIY (a personal combination of appropriate materials such as soil and sand)
  2. Inert substrates (sand, clay, gravel)
  3. Commercial aqua soil (Granules made from baked soils)

What is safe-t-sorb?

Safe-t-sorb is a type of absorbent grain substrate. It is made from montmorillonite clay. This natural material has very high absorbency levels. It is a type of inert substrate.

It is a type of calcinated clay that is regularly used to quickly clean up water, grease, and oils. Their course granules mean that they are a great way to quickly and easily absorb liquid.

Any liquid in contact with the substance will stick to the pores on the surface of the granules, making absorption easy.

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Is safe-t-sorb safe?

Yes. Safe-t-sorb is a perfectly safe material. It is a naturally occurring material and it is also environmentally safe. 

What are the advantages of using safe-t-sorb as a substrate?

Along with being safe, another advantage of using safe-t-sorb is that it will take an incredibly long time to break down. This means that you will not need to replace the substrate and will just need to maintain it (if at all).

It is the easiest form of substrate to manage, but it will require another material to form the perfect substrate. This is because there are little to no nutrients available to your aquarium-dwelling creatures from the safe-t-sorb. You will need to include a form of nutrient-rich material (such as a type of soil) to provide your creatures with this. 

Because it is inert (meaning chemically inert) safe-t-sorb will have zero effect on the conditions of the water in your tank. It will not cause any chemical changes.

Lastly, it is aesthetically pleasing to use safe-t-sorb as a substrate. This is because the clay granules blend in well with other rocks and smaller decorative items that are typically placed within a planted tank. They allow your plants to grow roots very well and so add to the harmony of your home aquarium.

What substrate do I need for a planted aquarium?

For a planted tank you will need to make sure that your substrate is deep enough. If your plants do not have a deep enough substrate then they will not be able to anchor themselves properly. Their roots will not be able to grow effectively meaning that they will not be as stable as they should be.

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Some of the best substrates for planted tanks, as ranked by hobbyists, are:

  • ADA aqua soil Amazonia 9 Liter Normal Type
  • Mr. Aqua N-MAR-066 1L Fine Pet Habitat Water Plant Soil
  • Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel 

Adding any soil to safe-t-sorb will also make it a perfect substrate for your home aquarium. Your plants need two things: nutrients and a solid base. By combining safe-t-sorb and soil you will provide them with both of these things, but be sure to make the substrate deep enough. Even if you provide them with the best nutrients they will still need to be stable in order to grow properly.

What can I use as aquarium substrate?

You can use safe-t-sorb as an aquarium substrate but do note that it may cloud the water at first. Hobbyists have found that some clay substrates will do this and so the granules will need to be washed a few times in a bucket before they are introduced to the tank. This should then stop the clouding effect from the natural clay material.

There is also a method called “charging” the substrate. In this method, other substances, such as baking soda or fertilizer are added to the safe-t-sorb before its inclusion in the tank.

However, be careful when including baking soda in your tank as the sodium levels can actually be harmful to the plants in your home tank. Although some hobbyists prefer to “charge” their safe-t-sorb there is no need to actually do this.

Similarly, you can include the safe-t-sorb with other components, such as dirt and sand. 

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If you choose not to use safe-t-sorb for your substrate then you will need to ensure that your plants have enough soil to be able to ground themselves properly. You can use any soil that you like (some hobbyists even use regular garden soil) and/or a type of sand. Whichever material that you choose to use for your substrate ensure that it contains enough nutrients.


Making sure that your aquarium has a good substrate is a very important aspect of curating a home aquarium. You will need to make sure that it is firstly practical before then making it aesthetically pleasing.

Safe-t-sorb fulfills one of these criteria (stability for your plants’ roots) but given that it is a natural clay material it lacks the nutrients that your plants will require. Combining it with appropriate soil will allow you to cover all bases with your substrate.

Your plants will be able to grow happily and healthily and the smaller creatures living in your home tank will be able to hide in the substrate during the day, aerating the soil and also attributing to the well-being of your tank’s ecosystem.