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Tropica Soil or Tropica Plant Substrate - which one to use in bags under gravel?


New Member
29 Mar 2021
Hi all,

I'm preparing to tear down and rescape my 310L planted discus tank next month, and am trying to decide which planting substrate to use.

At the moment I have a front area of decorative gravel and rear section of Colombo Flora Base Pro, with the two areas seperated by rocks and bogwood with fine filter floss plugging the gaps. However the Flora Base has started breaking down to mush which is migrating everywhere and making a mess. Also in a few areas the shrimp and corys have busted through my filter floss gap-fillers and the Flora Base has come through from the back and mixed in with the light coloured gravel at the front, ruining the look of the tank.

I've decided to clean the lot out and and thinking of trying the 'substrate in mesh bags' method, with a good layer of light coloured gravel 1-2 inches deep over the top. However I can't decide what plant-friendly substrate to use in the mesh bags. At the moment I'm looking at the Tropica Aquarium Soil (TAS), and Tropica Planting Substrate (TPS). As the gravel itself will be doing the job of anchoring the roots, the substrates primary job will simply be to provide nutrients to the plants, so I'm leaning towards using the TPS, but having never used it before am unsure if the texture is too fine/sandy to contain in bags? Would I be better off just scraping the bags altogether and putting a good layer of TPS in with a gravel cap? Or, do I use the TAS in bags and cap that with gravel instead? The plants won't be anything too fussy - mainly swords and hardy crypts.

Any insights / advice very welcome.


29 Mar 2022
Just use root tabs right at the base, then the soil, then cap with the gravel.
There’s no need to use the bags.
I’ve never run a tank for long enough. But I believe the soil breaks down over time anyway.

Just be mindful the soil does leech ammonia when new.
12 Mar 2022
Hi there,
I've used TPS capped with gravel or sand without using bags as @seedoubleyou says, though my substrate is essentially flat. If you wanted to add extra height it may help to use bags to stop it all running away downhill & the bags can be put on top of the inert stuff (forgot the name!) people use to build up hilly parts.
In my experience neither the Tropica substrate or soil leach a great deal of ammonia compared with other brands, though I think you need to be careful how many root tabs you add in one go.


5 May 2011
The substrate is quite fine, I think it would depend on the mesh size. I've used it under gravel not in bags and not had a problem with it, so even if it came out the bags it would just sit in place. It's fine enough, you wouldn't notice it if you pulled some up on plant roots it would disappear in the filter. The soil is obvious when it mixes though, so I'd go with bags with that if you want to cover it.