Seachem Aquasolum — A new substrate for your aquarium.

Aquasolum is a new aquarium substrate from Seachem that creates soft, acidic water.


The Aquasolum project after two weeks with plants and a few pinokio shrimp.

The Aquasolum 55 gallon shrimp and plant project after two weeks with plants and a few pinokio shrimp.

The Aquasolum is working its magic on my aquarium water.  (Read below for the description of the product, and it’s intended usage as well as comments directly from Seachem.)

Now two weeks into the planted aquarium/shrimp 55 gallon project, I am pleased with the results and am able to share how Aquasolum, the new humate based product from Seachem is working in the aquarium.  I’m amazed as the results with respect to pH and water hardness.  Aquasolum is designed to create soft water and low pH which is supposed to be great for freshwater shrimp and plants.  After the tap water has been in the aquarium for about two weeks, reacting with the plants, Aquasolum and a few shrimp, it is working as claimed.  The pH is at 6.6-6.8 much lower than the 7.6 of my tap water.  KH is at 2, again much lower than the tap water, which is at 8.  These are the parameters promised by Seachem.  If it is really that easy, then this will create perfect conditions for my shrimp tank, but it’s hard not to think about a discus aquarium or arowana or even neon and cardinal tetras.  I’ve always had difficulty chasing the pH in my tanks and ultimately gave up because I tend to get distracted iwth the rest of life’s activities.  As a result, I’ve found it difficult to keep some of those species that do better in soft, acidic conditions.  If all I had to do was run this substrate it might be a game changer.


Of course, Fincasters is primarily a video channel and all of the work is being parsed out in various Fincasts.  In the next video, scheduled for Sunday, January 24, 2016 you’ll see each plant as it is added to the aquascape and a description of why it was selected, and the strategy for placing each plant.   After that you can expect to see much more information on the shrimp themselves, and what I expect will be a balancing act as the tank matures to meet the needs of the both the shrimp and the plants — and MAYBE eventually fish.

Having said that, I must admit I am impressed with the initial growth of the plants in the tank and overall happiness of the set up.  (Again this is easier with relatively no fish and just a few starter Pinokio shrimp.) The stem plants I added, especially the Bacopa Australis are jumping out of the substrate, while some of the root plants are being more reserved.

purfiltrum™ is a unique macro-porous synthetic polymer that removes soluble and insoluble organic impurities from water

Purfiltrum is a new product from Seachem’s Aquavitro line. purfiltrum™ is a unique macro-porous synthetic polymer that removes soluble and insoluble organic impurities from water

My plan was to use only lighting and Aquasolum as a starting point.

That way I know there is no influence from fertilizers, C02 etc.  I also used Seachem Aquavitro Seed bacteria to jump start the aquarium cycle and Aquavitro Purefiltrum to reduce nitrates and nitrites as well as polish the water.

Aquavitro Seed from Seachem is a new bacterial product designed to jump start your filtration cycle.

Aquavitro Seed from Seachem is a new bacterial product designed to jump start your filtration cycle.

After the initial two week period there have been zero nitrites/ammonia and nitrate is less than 20 ppm.  (For the record I used filter media from a previous aquarium that already had a good biological filtration base.) Lighting is a planted tank rated LED from Aquatop, set on a time for 6 hours daily.  The light is 39 watts, rated as a mix of 7,000-10,0000 K.  I have used this light successfully for all but the most demanding of plants.

Bacopa Australis growing well in Aquasolum

Bacopa Australis growing well in Aquasolum

With that set up alone the aquarium has done very well.  The water is clear, and there has not been a spec of algae.  Some of the root plants are going through what I would call typical adjustment.  They have not been as robust as the stem plants, but they are not regressing either.  I’ll be curious to see how they do in the coming weeks and with the addition of the true shrimp population.  I’m hoping to keep fertilizers to a minimum.  Simple is better.


A Pinokio shrimp rests on a filter tube.

A Pinokio shrimp rests on a filter tube.

Shortly after planting the tank — as in the same day — I added a dozen Pinokio shrimp to the set up.  (I’m using “Pinokio” because no one agrees on how to spell the name of the beloved character)  At any rate I’m talking about Caridina Gracilirostris, also known as the red nosed shrimp, Rudolph Shrimp, Mosquito Shrimp and Rhino Shrimp.

I’ll be doing a separate post on Pinokio Shrimp and shrimp in general, with a hard look at crystal shrimp and red cherry shrimp.  But for the purposes of this start up project, let me reflect briefly on how the Pinokio shrimp have done in the two weeks they have been in the tank.  Over all, just so so.

This is to be expected at some level.  The aquarium has not had to cycle much thanks to the Seed etc. so I would have expected minimal impact from that.  Again, no ammonia or nitrates and minimal nitrates.  Water temps have been in the low 70’s and I’ve raised them in the last 48 hours.  The shrimp have been out and about for the most part, but they have had the milky coloration that suggests they are either sick or unhappy.  I took video of them in the bag water from my wholesaler and I believe they may have arrived in that condition, but it’s hard to tell.  Of the original 12 I believe I have nine left.  It’s a big tank with lots of plants to find nine small shrimp!

Shrimp and plants edited-5035

I’m observing the remaining shrimp daily and hoping they become more active and less milky.  So far the water conditions should be perfect for them. They have not come to any bits of flake food, but appear to be eating bits and pieces of the driftwood and plants.

All in all After two weeks I can say that the Aquasolum and associated start up/filter products are a pleasant surprise.  The plants are doing better than I expected, and the shrimp are about par.  Off to a good and encouraging start.  More shrimp have been ordered and I expect much more info for you going forward.



Aquasolum is a new aquarium substrate from Seachem that creates soft, acidic water.

Aquasolum is a new aquarium substrate from Seachem that creates soft, acidic water.

Seachem released a new substrate for aquariums in August of 2015.  The company says Aquasolum creates soft, acidic water.  That of course is perfect for a variety of situations such as a planted aquarium, a shrimp tank or a tank featuring the multitude of fish that prefer their water chemistry on the acidic side.

Fincasters is producing a series of videos creating a 55 gallon planted aquarium for freshwater shrimp.  Part 1 can be viewed here:

I also had the chance to ask Seachem some questions about the new product in advance of setting up the aquarium.  Here are my questions and Seachem’s answers.

Fincasters: How deep should the Aquasolum substrate be for planting?

Seachem: An inch would be fine for carpeting plants, but I would usually try for at least 2 inches for planting and much deeper in some areas for aquascaping,

Fincasters: Should it be capped with another planted substrate?  Is that a bad idea?

Seachem: I would not recommend capping it with another substrate.  If we are spotlighting the aquasolum, I would just do it alone.  The only other think you may want to do is a thin layer (~1/4”) of Onyx Sand on the bottom.  This just helps to keep the soil from becoming too acidic.  Onyx Sand will slowly release carbonates and will keep the plant roots healthy.

Fincasters: How much dust should I expect?

Seachem: I would certainly recommend rinsing it before placing it into the aquarium.  When you start filling, simply put a bowl on the substrate and fill into the bowl.  This prevents excessive disturbance, which can cause more dust.
Fincasters: How long will the properties that create the soft water and pH lowering last?  Will this affect choice of fertilizers and/or supplements such as peat? Other?

Seachem: One tank here in the office has been setup for well over a year and is still keeping the pH low.  However, we are starting with fairly soft water to begin with; If you were doing water changes with harder, more alkaline water, the effect would probably get exhausted more quickly.You can certainly keep a very healthy and well growing planted tank with the aquasolum alone, however, dosing additional supplements you will get even more growth.  You can also use it along with peat, but the end result will be the same (soft, acidic water).

Fincasters: Any experience using it for Discus tanks?  It sounds like a perfect media for that?

Seachem: Absolutely!  It would be a perfect substrate for a planted discus tank.
Fincasters: What other fish would do especially well with this substrate?

Seachem: Any fish that like soft, acidic water and like a soft substrate should do great with it. i.e. Apistogrammas, Corydoras, Bettas, Licorice Gouramis, Chocolate Gouramis, most Tetras, many Rasboras, Elephant Nose fish, Kribensis, Pelvicachromis, etc.
Fincasters: How does it compare to products already on the market for plants such as Flourite or Onyx?

Seachem: Aquasolum has more iron, calcium, manganese, and comparable magnesium.  It also provides macronutrients that Flourite does not provide: nitrogen, phosphorous, and while Flourite does contain potassium, it will not release it into the water column.
Fincasters: Are there plans to offer it in any other colors?  Bag sizes?

Seachem: We will more than likely release a 4K bag, possibly a brown color, and perhaps a red.  This will not be for at least 6 months. (as of January 2016)
Fincasters: I see that it is pelletized — is this a new process for the hobby?

Seachem: Pelletized substrates have been around for a while, however, they are growing in popularity.  They provide an easy matrix for roots to grow uninhibited and allow water to flow evenly throughout the substrate.


Seachem is positioning Aquasolum as follows:

aquasolumTM: black humate is the perfect substrate for planted and shrimp aquariums. It is a clean, clay-based substrate that supports pH stability from neutral to slightly acid levels – the preferred levels of most planted or shrimp aquariums. It will not cloud or discolor water and actually, can aid in water clarity in many cases.

aquasolum’sTM non-compacting shape and porous structure allows for plant roots to grow easily and vigorously throughout it. Plants are then able to abstract nutrients much more easily through their enzymatic and chemical processes. aquasolumTM provides an excellent array of macro and micro nutrients for plant growth including iron, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium. While it is a complete support substrate for plants it can be used in combination with other substrates to enhance growth of any planted aquarium.

For hatchling and very young shrimp, aquasolum TM provides secure hiding from predation of larger shrimp and fish.


John Carlin is a fish geek who is also a local newscaster. Fish+Newscaster=Fincaster.

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