Betta fish are some of the most common fish because they’re so easy to take care of. However, before you invest in a Betta fish aquarium or aquascape, you’ll want to make sure you are doing what’s necessary to keep your new fish comfortable, happy, and healthy.
Choosing the right substrate to use in the bottom of your Betta tank or fishbowl can mean the difference between a happy and healthy fish and one that is continually hurting themselves or developing sickness and disease.
What Is The Best Substrate For Betta Fish Tanks?
Selecting the proper substrate for your Betta tank or bowl can be somewhat challenging to do. With so many different options to choose from, getting the right type for your fish is sometimes the most frustrating part of creating your aquascape.
We’re here to help ease some of that frustration. Below, we have gathered 10 of the most popular substrate brands and products that are known for being high-quality and receiving rave reviews from customers just like you.
1. GloFish Fluorescent Aquarium Gravel - Natural Bright Gravel
When it comes to aquarium gravel, the GloFish Fluorescent Aquarium Gravel is some of the best you’re going to find. It’s a mixture of black and different colored glow stones. The black rocks help bring out the natural colors in your Betta fish.
When you put the stones underneath a bright lighting source, the glow stones illuminate to vivid colors. If you have a blue light source, the black rocks will develop a striking hue.
- The GloFish Aquarium Gravel is simple and elegant.
- This type of gravel is simple to clean and maintain.
- The GloFish gravel does not contain harmful dust.
- This type of gravel is not suited for planted aquariums or bowls.
2. Carib Sea Peace River Aquarium Gravel - easy to maintain
If you are looking for a more natural appearance in your tank or bowl, the Carib Sea Peace River Aquarium Gravel is a great option. This helps mimic the natural conditions that you would find many fish in and brings those colors to light under a bright lighting source.
This type of gravel is also great for planted aquariums. It is designed to help your plants develop active root systems and hold them in place. Think of how plants can bed themselves into the bottom of a river.
- Carib Sea Gravel utilizes a different grain size to help avoid gas building up.
- The gravel from the Carib Sea is incredibly easy to maintain.
- There are zero artificial dyes or colors used to obtain the natural appeal of the Carib Sea Gravel.
- The Carib Sea Peace River Gravel is pH neutral to avoid messing with your water quality.
- You can only find this gravel in a 20-pound bag, which could be too much for you.
3. Marina Decorative Gravel - Very Decorative
Keeping with the theme of high-quality gravel substrates, the Marine Decorative Gravel is another excellent choice. The colors inside of the Marina Decorative Gravel are vibrant, bright, and help bring out the colors in your Betta fish.
The gravel in Marina Decorative Gravel has been dyed. Being dyed, however, the gravel is still covered in a strong epoxy coating that prevents the dyes from seeping into your water system. The gravel may not be the most natural appearing, but they are still a beautiful feature to your tank.
- Marina Decorative Gravel is pH neutral to avoid altering your tank’s water quality.
- Marina Gravel helps keep your plants firmly rooted in place.
- The gravel contains stones of various shapes and sizes to add to your tank’s appeal.
- The stones in this gravel are dyed but covered with epoxy.
4. Carib Sea Tahitian Moon Sand Substrate - all-natural sand
Another excellent substrate from the Carib Sea, the Carib Sea Tahitian Moon Sand Substrate, is one of the few sand substrates that we will recommend. The deep black in the Tahitian Moon Sand makes it a great addition to nearly any Betta tank or bowl.
Like other Carib Sea substrates, the Tahitian Moon Sand is all-natural and uses zero artificial dyes, paints, or other chemicals in the process. This means that it will not introduce toxins into your water system and will not harm the chemistry that your fish depend on.
- The Tahitian Sand is all-natural sand.
- Carib Sea is known for producing high-quality substrates and foods.
- The sand helps secure your plants and will not harm Betta fish.
- You will need to maintain the sand to avoid gas buildup.
- Keep food away from the sand to avoid your Betta ingesting the substrate.
5. Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular Aquarium Gravel - unique And natural
If you’re like so many other aquarists that want the purest, most natural environment possible, the Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular Aquarium Gravel is a great choice. These stones look precisely the same as the stones that you would find in a river bed containing wild Betta fish.
The stones are a mix of grey and brown colors, giving them a natural hue. While some customers have complained that the stones look dull, we believe that the coloring on this gravel gives it a unique look that works well with planted tanks and Bettas together.
- The Spectrastone Shallow Creek gravel provides a unique, natural appearance.
- These stones are not dyed with artificial colors or chemicals.
- The gravel is small enough to help keep your plants secured.
- The stones will need to be appropriately positioned to secure your plants.
- Some customers have complained that there isn’t enough color in the stones.
6. Carib Sea Naturals Aquarium Sand - Fantastic Substrate
If you prefer sand over gravel and marbles, the Carib Sea Naturals Aquarium Sand is a natural-appearing substrate that works excellent in Betta tanks. Like other Carib Sea products, the Naturals line of sand substrate is all-natural and does not leech chemicals into your water.
For a natural look, you can mix the Carib Sea Naturals with Spectrastone gravel to create a unique appearance and give your plants extra holding power in the substrate. The particles in the Carib Sea Naturals are dense but still loose enough to help keep your plants secured.
- The small grain size makes the Carib Sea Naturals great for planted aquariums.
- This is a natural-appearing substrate that helps mimic a river bed.
- The sand is not treated with harsh chemicals or dyes that harm your water quality.
- Some customers have complained about the density of the sand requiring more maintenance.
7. Carib Sea Eco Black Planted Aquarium Substrate - Excellent Substrate
For planted aquariums and Betta tanks, the Carib Sea Eco Substrate is a fantastic value. The color helps accentuate the natural colors in your Betta fish while also making the shades in your plants come to life.
The consistency of the Carib Sea Eco Black is dense enough to keep your plants securely in place but not so dense that gas pockets will begin to build up. The dark browns and blacks make this soil an excellent choice for planted aquariums.
- Carib Sea Eco Black is a natural soil substrate that works excellent with Betta fish.
- The substrate is rich in color and helps keep your plants secured in place.
- The consistency promotes healthy root growth and is loaded with nutrients.
- You will need to create a sand or gravel layer over the soil layer.
8. Activ Betta Bio-Active Live Aquarium Sand - Rich of Nutrient
Finding a quality substrate for planted aquariums can be a difficult task. The Active Betta Bio-Active Live Aquarium Sand, however, helps create an environment where both your plants and Betta fish can thrive.
The sand is nutrient-rich to promote healthy plant growth. The density of the grains, coupled with the size of the grains, makes it easy for your plants to develop healthy root systems and hold themselves in place.
The sand is phosphate and silica-free, so you do not have to worry about harmful chemicals or sharp edges that could harm your fish.
- Activ Betta Bio-Active Live Sand helps aid your filtration system.
- The natural brown color helps replicate a Betta fish’s natural environment.
- The sand is phosphate and silica-free to help protect your fish and plants.
- The density of the sand particles helps your plants build healthy root balls.
- You will need to wash the sand before you put it into your tank.
- Some customers have installed the sand on top of the gravel to help aid filtration.
9. Marina Betta Kit Decorative Gravel - easy to clean and maintain
Marina is a well-known brand among aquarists and Betta keepers. Black gravel is a highly-popular option among Betta keepers because it helps the natural reds and blues in the Betta fish come to life.
The gravel in this is coarse, which makes it easier to maintain your tank, especially if you are using a powered vacuum or filtration system. The gravel is non-toxic and will not leech harmful chemicals into your water supply as other gravels will.
- The coarse stones make it easier for your plants to root into.
- The gravel is non-toxic and will not harm your fish.
- The gravel is easy to clean and maintain.
- The bags that Marina sells are small, so you may need to buy multiple.
10. Panacea Products Pan Gems Aquarium Marbles - Pretty Glass Beads
Now, saving the best for last, especially if you prefer using glass marbles in your tank instead of sand, gravel, or soil. The Panacea Products Pan Gems are crystal clear aquamarine glass marbles that help create a stunning design in your tank or bowl.
Glass marbles help create a unique style in your tank by reflecting the light that comes into the tank or bowl. However, marbles are not known for being able to properly support the plants in your tank, which means you could be required to use the marbles on top of another type of substrates, such as sand, soil, or gravel.
- Marbles help reflect and refract light for a unique visual appeal.
- Glass marbles are easier to maintain than other types of substrate.
- Glass marbles are not suitable for planted aquariums; use them on top of another substrate, such as soil or sand.
Best Types Of Betta Tank Substrates
The substrate in your Betta tank isn’t just for visual appeal. While a quality substrate does make your Betta tank look better, you’re using a substrate for a few key reasons. Each of the reasons below will help you decide which substrate to use and understand why you need to use one.
- The helpful bacteria in your tank will begin to break down the waste produced by your fish that makes its way into the bottom of the tank. This helps improve the overall health of your fish and the quality of your water.
- The substrate provides a base for you to secure your plants. The root systems will grow in and around the substrate and become stronger because of the substrate.
- The bottom of the tank is a reflective surface. These reflections can cause stress in your fish, and aggressive species, such as Betta fish, will begin to fight with their reflection.
Many Betta owners are tempted to keep their Betta fish inside a tank or bowl without using a substrate. We do not recommend this.
Even though you believe it makes cleaning your tank easier because you’re not cleaning the substrate, it creates stressful environments for your Bettas.
- You do not spend as much time maintaining the tank and cleaning the substrate.
- You do not have to worry about your Betta fish potentially ingesting some of the substrates.
- You are giving your small tank square area for your fish to move around in.
- You are not giving helpful bacteria an area where they can grow to help improve your water quality.
- Your Betta fish will not be able to forage. While most Betta fish are surface feeders, encouraging foraging behavior is recommended.
- You are not giving your plants something that they can anchor their root systems into. This will cause stress in your plants and prevent growth.
- The reflections on the bottom of your tank will stress your fish out. They will begin to develop aggressive behaviors and try fighting with themselves.
- Bare-bottomed tanks look unnatural. They are not a substrate that would naturally occur in a Betta fish’s real environment.
You can get away with using no substrate on the bottom of your tank in a pinch. However, we highly recommend using a substrate to give your fish and plants a healthier, more natural environment where they can thrive.
Glass Marble Substrate For Betta Tanks
Glass marbles may sound like a bit of an oddity, but many Betta tank owners use different colored marbles to line the bottom of tanks and bowls.
Marbles are most commonly used because of the wide variety of colors available.
While they are an acceptable substrate to use in your Betta tank or bowl, you will want to avoid them in larger tanks.
- Using marbles in your tank lets you choose the colors that you want to use and creates a unique visual appeal that many other tanks do not have.
- Glass marbles are most commonly used in Betta bowls, where the water will need a 100% change during the maintenance routine. Marbles are easy to keep clean.
- Marbles are heavy enough to keep your plants rooted firmly in place. This prevents the roots from breaking free, allowing the plants to begin floating in the tank.
- Glass marbles are not suitable for larger tanks. Waste and uneaten food can collect in between the marbles. Most substrate vacuums cannot properly move the marbles around to collect the waste.
Soil Or Dirt Substrate For Betta Tanks
Soil or aquarium dirt is another type of substrate that many aquarists use in their tanks. Before you start putting soil into your tank, though, you need to understand that it can create a total mess in the tank.
If you do not use a layer of sand or stones to keep the soil down, the soil will enter into the water column and create dirty water.
- Soil gives your plants a natural system to begin rooting into. The soil will contain the nutrients your plants need to thrive, so you do not need to supplement those nutrients as often.
- You will need to create a layer of sand or gravel in order to keep the soil from entering into the water column.
- If you are not careful, vacuuming the soil in your tank could plug your filtration system or your vacuum, causing even more maintenance issues.
Gravel Substrate For Betta Tanks
Gravel is another popular substrate that aquarists have used in their tanks for decades. If you intend to use gravel in your Betta tank, though, you want to make sure you’re getting aquarium gravel that does not have sharp edges.
The best type of aquarium gravel to use is referred to as “pea gravel.” This type of gravel is used explicitly in an aquarium and is sized like small peas.
- Small pea gravel allows water to pass through the stones. This helps cut down on the possibility of toxic gas pockets building up inside of the substrate.
- While the gaps between the stones in pea gravel do allow food and waste to collect, gravel vacuums are an affordable way to keep the substrate clean.
- Fish are unable to create a stir in gravel substrates. The stones are heavy enough to stay in place, so you do not have to worry about them getting lodged inside of your filter or pump.
- Gravel can be purchased in a wide variety of shapes and colors so you can match the substrate to your Betta’s colors or create clashing colors to make your Betta fish pop against the background.
- Gravel does allow your plants to build a better root system but can also allow your plants to move freely if you are not adequately anchoring them. That means your plants could begin floating if you are not careful.
- If you are trying to achieve a natural-looking aquascape, sand provides a more natural appearance than gravel does.
- If the gravel that you are putting into the tank is too small, you could run the potential for your fish to ingest the small stones while they are foraging for food.
- If you give your Betta fish live food, such as shrimp or fry, you could find that the smaller feeders will burrow themselves into the gravel, making it harder for your Bettas to expose them to eat.
Sand Substrate For Betta Tanks
Sand is one of the most popular substrates aquarists are using for their Betta tanks.
One of the biggest reasons people disagree with using sand as a substrate is because of the low-quality sands that are currently being sold. This means, if you choose to use sand, you’re going to want to make sure you are purchasing high-quality aquarium sand.
You do not want to use sand that was intended for construction purposes, or by digging up sand from your local river banks or beach. These sands can contain harmful bacteria and chemicals that will become toxic to your fish.
While you can get away with using sand that is designed for use in children’s playgrounds, pool filters, and sandboxes, you should use aquarium-specific sand whenever possible.
- The particles in aquarium sand are more compact and easier to clean. The debris and waste in your tank will rest on top of the sand instead of mixing down into the particles. This makes it easier for you to clean the substrate with a small water vacuum or siphon.
- The small sand particles are sized uniformly, so the sand adds to the visual appeal in your tank.
- High-quality aquarium sand doesn’t have the same sharp edges as other types of sand, so you do not need to worry about potentially harming your Betta’s gills or fins if they decide to begin foraging inside the sand.
- High-quality aquarium sand is available in a wide range of colors so you can either match your Betta fish or create variances to make the color in your Betta fish stand out even more.
- Whenever you are beginning to clean your aquarium, you could disturb the sand and send particles floating through the water. These particles can get sucked up in your vacuum or filtration system and cause other issues.
- Pockets of harmful bacteria can grow in sand substrate that has become compacted. This bacteria can develop a poisonous gas. That means you are going to need to regularly stir the sand substrate before it turns black and begins to poison your Betta fish.
- Some plants may have trouble building healthy root systems as the sand they’re burrowing into begins to compact. This means you will need to create pockets of rocks where your plants can burrow their root systems.
If you want to use sand in your Betta tank, you will want to make sure you’re buying the highest quality you can get. Avoid using sand that isn’t explicitly designed for use in fish tanks.
Stone Substrate For Betta Tanks
For aquarists that do not want to use sand, gravel, or marbles, you can always get away with using small stones in your tank. Stone aggregate consists of small pebbles, rocks, and sand particles to create a semi-solid substrate.
While you can get away with using a stone substrate in your tank, we recommend against it. The stones that you can find could contain sharp edges that may potentially harm your fish or bacteria that your fish would not normally encounter.
That means you want to purchase a stone aggregate that is treated and designed to be used inside of your aquarium. Naturally-occurring stones could upset the chemistry in your water.
- Stone aggregate is one of the most naturally-occurring substrates you can find. It adds a unique visual appeal to your tank and helps you bring nature into your Betta’s life.
- You can get a wide variety of shapes of stone aggregate to achieve the perfect aquascape for you and your Betta.
- The stone aggregate with small stones, sand, and gravel makes it easy for you to securely root your plants in place, knowing that they will not break free and begin floating.
- The stone substrate designed for aquariums is easy to clean with a vacuum and pump. Vacuuming the substrate does not interfere with your water quality or the water column.
- If you are planning to use stone aggregate as a substrate, you need to ensure that you are not adding stones with sharp edges. These sharp edges can cause damage to your fish and the bottom of your tank or bowl.
- Stone substrates are typically more expensive than other substrates, such as sand or gravel. This is because stone aggregate is a mixture of small stones, sand, and gravel, all combined into one package.
- Stone aggregate creates an environment where uneaten food and waste products from your fish can begin to build up. This means you will need to maintain the substrate more often to keep your fish from getting sick due to poor water quality.
Easiest Betta Fish Substrate To Maintain
It doesn’t matter which substrate you choose to use in your Betta tank. You will need to develop a routine maintenance schedule to keep the substrate clean. All substrates allow waste to begin building up, even if it happens in different ways.
Marbles are among the easiest to clean because of their weight, but they also allow the most waste and uneaten food to build up.
Gravel is a better option because it doesn’t let the waste from your fish build up as quickly or as deeply into the substrate. Sand ensures that the waste produced by your fish will remain on top of the substrate but can develop pockets of toxic gas if you do not clean it often enough.
For smaller tanks and bowls, marbles are going to be your best option. Since you are going to change 100% of the water while doing maintenance, cleaning the marbles is easier to do than any other type of substrate.
For larger tanks that are still getting cycled manually, gravel and sand are the best options for creating a natural aquascape and allowing healthy bacteria to begin colonizing.
For planted aquariums, you will want to use gravel, sand, soil, or other substrates specifically designed for aquatic plants. These substrates allow your plants to develop secure, healthy root systems and anchor into place.
What Is The Best Substrate For Betta Fish Tanks?
If you’re looking for the best substrate for Betta fish tanks, we’ve found that one of the most popular, highest-rated substrates available today is the GloFish Fluorescent Gravel.
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