Top 5 Best Substrate for Betta Fish and How to Choose the Right One

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Unfortunately, too many Betta owners forget the importance of substrate. They don't know that it is vital for keeping your Bettas healthy. Usually, people pick their substrate by color or pricing or even choose not to put any substrate at all, which can turn out to be a massive problem for the fish.

In this article, we will go through some of the best substrates for Betta fish and find out which is best gravel, sand, marble, or stone aggregate.

Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel

First of all, this is a great gravel substrate for your Betta fish just because it is completely natural. It is designed to mimic your betta habitat. The gravel is a good size for all kinds of tanks. Gravel is compact enough to put your plants in and give them the necessary space for their roots to grow.

It is also pH neutral, so you don't have to worry about messing the parameters of your water, which will affect your different type Betta fish health.  It does not contain any dyes or paints, so you don't have to worry about creating an unsafe environment for the fish.

However, just because it is a gravel substrate, it is a bit small, which can be a problem for cleaning, and if you plan to use a vacuum for too long, it will start to get sucked in. This is not that big of a problem since you can hover your vacuum over the gravel slowly, or stop and let the gravel settle so you can continue again.

The better quality substrate, the more expensive it gets, which is the case for the ACS00832, although it comes in a 20-pound bag, which is perfect for a 20-gallon betta fish tank.

​Pros

  • ​All Natural no Dyes or Paints
  • ​Compact enough for good plant support
  • ​pH Natural
  • ​Comes in a 20-pound bag

​Cons

  • ​Not suitable for the use of gravel vacuum
  • ​Expensive
Marina Decorative Gravel

If you are looking for the perfect substrate decoration for your Betta fish tank, Marina Decorative Gravel is a good choice. It is a small version of colored gravel that will add great contrast to your bright betta fish.

The good thing is that this marble is coated in epoxy, so it does not affect the chemistry of your tank, which makes everything easier to make sure everything is balanced. Epoxy is a great place for beneficial bacteria to grow just, so your fish tank remains healthy at all times.

 Just because it is small-sized, it is compact enough to provide support for plants and decorations. Marina gravel also comes in different colors like, black, blue, orange, neon yellow great for creating interesting fish tank design.

Marina Decorative Gravel also has rounded edges, so you would not have to worry about hurting your betta fish. To clean these substrates, all you need to do is put them in a strainer and rinse them right away, which is very practical.

However, depending on the size of your tank, it can be a bit pricy to fill the bottom of some bigger tanks.

​Pros

  • ​Does not affect water chemistry
  • ​Good for beneficial bacteria growth
  • ​Different colors
  • ​Round edges

​Cons

  • ​Not ideal for larger tanks
Spectrastone Shallow Creek R​​egular for Freshwater Aquariums

We once again come to the all-natural gravel. It is the perfect size for your betta fish and neutrality will make your bright and vibrant colored bettas pop.

The best thing about this product is that it is pH natural and coated with non-toxic materials, so you don't have to worry about messing up the parameters of your tank. It comes in different natural colors and a variety of shapes, making it perfect for anchoring down plants and allowing them to grow.

However, just because it is made from different shapes, it is not as smooth as other gravel substrates. It may contain sharp edges on some pieces that might harm the fish.

Spectrastone Shallow Creek is smaller than average size gravel, but it should still be able to allow a decent circulation through the substrate to keep a healthy environment. However, due to the smaller size, it requires more rinsing than other products just to keep it clean.

The color of the gravel comes slightly brighter than the picture, which is not that big of a deal, but you should keep that in mind if you have bright betta fish. That way, you'll not highlight the fish, and you'll be probably better off choosing a darker substrate.

​Pros

  • ​All-Natural does not affect pH levels
  • ​Good anchor for plants
  • ​Great size for smaller tanks and fish

​Cons

  • ​Not Smooth texture
  • ​Might require more rinsing than other
GloFish Aquarium Gravel

If you like bright colors to make your tank even more interesting alongside the bright and vibrant colors of your betta fish, the GloFish aquarium gravel is one of the preferred options. Most of the people choose the bright colored substrate for aquariums just because it makes the tank even more stunning.

This substrate has different shape and size stones as well as different colors. To create an even more beautiful tank using GloFish Aquarium gravel, you’ll need to accent it with a blue light that highlights all the different colored stones.

Just because this gravel is made from tiny fragments, you’ll need to be careful putting it into the tank in order to avoid creating a mess. The package is also a bit loose, so you have to be extra careful to avoid some of the tiny fragments going everywhere.

Cleaning is also a crucial thing to consider when buying your substrate, and with the GloFish gravel, you won't have a tough time cleaning it just because they stay compact, and they are easy to wash off.

Even though this gravel is safe for the fish, it is best if you avoid putting small fragments that can be fit in fish mouth turning up to be very dangerous. Fortunately, this gravel is on the edge of being the right size, so your betta fish can be safe.

The biggest downside of this product is that it does not look natural, which should not be a problem for most people.

​Pros

  • ​Great for Creating Beautiful Aquarium
  • ​Chemically safe for fish
  • ​Best experience with blue light
  • ​Reputable brand

​Cons

  • ​Chips off very easily
  • ​Not natural look
​Fluker's All Natural Premium Sand Substrate

Using a sand substrate for a betta is also an option for your fish tank. There are a lot of sand Substrate mixtures for fish tanks, and choosing the best one might require research to create the perfect environment for the fish.

Fluker's All Natural Premium Sand is one of the best sand substrates for betta fish just because most of the other sand substrates use purely calcium carbonate, which is made from tiny pieces of broken shells, but this product has a different approach. They use a blend of all-natural silica sand, sea salt, coconut fibers, calcium carbonate, and an added probiotic which when is added all together it creates a great environment for your betta fish.

This will keep the substrate clean all the time by supporting the growth of some beneficial bacteria to break down organic waste. The other good thing about using sand in your Betta fish tank will provide great support for plants just because it is very compact.

It also does not have any sharp edges, so you don't have to worry about harming your betta fish.

​Pros

  • ​Good Mixture
  • ​Has probiotics to control organic waste
  • ​Not Expensive
  • ​Good Plant support

​Cons

  • ​Not specifically designed for Betta fish
  • ​Hard to Clean

Buying Guide

There are a lot of things that you have to put into consideration before choosing what type of substrate you need to go for. Things like live plants, tank size, and practicality can dictate what kind of substrate is most suitable for your betta fish tank.

To get a better understanding of what type of substrate to buy, we'll take a look at some of the specifications for the best substrate for betta fish.

Types of Substrate

As we mentioned earlier, there are many different substrates for aquariums, and it is essential to know what you can put in a betta tank.  There are various variables to consider, and we will go through them to find which one is the best substrate for betta fish.

Gravel

Gravel is the most commonly used substrate for betta fish, and you can find it anywhere from your local pet store to online websites. There are many types of gravel to consider, and they all vary from different shapes, sizes, colors, and chemical substances.

To find the right one for your betta fish tank, you have to choose smooth-edged, pea-sized, or slightly bigger gravel, which is perfect for betta fish. Just because it is not big and bulky, it is compact and can provide a great anchor point for your vegetation.

You should always go for the natural gravel that does not affect pH levels and big enough so your betta fish cannot swallow it or go inside your filter or heater.

​Pros
  • ​Hard for fish to stir up and make the tank look messy
  • ​Food, plant debris or feces can fall into the cracks of gravel, and it is easy to clean with a vacuum
  • ​Just because it is not compact enough it provides better growth for plants
  • ​If you get pea-sized gravel, you don't have to worry about your betta fish eating it
​Cons
  • ​Some gravel is not compact enough for plants
  • ​Can often be with sharp edges that can hurt your betta fish if it swims too low
  • ​Food can often hide beneath the gravel, making it hard for fish to find it

​Sand

Many people are wondering can you put sand in a betta fish tank, and the answer is yes. Typically, sand is used for bottom-dwelling fish, but it does not necessarily mean that you cannot use it for your betta fish. 

In fact, sand is more like the natural environment for betta fish than gravel. There are different grain sizes from fine to coarse and a wide range of colors that you can choose from.

 Sand is very compact, which is a great anchor point for plants, but sometimes it can be hard for them to grow and spread the roots due to that compactness.


​Pros
  • ​The biggest advantage of using sand is that you'll have a lot more compact substrate, which means that that there is no lost food beneath it.
  • ​If you do not have a bottom-dwelling fish, you can clean it with a vacuum 1 inch above the sand.
  • ​There are no sharp edges on the sand, making it safer for your betta fish.
​C​ons
  • If you have air pockets beneath the sand, often bacteria can build up, which raises hydrogen sulfide in the tank making an unhealthy environment for the fish. Although it does not happen often, it is best if you check your sand for air pockets.
  • The water will look dirty once you put your sand in.
  • Just because it is very compact, it is hard for plants to dig their roots down. Just because it is light, it will be a problem to anchor some plants.
  • Marble

  • Marble can also be used as an effective and great looking substrate for bettas. Although it is not the best choice for betta fish substrate just because of the big air pockets that make it easy for food and feces to get in.

    However, if your betta fish has babies, these gaps can become a great environment for the fry. Keep in mind that marble has to be cycled regularly just to maintain a safe environment for the fish.

    This means that marble would be a great option for smaller tanks, if you want to go bigger, you’ll probably be better off choosing sand or gravel for betta fish just because it is easier to keep clean.

    Make sure to avoid marble chippings, which are similar to coral sand that is calcium carbonate based and unhealthy for your betta fish.

    ​Pros
    • ​Safe for the fish just because most of them are naturally based
    • ​Round edges so your betta fish cannot be hurt if it swims low
    • ​Different colors that pop up especially in a blue light
    ​Cons
    • ​Not practical for cleaning
    • ​Huge air pockets that can get food and feces stuck inside
    • ​Not suitable for bigger tanks

    ​Stone Aggregate

    Some people consider putting stones from a river or stone aggregate (anything natural from outside) in their betta fish tanks as substrate. Just because betta fish are river fish does not mean that you can put anything you like in the tank.

    This type of substrate MUST be avoided. In order to create a more natural look inside your tank, you will compromise the environment for the fish.

    Just because you don’t know what kind of substrate you are putting in, it can end up changing the pH levels of your water or make the water very murky ending up being dangerous for your betta fish.

    ​Pros
    • ​Natural Look
    • ​Easy to Get
    ​Cons
    • ​DANGEROUS for the fish
    • ​Can change water pH levels creating an unhealthy environment
    • ​Can poison the fish

    ​Contains Chemicals or not

    It is very important to know what kind of substrate you'll put in your betta fish tanks. Many different chemically treated substrates might look appealing to the eye, but they are very dangerous for the fish.

    The best way is to go for an all-natural substrate that is created from natural ingredients, and it is perfectly balanced. Using chemically-based substrates can toxic your fish or create an unhealthy environment for them.

     Most of the gravel, sand, or marble substrates that have gone through a chemical process to get to those vibrant colors, for example, are treated with a layer of silicone that protects the water.

    Planted vs Unplanted Substrates for Betta fish

    One of the things you should put into consideration before you buy your substrate is whether or not you will use live plants. Normally, if you want to use live plants, you need to get different kinds of the substrate where they can be anchored down and provide them with all the nutrients, especially for root feeding plants.

    If you want to create the best environment for live plants, you can use aquarium soil with sand or gravel for planted aquarium. Betta fish like live plants where they can find a place to hide, as well as plants sometimes break the surface of the water allowing a bubble nest.

    On the other hand, an unplanted betta tank will not require any substrate for anchoring plants. This will give you more options to choose from as a substrate, such as marble, sand, or rocks.

    Frequently Asked Questions


    What Is The Purpose Of Aquarium Substrate?

    In order to understand what type of substrate you need for your betta fish, you need to know the purpose of the aquarium substrate.

    There are many different reasons why the aquarium substrate is important for creating the best environment for the fish, such as:

     - Control Bacteria – Some bacteria help break down ammonia, nitrates, and nitrogen. All of the mentioned can be harmful to the health of your betta fish. If you use substrates, you will be able to house bacteria and allow the bacteria to thrive.

     - Appearance – Of course, substrates play a big role in the beauty of one aquarium. If you put empty glass, it will look empty and unnatural, and too much light reflecting in your tank can make your betta fish start flaring up. Substrates will also make your betta fish pop and make them the highlight of your aquarium.

     - pH Levels – Substrates are also used for controlling the pH levels of your aquarium, which is very important for creating a healthy environment for the fish.

     - Vegetation – Obviously, plants are vital for betta fish. They provide hiding places for betta fish and make the aquarium more natural. Substrates help to anchor down your plants and decorations in place.

    How Many substrates Do You Need For a Betta Tank?

    Determining how much substrate to put in your betta fish tank depends on different things such as the size of your tank, type of substrate, and live plants. If you decide to put live plants in your betta fish tank, you need to create the perfect environment and give them enough space to grow roots.

    The best way is to put about 2 inches of substrate for live plants, or one inch should be enough for silk plants. Try not to compact the substrate too much to anchor your plants so that they won't face trouble growing their roots.

    If your substrate is light and cannot anchor your plants, you can use rocks to make sure they will not float.

    Can You Put Sand In A Bettas Fish Tank?

    As we mentioned earlier, the short answer is yes. However, you cannot put every type of sand as many people think.

    For starters, it is better to avoid using a stick to aquarium sand or coral sand. Even though coral sand is good for many fish, it is not recommended for betta fish due to its calcium carbonate that slowly dissolves in the water.

    Many people think that can put any sand in their betta fish tank, avoiding the fact that the sand can cause a bloom of brown algae, and it can be a source of other bacteria.


    Is Gravel or Sand Better for betta Tank?

    These are definitely the most popular choices among betta fish lovers. Choosing the best option for you depends on the setup of your tank.

    Both substrates have their pros and cons, and choosing between them is only to personal perforations.

    For starters, the send is a very good substrate, and it has a wide range of color options, which is good for creating a great ambient in your aquarium and making your betta colors pop. It is a very clean choice just because it has small particles packed close together making it hard for uneaten food or waste to get inside.

    On the downsides, it has to be replaced often, and it is stirred up, making the water dirty while cleaning. Also, there might be air pockets beneath that can develop anaerobic bacteria compromising the water quality.

    Also, it is not suitable for live plants as it is very dense and plants cannot grow roots through it.

    On the other hand, the gravel is also a great substrate, but you have to choose the "pea" size so that you can avoid fish mistaking it for food and eating it. Gravel is also heavier than the sand so it is difficult for fish to stir up.

    Food and waste can get inside the gravel, so you have to clean it regularly in order to keep a safe environment.

    Choosing one of these is entirely up to self-preference and there is no mistake if you choose either of the substrates.


    Conclusion

    Now you know how to choose the right substrate for your betta fish tank. When we compare all the preferred specifications to our product reviews, we can see that the Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel is the best substrate for betta fish.

    It has all the necessary specifications, such as made from all-natural substances, great size for betta fish tank, and no added chemicals. It is also great for cleaning and gives your aquarium a natural feel.

    There are many different things to consider when choosing the best substrate for betta fish, and if you want to create the perfect environment for your betta fish, you need to follow the rules that we mentioned above. These basic tips that will make your life much easier and your hobby, much more interesting.


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