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Best Substrate For Betta Fish: Detailed Review and Guide (2022)

So you’ve decided to build up the perfect tank for your betta fish and you’re looking at all of the options on the market.

There are plenty of options out there when it comes to customizing your betta tanks, but one of the most important questions that literally lays the foundation of your whole aquarium is, what is the best substrate for betta?

  • All natural porous clay
  • Won’t alter the pH of your water
  • Great for planted tanks
  • Specifically formulated for freshwater aquariums
  • Non-toxic coating that won’t affect your pH
  • No sharp edges to this aquarium gravel
Best Value
  • Made of mineral rich volcanic soil
  • Stimulates strong growth for live plants
  • Promotes neutral to mildly acidic pH
Editor’s Choice

From aquarium sand to pebbles and natural gravel, choosing the substrate for betta fish can be quite the challenge.

If you’re currently looking for an aquarium substrate for your betta fish tank, read on for my recommendations of some of the best on the market today!

The Best From The Reviews

Top Pick

Seachem Flourite

This porous decorative gravel allows for a simple, easy to setup and use and is the best substrate for those looking to get things moving in their betta tank.

Seachem Flourite

With its porous nature and lack of harmful chemical treatments, Seachem Flourite makes a great option for any betta fish tank. This gravel works well for root feeding plants or fish tanks with a variety of mixed substrates.

Best Value

Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular Gravel Substrate

The best substrate option in terms of value on this list, this option comes with plenty of gravel to make your betta fish happy for years to come.

Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular Gravel Substrate

A simple option for those looking for the natural look, the Spectrastone works to keep your live plants and fish healthy and comes in a range of natural colors. This option provides your betta aquarium with 5 pounds of substrate, but is also available in greater amounts for larger tanks.

Editor’s Choice

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

This natural substrate is made from a mineral rich volcanic soil and works great in a planted tank with your betta fish.

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

Fluval Shrimp and Plant Stratum is a great option for those with a betta fish tank looking to promote beneficial bacteria development and space to anchor plants. The nature of this substrate means that it works best for those trying to keep their pH neutral to slightly acidic.

On To The Reviews…

Top Pick

Seachem Flourite

This porous decorative gravel allows for a simple, easy to setup and use and is the best substrate for those looking to get things moving in their betta tank.

Seachem Flourite

With its porous nature and lack of harmful chemical treatments, Seachem Flourite makes a great option for any betta tank. This gravel works well for root feeding plants or a fish tank with a variety of mixed substrates.

Adaptability

This substrate option works as a great baseline for mixing with other substrate such as aquarium sand or pebbles, seeing as it is completely neutral and free of harmful chemical coatings or surfactants. Simply rinse it off (which can even be done inside of the storage bag itself) and you’re good to place it in your betta tanks!

Downsides

Seachem Flourite may take a little while to settle to the bottom, from 10 minutes to an hour in some cases, meaning that you may need to wait before adding your fish. This extra time can allow beneficial bacteria to settle and begin the nitrogen cycle, which is something that should always be considered when starting up any new betta tanks.

Specs

  • Comes in a 7 or 15 pound bag

Pros

  • All natural porous clay
  • Won’t alter the pH of your water
  • Great for planted tanks

Cons

  • May take some time to settle to the bottom of your betta tanks

Best Value

Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular Aquarium Gravel

The best substrate option in terms of value on this list, this option comes with plenty of gravel to make your betta fish happy for years to come.

Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular Aquarium Gravel

A simple option for those looking for the natural look, the Spectrastone works to keep your fish and plants healthy and comes in a range of natural colors. This option provides your betta aquarium with 5 pounds of substrate, but is also available in greater amounts for larger tanks.

Natural Appearance

This marina gravel does a great job of creating a natural, unobtrusive appearance for your betta tank. The included fine gravel comes in a variety of colors from brown through yellow, allowing the anchoring plants in your betta aquariums to have a safe place to settle and grow while maintaining the natural look.

Neutral Composition

Designed as an inert substrate, this option won’t affect the water chemistry in your tank and comes specially coated with a non-toxic solution to promote longevity of color. With this in mind, this substrate can even work for your normal household plants, should you so desire!

Downsides

As with any betta fish substrate, you’ll want to make sure that you carefully clean the gravel before placing it in your tank. Oftentimes, what looks like almost fine gravel may in fact be dust that has settled inside of the bag over time that should be cleaned off so that it doesn’t affect your tank water.

Specs

  • Comes with 5 pounds of gravel in varying sizes

Pros

  • Specifically formulated for freshwater aquarium
  • Non-toxic coating that won’t affect your pH
  • No sharp edges to this aquarium gravel

Cons

  • May have dust that needs to be cleaned prior to installation in your tank
  • Varying gravel size

Editor’s Choice

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

This natural substrate is made from a mineral rich volcanic soil and works great in a planted tank with your betta fish.

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

Fluval Shrimp and Plant Stratum is a great option for those with a betta tank looking to promote beneficial bacteria development and space to anchor plants. The nature of this substrate means that it works best for those trying to keep their pH neutral to slightly acidic.

Volcanic Soil

Unlike artificial substrates which tend to simply provide a place for your plant roots to sit and not much else, this substrate comes loaded with minerals that help plants grow, which in turn gives your betta fish ample space to break sight, hide, and swim through.

Omnivorous or herbivorous fish are likewise sure to appreciate the extra nutrition.

pH Effects

Betta fish prefer a relatively neutral to acidic range of pH from 6.5-8.0, meaning that this substrate works perfectly for them. Make sure to measure the pH before and after adding any additional gravel, as more may affect the overall range in your tank.

Downsides

If you’re looking to opt for a more basic tank, this substrate may not lend itself well to that. Seeing as the volcanic gravel tends towards the acidic, it works well for betta fish but may not be the best for fish like African Cichlids.

Specs

  • Available in a 4.4 or 8.8 pound bag

Pros

  • Made of mineral rich volcanic soil
  • Stimulates strong growth for live plants
  • Promotes neutral to mildly acidic pH

Cons

  • May not be the best option for fish that do better in more basic pH
  • May take some time to sink to the bottom

BLQH Decorative Pebbles

These smooth black stones can make a great addition to a betta tank, potted plant, or garden.

BLQH Decorative Pebbles

These smooth black stones make a beautiful addition to any tank, garden, or planting. Unlike other substrates, these are a uniform color that make for a great statement for aquarists looking to create a tone in their betta fish aquarium.

Smooth Stone

The smooth, rounded edges of the BLQH Gravel River Rocks are sure to please your betta fish. The best part about them is that even for burrowing fish such as plecos and catfish, you don’t need to worry about damage to sensitive areas like gills or barbels, meaning your fish can dig to their heart’s content.

Versatility

You can place these stones anywhere that you want to make a statement! Not only do they work well for your fish tank, they can find a place in your potted plants, garden, terrarium, or vivariums. Anywhere that you would like to have a bit of class without the look of play sand that some substrates may have.

Downsides

The color of these rocks is not quite natural, and may leach into your water. This can have the potentially hazardous effect of clogging up sensitive fish gills and affecting the water chemistry, although it doesn’t happen often.

Specs

  • Comes in an 18 pound bag

Pros

  • Beautiful black coloration
  • Versatility of use, can be placed in your tank, garden, or potted plants
  • Smooth stone to prevent damage to fish

Cons

  • Color may leach into the water

Pure Water Pebbles Ocean Aquarium Gravel

The exciting color of this artificial substrate makes it a great candidate for aquarists looking to add a bit of pizzazz into their betta tank.

Pure Water Pebbles Ocean Aquarium Gravel

Bright Color

The bright blue coloration of these pebbles can really make the colors of your betta fish pop in exciting ways. The acrylic coating of the gravel pieces also means that the colors should hold fast for years to come, without causing any changes to the chemistry of your water.

Inert Construction

With their acrylic coating, these pieces are meant to stay colorfast while avoiding any harmful leaching or discoloration of your tank. A neutral design works well for any natural or substrate for those looking to create a particular pH or water quality within their tank to meet the needs of your betta fish.

Downsides

Unfortunately as with many colorful options, this variety may take some work to avoid leaching. You should definitely consider rinsing for some time before installing in your tank, as some of the initial color may leach off which can be potentially hazardous for your fish and other organisms.

Specs

  • Comes in a 5 pound bag

Pros

  • Beautiful blue coloration
  • Non-toxic, acrylic coated colorfast material
  • Will not alter the water chemistry of your aquarium

Cons

  • May need a bit of rinsing in order to make sure that the color won’t leach into your tank
  • May come in different colors than indicated by the bag

Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

This natural sand substrate makes a great addition to something like gravel, or can stand on its own.

Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

For those looking to recreate the natural habitat of rice paddies and tropical waters in their home, this soft sand can be a great option. Neutral and non-toxic, Caribsea sand can work on its own or in addition to other betta tank substrate options such as pebbles, rocks, or gravel.

Natural Sand

This non-toxic material is great for making a sand bed on the bottom of your small tank. Sand substrates can be an extra bonus for certain burrowing fish such as plecos and catfish, who will delight in snuffling through the sand’s surface. Additionally, this aquarium substrate provides plenty of room for shallow-root plants to bed down.

Plays Well With Others

Sand on its own can work great as a primary substrate, or you can pair it with something else like natural rocks or gravel, aquarium marbles, or even leaf litter for some variety and the appearance of your fish’s natural habitats. 

Downsides

Unfortunately with some filtration system set ups such as HOB filters, fine sand particles may get trapped in the mechanisms and disrupt their function. Be sure to allow time for your sand to settle before firing everything up for the first time. Additionally, it can take quite a bit of sand to cover a large surface area, and using a gravel vacuum can release gasses that may discolor your sand for a short period of time.

The general rule of thumb for how much substrate you’ll need per gallon of tank size is 1 pound per inch of substrate per gallon. For instance, in a 10 gallon tank you’d want to look at 10 pounds of sand to create one inch of substrate on the bottom, and so on.

Specs

  • Comes in a 20 pound bag

Pros

  • Grain size reduces detritus build up
  • No paints or dyes, pH neutral
  • Works great in combination with other betta substrates such as gravel or pebbles

Cons

  • Can potential clog up certain filter designs
  • May discolor after oxidizing with gasses in your tank

What substrate do betta have in the wild?

In their natural habitat of the shallow waters of Southeast Asia in Thailand and Korea, bettas don’t really have a choice of natural and artificial substrates. Bettas in the natural environment can live in a variety of sand, soil, and gravel areas, seeing as they are such an adaptable fish.

Do bettas need substrate? 

Bettas do not actually need substrate in their tank in order to thrive. However, it does allow more surface area for beneficial bacteria to take hold and assist with the reduction of nitrogen releases from uneaten food and fish waste into harmless chemical components.

Blue and Orange Betta Fish Near Aquarium Substrate
Blue and Orange Betta Fish Near Aquarium Substrate

Additionally, if you’re looking to have artificial or live plants in your tank, you’ll want some form of substrate for them to bed down into. Having an empty tank floor can look quite nice in some setups, but require additional care and attention to detail to keep it looking clean and vibrant.

What’s the purpose of substrates?

In addition to providing a more natural appearance to your tank, substrates provide several benefits to both your fish and plants.

Gravel and sand give beneficial bacteria a place to spread and multiply…

Gravel and sand give beneficial bacteria a place to spread and multiply, meaning that the ammonia levels in your tank can be naturally reduced by this biological filter.

Additionally, it gives your plants a place to root down and can even provide extra nutrients, eliminating the need for harmful liquid fertilizers. Bettas and other fish also enjoy swimming through aquarium plants and having the option to hide or break line of sight from one another.

What substrate is best for betta fish?

The best substrate for betta fish is either gravel or a combination of gravel and sand. 

Gravel

Gravel substrates can be a great choice because it provides plenty of room for beneficial bacteria to thrive and keep the ammonia levels in your tank down.

However, some gravels can be quite rough and may damage the fish as they scrape against the rock, particularly if your aggressive betta decides to charge its own reflection and lands in some rough gravel. This can be especially damaging on sensitive areas like gills and eyes.

Sand

Sand, on the other hand, is soft and light. This means that it won’t abrade or damage your fish while still providing plenty of room for real or artificial plants to root down.

One of the downsides to sand is that it can potentially float freely in your tank, causing damage to sensitive equipment and changing the water clarity.

NOTE

There is also coral sand, but despite being called coral sand, it’s more like gravel, not sand. Although coral sand is suitable for some fish species, it is not recommended for bettas since it’s made from calcium carbonate that gradually dissolves in water, making the pH more alkaline, which is bad for bettas.

Need more help deciding between sand and gravel, watch this video below.

Aquarium Substrate Showdown: Sand vs Gravel!

Choosing The Best Substrate For Betta

When it comes to picking the best betta fish substrate, there are a few key factors to consider. 

Upkeep

First and foremost is whether you want to maintain and keep up with substrate or would rather have a bare tank. Bare tanks come with their own sets of consideration, but substrates will need to be washed prior to installing and vacuumed continuously throughout the life cycle of your tank.

Type

Choosing which type of betta substrate to use can be an exciting prospect. I recommend gravel or sand, but it’s really up to you to decide which variety you prefer when it comes to form and function.

Planted vs. Unplanted

Betta Fish Swimming in a Planted Aquarium with Thermometer
Betta Fish Swimming in a Planted Aquarium with Thermometer

If you decide to go with an unplanted betta tank, you can essentially have free reign when it comes to choosing substrate for betta tanks. If you do decide to go with a planted betta tank, you’ll want to ensure that whichever substrate you end up choosing serves your plants in terms of pH and nutrient content.

Price

Certain substrates such as sand can get quite expensive to use as the primary substrate. This is because it takes quite a lot of these tiny particles to add any real depth to the base of your tank, unlike larger options such as gravel and pebbles or marble substrate.

Conclusion

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this review and found the best varieties of natural and artificial substrates that work with your betta fish.

There are quite a lot of options out there when it comes to selecting a betta substrate, and you can even combine several if you like the overall tone it creates in your tank.

If you still haven’t decided, here are a few last minute tips.

  • All natural porous clay
  • Won’t alter the pH of your water
  • Great for planted tanks
  • Specifically formulated for freshwater aquariums
  • Non-toxic coating that won’t affect your pH
  • No sharp edges to this aquarium gravel
Best Value
  • Made of mineral rich volcanic soil
  • Stimulates strong growth for live plants
  • Promotes neutral to mildly acidic pH
Editor’s Choice

Top Pick

With its porous nature and lack of harmful chemical treatments, Seachem Flourite makes a great option for any betta fish tanks. This gravel works well for root feeding plants or a betta tank with a variety of mixed substrates, and provides plenty of space for plants to root down.

Best Value

A simple option for those looking for the natural look, the Spectrastone works to keep your live plants and fish healthy and comes in a range of natural colorations. This option provides your betta aquarium with 5 pounds of substrate, but is also available in greater amounts for larger tanks.

Editor’s Choice

Fluval Shrimp and Plant Stratum is a great option for those with betta tanks looking to promote beneficial bacteria development and space to anchor plants. The nature of this substrate means that it works best for those trying to keep their pH neutral to slightly acidic

Thanks for Reading!

I hope you’ve found this article helpful in choosing the ideal substrate for your betta fish tank. For more exciting betta facts, find out if you can put two betta fish together.

As always feel free to share this article with any other fish fanatics you know, and I wish you the best of luck on your continued aquarium adventures.

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Mollie Newton
Mollie Newton
Founder of PetMeTwice. I love all types of animals from fish to fluff-balls! I also enjoy writing short stories and helping train animals 🤩