One of the key considerations when setting up a betta fish tank is the material used to cover the bottom. You would be surprised to learn that there are various benefits and features that substrates provide and it’s important that you don’t get it wrong.
This article will examine which components make the best substrates for bettas, and review these products for your betta’s home:
- Carib Sea Tahitian Moon Sand
- Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular
- Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Substrate
- Panacea Products Pan Marbles
- Marina Decorative Gravel
Choosing Substrates for Betta Fish Tank
When discussing the best substrate, we are referring to the material that covers the bottom of your fish tank. If you are new to fish keeping, you may feel overwhelmed by the favorite choices proposed by fellow fish keepers. There are a few things to keep in mind when you select the ideal substrate for your betta’s home.
Betta Fish in Nature
Bettas are a native species from the Mekong basin, in Southeast Asia. These floodplains, marshes, and rice paddies provide a soft substrate covered in vegetation.
While many hobbyists attempt to simulate great natural coverings in their aquariums, recreating the mud and silt covered substrate found in a Siamese fighting fish’s native home would be difficult for most. Instead, your best option will be to provide a manageable substrate that offers similar characteristics for your betta fish.
Planted vs Unplanted Substrates for Betta Fish
A major consideration when setting up a betta tank is whether or not you will use live plants.
Live plants will require substrates they can anchor in and the best substrates will provide nutrients as well (especially for root-feeding plants). Aquarium soils with a gravel or sand top are the favorite substrates for betta keepers with planted tanks.
Siamese fighting fish use artificial or live plants to hide in, and plants that break the surface of the water make ideal anchors for a bubble nest. Plants can be used to create a healthy environment that your bettas will find stimulating.
An unplanted betta tank will not require a substrate for anchoring. The advantage for you and your fighting fish will be the greater selection of substrate materials. These will include marble, rock, and sands.
Many hobbyists feel that the top materials used to cover the bottom of a betta fish tank combine two or more of these.
Best Types of Substrates Found in Betta Tanks
While some materials make excellent choices for your betta’s home, other choices will make a less-favorable option in a tank with betta fish.
Some betta fish keepers, including many beginners, feel no coverage is the best option in their betta tanks. While it is easy to maintain, it does not provide an ideal home for beneficial bacteria. For betta fish, it can also prove stressful as they can see their own reflection.
Another popular choice for novice betta keepers is a tank floor covered in marbles. This is often an aesthetic choice for the hobbyist more than the best choice for the betta fish themselves. They don’t provide a natural look, however, and the ideal marble substrates will still trap debris/wastes that require frequent cleaning and water changes for healthy betta fish.
Soils are the top option if you keep live plants with your betta fish. Even the best aquarium soil will require a secondary material to provide coverage, usually gravel or sand, to keep the water column clean. While bettas are labyrinth fish, clean water in a tank using soil will keep your betta fish happy and healthy.
Many betta enthusiasts believe that this is the best substrate. It makes an excellent home for beneficial bacteria and is easy to vacuum. This is an excellent choice for betta tanks with under gravel filters. Betta keepers also enjoy the great selection of colors.
Betta keepers find sand to be a top choice as well, due to its natural appearance. It is the best option for keeping debris/betta fish wastes atop the substrate but it does require raking to prevent “dead zones” of Hydrogen Sulphide.
Best Substrate for Cleaning/Maintenance
No matter the choice, the best substrates for betta fish tanks will require routine cleaning. Marbles allow debris and wastes from your betta fish to fall into cracks, deep into the layer.
Gravel is more favorable as it won’t let betta wastes penetrate as deeply and it is easier to maintain. Sands are some of the best substrates for cleaning as they keep betta wastes on the surface.
Gravel is the best option for betta tanks if you want to avoid maintenance. Sand is the next best choice but it can compact and needs raking for a healthy aquarium. Marble is not a great choice as it traps lots of betta debris and must be moved around to clean properly.
This video touches on various substrates for a multitude of fish, including bettas!
Reviews of the Best Substrates for Betta Fish
Carib Sea Tahitian Moon Sand
A dark sand that will bring out betta fish colors.
This dark substrate is derived from natural aquatic sources and is PH neutral, an important feature that will not fluctuate the water’s chemistry. There are no artificial colorings added that could make your bettas sick.
Shout-Out!: This may be one of the best substrates to highlight your bettas.
It has a fine texture and doesn’t have sharp edges that could damage fins or gills. While it may get caught in a vacuum more easily, it will act as a good anchor for artificial or live plants.
Call-Out!: It isn’t the best choice for those looking to simulate a natural look in their betta fish tank.
The manufacturer offers this sand in a variety of colors, allowing you to pick one that works best with your betta’s color scheme.
- There are no dyes or paints used for color
- It won’t affect the tank’s PH levels
- Makes male bettas stand-out
- Requires extra cleaning due to an oily residue
- Fine grains can compact easily
Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular
A gravel substrate that provides a natural-looking for betta fish.
This product can be used to provide your betta fish with a substrate that is small enough to prevent debris penetration while still providing excellent circulation.
Shout-Out!: The grains are not uniform in size, providing one of the best possible textures for your betta tanks flooring.
Each grain is covered in a coating that prevents it from breaking down and leaching minerals into the water column that would alter the PH levels.
Call-Out!: This substrate is covered in dust and must be cleaned multiple times before putting it into your betta tank.
There is enough product to cover the floor of a five-gallon betta tank, but you will need more with a larger aquarium.
- Covered with a coating to keep it PH neutral
- Multiple colors add to the natural look
- Provides one of the best surfaces for bacteria colonies
- Will need multiple bags for all but the smallest tanks
- Some pieces have a sharper edge on them
Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Substrate
A nutrient-rich soil substrate for betta tanks with live plants.
This dark soil is packed with live micro-organisms that will help to establish your betta tank faster. Floraspore has been added to help promote root growth as well.
Shout-Out!: This may be one of the best all in one product for live plants in your betta fish tank.
The texture of this product is firm enough for plants to root into without compacting, a feature that prevents the roots from stunting. This dark soil does not contain artificial coloring as it is sourced naturally.
Call-Out!: It contains enough nutrients that it will give your betta tank an alkaline consistency, not the best characteristic for PH levels.
The manufacturer states that no rinsing is needed, allowing you to avoid a step during tank setup.
- It contains plant-friendly nutrients
- The texture is porous enough for good root growth
- This product contains live healthy live bacteria
- It will require an additional covering to keep it in place
- This will affect the PH levels in a betta fish aquarium
Panacea Products Pan Marbles
A 110-count pack of marbles for decorating betta fish tanks.
These pan marbles might be one of the top choices for betta keepers who do not wish to use gravel or sand tank floor coverings.
Shout-Out!: Panacea Products offers one of the best color selections for these substrates.
Made from polished glass, this product is safe to use in freshwater aquariums and will not affect the water column’s chemistry. While the surface lacks a porous texture that promotes the growth of good bacteria, it will not scratch your fish if they make contact with it.
Call-Out!: The smaller sacks are not the best option for covering a tank floor.
They can be easily combined with other substrates to provide a varied look and texture on your betta tanks floor.
- Its texture is smooth and won’t damage your betta’s fins or gills
- The semi-gloss sheen won’t generate intense light reflections
- This product is PH neutral
- Using this as the sole substrate will trap wastes from your betta fish
- The semi-transparent glass is unnatural looking
Marina Decorative Gravel
A surf stone material for decorating your betta fish tank.
Hagen produces this colored gravel out of surf stone and seals it to prevent PH fluctuations. The material is uneven is size and shape, providing your betta fish tank with a varied texture.
Shout-Out!: Most of the colors offered are more subdued when compared to other decorative substrates.
The non-uniform grains also allows water to flow into the covering, a feature that works well if you use an under gravel filter on your betta tank. It can be used alone or with other substrates to highlight your betta’s colors without overpowering the tank’s appearance.
A layer of epoxy helps to keep the gravel smooth, even on pieces with edges.
- This gravel is pre-rinsed before packing
- It provides good water circulation on the tank floor
- An epoxy coating keeps it from affecting the water column
- It is only available in one-pound bags
- The coloring may diminish over time
Our Final Thoughts
The five products reviewed above represent a spectrum of materials that you can use for your betta tank. Among these, the Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular stands out as the best substrate for betta aquariums.
- Will not affect PH
- Safe for use in freshwater aquariums
- Non-Toxic coating
If you are looking to create a natural looking tank floor, SpectraStone provides realistic coloring that both you and your bettas will enjoy.
This substrate varies in color, size, and texture. That adds depth to your display without taking up extra room. Its earthen tones are subdued enough that they will not overpower the colors of your betta fish, and it will not clash as decorative substrates could. Conversely, it is dark enough that your betta fish will still stand out against the aquarium floor.
SpectraStone provides plenty of surface area for good bacteria to colonize, which generates a healthy nitrogen cycle. It also provides space for water circulation, helping to prevent potential gas build-ups. Another great feature is that it lacks artificial colorings and is PH neutral.
If you are looking to set up a new betta tank, consider using this natural looking gravel!
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