Best Substrates for Betta: Gravel & Sand Options for Your Tank

One of the key considerations when setting up a betta fish tank is the material used to cover the bottom.

So in this article…

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 products for your betta’s home. Don’t forget to check out my best pick; the product that made it on top of my list… The Pure Water Pebbles Coated Aquarium Gravel. Blue is my favorite!

Product Details
1. Pure Water Pebbles Coated Gravel

Premium Quality

  • Fun & Beauty
  • 100% Natural
  • Ideal For Betta
  • Non-Toxic
  • 10 Vibrant Colors
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2. Pure Water Pebbles Natural Gravel

Natural Looking

  • Non-Toxic
  • Clear Acrylic Coated
  • Natural Color Blend
  • Variety Of Sizes
Click here for best price
3. Exotic Pebbles Black Bean Pebbles

Pure, Non-Coated

  • Various Sizes
  • Easy To Clean
  • Ideal For Betta
  • Greyish Black
Click here for best price
4. CaribSea Eco-Complete Substrate

Volcanic Rock

  • Bi-Modal Graded
  • With Conditioner
  • Root Development
  • Ready To Use
Click here for best price

Reviews Of The Best Substrates For Betta Fish

1. Pure Water Pebbles Coated Aquarium Gravel

This Aquarium Gravel from Pure Water is a great addition for decorating your betta fish tank. It’s produced and sealed to prevent PH fluctuations. The material is uneven in 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 allow 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 on its own or with other substrates to highlight your betta’s colors without overpowering the tank’s appearance.

Pros

  • This gravel is pre-rinsed before packing
  • It provides good water circulation on the tank floor
  • Available in 10 vibrant colors

Cons

  • It is only available in 5-pound bags
  • The color stated may not match

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2. Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel

This natural substrate from Pure Water  Pebbles 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.

The manufacturer offers this sand in 3 natural colors, allowing you to pick one that works best with your betta’s color scheme.

Pros

  • It won’t affect the tank’s PH levels
  • Makes male bettas stand-out

Cons

  • Can make the water cloudy if not washed before use

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3. Exotic Pebbles Black Bean Pebbles

Black Bean Exotic Pebbles is a pack of dark gravel that will bring out betta fish colors. It is eco-friendly and easy to clean.  It is an ideal substrate for aquariums for betta

Shout-Out!: No rinsing necessary!

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.

Pros

  • Perfectly suited for aquariums and more
  • Available in different sizes to suit your project

Cons

  • Sifting is recommended

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4. Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Substrate

This is a nutrient-rich soil substrate for betta tanks with live plants. This Eco-Complete Substrate 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 products 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.

Pros

  • It contains plant-friendly nutrients
  • The texture is porous enough for good root growth
  • This product contains live healthy live bacteria

Cons

  • It will require an additional covering to keep it in place
  • This will affect the PH levels in a betta fish aquarium

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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 fish tank for betta 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 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.

No Substrate

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.

Marble Substrate

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.

Soil Substrate

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.

Gravel Substrate

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.

Sand Substrate

Betta keepers find sand for freshwater aquariums 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 below touches on various substrates for a multitude of fish, including bettas!

Our Final Thoughts

The five products reviewed above represent a spectrum of materials that you can use for your betta tank. Among these, the Pure Water Pebbles Coated Aquarium Gravel stands out as the best substrate for betta aquariums.

If you are looking to create an attractive-looking tank floor, Pure Water provides vibrant 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 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, its color is just right that your betta fish will still stand out against the aquarium floor.

Pure Water Pebbles provide 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 is PH neutral.

If you are looking to set up a new betta tank, consider using this gravel!

Last Updated: October 17, 2021

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