It is easy to get overwhelmed when decorating a new fish tank. There are so many options out there, especially for the substrate! Do you need gravel? Rocks? Sand? All are great choices. In this guide, we will give you a list of the best substrate for your betta tank, so you know what to look for.
Top Product Recommendations
1. CaribSea Super Natural Moonlight Sand for Aquarium
The first option on our list of best betta substrates is a pure, clean white sand. This CaribSea Super Natural Moonlight Sand can be used in both saltwater and freshwater aquariums because it doesn’t change the pH of the water. The sand is all-natural, and the white color can help create a really nice, neat-looking base for your plants and decorations.
For those looking to put some fantasy and wanderlust into their tank design, the product manufacturer describes this sand as having come from beaches that wind through “dark and brooding jungles” and “grace the flanks of verdant tropical islands capped by smoldering volcanoes.” With a few other small decorations (I’m thinking of a volcano and a palm tree!), you can create a whole exotic world for your betta.
This particular listing is for a small bag of sand, so you may have to do some math to figure out how much you will need to get the height you want at the bottom of your betta tank.
- Clean, natural look
- Easy to insert and easy to put plants in
- Heavy enough to hold on during water changes
- Very fine, which is better for fish, but can cloud the water and clog some filters
- Not as white as the label describes (some customers say it is more of a light brown/yellow or beige color)
- Some customers also say it isn’t as pure as the label implies and contains black bits that can be annoying
2. Imagitarium Neon Confetti Mix Aquarium Gravel
This next option is great for fishkeepers like me who love bright colors in their betta tanks. This bag of Imagitarium Neon Confetti Mix Aquarium Gravel contains an assortment of vivid, neon colors like pink, orange, blue, green, and yellow that will really liven up your tank.
This gravel is also good for your fish, as it helps to stimulate his brain (even bettas like to look at interesting things!). It even encourages the growth of healthy bacteria to help process and eliminate waste from the tank. Unlike sand, gravel shouldn’t cloud the water either, making it easier to keep a clean tank.
This product comes in both a five-pound and a twenty-pound bag, which enables fishkeepers with both big and small tanks to find an affordable option. I would say that this is the best gravel for a betta, especially if you have a white or a pastel-colored fish, because all the different colors really make for a whimsical environment and bring out the color of the betta.
- So pretty!
- Promotes health of fish/tank
- Easy to use
- The only real con I found through my research was that a few people were led to believe that this gravel glows in the dark, but it does not
3. Oubest Fish Tank Rocks
If you were disappointed that the last entry on this list didn’t glow in the dark, cheer up! I have an option for you too.
These Oubest Fish Tank Rocks come in five different color options and combinations, and they all glow in the dark. They absorb the ambient light they receive during the day, and when the lights are off, they put off a brilliant, delightful glow that will amuse children and adults alike.
Each rock is around 1.18 inches long, and each one is a slightly different shape. They are non-toxic (and not radioactive, obviously) and can be used with any type of light. It typically takes around two to three hours to “charge” them; then you can sit back and enjoy the show.
One important thing to note, though, is that some people reported some rocks with sharp edges in their package, which is bad for bettas. Be sure to check each rock before placing it!
- Not made with harmful substances
- Makes for a cool-looking tank
- Bigger rocks make it easier to clean the tank than small gravel, as you don’t lose any in the drain
- Some users reported that the glow was not as strong as expected
- Some pieces may be sharp, which is dangerous for betta fins
- You have to be careful when you order, as the package size is listed as 100 or 200, and this is the number of rocks you get, not the size of the tank or a measurement in pounds
4. SACKORANGE 2 LB Aquarium Gravel River Rock
For those who are looking for rocks with a more natural appearance, we have SACKORANGE’s Aquarium Gravel River Rock set. These larger pieces of gravel (around one inch long each) come in a myriad of shapes and colors, and are all real pebbles that have been polished so that they are smooth and safe (and pretty!) for your betta.
Unlike some rocks made for aquariums and other home improvement projects, they are not coated in any substances that would be harmful to your betta. The only drawback is that this particular set does not include very many rocks. Some users recommend layering the rocks on top of a base layer of sand, so that you get the beauty of the rocks without having to buy multiple packages.
This is a great option for those who are looking to give their betta tank a riverbed design. Bettas may be from the tropical rice paddies of Thailand, but they still enjoy the forest/river rock vibe!
- Nice, natural look for your tank
- Large enough so that fish don’t try to eat them
- Smooth and safe for betta (but always check them to be sure)
- A bit expensive for the number of rocks you get
- Colors may not be variable enough for some users
- Rocks can be bigger than advertised, and some may be sharp from breakage
5. Pisces AM-BETTA105 Violet Betta Jewels
If you are looking for something a little different (and something made specifically for bettas), look no further than these violet betta jewels from Pisces. Made from recycled glass, these tiny purple spheres are smooth to the touch and safe for your betta fish. They will not change the pH of the water, and they will not cut your little buddy’s fins.
The color can be a great accent or contrast to your betta’s color, making for a lovely tank design.
Although made for bettas, these jewels are also safe for other fish that may share a tank with your betta so that everyone will stay happy and healthy.
You can use these jewels alone, or you can do as some other fishkeepers suggest and add it to other substrates. The latter can help keep them from trapping too much gunk between the pieces, plus it can make for a very unique look.
- Made specifically for bettas
- Doesn’t produce dust that clouds the tank
- Interesting color options
- Color is darker than implied by product images
- Package is very small so that you would need more than one
- Can cause a dirty tank if not added in with other substrates
6. Spectrastone Premium Aquarium Gravel
Spectrastone’s Premium Aquarium Gravel is another natural alternative for those who want to use gravel in their betta’s tank, but maybe don’t want such bright, artificial colors. These small stones come in neutral browns and whites and are similar to a smaller version of the larger river rocks we mentioned before.
This gravel will not affect the pH of the fish tank, and for those worried about potentially harmful substances used to coat the rocks, you can put your mind at ease. The shiny coating on the gravel is non-toxic and totally safe for bettas and other fish.
This gravel doesn’t muddy up the water, which is a huge plus. Like almost all of the other products on this list, be sure to pay close attention to the package size, however, as many customers were misled into thinking it was bigger than it actually is, which can really throw off your tank design plans.
- Safe for bettas and won’t cloud water
- Natural look
- Small package
- Hard to clean without losing some down the drain
- Small size can make the aquarium difficult to clean
- Some customers reported flakes on the gravel, which can make fish sick if they ingest them
7. CaribSea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate
The last substrate on our list is the best substrate for a planted betta tank. CaribSea Eco Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate is designed to provide live aquarium plants with minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and iron, keeping them lush and thriving. It is made up of tiny sphere-like grains that help to not only keep the fish tank clean, but also convert the betta’s waste into food for the plants. Pretty cool, right?
When I saw this product, my first thought was that maybe it wouldn’t be safe for bettas because it has so many minerals and other things added in. But, as long as you add it at the correct time and follow the included instructions, it is actually a great option for bettas because it keeps the ecosystem of their tank running smoothly and naturally. There are many first-hand accounts of bettas being pleased in tanks with this substrate.
- Nice, rich black color
- Fantastic choice for growing/maintaining live plants in a tank
- Safe for betta and other fish
- Can raise the pH of the water, so you should check often
- Some users reported that they ordered this online and their bags came with a tainted substrate and even worms, so be sure to buy from a reputable dealer
- Some users reported that their plants and fish died, possibly because they didn’t wash the substrate carefully before adding
Betta Substrate Buying Advice
As you can tell from the list above, there are several different types of substrate you can use in a betta tank, all with pros and cons. Here is a quick look at some of the most popular ones.
Gravel is the top choice among veteran fishkeepers because it encourages the growth of good bacteria, and it is typically easy to clean. It also comes in a wide variety of colors, but if the pieces are too small, some of the more “scatterbrained” fish may try to take a bite of it!
Sand is another good option because it makes it easy to see where the debris is in the tank. You have to buy high-quality sand and clean it before using it, though, or it may make the water dirty/cloudy. Also, it needs to be raked often to keep hydrogen sulfide from building up.
Rocks are sometimes lumped in with gravel, but they are very different. Rocks can give your tank a nice appearance (I especially enjoy the natural-colored river rocks), but you have to be careful because the bigger stones can create gaps between them that trap gunk and waste.
Soil substrate is perfect if you want to grow live plants in your betta tank. This type of substrate can cause trouble with the pH and other levels of the water, though, and can make the water dirty, so it is best used in combination with another type of substrates like sand or gravel.
Glass, Marbles, Etc.
Glass spheres and marbles or even little plastic shells are all popular as well, especially among new betta owners. What more experienced betta keepers know, though, is that this is probably the least natural option for bettas, and the materials they are made of tend to trap waste and lead to extra cleaning.
The substrate you choose in the end really depends on what you want to get out of your tank. Want a tank that has lots of good bacteria for its ecosystem? Go with gravel. Want something fun and quirky? Go with the marbles or glass.
No matter what you choose, you have to know where any potential problems could lie. Some of the substrates collect waste more than others, so with these, you will have to clean the tank more often. You should also always check and make sure that there are no sharp edges on anything you put in the tank, so your betta doesn’t cut his fins.
Frequently Asked Questions about Betta Substrate
Does My Betta Even Need Substrate in His Tank?
Whether you’re a minimalist or just a bit on the lazy side, it can be tempting to just not add substrate to the betta tank. While this is obviously an option, it isn’t very kind or natural to the betta.
Without substrate, you also miss out on growing beneficial bacteria that will help clean the water, and your betta might get worked up if he sees his reflection always swimming on the bottom of the tank. So, while it isn’t 100 percent necessary for his survival, it is highly recommended that you go with some sort of substrate.
What Color Gravel is Best for Betta Fish?
This topic is hotly debated among betta enthusiasts, but the short answer is that any color is likely fine. Your betta may feel like he’s in a more natural habitat with neutral color gravel, but many people choose a color that compliments the color of their fish. Black is a good compromise, and it looks elegant as a background for a bright-colored betta, but it is up to you.
Are Rocks Safe for My Betta?
Generally speaking, yes. That being said, though, you can’t just go pick up rocks from the river or your front yard and put them in the tank, as these can carry dangerous toxins for the betta. If you buy rocks made specifically for the purpose of being substrate (and you thoroughly rinse them prior to use), they should be safe.
I would note, though, that you shouldn’t try to stack rocks in the corner or build teetering monuments with them. While a flat layer of rocks on the bottom of the tank is most likely fine, a pile of unstable rocks could fall and squish your poor betta!
When it comes to adding substrate to a betta tank, your options are practically endless. If I had to choose just one from this list, however, my top pick for best betta substrate would be the Imagitarium Neon Confetti Mix Aquarium Gravel. It is fun, festive, easy to clean, and promotes good bacteria growth. Also, it was tough to find any complaints about it from other fishkeepers.