Best Substrate for Betta Tank

Best Substrate for Betta Tank | 2022 Reviews

Betta, or the Siamese fighting fish, is a vibrantly-colored fish that can often be spotted swimming alone. It was first discovered in Southeast Asia. The betta made its home in drainage ditches, warm flood plains, and rice paddies and eventually became accustomed to the frequent storm flooding as well as devastating droughts.

The drastic, cyclic changes in the environment allowed the betta to adapt and become a true labyrinth fish. Labyrinth fish have the unique ability to take in oxygen from their gills or breathe oxygen directly from the air. As a result, labyrinth fish such as bettas can survive for brief periods of time out of the water and, if necessary, can inhale the air around them

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The Best Substrate for Betta Tanks Reviews

Thinking about its natural habitat of bettas is the best way to ensure that you provide your pet with a happy home. Bettas live in shallow, warm water. In such an environment, the substrate would be silt with plant roots shooting through. Bits of plants that have started to break down would also be present in such an environment.

Bettas love such an environment since it lets them access the surface and provides them with plenty of places to hide and find some shade. Unfortunately, it is difficult to recreate such an environment in an aquarium since you cannot have rotting plants in your house. Still, keeping plants, whether artificial or real, is one of the best ways to make your betta feel more at home.

Before creating a planted aquarium, you have to ensure that you use the best substrate for betta tanks to support them. Substrate is the best way to anchor plants that provide your betta with different places to explore and hide in. It also plays a critical role in water chemistry since it provides a natural place for bacteria to colonize.

If you would like your betta to thrive, you should aim to recreate their natural environment as closely as possible, and a good substrate is a foundation. Here are some of the best substrates for betta tanks that your pet is bound to love.

CaribSea Eco-Complete

If you are serious about having a live planted betta tank, the CaribSea Eco-Complete substrate is exactly what you need. Black volcanic basalt is the parent material for this substrate. The basalt grains are incredibly porous and great at storing plant nutrients.

CaribSea Eco-Complete also comes with 25 essential minerals that are guaranteed to ensure that your plants flourish. It also has mycorrhizal symbionts that ensure that your plants develop stronger root systems.

CaribSea Eco-Complete is also “biologically complete,†which means that it comes with the beneficial bacteria responsible for the nitrogen cycle in an aquarium and makes cycling the tank much faster and easier.


  • It contains 25 essential plant nutrients
  • It is an excellent option for live aquarium plants
  • It has a porous texture that promotes good root growth
  • It contains live, healthy, beneficial bacteria


  • It requires an additional covering to keep it in place
  • It may affect the pH levels in the aquarium

CaribSea River Sand

If you want to create a more natural-looking home for your bettas, the CaribSea River Sand is exactly what you need. It has been carefully designed and selected to match the natural exotic habitats where bettas stay natively. It is designed for freshwater aquariums.

CaribSea River Sand resembles fine black sand but has a bit of a sparkle to it. It is not only effective at anchoring plants in place, but it also looks quite good. If you would like to ensure that your betta’s colors pop, you should definitely choose this substrate.

The other great thing about the CaribSea River Sand is that it comes packed with living, water-purifying bacteria along with a clarifier as well as a water conditioner. It not only looks great, but it is also great for the health of your tank.


  • It provides excellent support for plants
  • It provides a conducive habitat and environment for bettas
  • It is perfect in the anchorage of plants
  • It has a neutral pH


  • It is not the easiest substrate to clean
  • It is not designed exclusively for bettas

Spectrastone Gravel

Spectrastone Gravel is an all-natural product that’s the perfect size for your bettas, and its neutrality will make your bright and vibrantly colored pets stand out. To prevent debris penetration, this product is smaller than average-sized gravel. However, it still provides a decent circulation through the substrate to ensure a healthy environment for your beloved pet.

The great thing about Spectrastone Gravel is that it is coated with non-toxic materials and pH natural, which means that you don’t need to worry about creating an imbalance in your tank’s parameters. It is ideal for anchoring down plants and allowing them to grow, and it comes in a wide range of colors and shapes.


  • It provides a good anchor for plants
  • It provides one of the best surfaces for beneficial bacteria to colonize
  • It comes in a wide range of colors
  • It has a non-toxic coating to keep the pH neutral


  • It comes covered in dust and has to be cleaned severally before you put bettas in the tank
  • Users have reported that some pieces have a sharper edge on them

WAYBER Crystal Quartz Stones

If you are really looking to make a statement with your betta tank, you cannot go wrong with the WAYBER Crystal Quartz Stones. The stones look like polished amethyst crystals and are guaranteed to give your tank a truly unique appearance.

The fact that they are natural crystal quartz stones, they won’t affect the water pH. All you need to do is wash them beforehand. If you have a relatively small tank, these stones would be an excellent option to accent a cheaper base substrate such as gravel or sand.

The only major downside to using the WAYBER Crystal Quartz Stones is the relatively small 1-pound portion size, which means that up to 3 bags may be needed to cover a 2.5-gallon tank adequately.


  • The smooth texture of the stones means that they won’t harm your betta’s fins or tail
  • The stones are easy to clean
  • The stones won’t affect the pH of water in the tank
  • The stones are available in a wide range of colors


  • The stones are sold in tiny 1-pound bags
  • It can be expensive to fill a large tank with the stones

Panacea Marbles

Panacea Marbles can make an eye-catching addition to your betta tank. The marbles are available in a wide range of colors, which means that you have the freedom to choose the most suitable shade to contrast with your bettas.

The marbles are made of highly polished glass that’s safe for use in freshwater tanks and doesn’t affect the water’s chemistry. The marbles don’t have a porous surface, which means that they don’t promote bacterial growth.

While you might need a lot of these marbles to cover the floor of your tank completely, it is possible to combine them with other substrates to create a varied look and texture for the bottom of your tank.


  • The marbles are reasonably priced
  • The semi-gloss sheen doesn’t generate intense light reflections
  • The marbles are pH neutral and won’t change your tank’s water chemistry
  • The texture of the marbles of smooth and won’t damage your betta’s fins or tail.


  • Using the marbles as the only substrate means that fish waste will become trapped, and this may cause pollution in the tank
  • The semi-transparent glass isn’t natural-looking.

Pisces Recycled Glass Jewels

If you are looking for an amazing way to show off your magnificent bettas, the Pisces Recycled Glass Jewels are an excellent option. The exclusive range of tumbled glass is a great way to add color and vitality to your betta tank.

The Pisces Recycled Glass is completely safe to use in any aquarium and won’t affect the water’s chemistry. The great thing about this substrate is that it can also be used to great effect in other small aquarium setups such as guppies, goldfish, and more.


  • The recycled glass pebbles are of awesome quality
  • The glass pebbles don’t have any rough edges, which means that they won’t harm your betta’s fins or tail
  • The pebbles are pH neutral
  • The pebbles look great in any tank


  • If used as the only substrate, they can trap a lot of waste at the bottom of the tank
  • It can be expensive to fill a tank with these pebbles since they are sold in small bags

What is Aquarium Substrate?

Aquarium substrate refers to any loose material that makes up the bottom of a fish tank. Pebbles at the bottom of a fish tank that most people are familiar with are an excellent example of a substrate. However, the substrate does not always have to be pebbles. It can be virtually anything. If it is loose and covers the bottom of the aquarium, it is a substrate.

Types of Substrate

Today, there are many different options for the types of substrates you can use in your aquarium. The most common types of substrates available today include:

No Substrate

It is entirely possible to get away with using no substrate on the bottom of the tank. Betta owners sometimes keep their fish inside a bowl or tank without using any substrate. However, it isn’t recommended. While having no substrate can make it easier to clean the tank since there’s no substrate to clean, it creates a stressful environment for bettas.

Soil Substrate

Soil or aquarium dirt is another type of substrate that you can find being used in betta tanks. Before putting the soil in your fish tank, however, you must first understand that it may create a total mess. If you don’t use a layer of stones or sand to hold the soil down, it will most likely find its way into the water column, thus creating dirty water in your tank.

Sand Substrate

Sand is one of the most popular types of substrates used in betta tanks. One of the key reasons why some people disagree with sand as a substrate is that there are low-quality sands currently being sold.

If you want to use sand as a substrate in your betta tank, you need to make sure that you only buy the highest quality that you can get. Ideally, you should avoid using sand that is not explicitly designed for use in aquariums.

Gravel Substrate

Gravel is perhaps the most popularly used type of substrate in betta tanks, and you can find it anywhere from online stores to your local pet store. There are many gravel types to consider that vary in terms of colors, sizes, shapes, and chemical composition.

If you plan to use gravel in your betta tank as a substrate, however, it will be important to make sure that you only use aquarium gravel that does not have any sharp edges that may hurt your pet’s fins or tail.

Quartz Substrate

Quartz is an excellent choice of substrate since it looks great and helps reduce the build-up of algae in the aquarium. The large surface area of the quartz facilitates colonization by beneficial bacteria. Quartz also sparkles under the water due to the many lights reflecting facets that look like diamonds, which have been added to the tank.

Marble Substrate

Glass marbles might sound odd, but many betta tank owners regularly use different colored marbles to line the bottom of bowls and tanks. Marbles are a popular option since they are available in a wide range of colors. While marbles are an acceptable substrate to use in a standard betta tank, it is advisable to avoid them in larger tanks.

Recycled Glass Substrate

Recycled glass chips are an exciting substitute for regular aquarium gravel. The glass’s translucence lends itself to underlighting, and the mixed colors this substrate usually comes in provides a beautiful underwater hue. Since the glass stays motionless, it allows beneficial bacteria to grow in essentially the same way as traditional aquarium gravel.

Things to Consider

You will want to consider several different factors when choosing the best substrate for your aquarium. These are discussed below:

Size of Tank

The tank’s size is an important consideration since it determines the amount of substrate required. Manufacturers usually sell substrate in bags of different sizes, with some being as small as 1 pound while others as much as 50 pounds.

Planted vs. Unplanted Substrates

When you set up a betta tank, one key consideration is whether to use live plants or not.

Live plants require substrates to anchor themselves in, and the best substrates will; provide the nutrients. For betta keepers with planted tanks, aquarium soils with a sand or gravel top are the preferred substrates.

Bettas use either live or artificial plants to hide in. Plants can be used for creating a healthy environment that bettas find stimulating.

Using a Mix of Substrates

In some instances, it can be a good idea to use a mixture of substrates such as sand, soil, and gravel instead of using a single product. Particularly in the large tanks with more than 10 gallons, mixing sand with another, larger substrate may reduce the number of dead zones and increase the water circulation in the substrate.

Best Substrate for Maintenance and Cleaning

No matter what substrate you choose, the best substrates for betta tanks require regular cleaning. Marbles allow waste and debris from the betta to fall into the cracks, deep into the layer. Sand is a better option for cleaning since it keeps waste from the betta on the surface. Gravel, however, is the most favorable option since it does not allow betta waste to penetrate as deeply since it is easier to maintain.


Color is often an issue that leads to heated discussions. While some people strongly feel that the substrate’s color should closely mimic natural habitats, others strongly feel that the choice should be based on personal preference.

Fish, bettas included, are adaptable as long as the water is of good quality, the fish are properly fed, and the tank is maintained. So, color isn’t really an issue. However, using the right type of substrate is definitely important.

Frequently Asked Questions About Best Substrate for Betta Tank

What color gravel is best for betta fish?

Betta fish love a natural environment. Neutral gravel colors are going make them feel like they are in their natural habitat and reduce their stress levels. This will make for a happier and healthier betta.

Do betta fish need gravel?

No. Betta fish do not need gravel. However; gravel mimics their natural environment and ultimately is the best choice.

Are bare bottom tanks better?

A bar bottom tank means there is zero substrate. While it is possible to have no substrate, beneficial bacteria will not grow there and this could ultimately cause problems with water quality.

How deep should substrate be in a fish tank?

The gravel or sand layer of a fish tank should be 2 inches thick. If you plan on having a planted tank you will want to add an additional 1 inch nutrient layer below the 2 inch substrate layer.

Final Thoughts

The substrate used in betta tanks is not just for visual appeal; it also serves a purpose. It provides a home to the beneficial bacteria, helps anchor plants and decorations, and plays a critical role in the tank’s health.

Keeping in mind the size of your tank, if your tank will have plants, and maintenance requirements, you should be able to pick the best substrate for your betta tank.

Looking for more gear for your aquarium? Head over to our Aquarium Gear section to see more reviews.

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