Best Substrate for Betta Fish – Top 5 Reviews, Guide, FAQs & More

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It’s difficult not to agree with us when we say that due to the specific needs of Betta fish, finding an appropriate substrate for them can be quite a hassle. 

However, we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. With the proper research and observation, you can definitely find substrate that your Betta or Bettas will benefit heavily from. 

In today’s post, we’ll look at what a Betta needs from its substrate and how you can judge certain substrate products in order to know whether it will be suitable for your Betta or not.

Top Pick

Coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, this substrate is incredibly attractive and also smoothed out so Bettas can play with it and explore it safely too.

Runner Up

This gravel mimics rocks at the bottom of natural rivers very well and thus, gives your Betta a sense of familiarity. This is usually very calming for fish, especially Bettas.

Also Great

This product is black in color which provides a great contrast to your Betta’s colors and really makes them pop. It contains no preservatives or dyes and is pH-neutral.

After several comparative tests and speculation, we concluded these three to be the best products out of all the ones we tested. 

Now, let’s get into the reviews for the top 5 best substrates for Bettas.

Best Substrate for Bettas - Best 5 Reviews

1. All-Around Best Substrate for Bettas - GloFish Aquarium Gravel Review

Glofish is a brand that’s been manufacturing aquarium products for decades at this point and we feel that when it comes to aquarium substrate, they’ve really perfected their product. 

This aquarium gravel is incredibly smooth to the touch and we had no trouble rinsing it with water. It was easily washable and we were able to spread it out onto our aquarium floor in no time. 

This substrate looks especially lovely underneath blue lights which is something most aquarium lights are equipped with. It gives your aquarium a very unique and beautiful look.

Features of GloFish Aquarium Gravel – Best Substrate for Betta Fish

  1. Available in many color combinations
  2. 5-pound bag
  3. Does not contain any preservatives or dyes
  4. Looks great under blue lighting
  5. Can be used as primary substrate or as an accent
  • Smoothed edges to protect fish
  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Affordable
  • Long-lasting
  • Easy to handle
  • Color tends to chip off over time

If you want a great-looking substrate that’s going to last a very long time then this product is perfect for you. It’s known for its lovely appearance and it’s very easy to spread and clean.

2. Best Sand Substrate for Bettas - Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel Review

We will discuss later in this article how making an environment as familiar to your Betta as possible is a great way to make it happy and make it feel at home. This substrate does exactly that since it’s appearance is very similar to that of natural gravel and rocks found at the ocean or river floor. 

Your Betta will have a wonderful time playing with aquarium substrate. Our Betta enjoys burying itself underneath this substrate all the time. The individual grain size of this product is big enough to allow water to circulate through it so your Betta is able to breathe. 

Features of Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel 

  1. 20-pound bag
  2. pH-neutral
  3. Resistant to detritus buildup
  4. Mimics river gravel
  5. Does not contain any toxic dyes
  • Non-reactive with water
  • Lasts a long time
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Natural appearance
  • Great value for money
  • 20-pound bag may be a bit too much for smaller aquariums

If you want aquarium sand instead of gravel in your Betta aquarium then this is the product you’re looking for. You get a big quantity at a reasonable price and it has a great rustic appearance.

3. Best Black-Colored Substrate for Bettas - Carib Sea ACS05821 Tahitian Moon Sand Review

This substrate features jet-black individual pieces that are extremely easy to handle and spread onto your aquarium floor. Its striking black color really makes it stand out from the crowd.

It comes in a 5-pound bag which is more than enough for smaller aquariums (up to 10 gallons) and you will find that this substrate will last you much longer than most of its competitors. We’ve been using this substrate for many months now and it has shown zero signs of going bad or needing replacement.  

Features of Carib Sea ACS05821 Tahitian Moon Sand

  1. 5-pound bag
  2. Does not alter water pH
  3. Black in color
  4. No artificial paints used to achieve black color
  5. Great for building a color contrast
  • Does not contain any toxic ingredients
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to handle
  • Does not react with water
  • Unique appearance
  • Rinsing process is slightly time-consuming

If you have a light-colored Betta or Bettas then this is definitely the product you’re looking for. This color contrast will truly accentuate your Betta’s colors and really show them off in all their glory.

4. Best Marble Substrate for Bettas - Panacea Products APN70002 100 Count Pan Marbles Review

In the past, it was quite difficult to find high-quality marble substrate since most people preferred aquarium gravel or sand. However, this product definitely proves that those times have changed. 

One packet of this product features 100 beautifully shaped, pleasing to look at marbles that you can scatter onto your aquarium floor. 

It’s made from polished glass and is perfectly suited for freshwater aquariums. You’ll find that it does not affect water chemistry in the slightest and you don’t need to worry about the water’s pH altering with this product.

Features of Panacea Products APN70002 100 Count Pan Marbles

  1. Available in many different colors
  2. One pack contains 100 marbles
  3. Smoothed edges
  4. Shiny, pearl-like finish
  5. Refracts light to provide a great ambience
  • No artificial dyes or colors
  • Incredibly pleasing to the eye
  • Smoothed edges make it perfect for delicate Bettas
  • Easy to handle
  • Inexpensive
  • Quite prone to detritus and waste buildup

If you’re looking for a marble substrate for your Betta aquarium then this product is ideal for you. It looks lovely in aquariums of all shapes and sizes and your Betta will have a great time playing with it.

5. Best Budget Substrate for Bettas - Marina Decorative Gravel Review

This decorative gravel contains individual pieces that vary slightly in size which gives them a rustic look. The blue color of this decorative gravel is really something that sets it apart from other substrates. 

This gravel is perfect if you’re planning on having plants inside your aquarium and it’s also incredibly easy to clean both with a gravel cleaner and also, by hand. 

The epoxy coating on this gravel ensures that the substrate does not react in any way with the water. It’s completely inert so you can put your mind at ease in regards to water conditions being altered due to this substrate. 

Features of Marina Decorative Gravel

  1. 1-pound bag
  2. Blue in color
  3. Epoxy-coated
  4. Great for mixing and matching with other substrates
  5. Can help hold plants and decorations securely in place
  • Supports plant growth in your Betta aquarium
  • Easy to handle
  • Perfectly smoothed out
  • Budget-friendly
  • Does not affect water chemistry
  • Comes in a small 1-pound bag

If you don’t want to spend too much but still want a reliable and effective substrate for your Betta then this is the product you’re looking for. It does not react with water and is very long-lasting.

best substrate for betta

Buyers’ Guide

Do betta tanks need substrate?

Many aquarists believe that Bettas can survive quite well in a bowl or a vase and can also live in small aquariums that don’t have a filter or substrate. While it is true that Bettas can definitely survive in such conditions, that does not necessarily mean that they are living a healthy and happy life. If you want your Betta to be happy and to thrive, you’re going to have to provide it with everything it really needs and that includes things like a filter and indeed, substrate. 

Substrate has a ton of functions in a betta aquarium: It’s able to balance the water chemistry inside an aquarium by preventing the production of hydrogen sulfide which can be very toxic to fish. 

Not only that, it provides a great backdrop for you to accentuate and enhance the colors of your Betta. 

Many substrates are made to mimic and look like natural ocean or river rocks and this makes your Betta feel very much at home. Making the surrounding environment as familiar for your Betta as possible is a great way to make it happy, alert and excited. 

What are the most appropriate types of substrates for a betta tank?

If you have plants inside your Betta aquarium then you should opt for smoothed aquarium gravel as it’s very easy to anchor plants down into this type of substrate. Bettas have a great time with aquarium plants as their leaves provide them with a place to hide and explore.

If your Betta aquarium is a fish-only aquarium then you should opt for aquarium sand as it is much easier to maintain and it is also much less likely to harm your Betta compared to aquarium gravel. 

How do I clean my aquarium substrate in a betta tank? 

The best and most efficient way of cleaning aquarium substrate is by using a gravel cleaner. A gravel cleaner enables you to sift through the cracks of aquarium gravel and suck up all the dirt, gunk and leftover food that has been deposited inside them. 

If you don’t own a gravel cleaner then you can opt to do the cleaning by hand. You can perform this cleaning during your weekly 10 – 15% water changes. It merely involves you sifting your hand over the aquarium substrate in order to dislodge it slightly. This enables all the dirt and debris to get churned out from between the cracks so that it’s eventually swept up by your aquarium’s filter

If you’re still not satisfied then you can shift your fish to a temporary tank, drain out your primary aquarium and then wash the substrate thoroughly in a clean bucket. Rinse it out with water repeatedly until the water runs clear. Make sure that the water you use is dechlorinated and treated with a water conditioning agent. You don’t want chlorine to be deposited onto your substrate as that can be extremely toxic to your fish. 

What are some factors to consider when purchasing aquarium substrate for a betta tank?

There are a number of factors you can look to which will help you determine which substrate product would be best suited for your particular Betta. Some of these factors are: 

  • Individual Size 

The individual size of every piece of your aquarium substrate matters a lot. You don’t want large pieces with jagged edges as they can be quite harmful to your Betta as they tend to play with the substrate. Sharp edges would cut up their fins and harm them severely. 

You should think about this and ensure that you get substrate that is able to allow good circulation of water between it since Bettas tend to bury themselves in the substrate.

  • Aquarium Size 

Aquarium size is definitely something you need to take into account when shopping for substrate for your Betta as different manufacturers sell their substrates in largely different sized bags; Some are as small as 1 pound whereas others can go up to 50 pounds. 

If you have a medium to a large-sized aquarium (say, somewhere between 30 and 75 gallons), you might want to invest in a manufacturer that provides their substrate in a large bag as this would be cheaper as well as more convenient. 

If you have a smaller aquarium, you should get substrate from a manufacturer that provides them in smaller bags as you want as little substrate left over as possible. 

How much substrate would I need for my betta tank?

If you have a fish-only aquarium, about a 1-inch deep layer of substrate is fine but if you have plants in your Betta aquarium, you’re going to want at least a 2-inch deep layer. There are gravel calculators available online which you can utilize in order to find out how many pounds of substrate you would need to effectively fill up your aquarium. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I have no substrate in my betta tank? 

As we’ve discussed before, you can definitely choose to not have substrate inside your Betta tank but we strongly recommend you don’t do this as the benefits of having substrate in your Betta aquarium are too significant to pass up on. 

Does the color of my substrate matter in a betta tank? 

The color of your substrate does not matter to your Betta however, it can matter to you. What we mean by this is that you can definitely make a conscious decision about what color of substrate to get for your Betta aquarium in order to make it more aesthetically appealing. 

For example, if you have a dark-colored Betta, you should get a light-colored substrate and vice versa. This will help build contrast and really bring out the colors of your Betta. 

I can’t find my betta in my tank since I added my substrate. Where’d it go?

If your tank is new, there could be a chance that your Betta has jumped out of your aquarium. You should look around your aquarium first to see if your Betta has jumped out. If not, there could be a chance that your Betta has buried itself underneath your aquarium substrate. This is a fairly common practice that many fish take part in. Observe your substrate and you might see a spot that’s been dislodged where your Betta might be hiding. 

Can gravel be bad for Betta fish?

This entirely depends on what type of gravel you decide to get for your Betta. If you’re opting to get gravel, you need to ensure that it’s been properly smoothed and does not contain any kind of toxic dyes or preservatives. Jagged or sharp edges can seriously harm Bettas as they are fish that like to play with the substrate. 

Can Bettas live with sand as an aquarium substrate?

Yes. As we described above, sand is a great substrate option for a Betta aquarium. Bettas get very excited and play with aquarium sand and also use it to bury themselves. 

Is it a good idea to invest in a gravel cleaner? 

Yes. If you are able to afford then we definitely recommend that you invest in a gravel cleaner as it will save you a lot of time and effort and will make cleaning your aquarium substrate a breeze. If you intend on getting a gravel cleaner, make sure you get one that makes minimal movement in the water during cleaning. Bettas are very sensitive creatures and large displacements in the water can really upset them. 

Can Bettas suffocate when they bury themselves underneath aquarium substrate? 

This is highly unlikely but we do recommend that you get aquarium substrate that has adequate space between their individual pieces so water is able to adequately flow and circulate between them. 

Can aquarium substrate go bad or expire? 

Yes. Aquarium substrates usually have a life of about 12 – 18 months. After this period, they have to be replaced. 

How do I ensure my aquarium substrate is clean before adding it to my betta tank? 

Most aquarium substrate comes pre-rinsed but if you want to ensure your substrate is perfectly clean, you can rinse it out with aquarium water. 

You can do this by taking a clean bucket and putting some aquarium water in it. You should then put your aquarium substrate in the bucket and rinse it with the aquarium water. Repeat this until the water comes out clear. Note that you should never do this with regular tap water as that contains chlorine which is toxic to fish. 

Can jagged edges in substrate hurt my betta?

Yes. As we’ve discussed earlier, Bettas are very fragile and even the slightest sharp edge can fatally harm them and/or damage their fins. When you’re getting aquarium substrate, make sure it’s been properly smoothed out and polished to the point where it’s safe for your fish

Final Verdict

Bettas are incredibly beautiful fish and it’s important you get substrate that is able to cater to their needs and really enhance their beautiful colors. 

After much deliberation, we’ve given the crown to the GloFish Aquarium Gravel. It’s reasonably priced, it looks incredible in aquariums of all shapes and sizes, and it’s very easy to handle and use. 

And with that, we’ve reached the end of our post for the best substrates for Bettas. 

Let us know in the comments what substrate you’re using for your Betta aquarium.

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