5 Best Substrates for Betta Fish Tank (Sand, Gravel & More)

Best Substrate for Betta

Most fish tank owners fail to recognize the importance of substrates on the health and well-being of their fish.

Focusing on Bettas, these are tropical fish that prefer to live in warm, shallow waters and in such an environment, silt and gravel are the most common bottom layers, with a few plants shooting out of them.

With that in mind, it is important to try to recreate such an environment for them inside your tank and this article looks at the best substrates for bettas that you can use to make your fish feel at home in your aquarium.

You can also read other product reviews of substrates for planted tankaquarium sandbetta fish tank.

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​PRODUCT

​FEATURES

GloFish Aquarium Gravel

1. GloFish 29085 (Best Overall Substrate for Bettas)

  • Affordable 5-pound bag
  • Fluorescent gravel with a glowing effect
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Supports plant growth
CaribSea Aquatics 8479008404

2. CaribSea Aquatics 8479008404 (Best Sand Substrate for Bettas)

  • No artificial dyes or paints
  • pH neutral
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Reduces nitrates for water purification
Carib Sea 770

3. Carib Sea 770 (Best Substrate for Plant Growth in Betta Tanks)

  • Eco-complete solution; supports plant growth
  • Supports vibrant coloration of bettas
  • Conditions and helps in biological filtration
  • Packed in a 20-pound bag
Carib Sea ACS00832

4. Carib Sea ACS00832 (Best Natural-Like Gravel Substrate)

  • Small grain size
  • Supports plant growth
  • pH neutral
  • No paints or dyes
Marina 12382

5. Marina 12382 (Best Colored Gravel Substrate)

  • Available in multiple colors
  • Does not alter water chemistry
  • Affordable 1-pound packaging
  • Supports root growth

PRODUCT

1. GloFish 29085

(Best Overall Substrate for Bettas)

GloFish 29085
  • Affordable 5-pound bag
  • Fluorescent gravel with a glowing effect
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Supports plant growth

2. CaribSea Aquatics 8479008404

(Best Sand Substrate for Bettas)

CaribSea Aquatics 8479008404
  • No artificial dyes or paints
  • pH neutral
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Reduces nitrates for water purification

3. Carib Sea 770

(Best Substrate for Plant Growth in Betta Tanks)

Carib Sea 770
  • Eco-complete solution; supports plant growth
  • Supports vibrant coloration of bettas
  • Conditions and helps in biological filtration
  • Packed in a 20-pound bag

4. Carib Sea ACS00832

(Best Natural-Like Gravel Substrate)

Carib Sea ACS00832
  • Small grain size
  • Supports plant growth
  • pH neutral
  • No paints or dyes

5. Marina 12382

(Best Colored Gravel Substrate)

Marina 12382
  • Available in multiple colors
  • Does not alter water chemistry
  • Affordable 1-pound packaging
  • Supports root growth

1. GloFish 29085Best Overall Substrate for Bettas

GloFish Aquarium Gravel

GloFish’s aquarium gravel is the best overall substrate for betta due to a number of reasons. For starters, it is the most affordable product in this list and despite this, it is the top-rated substrate for bettas, which means that there is something about it that stands out.

That something is a glowing effect that resembles the light emitted by glofish in an aquarium. For this to work though, you need to use white and blue LED lighting, which the gravel absorbs, then emits to create the glow.

On the bright side, this substrate is available in multiple colors, which include a combo of pink, green and blue fluorescent, black with fluorescent highlights, black with white fluorescent, green fluorescent, pink fluorescent, solid black, and white frost.

These give you enough color options to choose from for lining your tank bed. Additionally, all of them support plant growth, enabling you to recreate the natural betta habitat inside your aquarium.

On the downside, this product is available in a small 5-pound bag, which means that you have to buy a couple of bags if you have a big tank.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • ​Creates a glowing effect.
  • Available in many color options

Cons:

  • Comes in a small 5-pound bag

2. CaribSea Aquatics 8479008404Best Sand Substrate for Bettas

CaribSea Aquatics Super Natural Aquarium Sand

CaribSea Aquatics’ natural aquarium sand is quite unique because it contains no artificial dyes or paints and is pH neutral. This means that it will not affect the chemical composition of your aquarium water.

Additionally, it is designed to reduce nitrates much faster as compared to gravel, which helps in water purification.

The sand is available in amazon, crystal river, sunset gold, torpedo beach, peace river, and Tahitian moon colors, and this range gives you plenty of options to select from so as to match your home décor.

On the downside, sand is not very good for plant growth because their roots cannot get a good footing in it. For this reason, it should be mixed with other plant supporting substrates to enable you to plant your tank for your bettas.

The product is also very costly, but it comes in a large 20-pound bag, which justifies the price. However, you can get it in a 5-pound bag, which is cheaper, or in a 50-pound bag if you have a very large aquarium.

Pros:

  • Comes in a 5, 20- and 50-pound bag for people with differently-sized tanks
  • Available in different colors
  • Contains no artificial dyes or paints.
  • pH neutral
  • Reduces nitrates in the water much faster as compared to gravel

Cons:

  • Does not support plant growth

3. Carib Sea 770Best Substrate for Plant Growth in Betta Tanks

Carib Sea Eco-Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate

For heavily planted betta tanks, Carib Sea’s 770 is the best substrate to use because it is an eco-complete solution. This means that the soil is mineralogically and biologically complete to support heavy plant growth in the tank bed in order to create a good environment for bettas.

In terms of minerals, this product contains volcanic basalt that has over 30 different elements for supporting luxuriant plant growth. The black color of the volcanic basalt also supports the vibrant coloration of fish and this enhances their healthy growth.

Biologically, the substrate contains live microorganisms that help in converting the fish waste into plant food, which helps in biological filtration. It also contains Floraspore, which enhances plant root development for heavy vegetative growth. This creates the perfect betta environment.

However, these minerals may raise the pH level of the water and thus, a neutralizer may be required. On the bright side, the naturalness of the substrate makes it a water conditioner, especially because of its humic compound content.

Pros:

  • Contains minerals that support heavy vegetative growth
  • Supports vibrant coloration of betta fish
  • Live microorganisms in the soil help in biological filtration
  • Conditions the water

Cons:

  • May raise the water pH level above neutral

4. Carib Sea ACS00832Best Natural-Like Gravel Substrate

Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel

Carib Sea’s ACS00832 is a highly rated gravel substrate because it contains very small grain sizes that re-create the natural river ecosystem, support plant growth and reduce waste build-up. This makes it the best natural-like gravel for betta tanks.

The small size though means that it is not ideal to use a gravel vacuum to clean the tank bed of any debris. If you do this, all the substrate might be sucked outside and this will destroy your betta’s natural-like environment.

Chemically, no dyes or paints are used in the making of this substrate, which means it is very safe for your fish. The product is also pH neutral, meaning that it won’t affect your aquarium’s water balance, making it much safer to use.

However, the ACS00832 is very expensive, but it comes in a 20-pound bag that is good for at most a 20-gallon betta tank.  

Pros:

  • Small grain sizes support plant growth and create a natural river ecosystem for bettas
  • No dyes or paints make it safe to use
  • pH neutral.

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not suitable to use with a gravel vacuum

5. Marina 12382Best Colored Gravel Substrate

Marina Decorative Gravel

Marina’s 12382 is a decorative gravel substrate that is available in a number of colors such as blue, black, burgundy, neon yellow, orange, and purple. These options are great for adding color to your fish tank while also helping in highlighting the betta fish as they move inside the tank.

The color is achieved by an epoxy coating, which is dyed to either one of the colors above, then used to cover the gravel grains. This makes sure that the gravel’s chemical composition does not affect the water chemistry since all of it is covered inside.

To recreate a natural betta environment, Marina’s gravel substrate supports plant growth by helping to hold the plant roots firmly in place.

On the downside, the gravel is packaged in a small 1-pound bag, which means you have to buy a couple of them for any tank that it more than 1 gallon in size. However, it is very affordable and therefore, you can easily buy a number of them if you have a large tank.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Available in multiple color options.
  • Does not affect the water chemistry
  • Supports plant growth

Cons:

  • Comes in a small 1-pound bag
  • Colored gravel does not glow in the dark

How to Buy the Best Substrates for Betta

How to Buy the Best Substrate for Betta

Different substrates have different strengths and weaknesses that make them ideal for different types of uses. Therefore, before buying any product for your tank bed, it is important to consider the following:

1. Type of Substrate

There are two main types of substrates that are used to line the beds of betta fish tanks. These are:

Sand: Sand is usually available in multiple colors, with the light-colored variety being good for creating a nice sparkle in your tank.

The advantage of using sand is that it forms a tight mesh within its grains, which makes it easy to clean because all the debris sits at the top instead of mixing inside.

However, this tight mesh means that the substrate compacts tightly, making it difficult for plant roots to penetrate through.

It is also impossible to use an under-gravel filter under this substrate because the compactness does not allow beneficial bacteria to grow in the sand particles.

This filter requires a substrate with such bacteria so as to break down ammonia and nitrites as the water is pulled by the pump through the substrate.

Gravel: Aquarium gravel is also available in a wide variety of colors. The advantage of this substrate is that it doesn’t compact very tightly, which enables plant roots to grow through.

The pockets that are left between the gravel also make it possible for beneficial bacteria to grow, which means you can use an under-gravel filter in such a setup to purify the water.

However, food can penetrate inside these cavities and decay, creating a foul smell that does not end.

Buying Guide: Sand is the best option if you intend to use a canister filter and grow stem plants for your aquarium. Gravel requires vacuum cleaning every once in a while but is the best option for growing all types of plants in your betta fish tank.

2. Other Substrate Options

Apart from sand and gravel, there are other substrates that you can consider. For instance, soil-like substrates such as Carib Sea’s 770 are very good for supporting heavy plant growth. However, you will have to trim your plants regularly because the nutrients in the soil make the plants grow very fast.

Marbles form a very visually appealing tank bed but they will leave you with a lot of maintenance work in the form of vacuuming so as to get rid of the trapped debris. They are also not very good for anchoring plants.

3. Tank Size

The tank size factor is important to consider ​because it determines the amount of substrate that is required. Manufacturers sell their products in differently sized substrate bags, with some being as small as 1 pound and others going up to 50 pounds.

If you have a big 20-50-gallon tank, it would be better to buy CaribSea Aquatics' 8479008404 because this is usually cheaper for the large 20 or 50-pound bag. 

However, if you have a small 1-5-gallon tank, then you should buy ​GloFish's 29085 or Marina's 12382 so as to avoid having a lot of leftovers.

4. How Much Substrate Do I Need? What Thickness?

As explained above, this usually depends on the size of your tank. As a general rule of thumb, one pound of the substrate should be used on one pound of water.

Just to be on the safe side, if you intend to grow live plants, ensure that you have a minimum of 2 inches of the plant-supporting substrate so that the plants can have enough room to spread their roots.

For silk plants, a single inch will be enough, although you can still use two inches so as to make your tank bed more profound.

Conclusion 

Whether you use sand, gravel or soil substrates, there is none that can be said to be the best one from the three, so long as it recreates a natural like habitat for your bettas.

To make things more interesting, it is recommended to mix some of the best substrates for bettas listed above so as to come up with a more natural looking, layered tank bed.

For instance, you can combine Carib Sea’s 770​, CaribSea Aquatics' 8479008404 and GloFish's 29085 so as to give you the benefits of soil, sand, and gravel in one tank.


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