An aquarium just isn’t complete without gravel.
Whether you’re looking for the best aquarium gravel color to make your fish stand out or…
You want to find something that’s perfect for plants, there’s gravel out there that will meet your needs.
Aquarium gravel is available in all shapes, sizes, and colors and sets to mood for your tank. Here’s everything you need to know about aquarium gravel and the best options available.
Table of Contents
Why You Should Use Gravel in Your Aquarium?
There are a lot of reasons why you should use gravel in an aquarium. The first is that it just makes it look better.
Whether you go with natural stone for an authentic look or a bright color that makes the whole thing pop, your tank will look better with gravel on the bottom.
Gravel serves a few important functions, too.
First, it’s the perfect way to anchor any aquarium plants you’re adding to your tank. In the right conditions, your plants will root and thrive when placed in the gravel. Gravel also acts as a home for the bacterial colonies that your tank needs to stay healthy.
Plus, if you get gravel that is small and compact enough, there’s less space for detritus to hide, which keeps your tank clean and the water balanced.
The Best Aquarium Gravel For Your Plants Growth with Colors
If you remember that gravel is for more than just making your tank look good, you’ll be able to see why some are better than others. Here’s a great place to start if you’re looking for the best gravel for your aquarium plants and fish.
|Pictures||Aquarium Gravel||For Aquariums||Links|
|GloFish Accent Gravel for Aquariums||Freshwater Aquariums|
|Marina Decorative Gravel||Freshwater Aquariums|
|Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular||Freshwater Aquariums|
|Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel||Freshwater & Saltwater Aquariums|
|Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel||Freshwater & Saltwater Aquariums|
|Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel||Freshwater Aquariums|
|Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate||Freshwater Aquariums|
|Pure Water Pebbles Nature's Ocean Aquarium Gravel||Freshwater & Saltwater Aquariums|
|WAYBER Irregular Decorative Pebbles Crystal Stones Rock Sand||Freshwater & Saltwater Aquariums|
|Guru Aquarium Gravel River Rock||Freshwater Aquariums|
|Carib Sea ACS00877 Gemstone Creek Gravel for Aquarium||Freshwater & Saltwater Aquariums|
|CNZ Aquarium Natural River Gravel||Freshwater & Saltwater Aquariums|
Aquarium Gravel Reviews
1. GloFish Accent Gravel for Aquariums
One really great choice for aquarium gravel comes from GloFish. It makes a great home for any water plant plus it really adds a pop of color to your tank.
You can use this is a GloFish aquarium to get the full blue light, glowing effect but it looks great in any tank. It comes in a range of colors, everything from simple colors like solid white and black to bright neon pinks, greens, and blues.
There are some multicolor options available, too, but keep in mind that single color bags contain smaller pebbles and are more uniform in shape and size.
This gravel is made so that it doesn’t change the pH of the water, which will help keep your fish happy and healthy.
2. Marina Decorative Gravel
This decorative gravel from Marina looks amazing. It’s available in 6 different colors: black, blue, burgundy, orange, and purple, and neon yellow. It’s a great way to add some personality to your tank. Choose a color that makes your fish stand out.
What’s the point in having a beautiful fish if you can’t show it off? Plus, it’s the perfect size and shape for anchoring the roots of aquarium plants or to hold other decorations in place.
This gravel is coated in epoxy so it won’t have any effect on the chemistry of your tank. That makes it a little easier to make sure everything stays balanced.
The epoxy also serves as the perfect place for beneficial bacteria colonies to grow, a necessary addition to keep any fish tank healthy.
3. Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular
If you’re looking for something more natural, check out this pebble gravel from Spectrastone. This gravel is made from natural rocks and is called “pebble gravel” because it’s so small.
The size of the pebbles isn’t uniform, which makes sense since rocks in nature aren’t all the same size. Each pebble in this mix ranges from ¼ to ½ inch in diameter.
It’s great for anchoring plants, holding down decorations, and just making your tank look authentic. The non-toxic coating prevents the pebbles from affecting the chemistry of the water and gives beneficial bacteria a place to colonize.
4. Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel for Aquarium
Carib Sea makes gorgeous natural gravel that’s really safe for the water. With no paints or dyes, it really helps your tank look and feel like a real river bed.
This product is made in the USA and has a neutral pH that won’t change the delicate chemical balance in the water.
One of the best things about this gravel is that it’s so small. When you put it in your tank, there isn’t much space between the pebbles which means less space for waste to hide.
Plus, it’s the perfect texture for anchoring water plants and decorations in your tank.
5. Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel
Blue is a popular color for aquarium gravel, but Imagitarium takes it to the next level with this Blue Jean Gravel. It isn’t just blue. It’s a blend of different shades and tones of blue that really give your tank a unique and fun look.
But it’s more than good-looking, it helps keep the environment in your tank just right by providing a healthy place for beneficial bacteria to grow.
It also helps keep down the amount of waste in the water. This gravel is completely non-toxic and is safe for freshwater and saltwater tanks.
6. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel
While this black gravel from Seachem is best suited for planted tanks, the porous clay gravel provides plenty of nooks and crannies for beneficial bacterial colonies to thrive. This makes it a great choice for any freshwater aquarium.
This gravel doesn’t affect the pH of the water and isn’t coated or treated with chemicals. Although it’s prewashed, it’s normal to see some clouding when using this gravel for the first time. This should clear quickly with adequate mechanical filtration.
It’s also suitable to mix with other gravels but doesn’t require laterite and is most effective when used by itself. The 15-pound bag is enough for a 10 to 20-gallon tank.
7. Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate
If you’re looking for aquarium gravel that’s good for plants, check out this Eco-Complete substrate from the Carib Sea. It’s formulated with major and minor trace elements to encourage strong root growth and happy plants.
This bag contains 20 pounds of black gravel that looks amazing in a planted tank. It uses volcanic soil that’s naturally nutrient-dense to nourish your plant and the dark color makes your plant, decor, and fish stand out.
There are no chemical coatings, paints, or dyes so it should not affect the pH of the water. Live beneficial bacterial colonies live in the porous surface. This bacteria not only helps eliminate waste quickly but also turns it into natural food that your plants will love.
8. Pure Water Pebbles Nature’s Ocean Aquarium Gravel
Pure Water Pebbles natural gravel is a good choice for aquariums as well as terrariums and ponds and even vases and potted plants. This particular product is the Blackberry variety, eye-catching addition to your tank that’s primarily black with pops of bright purple.
This gravel has a 100% acrylic coating that’s non-toxic and won’t change the chemistry of the water. This keeps the gravel colorfast so it won’t leech or fade over time while still providing plenty of spots for beneficial bacteria to grow.
The water may cloud slightly when this gravel is first added to the tank. Rinsing it thoroughly first will help and proper mechanical filtration should clear the tank quickly.
9. WAYBER Irregular Decorative Pebbles Crystal Stones Rock Sand
To add a pop of color to your aquarium, check out these decorative pebbles from WAYBER. They’re available in five colors, including clear and multicolor, and made of natural crystals that are non-toxic and won’t lose their color.
This one-pound bag contains about a cup of pebbles so you may need a few bags to fill get the appropriate amount of substrate in your tank. They’re also great for a lot of other projects, too, including planters, terrariums, turtle tanks, and even reiki healing.
That said, their size and color are ideal for aquariums. They’re non-toxic and shouldn’t affect the pH and chemistry of the water and the irregular shapes are perfect for growing beneficial bacterial colonies.
10. Guru Aquarium Gravel River Rock
For something with a natural look, you can’t go wrong with this river rock gravel from Guru. Their irregular size and shape not only looks great in your aquarium but also creates the perfect home for the beneficial bacteria that keep your water balanced.
This product is made of natural river rocks so colors and shapes will vary. Expect to see a mix of browns, white, and black, each lightly polished for a smooth shine. There are no sharp edges so you don’t have to worry about your fish getting injured.
These rocks are available in a two and five-pound bag so you can choose the size you need for your tank. The manufacturer recommends washing the rocks and allowing them to dry before adding them to your tank.
11. Carib Sea ACS00877 Gemstone Creek Gravel for Aquarium
A great choice from Carib Sea is this Gemstone Creek gravel. The sizes and colors of the stones are specifically chosen to look as natural as possible and the larger pebble size helps prevent sediment and clouding.
That said, there are some small stones, and rising the gravel before adding it to your tank is suggested. This gravel is pH safe and won’t affect the chemical balance of your tank and a standard mechanical filter should clear any cloudiness quickly.
One of the best things about this product is that it comes in a large 50-pound bag which makes it an ideal choice for larger tanks. One 5-pound bag can be used in a tank of up to 70 gallons.
12. CNZ Aquarium Natural River Gravel
This gravel from CNZ is made up of smaller pebbles than some other gravel substrates. Each is about three to five millimeters. One of the good things about its size is that it creates plenty of little crevices and spots for growing good bacteria.
Because this substrate is made from natural, unpolished river stone, it’s non-toxic and contains no dies or chemicals. It won’t affect the pH balance of the water. You can use it in fresh or saltwater environments to add depth and natural beauty to your tank.
Choose from 5, 10, 30, and 40-pound bags to make sure you get enough for your aquarium. The manufacturer recommends using two pounds of gravel for every gallon of water. It’s a good idea to rinse this gravel thoroughly before using it to reduce clouding.
What is the Best Gravel for Aquarium Plants?
Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular is our pick for the best gravel for aquarium plants. It’s made of natural rocks so it just looks great in general, but what really makes the biggest difference is the shape.
These pebbles vary in size, just as they would in nature, and fit together in such a way that they’re the perfect place for plants to root. Plus, the non-toxic coating prevents them from changing the water chemistry while giving good bacteria a place to grow.
How Deep Does Aquarium Gravel Need to be?
A good rule of thumb when shopping for aquarium gravel is to use 1 ½ to 2 pounds of gravel for every gallon. This will vary slightly with the shape of your tank and the size of the gravel but it’s a good place to start. It’s good to have an idea of how much you should buy when shopping.
Having about 2 inches of gravel on the bottom of your tank is ideal if you have one that’s under 50 gallons. This is a good height that keeps the proportion of water and gravel looking natural and gives your decorations a nice base to sit on. Plus, it’s a great depth for plants to root.
If you have a larger tank, say, 50 gallons or more, you can go up to 3 to 4 inches. Again, this keeps the proportion of gravel to water in the tank aesthetically pleasing. Plus, you might want larger plants in a larger tank. Deeper substrate gives them more space to root so that they can reach their full potential.
If you choose to use an under gravel filter, 2 inches is usually the minimum amount you’ll need but make sure you check the manual to be sure.
Now, do you really “need” 2 inches of gravel? Not if you don’t have any live plants in your tank. If you like less gravel, a thin layer is fine. Try not to go too thick, though. Too much gravel gives waste and dirt too many places to hide and could throw off the balance of the whole tank.
How to Clean Aquarium Gravel?
Believe it or not, cleaning aquarium gravel is a bit of a process. A lot of steps have to be taken to maintain the proper balance in the water so you don’t completely change the environment with every cleaning.
The most important thing to remember when cleaning gravel is this: you have to use some dirty water from the tank. Think about it like this. The tank is its own little ecosystem. There are a lot of things going on that keep everything in balance. Introducing the gravel to the tank after it’s been washed with new, clean water can be too much of a shock to the environment. Use a mix of half tank water, half clean water.
Put your fish in a bucket with tank water. Then, unplug the filter, lights, and any other electrical equipment. Drain the tank and put aside some of the dirty gravel. You do this for the same reason you mix clean and tank water when you clean. Bacterial colonies take time to grow and if you don’t set some aside, you’ll lose everything that was already working in your tank. The colonies that are living on the dirty gravel can grow and expand more quickly to recolonize the tank much faster than starting from scratch.
Next, put all the gravel in a bucket. You can use 2 if you have too much gravel. Don’t fill it up to the top, only go as high as ¾ of the way because you need room to move it around without it spilling out of the bucket. Then, use your sink, tub, or a garden hose to fill the bucket until the gravel is covered. Shake and stir the gravel in the water to get it clean. Don’t use soap as it could hurt your tank when you put the gravel back in.
Clean the sides of the tank and filter if needed. Then, put the gravel back into the tank, mixing the clean with the dirty. Fill the tank with tap water and add dechlorinating drops. Turn the filter, lights, etc back on. Don’t put the fish in right away, you have to wait until the temperature is right. That might mean waiting for it to return to room temperature or waiting for a heater to get it back to the right degree. Once the water is right, add your fish back in.
There are a lot of reasons why gravel is such an important addition to any aquarium. It not only looks good, it actually helps keep the tank healthy. By providing plants a place to root and bacteria a place to colonize, gravel serves an important purpose.
Another great thing about it is how much variety is available. You can find everything from neon gravel that glows under a blacklight to small pebbles that come from natural river rock to help you make the perfect home for your fish.
Our top pick for best aquarium gravel is Spectrastone Shallow Creek regular gravel. It’s one of the most natural-looking gravels we found and provides your tank with just the surface it needs to thrive.
This was a really good starting point for me to learn about setting up my fish tank. Easy to read and understand.
Avoid GloFish gravel. It chips and its painted rocks will spike Ammonia in your tank beyond control. I spent hundreds of dollars and couldn’t tell what was causing the Ammonia and my fish dying until I realized it was the colorful GloFish rocks.
Is colored gravel of any rating safe for fish? What is epoxy???
I’ve mixed 2 types of gravel, the Marina Decorative black, and Spectrastone as I didn’t feel like it was deep enough. Now I’m regretting a bit the mix as the Marina gravel is larger and synthetic looking against the plants, so when I siphon to clean I’m just going to mix it all up. Also, the clown loaches and shrimp seem to prefer the smaller gravel.
It’s been twenty years since I built an aquarium, but I am anxious to revisit the hobby. I’m putting together a seventy-five gallon bow-front tank; one that I purchased twenty years ago, but has never seen a drop of water. I plan to have corys and loaches in a tank with gravel substrate, so I will need a small gravel size. Also, I want to use black gravel, but I am leery of the color leaching out and making the water toxic. Many on social media talk about the leaching problem.
Do you have any suggestions or constructive criticism?