The best way to make sure you give your Betta a happy home is to think about its natural habitat. Bettas live in warm, somewhat shallow water.
In this environment, the substrate would be silt with plant roots shooting through. There would also be bits of plants that have started to break down. Bettas love this kind of environment. It allows them access to the surface and gives them plenty of places to hide and find some shade.
Is it possible to recreate this environment in a home tank? Not exactly. You can’t have plants rotting in the bottom of a small tank without causing a lot of problems with the water. But keeping plants, whether real or artificial, in your tank is one way to make your Betta feel more at home. Before you can add plants, you have to make sure you’re using the best substrate for your Betta tank that can support them.
Table of Contents
- Does a Betta Tank Need Substrate?
- The Best Substrate for Your Betta and Plants
- Betta Tank Substrate Reviews
- What is the Best Substrate for a Betta Fish?
- What Kind of Substrate for Betta?
- Sand or Gravel for My Betta Tank: Which One Would be Better?
- How Much Substrate for Betta Tank?
Does a Betta Tank Need Substrate?
The substrate is the best way to anchor plants so you can give your Betta different places to explore and to hide in.
It also serves a really important function when it comes to water chemistry by providing a natural place for beneficial bacteria to colonize. This helps keep the water balanced and, in turn, keeps your pet healthy.
If you want your pet to thrive, recreating their best environment is essential and a good substrate is a foundation. Let’s take a look at some substrates your pet will love.
The Best Substrate for Your Betta and Plants
|GloFish Aquarium Gravel||Gravel|
|Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand||Sand|
|Marina Decorative Gravel||Gravel|
|Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums||Gravel|
|Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel for Aquarium||Gravel|
Betta Tank Substrate Reviews
1. GloFish Aquarium Gravel
If you’re looking for a substrate that will not only make a good home for plants but also add a little something extra to your tank, you have to check out GloFish. If you use it in a GloFish aquarium, you’ll get the special blue light glow effect, but it looks great in any tank.
It’s available in a few bold color choices, too, including green, white, black, and pink. It comes in a few cool color combinations, too. Solid colored bags contain pellets that are more uniform in size and just a bit smaller than the mixed bags.
This is a gravel-style substrate that is great at holding plants in place. It won’t change the pH of the water, either, which is great for keeping your fish healthy.
2. Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand
To create a more natural-looking home for your fish, check out this Super Natural sand.
This substrate resembles fine black sand. It has a little bit of a sparkle to it, too. Not only is it effective at anchoring plants in place, it also looks really good. If you want an easy way to make your Betta’s colors really pop. And here’s something really cool.
This substrate is actually packed with living, water-purifying bacteria as well as a clarifier and a water conditioner. It not only looks good, it’s good for your tank’s health, too.
3. Marina Decorative Gravel
This gravel substrate from Marina is both decorative and functional. It’s the perfect size and weight to hold plants and ornaments in place in your tank.
Plus, it’s epoxy coated so it won’t have any effect on the water chemistry. This kind of coating also serves as a perfect place for beneficial bacteria to colonize.
Marina gravel is available in 6 different colors: black, blue, burgundy, neon yellow, orange, and purple.
When you have a fish as beautiful as a Betta, why wouldn’t you want to have a substrate that was going to provide a good backdrop to show it off?
Multiple color choices let you do just that.
4. Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums
Spectrastone is gorgeous, natural-looking pebble gravel that works well in freshwater aquariums. It’s called “pebble gravel” because it’s smaller than some other substrate made from natural rocks.
Most of it is about ¼ inch wide with some larger pieces of about ½ inch. The gravel is the perfect size and weight to anchor plants in place.
This substrate is great for freshwater aquariums. Its natural tan, gold, and brown colors create an authentic-looking habitat for your fish.
It has a non-toxic coating that prevents it from affecting the pH of the water. Plus, it gives natural bacteria a great place to grow.
5. Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel for Aquarium
If you love the natural looks that the Carib Sea creates but prefer gravel to sand, Peace River Gravel is for you. It’s made in the USA, contains no paints or dyes, and is the perfect way to make your tank feel like a natural river environment. This substrate is pH neutral so it won’t affect the balance of your water.
This gravel has very small grains. It’s even smaller than pebble gravel and is actually the smallest sized gravel of the product we’re reviewing.
Because of its size, it helps prevent any detritus from building up. It’s also the perfect texture to nestle your plants into to create a home the looks and feels natural to your Betta.
What is the Best Substrate for a Betta Fish?
Any of our picks will make your pet very happy but the best substrate for Betta fish is from Spectrastone.
The thing that we love the most about it is that it’s so natural looking. This pebble gravel is the perfect size and weight to hold down any plants or decorations which make the environment so much more welcoming to a Betta.
The small pebbles range from ¼ to ½ inch wide and come in light browns, tans, and golds for a really beautiful effect. Each pebble is coated with a special non-toxic coating to prevent it from interfering with the chemical balance of the water.
It helps keep your pH where it’s supposed to be and provides a home for beneficial bacteria to thrive.
What Kind of Substrate for Betta?
There are a lot of things that determine what the best substrate is for your Betta. One of the most important ones is the size of your tank.
If you have a small tank are using a bowl without a filter, you will have to swap out the water fairly frequently. For bowls and 1 to 2-gallon aquariums, the water will have to be completely changed out pretty regularly. So, what does this have to do with the substrate?
Think about it, if you’re regularly draining the water from your fish’s aquarium, a gravel style substrate is better than sand based one. With sand, a little more disappears every time you empty it. You also have to wait a while for everything to settle before you can put your fish back in his home.
Gravel substrate is great with larger tanks that don’t require 100% water changes. It allows everything to stay anchored without disturbing your fish’s habitat too much. Be wary of using large river rocks. Anything around ½ inch or so is fine but something larger could cause problems because it can more easily trap waste and uneaten food.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’re going to use live plants. Live plants do better in gravel substrate for various reasons. In fact, there are good things and bad about both gravel and sand substrates.
Sand or Gravel for My Betta Tank: Which One Would be Better?
Sand and gravel are definitely the 2 most popular choices when it comes to Betta substrate. Which one is better depends on how you’re setting up your tank and how much work you want to put into maintaining it. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each.
First, let’s talk about sand. If you’re going to use a sand substrate, make sure you get some from a trusted brand. A lot of sand used for this purpose is basically just what they couldn’t use for other things, like play sand or construction materials.
That’s why it’s always best to go with a brand that specifically makes materials and supplies for aquariums. Don’t dig up your own sand or bring a bucketful back from the beach and think it’s okay to use it in your tank, either. You always have to be careful about what you introduce into the water.
Some people really love the look of sand and it comes in a range of colors. Whether you want a natural or funky look, you’ll be able to find the perfect color for you. It’s also smooth and easy to tuck plants and other decorations into and you can contrast it to your Betta to really make the colors pop.
In general, sand is a really clear choice. Because the particles are so small and get packed in so close together, it’s hard for uneaten food or waste to penetrate it. You might find some on the surface but that’s generally easy to clean up. Sand is also a great place for beneficial, natural bacteria to thrive.
What are the downsides to using sand?
For one thing, it’s really easily stirred up in the water when you’re cleaning and needs replacing pretty often. Also, pockets can develop where anaerobic bacteria can grow and cause severe issues with water quality.
This is easy enough to prevent, you just have to mix up the sand so that you keep air circulating through it. This eliminates the environment where this kind of bacteria can live just by introducing air to it.
Sand isn’t always the best choice for live plants, either. It’s dense and most plants aren’t easily able to force their roots through it.
Now, what about gravel?
Pebble or “pea” gravel is best. The substrates we chose in our reviews are all a good size. They’re somewhat small and rounded without any sharp edges and basically uniform in size.
This kind of gravel doesn’t clump together are easy as sand does so you avoid the pockets of anaerobic bacteria altogether. Plant roots can pretty easily push their way through gravel and it holds artificial plants and decorations better because it has more weight than sand.
Gravel is heavier than sand so it’s more difficult for your fish to stir up. It’s also easier to clean because it generally stays in one place, even if you have to change out all the water. Gravel is also available in many sizes, styles, and colors so you’re bound to find the perfect one for your Betta. It’s even a great home for colonies of beneficial bacteria to grow to help keep the pH of your water where it needs to be.
What are the downsides?
If you get gravel that’s too small, an enthusiastic Betta might mistake it for food and cause severe medical problems. One more thing, if you choose to feed your Betta live food, it’s really easy for it to get away and hide among the gravel. If you don’t keep a close eye on this, it could end up causing a big problem with water purity down this.
One thing we should mention, no matter what kind of substrate you use, it should be rinsed well before being introduced to your tank.
How Much Substrate for Betta Tank?
The actual amount that you need depends on the size of your tank. Generally, though, what you’re aiming for is for the substrate to be a certain height along the bottom of the tank.
If you’re planning to have live plants, you should have about 2 inches of substrate. For artificial plants, 1 inch is enough. But remember, that means 1 to 2 inches across the bottom of the whole aquarium, from corner to corner and front to back. You can also build up varied terrain if you want to make it a little more interesting for your fish. Add a pile here, a mound there to make it feel more natural.
It’s tempting to want to avoid substrate. After all, it makes cleaning the tank a lot easier and makes less work for you. That said, it’s important to think about the well-being of your pet. For one thing, a bare-bottom tank doesn’t give you anywhere for beneficial bacteria to grow. This kind of bacteria is so important to the balance of the water, especially if you’re using a bowl or tank that doesn’t have a filter.
Bettas naturally thrive in areas where there is abundant plant life and love to swim around to find shade and to explore. Without substrate, you don’t have anywhere to add plants of your own. Bettas can get stressed out by their own reflection and no substrate means they will be able to see themselves no matter where they are swimming. Plus, it just looks unnatural.
The only way to keep your Betta happy and healthy is to give them a good home. Choosing the right substrate is the best foundation for your tank, literally and figuratively. It fosters bacteria growth, supports both real and artificial plant life, and gives your Betta a true habitat to explore. The ideal home for your Betta truly starts at the bottom. Of your aquarium, that is.