Best Substrate For Betta – Top 10 Choices Of 2021

Few decisions you’ll make when setting up your betta tank have a greater influence on the aesthetic of your aquarium than the substrate you choose. Therefore, choosing the best substrate for betta fish is a skill that you need to learn.

Whether you choose natural-looking pebbles, multicolored gravel, or sand, your choice is more than just a matter of taste. Your aquarium’s substrate can also affect the health of your betta fish, as well as put additional restrictions on the setup of your aquarium.

Why Is Substrate Important In Betta Tanks?

The Importance Of Substrates

The Importance Of Substrates

Two major reasons why you should add substrates to a betta tank are water chemistry and biological filtration.

Water Chemistry

Bettas are native to acidic and soft waterways. They can adapt to a broad range of water conditions, yet the ideal environment for them is in water with a neutral, acidic level.

Hence, you should refrain from using substrates that significantly increase the mineral concentration of the water. Substrates such as broken coral and aragonite sand should be avoided because they continuously leach carbonate and calcium into the water,  thus increasing the pH, GH, and KH levels.

Also, you shouldn’t utilize substrates with a lower pH, such as certain planted substrates. If you are not clear of the content of water chemistry, it’ll spare much room for things to go wrong.

Biological Filtration

Many people misunderstand that betta aquariums do not require filtration. They also believe that cute tiny betta fish aquariums may create a healthy and pleasant habitat for them.

Both of these assumptions, however, are false. They can even be fatal to your fish.

Betta fish produces waste, just like all living things. As a result, filtration is required to keep their tanks clean. Through natural biological filtration, gravel and other substrates can aid with this problem.

Beneficial bacteria can establish their home on attachable surfaces in the gravel. This bacteria helps destroy the nasty stuff – things that can harm your fish, so your aquarium will be healthier and happier.

Like all other fish, bettas create ammonia and nitrates in their waste, both of which are harmful to fish. Biological filtration can also help in the reduction of these lethal pressures in your aquarium.

View more: All You Need To Know About The Best Filter For Betta

Types Of Substrate For Betta

Types Of Substrates

Types Of Substrates

There are two types of substrate for a betta, including natural and artificial substrates. Both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Natural Substrate

Betta fish are endemic to Southeast Asia’s Mekong River region. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos are among their natural habitats.

They may be found in ponds, floodplains, water ditches, rice paddies, and slow-moving waterways throughout the region. These environments often have muddy and silty bottoms with leaf litter.

It is not easy to reproduce this type of habitat in a betta fish tank, mostly because of the filthy and tough-to-maintain mud bottoms.

Artificial Substrate

Here are some popular artificial substrates that you usually find in the store.

Aquarium Gravel

Aquarium gravel comes in several colors and sizes, allowing you to create various styles for your fish tank. When picking pebbles, keep in mind that you want to avoid sharp edges, so your betta fish’s fins don’t get damaged.

Aquarium Sand

Aquarium sand is available in a wide range of textures, from moon sand to coarse sand. Specifically, sand with light colors may give your aquarium a lovely shine and a smooth appearance.

Besides, sand is one of the cleanest substrates because the sand particles make dirt lie on top of the sand, making it easier for you to clean your aquarium.


The best thing about marbles is that they provide a wide range of colors, so you’ll be able to choose one that matches your betta tank. However, marble is not the best choice when it comes to larger tanks.

No Substrate

Another alternative is to go for the bare-bottom appearance since you won’t need to clean your fish tank or encounter the challenge of leaving rotten food at the bottom. However, using no substrates won’t benefit your aquarium in terms of aesthetics.

Top 10 Best Substrate For Betta

In this section, you will be guided through a thorough review of 10 excellent substrates for your betta aquarium. For more reliable assistance in fish caring, take a look at GA Pet Sitters.

1. Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand: Best for Soft Belly Betta 

Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

If you want to decorate your aquarium with sand, CaribSea Super Naturals is a fantastic option. This product comes in a wide range of hues to give your aquarium a more natural appearance, not to mention that it gives helpful microorganisms a lot of surface area to attach to. 

Moreover, this product line is entirely inert so that they won’t mess with the water chemistry.

Caribsea Super Naturals does have certain drawbacks. You must agitate the sand bed on a regular basis to avoid hydrogen sulfide (H2S) formation. H2S is an extremely poisonous and foul-smelling gas concentrating beneath the sand’s surface.

These gas pockets may be avoided by stirring the sand with your hand or a kitchen spoon. Cleaning sand is also more difficult than cleaning the gravel. You’ll wind up sucking a lot of sand into the bucket if you try to press the gravel vacuum deep into the sand.

Caribsea Super Naturals is a perfect choice for soft belly turtles and betta fish because it is very soft. There is no artificial dye or paint included in the production process, so it is safe for your betta tanks.


  • Available in many colors
  • Create a natural habitat for your aquarium
  • Doesn’t alter the water chemistry
  • Won’t change water chemistry


  • Might produce hydrogen sulfide if you don’t stir regularly
  • Difficult to clean

2. CaribSea Arag-Alive Fiji Pink Sand: Best for Beginners

Caribsea Arag-Alive Fiji Aquarium Sand

Caribsea Arag-Alive Fiji Aquarium Sand

Like the previous product, Arag-Alive Pink Sand comes from a well-known manufacturer – CaribSea – in the fishkeeping community. For a variety of reasons, this specific live sand is the ideal live sand for your betta tank.

This lovely choice gives your tank a glowing, warm light all day, almost like beautiful dawn. Furthermore, this sand contains beneficial microorganisms, making it an excellent starting point for anybody beginning a betta tank.

Besides, the beneficial bacteria immediately begins to create a naturally favorable habitat for your fish once it is installed. It also speeds up the process of preparing your tank for the nitrogen process because it is active. 

Arag-Alive Fiji’s warm, beautiful pink hue is welcoming and beachy, and it will pair well in your aquarium. The sand quality is coarse, so you won’t have to worry that it gets sucked into filters, but it can still provide that exotic appearance you want.

However, we find that the sand is a light beige hue rather than a pink tone. Despite this small flaw, it is still an excellent choice.


  • Provides your aquarium with exotic reefs
  • Maintains a balanced pH level
  • Beautiful color tone that lights up your fish tank
  • Easy to clean


  • The color coming off as a light beige instead of pink

3. Pisces AM-BETTA105 Violet Betta Jewels: Best for Mixing

Pisces AM-BETTA105 Violet Betta Jewels

Pisces AM-BETTA105 Violet Betta Jewels

If you’re searching for something unusual (and designed especially for bettas), Pisces AM-BETTA105 Violet is a perfect option. These small purple gems are made from recycled glass and are completely safe for your betta fish. This product won’t alter the water’s pH level or damage your tiny pal’s fins.

The color may complement or contrast your betta’s color, resulting in a beautiful tank design.

While designed for bettas, these gems are suitable for other types of fish if they live in the same aquarium. Thus, you can ensure that all of them are healthy and happy. 

The best thing about this product is that you can use these gems on their own or mix them in with different substrates, as some fishkeepers recommend. The latter can assist them in retaining muck among the pieces while also giving them a distinct aesthetic.

A minus point for Pisces AM-BETTA105 Violet is that the real color of the product is darker than advertised. The package is also unexpectedly small.


  • Designed particularly for betta fish
  • Doesn’t cause the tank to become cloudy with dust
  • Fascinating color combinations


  • Darker color than the product photos suggest
  • Small package

4. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel: Best for Planted Aquarium

Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

Seachem Flourite stands out from the recommendations discussed so far because it isn’t constructed of gravel or sand. Instead, it is made of baked clay that’s meant to be used as a substrate for planted aquariums.

This product is the best choice for your miniature ecosystem because plants will be able to feed on minerals found in the clay itself.

Also, liquid fertilizers will be absorbed by the Flourite when dosed into the water column. After that, root-feeding plants in your betta fish tank can receive the nutrients that have gathered.

Seachem Black Clay has a neutral pH level, which means it won’t change the chemistry of your water. Other substrates can cause ammonia to be released and a pH decrease, resulting in a filthy fish tank.

The most common issue we have with this product is setting it up in the tank. Inside the bag, this substrate can accumulate a significant quantity of dust. The best solution is to rinse it in a bucket of five gallons a few times.

If you don’t thoroughly rinse it, your aquarium may appear to be full of mud, which might take up to a week to wash out.


  • Excellent substrate for planted aquariums
  • Maintains the pH level in the water chemistry
  • Receives nutrients from the water column


  • Gets muddy if you don’t rinse it before using

5. GloFish Multi-Color Fluorescent Aquarium Gravel: Best for Colorful Tanks

GloFish Multi-Color Fluorescent Aquarium Gravel

GloFish Multi-Color Fluorescent Aquarium Gravel

If you prefer vivid colors, GloFish Multi-Color Fluorescent might be the ideal addition to your tank. The best thing about this product is its colorfulness, and you may achieve a complete fluorescent look without LED lights in your aquarium.

The GloFish gravel is ideal for fantasy-themed aquariums and is available in single colors or black with fluorescent highlights. This choice is likely to appeal to children, but it also spoils the inner child in you!

A disadvantage of GloFish is that you won’t be able to see the full-color effects under normal lights. Instead, it requires you to install a special light. Moreover, the sealant in this item prevents beneficial bacteria from forming alliances in the gravel.


  • With a blue LED light, bright fluorescent gravel shines
  • Complements the colors of your fish and rooted plants
  • Sealed gravel protecting the color from fading or flaking.


  • Does not exhibit full-color effects under normal aquarium lighting
  • Sealant preventing beneficial bacteria from forming colonies in your substrate

6. Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium Gravel: Best for Multiple Uses

Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium Gravel

Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium Gravel

Pure Water Pebbles is a great choice when it comes to aquarium gravel because you can use it for both saltwater and freshwater betta tanks.

This product aims to enhance the appearance of the floor bottom in your betta tanks and ponds. It provides a home for beneficial microorganisms as well as a place for plants to anchor.

In addition, these pebbles also aid in the water filtration process by expanding the available surface zone on which the nitrifying bacteria can grow in your aquarium tank or pond.

The best thing about Pure Water Pebbles is that it works for all types of aquatic environments, including aquariums, garden ponds, potted plants, ashtrays, terrariums, etc. Hence, no matter where your betta fish lives, you can use this item to make their living environment more interesting.

A minus point for this product is that the color comes off quite fast. If you want to stick to Pure Water Pebbles, you’ll need to replace them constantly.


  • Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Leaves space for healthy microorganisms to grow
  • Boosts the water filtration process


  • Quickly fading colors

7. CaribSea Aquatics Eco-Complete African Cichlid Zack Sand: Best For Nutrients 

CaribSea Aquatics Eco-Complete African Cichlid Zack Sand

CaribSea Aquatics Eco-Complete African Cichlid Zack Sand

CaribSea Aquatics is a complete product in terms of mineralogy and biology. It helps achieve a balanced pH level in water that your betta fish require while also helping to prevent pH dips that are common in Cichlid systems, removing the need for chemical additions.

Besides, it automatically buffers and adds magnesium, carbonate, and calcium throughout the life cycle of your tank. The ingredients of CaribSea Aquatics is unique in which it brings the entire African Rift Lake setting into your betta aquarium.

The high porosity of this item also enhances biological capacity, keeping your plants and fish healthy. It contains beneficial bacteria which makes it easier and safer to cycle a new tank. There’s no need to rinse as well!

However, since this product’s color is black, it tends to stick to the bottom easily, making it difficult for you to clean.


  • Automatically add beneficial nutrients to your aquarium environment
  • Recreates the African Rift Lake vibe for your betta fish and plants
  • Resists a drop in the pH level


  • Difficult to clean

8. Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum: Best for Freshwater Aquariums

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

Fluval Stratum is produced using the mineral-rich slopes of Japan’s renowned Mont Aso Volcano. This substrate is the best choice for freshwater betta aquariums because it excels in promoting aquatic plant development. 

Particularly, plant roots can easily spread and penetrate across the substrate, thus receiving a range of essential nutrients that will help them thrive.

The components in this product will guarantee that you have a complete supply of important micro and macronutrients. The porous, non-compacting, and light structure of Fluval Stratum is also favorable to nitrifying bacteria. The internal environment lets these bacteria colonize quickly and provide them with ideal water quality.

On the other hand, the density level of Fluval Stratum is low, making it difficult to form slopes inside your tank.


  • Perfect for freshwater aquariums
  • Supplies many essential nutrients
  • Balances the water’s pH level


  • Low-density level

9. Flourite Aquarium Substrate: Best for Healthy Bacteria

Flourite Aquarium Substrate

Flourite Aquarium Substrate

If you want a thickly grown tank to showcase your betta, Flourite Aquarium is a great substrate for you. Flourite is well-known in the aquarium industry for its ability to promote plant growth. To make this substrate function, you won’t need to apply any layer of rocks or modifiers.

This substrate is ideal for betta tanks since it appears natural, and the clay surface supplies good bacteria with a lot of spaces to develop in your tank. There will be no dead zones, and the porous clay will not harm more delicate species. If you like a smoother texture, this substrate is also available in the sand!

A weakness of this item is that you will find your aquarium hard to clean because of the clay texture. Therefore, you will need to change your water several times to thoroughly rinse it.


  • Perfect for plant growth and development
  • Allows beneficial bacteria to develop on the clay surface
  • Works with all kinds of aquatic species


  • Results in a dirty tank, making it hard to clean
  • Lack of other color options

10. Seachem Flourite Dark: Best for Long-Term Use

Seachem Flourite Dark

Seachem Flourite Dark

Flourite Dark is stable clay gravel that has been specifically created for use in natural betta tanks. 

Flourite Dark works best when used as a standalone substrate bed, although it may also be combined with other kinds of gravel. Laterite or other gravel modifiers aren’t required. The pH of the water will not change because this item is not chemically coated or processed.

The best thing about Flourite Dark is that it lasts for a long time, so it would take a long time before you need to replace the new one. 

Because Flourite Dark consists of natural ingredients, it may be a little bit dusty during the transportation process. Therefore, it will need to be rinsed thoroughly to remove residual dust.


  • Natural gravel of the highest quality for planted aquariums
  • Lasts a long time
  • Doesn’t go through a chemically treated process


  • Makes your tank dirty because of the natural dust


So, what is the best substrate for betta?

Actually, it depends on your priority for your betta tanks. If you want something easy to set up, don’t hesitate to choose the gravel. It will take only a few minutes to transform your aquarium.

However, if you want your aquarium to look more natural, sand is the best option. This item provides your aquatic tank with an amazing appearance and a wild feel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best substrate for bettas?

In fact, in the 10 substrates that I mentioned above, they are all very good for bettas, so you can rest assured to choose the most suitable for the economy and help your fish live the healthiest and safest.

Do Bettas prefer sand or gravel?

It is difficult to accurately describe the substrate preference of bettas in the wild as it is a vegetation type but in my experience it is a substance so their second preference is sand.

What color gravel is best for betta fish?

You should choose gravel with a light brown or yellow color that looks as natural as possible.

Will bettas eat sand?

This is very normal because in fact, in the wild, fish often do that to help clean the intestines, remove residues, garbage …

Are moss balls good for bettas?

You should be careful if the quantity is too large, it can cause the fish to stress and die at any time

What is the rarest color of betta fish?

Currently the rarest color for bettas is pink.

Do betta fish need rocks in their tank?

Of course yes because they live in the wild so you make the environment look as similar as possible.

Do Bettas like light?

Of course, all species need light, so you need to provide them with light for 12-16 hours a day.

How do I know if my betta fish is happy?

Signs to let you know your bettas like the landscape and life in its tank:
1. Full body color change looks brilliant, the vitality is much more.
2. Fins open evenly and flexibly.
3. The way of swimming is very flexible and flexible.

Can I put rocks from outside in my betta fish tank?

You need to consider the overall structure of the aquarium before you want to add something in it. I recommend adding pebbles as well.

What food is best for betta fish?

They like to eat larvae and small creatures.

Can shrimp live with Betta?

It is possible to live them with shrimp but at least the size of the shrimp should be as big as the bettas.