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What’s the best thing to use for the bottom of your Betta tank?
There are many choices on the market, so today, we are going to take a look at some of the best substrates for Betta fish, so you can make an educated purchase when it comes to the beauty of your aquarium and the health of your pet.
My top choice? CaribSea Super Natural Moonlight Sand.
Check it out!
Here are the substrates I will be reviewing:
- CaribSea Super Natural Moonlight Sand
- SACKORANGE Aquarium Gravel River Rock
- Pisces AM-BETTA Violet Betta Jewels
- Spectrastone Shallow Creek
- WAYBER Crystal Quartz
- Spectrastone Permaglo Rainbow Gravel
- Carib Sea Aquatics Betta Leaf Indian Almond Leaf
Reviews of the Best Substrates for Betta Fish
Are you wondering what’s the best substrate for Betta fish? Here are some you may want to consider.
CaribSea Super Natural Moonlight Sand
This all-natural white sand is silky and soft so you won’t have to worry about it doing damage to your Betta’s fins or scales. It is suitable in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums because it won’t affect the pH of the water.
The CaribSea Super Natural Moonlight Sand is easy to use – just give it a good soak (to rid it of excess debris) and gently scoop it onto the floor of your tank. Once it settles, you will have a solid foundation to anchor your decorations and plastic plants. However, it may be too soft for live plants to get a good grip, so you may have to use some stabilizing rocks to help keep them in place.
This sand is also a great choice in a community tank with bottom-dwellers, as food tends to lie on top of the substrate, rather than get lost in the crevices, making it easier for them to eat.
- Gives your tank a natural beach-like appearance
- Provides a solid foundation for decorations
- No sharp edges to harm delicate fins and scales
- Holds during water changes
- Does not change the pH balance
- Easy to clean
- May not firmly anchor live plants
- Color may not be as described
- Will need to be soaked before using
- Takes time to settle in the tank, which could create murky water
- Not recommended for tanks with powerful filters as it could clog the motor
SACKORANGE Aquarium Gravel River Rock
If you’re looking for natural river rocks to add to your Betta tank, the Sackorange Aquarium gravel is beautifully polished for a long-lasting effect. It’s safe enough to use for those curious Bettas as each piece measures at least 1 inch in length and is not coated with toxic chemicals.
The myriad of shapes and colors of these river rocks will add a natural beauty not found in other substrate materials. The only drawback of this brand of river rock is that you don’t get very many in the package, so you would need to purchase multiple units to fill larger aquariums.
However, they would make a beautiful addition to the surface of the sand, giving your plants more stability and your tank that special pop of color and style.
- Natural appearance
- Does not use harmful chemicals to polish
- Big enough to avoid a choking hazard
- Smooth (but go through them to eliminate any that may have been broken during processing)
- Great for topping sand substrate
- Not enough in package to fill larger aquariums
- Pricey for quantity
- Some rocks may be bigger than advertised and can break during shipping
Pisces AM-BETTA Violet Betta Jewels
If you want a substrate that will make your small Betta tank (and your fish) pop, then the Betta Jewels by the Pisces company may fit your needs.
These tumbled glass beads are safe for Bettas (and all small fish) as they are smooth, non-toxic, and will not change the pH of your water. This is because they are made from recycled glass, so you can also feel good about reducing your carbon footprint.
Even though this substrate does work well as a “topper” if you wanted to use it as a complete substrate know that you will need several bags. Some customers have also noted that the color leans more to the blackish hue than violet.
- Made for Bettas
- Smooth, recycled, tumbled glass beads add style to your tank
- Will not cut the fins or scales of your fish
- Will not change the pH of the water
- Color is more black than violet
- Will take several bags to use as a lone substrate
- May be difficult to clean as a lone substrate
Spectrastone Shallow Creek
If you want a more natural look for your Betta tank, then you might want to try these natural Shallow Creek pebbles. They have been polished for a subtle shine using a non-toxic substance that will not affect your fish or the pH of your aquarium.
The size of these pebbles may vary, but they do tend to lean to the smaller side, so take care when vacuuming your aquarium as some may slip through the siphon.
It is worth a mention that some customers have complained that the 5-pound bag weighs under that amount and you will also want to rinse these rocks well before placing them in your tank as they can be quite dusty.
- Natural pebbles
- Smooth to prevent injury to fish
- Will not change the tank’s pH
- Good substrate for aquarium plants and fish
- Will need to be rinsed before using
- 5-pound bag is underweight
- Small size may make it difficult to clean
WAYBER Crystal Quartz
These natural raw crystal stones have been broken down into gravel and processed into irregular shapes, then polished for a smooth, high-gloss substrate that will add beauty and style to any Betta tank.
This crystal quartz substrate comes in a variety of colors that will suit all tastes and decor and will not pollute your aquarium with toxins or high pH levels.
Even though these pretty little “jewels” may not be suitable for large aquariums (you will need several bags), they will look stunning in smaller tanks or as a pretty topper to sandy bottoms.
Do note that you will need to rinse these before using them to get rid of any dust or particles that may exist due to shipping. Some customers have also noted that the color may come off the pink quartz.
- Great for small tanks
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Irregular shapes add variety
- Color may leach out of pink hue
- Will need to be rinsed well before using
Spectrastone Permaglo Rainbow Gravel
We know the kiddies want lots of color in those Betta tanks, so we were finally able to find a product that seems to fit the bill (and won’t harm your fish).
Spectrastone Permaglo Rainbow Gravel is bright and beautiful without using toxic chemicals to get those hues – even in low light, this gravel is still brilliant!
The gravel comes in irregular shapes, but should not create a problem in most Betta tanks. As with all packaged substrates, especially gravel, we recommend rinsing it well or letting it soak for at least 30 minutes in a bucket of warm water to remove any impurities or fine dust particles.
- Bright colors even in low light
- Fairly inexpensive
- Colors do not fade over time
- Gravel creates a solid base for plants and decorations
- Will need to be rinsed or soaked before initial use
- Some gravel pieces may be too small for Bettas that try to eat gravel
Carib Sea Aquatics Betta Leaf Indian Almond Leaf
If you plan on breeding your Betta, then you will want to add Indian Almond leaves to your habitat. This is not a “substrate” per say, but rather an addition that will help recreate the Betta’s natural habitat and encourage males to make a bubble nest.
Indian Almond Leaves also naturally lower the pH in your tank and release tannins that will turn the water slightly tea-colored. Even if your Betta fish doesn’t build a bubble nest, they seem to enjoy the slightly tinted hue of the water.
The leaves float for the first few days, so Betta feels safe building a nest around them. Once the leaves are fully saturated, they will sink to the bottom of the tank, making a soft place for the eggs to land and also for baby fry to munch on.
- Creates a natural environment for breeding Bettas
- Encourages the male to make a bubble nest
- Adds beneficial tannins
- Lowers pH
- Darkens the water to encourage breeding
- Only get three leaves
- Some customers complain of the leaves being too small and brittle
- May be considered pricey
Why Use a Substrate?
We’ve gone through several substrate options, but you may be wondering why use a substrate at all?
Most people automatically grab a substrate for their aquariums, simply because it looks good. However, there is so much more to having a good substrate than just aesthetics.
- Substrates play a vital role in the nitrogen cycle – bacteria help break down nitrates, nitrites, nitrogen, and ammonia – substrates provide a place for these bacterias to grow.
- Provides a healthy environment for live plants to root themselves and thrive.
- Creates a natural environment for the Betta fish.
- Some substrates can balance pH levels.
- Makes it easier to clean the tank and for fish to feed.
What is the Best Substrate for Betta Fish?
Bettas are found in rice paddies, slow-moving streams, and drainage ditches of their homeland. So, of course, we want to re-create something similar in our aquarium to give them the best life possible.
Let’s explore our substrate options regarding the Betta fish.
Perhaps, the most popular option is gravel. This readily available substrate comes in a variety of colors and is relatively easy to maintain as food and debris just slip into the crevices making it easy to siphon out with an aquarium vacuum.
When it comes to Bettas, we recommend choosing gravel that is smooth and pea-size or larger to avoid a choking hazard.
Although not really applicable to a single Siamese Fighting Fish, gravel is also not easily stirred up by aquatic critters, so it may be a consideration if you have a community tank with bottom-dwellers like the busy Cory Dora.
Aquarium gravel also offers the perfect place for those healthy bacterias to grow and a good, stable ground for plants to take hold and flourish.
Even though sand was our number one choice, there are still some things you will want to consider when using this type of substrate.
Sand is very compact, so you may need to anchor your plants with small rocks so they don’t float to the surface. However, that compactness is also a plus, as food sits on top of it making it easier for bottom-dwellers to snatch up.
Just run your aquarium vacuum about an inch above the sand to clean up the mess.
Speaking of maintenance, although it doesn’t happen very often, there is a chance of bad bacteria building up in air pockets within this type of substrate. When this happens, hydrogen sulfide will be released into the tank which could be toxic to your fish.
The good news is, there is a simple fix. Just gently swirl the sand every week or two before you do a water change. And remember, every time you disturb the sand, it will take time to settle, which can create a cloudy or murkiness to your aquarium.
If you want to use sand in your Betta tank, always choose sand sold specifically for aquariums. Play sand (used for children) is not appropriate as it can harbor chemicals and other toxins that can be deadly to fish. This type of sand also tends to encourage the growth of brown algae which is difficult to get rid of and may also harbor harmful bacteria.
Despite these “flaws” sand is still a natural, soft, safe substrate for Bettas which has aquarists raving about this choice.
Pro Tip: We do not recommend using Coral Sand in a Betta tank. This type of substrate is made from calcium carbonate which slowly dissolves into the water, changing the pH from acidic (which Bettas prefer) to more alkaline.
Indian Almond Leaves
We’ve added this “substrate” as Indian Almond Leaves are very helpful if you have Betta fry in the tank – when the leaves decompose the fry can eat them.
Although you would never cover the entire bottom of your aquarium with Indian Almond Leaves because they release tannins into the tank which darken the water, the addition of one leaf per 10 gallons of water will naturally lower the pH.
These are a fan-favorite for children; however, not necessarily the best substrate for Betta (or any fish). These glass orbs will collect lost food and fish waste between their gaps, which, over time, will lead to a buildup of bacteria and slug.
That being said, marbles are okay if you have a very small tank (under 3 gallons) and are cleaning it out at least once a week.
Another positive of marbles is they do come in the flatten variety, which is easier to clean, and usually looks better than the rounded variety.
Natural or River Stone/Aggregate
Whether it be for the lack of wanting to spend the money, or just because you like the look of aggregate (anything found outside like stone, wood, sand), this type of substrate should be avoided.
Outdoor finds can be harboring all kinds of toxins such as bacteria and pesticides or they can also change the pH of the tank and make it murky.
We’ve included this section to warn aquarists about some products that are sold for fish tanks but are proving to be detrimental to their occupants. These include substrates that glow in the dark or those that use fluorescent or colored pebbles.
Since these novelty hues do not naturally occur, they are produced with paints and chemicals that are leached into the water which can be harmful to your Betta (and other aquatic friends).
Even though these are appealing from an aesthetic perspective (especially for children) the harmful effects they can have on the fish far outweigh their curb appeal. Do your research and AVOID the ones that are ranking low.
If you’re pondering just leaving the bottom of your aquarium blank, you may want to reconsider this option. Albeit, an easy way to cut down on maintenance of the tank, no substrate can stress out your Betta – he may see his reflection and continue to flare.
The lack of substrate also means it will be difficult to cycle the tank with those healthy bacterias as they will have fewer places to grow.
Lastly, without the use of substrate, it will be more difficult to anchor decorations and live plants.
Final Thoughts on Betta Substrates
Whether you choose sand, brightly-colored gravel, marbles, or natural river pebbles, having a substrate in your Betta habitat is beneficial for both your fish and your aquatic plants.
However, before you decide, be sure to research the particular brand before you add it to your tank – not all substrates are created equally. Avoid those that use toxic chemicals in their dying process, or those that leach their colors into your tank.
Take care to rinse any new substrate before you place it in your aquarium and closely monitor your Betta and the tank’s conditions to ensure all is well.
Putting in the time and effort will help ensure your Betta will live a happy, healthy life.