Miles with Glass Fish
Originally uploaded by Unkoine.

Q: TI wrote,

What is the best substrate to use in a Betta tank?

A: There is more than one answer to your question because, truthfully, it depends. There are a variety of substrates out there ranging from fine sand to gravel to rocks or marbles. Choosing which one is right depends a little bit on the type of set up you have a whole lot on the aesthetic you like best. How you clean your tank may help you to narrow the options. For example, in a small bowl where you do 100% water changes regularly, sand would be a poor choice because it would make a terrible mess swirling around the tank as you try to clean it and you’d likely have to replace it regularly. Marbles may be a better option because you can easily wash them as you clean the bowl. In a larger aquarium that has undergone the nitrogen cycle you may find benefits from finer sand or gravel. The beneficial bacteria living in the tank will house themselves in the sand or gravel clinging on to all that surface area. Large rocks or marbles will allow fish waste to become trapped within the open spaces and can be difficult to remove with a siphon during partial water changes.

Here’s a list of some of the most common substrate options for typical Betta bowls and aquariums.

Epoxy Coated Aquarium Gravel

This is your ordinary run of the mill aquarium gravel found everywhere. It comes in a variety of colors and sizes and is fairly inexpensive. It’s easy to siphon and if you want a pink fish tank, you can have a pink fish tank.

Stone aggregate

Naturalistic aquariums are increasing in popularity as more and more people wish to bring a piece of the great outdoors into their homes. Pebbles and river stones can be purchased at most local fish stores and come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They are typically more expensive then gravel but unlike collecting them yourself, you can be assured they are non-toxic and won’t affect the pH.


Sand can make a beautiful addition to an aquarium. It’s best used in a cycled tank that doesn’t undergo complete 100% water changes. Waste settles on top and can by cleaned by floating a siphon a half inch or so above the sand bed. It is especially useful in aquariums with bottom dwelling or burrowing species like Cories and Kuli loaches. I’m partial to Tropic Isle’s Tahitian Moon Sand.

Planting Substrate

Some substrates are designed specifically for the planted aquarium. Seachem’s Fluorite is natural looking and can be mixed with sand or gravel. It is iron rich and great for plants. Eco-Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate is a dark rich color and is perfect for plants. There are a variety of sand and pebble sizes within each bag and the darkness of it really contrasts with the colors of most bettas. It also happens to be my personal favorite.

Glass Marbles

Marbles are favored among Betta bowl keepers. They are less practical in a larger aquarium but work well in a smaller bowl because they are easy to clean and can be quite beautiful. They come in a variety of colors to match or contrast your Betta. Sinking food and fish waste tends to fall between the crevices so this substrate is best for aquarists who are on top of their water cleaning routine.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Stefan says:

    Hello Christie,
    the green peas for betta, can they be organic from the can, where there is a slight addition evaporated cane sugar and sea salt. The come soft out of can.
    many thanks in advance

  2. Natalie says:

    I am a new Betta owner (Fernando only came home with me 3 days ago) and I was just wondering about changing my current substrate. My set-up for Fernando is a 9L (about 2.3G) aquarium with a hang-on filter, a 25w heater set at 26C (78.8F), a live plant, and a broken bell decoration that he can swim into/through. The gravel that I am using at the moment came with the tank, and is quite small. I’m worried though that it may be too sharp for my Betta’s fins. He has a bright aqua blue body with red fins, and appears to be all healthy, except for a tiny portion of the bottom fin (sorry I don’t know all the names) which looks a bit scratched. He has no issues with black on his fins so I don’t think it’s fin rot – though I am keeping an eye on it. I’m worried that this happened because of the gravel, but I’m not 100% sure because at the pet store he was in a tiny 1L tank so I didn’t get to see his fins in full movement.
    So my concern is about whether I wait and see if it gets better on its own, or whether I change the gravel now while the tank is still new (so it hasn’t had too much time to develop as much good bacteria) to other gravel that is a bit bigger and more smooth on his little fins. I feel a bit like a new mother – could really use some advice. Also, if I do end up changing his gravel, is it going to upset the tank environment too much?
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Thomas says:

    This was an awesome caresheet. I think the marbles look really good. How much do they usually cost?

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