Q: ZJ Wrote:
What kind of aquarium substrate do you recommend for a 2 gallon Betta tank?
A: Choosing the appropriate aquarium substrate for your tank is an important decision. First, I define aquarium substrate as the material(s) used to create the bed or floor of the aquarium. There are a variety of options available to suit many different needs and visual preferences.
I tend to break aquarium substrate down into two categories of which we select from each.
Category 1: Aesthetic
The aesthetic of the substrate is how we like it to look. Typically we either want a natural looking environment or an artificial looking one. Neither is better than the other per-se; it just comes down to personal preference. If you want a natural-looking aquarium you may select rock, sand or natural gravel for the substrate. For a more manufactured look you may choose marbles, glass beads or brightly colored gravel. It simply depends on the look you are trying to achieve.
Category 2: Particle Size
The size and general shape of the particles can have an impact on how the aquarium functions and while personal preference may play a roll here, it’s important to understand how the material you choose will effect the entire ecosystem.
If you have read my articles about tank cycling you know the important roll beneficial bacteria plays in your Betta tank. These healthy bacteria attach themselves to your filter material primarily as well as all surfaces in your tank including the substrate, plants and other decorations. The more surface area your substrate has, the more space you provide for this good bacteria to grow. This bacteria will thrive best on finer particles like coarse rock, small gravel or sand.
If you don’t intend to cycle your aquarium and instead choose to perform 100% water changes each week you may find it much easier to use larger materials like river stones or smooth materials like glass or polished stones. The larger substrate can be easily removed for cleaning or debris can be syphoned quickly from the space between the particulates.
Aquarium gravel, the most popular choice for aquarium substrate, falls in the middle. It offers a lot of surface area for nitrifying bacteria but can also be easily syphoned with a standard aquarium vacuum. It also comes in a variety of styles including black, natural stone, white and a variety of colors including neon.
You may also want to consider how you intend to decorate your aquarium. Live plants, for example, may require a specific type of substrate to thrive. Many do best in natural sand or very fine gravel. While silk plants don’t need to extract nutrients from the soil, they will need something to hold them in place just the same. Smooth pebbles, marbles or large rocks may not hold them. Visually too, natural plants will look nicer with natural substrate just as your Sponge Bob Pineapple fish house may work better with a fun colorful gravel.
Whether you’re setting up your first Betta tank or doing a little remodeling, take a few moments to think about the look you are trying to achieve as well as how your aquarium functions. Decorating your tank can be a lot of fun and selecting the right substrate makes all the difference.