The Fish Keeping & Aquarium Guide.

Best Substrate for Bettas

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

It is not enough to provide a tank full of water and food for your Betta friend. You have to make sure they are happy and content to be where they are. One critical way to do that is to add an excellent substrate to the bottom of your fish tank. Now, this begs the question, ‘what substrate do I use?’ Not to worry, in this article, we will recommend some of the best substrates for Bettas.

In the past, many aquarium owners, especially beginners, did not know the positive impact of a suitable substrate on their fish’s wellbeing. Thankfully, that narrative is quickly changing. You see, your betta may have been born in domestication, but they instinctively know how their natural habitat should look. Due to this, if they are living in a sharply contrasting environment, it may stress them.

Bettas are primarily tropical fish that naturally reside in the warm and shallow waters of Southeast Asia. In such areas, silt, mud, and gravel with growing and rotting plants are the prevalent bed layers. While it may be unwise to recreate this environment in your tank, some substrate allows you to closely and safely mimic it.

However, replicating the natural habitat of your bettas is only one of many functions of the substrate. Having the right substrate in your aquarium also directly impacts the physical health of your fish! Therefore, you cannot afford to get it wrong. Fortunately, we have created a review of some of the best options in substrate for Bettas.

But before that, let us look at what substrate is and why it is vital in your fish tank.

The Best Substrate for Bettas

Now that you know what substrate is and why they’re important, the next step is choosing the right materials. To help you, we have compiled a detailed list of the top four substrates that will be best for your bettas. Read further to find out what substrate to use for your aquarium.

1) Marina Decorative Gravel

This beautiful gravel substrate is genuinely one of the best out there. The Marina Decorative Gravel comes from surf stone and features a pH seal. This ensures that it does not tamper with the chemistry of the water. Also, it comes in diverse colors, including blue, purple, black, orange, and neon yellow. These varying colors help to add beauty to your aquarium while highlighting your bettas.

Furthermore, the individual Marina gravel’s size and shape vary, which helps to add an appealing undulating landscape. Interestingly, aesthetics is not the only benefit of these non-uniform grains. They also promote water flow into the covering, especially if you use an under gravel filter.

Also, all Marina Decorative Gravel has an epoxy covering, which keeps them smooth. So you don’t have to worry about your fish cutting themselves on pieces with edges. The epoxy also serves a dual purpose of maintaining the gravel’s chemical composition in check. Besides, the epoxy is responsible for the color of the substrate.

This substrate’s highlights is that it is perfect in both size and weight for supporting plant life. It also closely resembles your bettas’ natural habitat, which can help feel at ease in the tank.


  • It is very affordable.
  • It is available in several colors.
  • It does not change water chemistry.
  • It supports plant life.


  • It comes in small 1-pound bags. In other words, if your fish tank exceeds a gallon, you’ll need to buy more. But, at least they are cheap.
  • The gravel colors may fade over time.

2) Carib Sea SuperNaturals Peace River

If you want the natural river look but prefer sand to gravel, then this is your best option. The Carib Sea SuperNaturals substrate features tiny grains that are smaller than pebbles. However, it can support plant growth. One unique feature of this substrate is that it is all-natural – no dyes, no paints, nothing. This makes the substrate look very natural.

But, due to its small grain size, you may not be able to use a gravel vacuum to clean the tank bed. Otherwise, you risk sucking all you substrate out. On the bright side, the Carib Sea SuperNaturals small-sized grains have their plus sides too. For one, its small size prevents fish wastes and other debris from building up in grain holes.

Besides, this substrate type has a neutral pH, which makes it very pro-fish. This means that it also will not affect the pH balance of your aquarium. However, the Carib Sea SuperNaturals Peace River is more expensive when compared to other options. But, if it makes you feel better, the substrate comes in a sizable 20-pound bag.


  • Its small grains support plant life.
  • It has no chemicals.
  • It has a neutral pH.


  • It is rather expensive.
  • It is not compatible with a gravel vacuum.

3) Carib Sea Eco-Complete Planted Substrate

This is another one from the Carib Sea range of products but with a twist. This substrate has a dark color. The Carib Sea Eco-Complete Planted Substrate comes from volcanic soil and has a dark, subdued one color. It also has another unique feature – it contains minerals and live microorganisms! The substrate comprises Floraspore, which promotes root growth in dense vegetation.

If you want to create the perfect habitat for your bettas in terms of plant life, this may be the best option for you. The soil has both the mineral and biological quality necessary to facilitate healthy plant growth. It contains more than 30 different minerals that promote plant growth. Furthermore, it provides an excellent anchor for plant roots.

The Carib Sea Eco-Complete Planted Substrate’s dark hue is a great way to help your bettas’ colors pop. Moreover, an additional benefit is that the substrate gets its colors naturally. In other words, it does not contain any dye or artificial coloring. However, despite that, this substrate is still likely to affect the water’s pH levels.

This is due to the presence of the nutrients and organisms in the substrate. But, you can use a neutralizer to counteract the induced water alkalinity.


  • It contains minerals and microorganisms that support plant growth.
  • It highlights the color of your bettas.
  • It has a porous texture, which aids root growth.


  • It may raise the pH levels of your aquarium. That is, make it alkaline.

4) Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums

Another substrate that deserves a spot on our list is the Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular. One of the many reasons this substrate is very popular is due to its natural look and color. However, the substrate also comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and texture. So, you may choose based on your personal preference. But, you should also keep your precious bettas in mind when picking.

Fortunately, the Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular generally comes in natural tones – natural tan, brown, and gold. This means that the colors will not be as loud as a decorative substrate can sometimes be. It also means that it will complement the color of your betta rather than overpower it. Moreover, this substrate’s natural look implies an absence of artificial colors, which translates to a neutral pH.

Additionally, this substrate has a large surface area, which provides beneficial bacteria with the medium they need to colonize. This ensures that the nitrogen cycle in your aquarium’s ecosystem remains balance. Moreover, the Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular’s surface area also allows for optimum water circulation, preventing gas build-up.

All-in-all, the Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular is one of the best substrates for bettas, and we enthusiastically recommend it for you.


  • It supports plant growth.
  • It encourages the development and action of good bacteria.
  • It promotes good water circulation.
  • It has no artificial coloring.
  • It has a neutral pH.
  • It is ideal for small size tank and fish.


  • It has texture that not as smooth as some gravel.
  • It requires more rinsing than other products before use.

Buyer’s Guide: What is a Substrate?

Substrate is the term that describes whatever material lines the bottom of your fish tank. These include gravel, pebbles, sand, crushed corals, and even glass beads. As long as it is loose and covers the bottom of your aquarium, it is a substrate.

Many fish owners fail to realize this, but the substrate is indeed vital in setting up a fish tank. Indeed, it serves many purposes and is often one of the determinants of a healthy habitat. You see, your tank substrate can influence the water’s chemistry, filtration efficacy, and, consequently, the wellness of your fish.

Of course, there is also the fact adding a substrate to your aquarium can give it a certain aesthetic appeal. But that should not be your only goal.

There is an extensive range of materials in various colors that fish owners can use for their tanks. But, you cannot afford to simply pick whichever catches your fancy. Different substrates affect the water and your precious bettas in unique ways. So, it is best to decide what substrate to use only after diligent research and due considerations.

Before we reveal our compilation of the best substrate for bettas, let us show you why they are essential in your fish tank. Keep reading to find out the benefits of a substrate in your aquarium.

The Benefits of Having Substrate in Your Fish Tank

Putting substrate in your fish tank is not just a formality. There are several vital roles that the substrate plays in ensuring a functional and thriving aquarium. Here are some of these functions:

1) It Serves As A Bacteria Medium

Just as not all bacteria are dangerous to us as humans, the same way it is for Bettas. You see, bacteria play a significant role in completing the nitrogen cycle in your aquarium ecosystem. However, for this to happen, the bacteria will need a place to call home. The substrate acts as a medium for bacteria to colonize, grow, and perform their functions.

Fish generally produce ammonia and nitrites alongside their waste. However, these compounds are toxic to all fish, including bettas. This is where bacteria comes into the equation. The bacteria break down the destruction of your fishy pets and render the accompanying compounds harmless. Essentially, substrate-residing bacteria help you make your fish tank much safer for your betta friends.

2) It Imitates Fish Habitat

A substrate in your fish tank helps to create a semblance of a more natural habit for your bettas. Fish that live in the wild have sand, rocks, and other natural materials to play and live in. By adding similar materials to your aquarium, you help them feel more at home. Thus, improving their mental health and overall wellbeing.

Furthermore, with the presence of a substrate, your fish can enjoy all the things they’d otherwise miss out on in a bare tank. They can simulate adventures and burrow into the substrates. Moreover, the substrate helps your fish feel safe since they cannot see their reflection from the bottom of the glass.

3) It Helps Keep Your Fish Tank Clean

It is probably no news that you will need to change the water in your aquarium periodically. But, you probably did not know that substrate can reduce the frequency at which you need to do so. You see, the biological functions of a substrate (especially gravel) include a filtration effect. This can help to reduce the number of times you need to renew your aquarium water.

On the other hand, in a bare tank, all the waste and other debris will settle at the tank’s bottom. This essentially translates to more cleaning chores for you. Besides, frequent cleaning and water change may stress out your fish.

4) It Adds Aesthetic Value To Your Aquarium

Undeniably, adding a substrate to your tank will boost the overall aesthetics of the habitat. The skillful combinations of rocks, plants, driftwood, and more will create a visually-pleasing landscape. Furthermore, a beautiful aquarium can also have a calming effect on those who gaze upon it. It can even help your fish look more pretty!

By choosing a substrate color that complements your fish, you can make its colors pop. As a rule of thumb, light color substrate enhances dark fish’s color while dark-tone substrate highlights light-colored fish. So you see, your aquarium generally looks better with some substrate on the scene.

5) It Anchors Your Aquarium Plants

Finally, if you want plants in your betta fish tank, there is only one way to do it. You need to put some substrate in there. The substrate in your aquarium will be the anchor for your plants – live plants or otherwise. After all, pretty much all plants need to take hold of a solid surface with their roots. However, the amount for your substrate may vary based on your plants.

Typically, live plants require about two inches of a substrate, while an inch will work for artificial plants.

Wrap Up

We have now come to the end of your review on the best substrate for bettas. If you reached this point, congratulations. By now, you should now have the insight you need to choose and buy a substrate for your betta fish tank. Remember, you want to complement your aquarium and fish. Bearing this in mind and the information from our review, you may go ahead and make your decision.


Latest posts

  • Why Are Sea Anemones Sticky: Uncovering the Secrets of Their Adhesive Powers

    Why Are Sea Anemones Sticky: Uncovering the Secrets of Their Adhesive Powers

    Sea anemones are fascinating marine creatures, often admired for their vibrant colors and graceful tentacle movements. The sticky sensation one experiences when touching an anemone might not be immediately apparent. This trait serves a crucial role in their survival. The stickiness is due to a specialized type of cell called a cnidocyte, which contains a…

    Read more

  • How Long Can a Sea Anemone Live Out of Water: Survival Time Exposed

    How Long Can a Sea Anemone Live Out of Water: Survival Time Exposed

    A sea anemone’s ability to survive out of water is limited and depends on various factors, including the species, the humidity of the surrounding environment, and the length of exposure to air. While sea anemones have adapted well to life under the sea, circumstances may occasionally expose them to air, such as during low tides.…

    Read more

  • How Fast Can a Sea Anemone Travel by Itself: Unveiling Marine Mobility Mysteries

    How Fast Can a Sea Anemone Travel by Itself: Unveiling Marine Mobility Mysteries

    Sea anemones are sedentary creatures often found clinging to rocks or burrowed in sediment in marine environments. Their movement is not what one typically envisions when thinking of oceanic travel. Instead of active swimming or crawling over large distances, anemones usually exhibit minimal displacement, relying on external forces for any significant location change. The ability…

    Read more