The Best Substrate for Betta Fish in 2024

best substrate for betta

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The type of substrate you choose for your betta tank influences everything from the water chemistry and water quality of the aquarium, to how effective its filtration process is. This is why it’s important for you to carefully choose which substrate you use for your betta fish.

Sadly, identifying excellent choices for freshwater aquarium substrate can be a challenging task, especially if you aren’t familiar with this space. Not only are there a wide variety of options to choose from but there are also several factors you have to consider during decision-making, too.

Thankfully, that’s why Natural AquaScaping is here!

Keep reading to find the best types of substrates for your betta fish and aquatic plants today. All budgets welcome!!!

1. Activ Betta Aquarium Sand

For those who prefer an all-natural environment for their fish tanks, Activ Betta is the perfect choice of substrate.

This high-quality aquarium sand is made from a blend of silica-free, no-colored substrate and phosphate with non-toxic coating and zero toxic chemical elements included. This is the ideal choice for creating that healthy environment for your beautiful fish.

Even with no artificial color, this substrate for bettas is still quite beautiful, as it shines a little when light hits it just right. So, if you wanted a substrate type that’d add to the beauty of your aquarium, this layer of sand wouldn’t be an off-purchase.

Another great thing about this high-quality substrate for betta fish is that it contains numerous essential nutrients in large amounts. The beneficial bacteria that these special aquarium soils are blessed with support aquatic plant growth more readily, creating an aquatic environment your fish can actually thrive in.

If you’re wondering why, it’s because the beneficial bacteria consume the waste of your betta fish, processing it into plant-friendly nutrients!

It’s also an excellent substrate choice for those who prefer to perform more comfortable and less frequent cleaning exercises on their aquarium. And, thanks to its host of healthy bacteria, your aquarium won’t smell as much either.

Activ Betta just might be the affordable, yet highly efficient aquarium substrate you’ve been looking for!


  • It’s affordable.
  • Improves water chemistry significantly.
  • Is a nutrient-rich substrate type.
  • Is an Amazon’s Choice product.
  • Biological filtration systems and water circulation through substrate are enhanced.
  • Helps create a natural and ideal environment for your fish.


  • Due to its particle size and properties, this aquarium sand doesn’t settle quickly.
  • Isn’t available in a selection of colors.

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2. MEIMEI Tourmaline Balls for Betta Fish Tank Accessories

If you’re shopping for decorative substrates, this one’s for you.

Designed to look like a layer of rocks, MEIMEI Tourmaline Balls are the perfect option for aquarium owners who want to spruce up their fish tanks safely yet elegantly.

These pseudo-natural rocks come in orange and light gray balls of two different sizes. This creates a stunning balance of contrasts that’ll certainly give your fish tank a unique and mesmerizing visual appeal.

Some tropical fish and freshwater aquarium owners indeed worry that these types of aquarium gravel can increase the water’s pH levels. However, that won’t be an issue with these artificial substrates.

We tested them out on our office betta fish tank and couldn’t detect any significant difference in water pH levels, or any other water parameters for that matter. You can rest assured that these easy-on-the-eyes substrates won’t hurt your fish in any way.


  • These fish tank substrates are very budget-friendly.
  • Adds more color and visual appeal to even larger tanks.
  • Doesn’t negatively impact the aquatic environment of the tank at all.
  • Helps make the fish happier.


  • The balls weren’t as large as expected.

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3. CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

The more affordable version of the CaribSea Eco-Complete 20-pound planted aquarium, CaribSea Super Naturals leaves very little to be desired.

Most types of substrates typically fall into one of two categories; they’re either more optimized to encourage background plants and aquatic plant growth, better biological filtration systems, and good water circulation, or they’re better suited for enhancing the overall aesthetics of the aquarium tank.

However, one common substrate aquarists can use to get the best of both worlds is this Carib Sea soil.

It’s available in an extensive variety of colors so you have plenty of material to work with. What’s more, this excellent substrate also carries plenty of additional nutrients for the optimal growth of plants and other aquatic life.

Arguably the best substrate for betta fish right now, this CaribSea aquatics soft sand just might be what you need to complete the ideal environment for your fish.

One downside is that this substrate can generate copious amounts of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) fast. While this can be avoided by agitating the sand bed regularly, it may be an inconvenience for some aquarists moving forward.

Also, cleaning this natural soil is more difficult than cleaning your average porous gravel substrates.

If you can put in the work, this beautiful and nutrient-rich substrate depth will certainly prove to be worth the effort.


  • Available in a wide variety of colors.
  • Easily supports the growth of plenty of plants and fish.
  • Maintains clean water chemistry more easily.
  • Relatively affordable.
  • Adds to the overall visual appeal of your aquarium.


  • Generates hydrogen sulphide which can be poisonous and extremely foul-smelling.
  • The surface layer isn’t as easy to clean.

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4. AquaNatural Betta World Purple Diamond Substrate

Another great sand substrate for betta tanks, this product stands out from the other entries on our list so far. This substrate is arguably the perfect color for highlighting the true beauty of your betta fish.

Rather unexpectedly, the purple-dark soil you get with AquaNatural complements rather than conflicts with the striking colors of the betta fish. When these fish glide around in a tank filled with sand, the resulting image is truly sublime.

Don’t expect much more from these purple-colored particles, though. While they won’t do anything to improve water circulation or the nutrient content of the aquatic environment, they don’t release any residue that might harm it either.


  • Makes the natural environment in the tank more beautiful.
  • Non-toxic and environmentally friendly.
  • Doesn’t affect the water chemistry at all.
  • Doesn’t get dirty easily.


  • This item is a little bit expensive considering the value.

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5. Spectrastone Shallow Creek Substrate for Betta Fish

You can make the home of your betta fish more pristine by gathering small gravel from a clear-water lake or pond. Or, you could save yourself the trouble and purchase a packet of Spectrastone Shallow Creek substrate for betta fish and get the exact same result!

This basic-color gravel is made from high-quality polymer resin. As such, it’s stronger and sturdier than your average porous gravel substrates. Because they look so simple and natural, they’ll fit in more easily with your light plants and fish.


  • One of the best low-budget options where decorative gravel substrates are concerned.
  • Can contribute to better plant root growth.
  • Makes your water tank a more natural-looking environment.
  • Doesn’t negatively influence water chemistry.
  • They’re long-lasting.


  • Has to be washed very thoroughly.

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Other Great Betta Fish Substrates We Considered

Choosing the Best Substrate for Betta Fish

If you want to pick the perfect option where substrate for a fish tank is concerned, you’ve got to know a few things first. Here’s a concise aquarium substrate guide you can follow.

What is a Substrate?

Any material used to line the bottom of fish tanks is referred to as a substrate. Substrates can take different forms and influence the aquatic environment of your betta fish in various ways as a result.

What’s the Purpose of an Artificial or All-Natural Substrate?

  1. To provide the ideal alkaline or acidic environment for the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  2. To give the aquarium a warmer and more natural look.
  3. To create a surface layer that assists the growth of plant roots.
  4. To serve as a place your fish can hide or play.
  5. To contribute to existing biological filtration systems and promote water circulation.
  6. To process uneaten food and fish waste and convert it to plant food.
  7. To keep the aquarium water clean, fresh, and clear.

The list of purposes that a high-quality substrate can serve is almost endless. That said, how well any substrate can perform any or all of the above functions depends on its properties.

Types of Substrates

The substrates for betta fish fall into two (2) broad categories. These are:

Natural Substrates

These substrates for bettas are muddy by nature and have silty bottoms. They’re more commonly found in regions like Thailand, the rice paddies of Southeast Asia, and Cambodia, the original home of the betta fish.

However, for obvious reasons, it isn’t very easy to recreate or get this type of habitat.

Artificial Substrates

As natural substrate isn’t readily available, artificial substrates have become a very popular choice. Some of the more common ones are aquarium sand, aquarium gravel, stone aggregate, marble chippings, and glass marble substrates.

These substrates can come in a wide selection of colors and sizes.

Most Important Substrates to Avoid

Just as there’s the best substrate for betta fish aquariums, there are also substrate materials you’d do well to avoid. You don’t want to shorten the lifespan of the aquatic species or trigger any negative effects in the fish tank.

The first substrate in this category is coral sand. The main reason for this is that the material is rich in calcium carbonate (CaCO3). This chemical compound decreases the acidity of the water gradually, eventually making it unfit for betta fish.

Similarly, you want to steer clear of common rocks or play sand by the beach, as the chances that these can harbor harmful bacteria and/or chemicals are quite high.

Finally, avoid putting crushed glass or rock with sharp edges in your fish tank as well. All it takes is one little scrape and they could rip the fins of your fish.

Betta Fish Substrate FAQs

1. Can My Betta Fish Eat Sand Substrates?

Yes, your betta fish can eat sand substrates. More specifically, in their natural environment, betta fish will often do this to clean their intestines or remove residue. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to pick a safe and healthy substrate for your aquarium.

2. Is There a Best Color Gravel for Betta Fish?

No, there isn’t a best color gravel for betta fish. However, you do want their habitat to be as close to their natural environment as possible. In this case, the ideal choice of color gravel would be yellow or light brown.

3. Is it Possible to Tell if My Betta is Happy in the Tank?

Yes, it is possible to tell if your betta is happy in the tank. Some signs to look for are fins that open flexibly and evenly, a bright and full-body color, and especially fluid and flexible swimming.


Picking the best substrate for betta fish means you need to strike the ideal balance between visual appeal and functionality. Even if you’ll be leaning more heavily towards surface layer options that’ll only beautify the aquarium, ensure that they exert little or no influence on the chemistry of the water.

Now that you know the most betta-friendly substrates out there, you just need to learn how to increase the lifespan of your fish!

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