Here’s the sad truth:
Too many Betta owners overlook the importance substrate plays in the health of their fish.
Most just check the color and price. Or worse–don’t have substrate.
But, if you do a bit of research and choose right, you can really enhance to look and health of your aquarium.
In this article, I’m going to provide you with everything you need to make the best decision possible when it comes to choosing the best substrate for your lovely Betta.
Let’s get started.
|Carib Sea ACS00832 Peace River Gravel for Aquarium, 20-Pound||from $45.59||Buy on Amazon|
|CaribSea Aragonite Aquarium Sand, 10 lbs, Tan||$8.99 $4.89||Buy on Amazon|
|Marina Decorative Gravel, 1-Pound, Blue||$7.32||Buy on Amazon|
|ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia II Normal Type (3L)||$25.99||Buy on Amazon|
What Substrate Do Betta Fish Have in the Wild?
In the wild, Betta fish inhabit shallow vegetated streams, marshes, and rice paddies in South Asia.
Wait, listen up. I want to make myself clear:
Although these waters are ‘shallow,’ they’re deeper and provide a more varied environment than most fish tanks.
So don’t keep them in tiny bowls!
Their natural substrate would consist of find muddy silt and layers of rotting vegetation. This environment provides them with plenty of shade, places to hide, and leaves to lounge on.
However, you don’t want to totally recreate their natural environment.
If you recreate their natural substrate (muddy, rotting vegetation), it’s going to make water changes extremely difficult and messy.
You’ll cloud your tank every time, making it very difficult for you to ever see your Betta.
You’ll also need an extremely powerful filter to deal with the amount of ammonia the rotting plant will produce. In a nutshell, it’s unrealistic.
Here’s what you need to do:
Provide a substrate which is going to make your Betta happy. Sounds easy, right?
Well, actually, it is.
Your Betta needs plants (living or fake), to provide it with plenty of shade, hiding spots, and places to chill.
So, all you need to do is make sure your substrate can support real or fake plants.
Pro Tip: Only use natural or silk plants. Plastic ones may have sharp edges that will damage your Betta’s delicate fins.
How to Choose The Best Substrate For Your Betta
There’s no one-size fits all when it comes to choosing the best substrate for your Betta.
Really, it comes down to your tank, what’s inside, and what type of look you’re trying to achieve.
If you’re going to be using live plants, you need to know how they feed: are they water column or root feeders?
If your chosen plants obtain most their nutrients from the water column, you won’t need to invest in an expensive substrate packed full of nutrients.
On the flip side, if they’re root feeders you’ll want a substrate like Seachem Flourite to provide your plants with the nutrients they need to thrive.
What about fake silk plants?
Simple, you’ll just need a substrate which can support the silk plants. This could be gravel, sand, or marbles.
How Much Substrate Do You Need For a Betta Tank?
Again, it depends. The amount of substrate you use is the result of the size of your tank.
If you’re going to be keeping live plants, you’re going to want about 2 inches of substrate. For silk plants, one inch will be enough.
If you’re an awesome person, and keep your Betta in a 50 gallon+ aquarium, I recommend you use 2 inches of substrate if you’re using silk plants.
The Usual Suspects: Gravel vs. Sand
The two main title contenders when it comes to the best substrate for your Betta fish. But, which one’s best?
Again, there’s no real straight answer here.
What I’m going to do, is discuss the pros and cons of both so you can make an informed decision about which is best for you.
Available in a variety of colors and sizes, you could potentially achieve most looks with this style.
But, what you need to remember when choosing gravel, is to avoid sharp edges so your Betta fish won’t damage its fins.
Pros of using aquarium gravel:
Cons of using aquarium gravel:
Again, aquarium sand comes in many different varieties–from course sand to black Tahitian Moon sand.
Lightly colored sand can create a nice sparkle and provide a smooth look to your aquarium.
Pros of using aquarium sand:
Cons of using aquarium sand:
What Other Types Substrate Are There?
While sand and gravel are by far the most popular options hobbyist use, they’re not your only option.
Here are some other types of substrates you could try:
Personally, I wouldn’t use them myself because they’re not suitable for larger tanks.
However, they do provide a huge variety of colors, so you’ll be able to pick one to complement your Betta.
Pros of using marbles:
Cons of using marbles:
Going for the ‘bare-bottom’ look is another option, but, again, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Pros of using no substrate:
Cons of using no substrate:
So yeah–these are options, but honestly, I don’t recommend you using either of them.
Because neither of them are very good a promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
If your tank is unable to cycle, your Betta is going to be living in a toxic environment and that’s not okay.
If you want a natural look, and don’t want sand or gravel, this is your best option. It’s made up of sand, stones, and pebbles sourced from the great outdoors.
Pros of using stone aggregate:
Cons of using stone aggregate:
Now, here’s what you don’t want to do if you choose this route.
Pop outside and pick up a bunch of different stones or rocks you find lying around.
You don’t want to do this because you have no idea what they may introduce into your tank or if they’ll affect the water chemistry.
Always buy treated stone aggregate so you know it’s safe.
How to Achieve the Ultimate Natural Substrate For Your Betta
If you want to use real plants and achieve the most natural look possible, do this:
Combine different types of substrate.
Add a base layer of sand, a middle layer of aquarium soil, and a top layer of gravel.
This is going to create a base for your plants to root properly and grow naturally, plenty of surface space for beneficial bacteria to grow, and a super realistic look.
By combining different types of substrates, you’re able to counteract may of the issues caused by using a single type of substrate.
Layering the sand on the bottom will dramatically reduces the chance of toxic pockets of Hydrogen Sulphide gas to build up.
A middle layer of aquarium soil will provide your plants with nutrients and aid the nitrogen cycle.
And your top layer of gravel then prevents the smaller sand and soil particles from clouding your tank, whilst acting as a surface for beneficial bacteria to grow.
It’s a win, win, win.
So, which is best? Well, like I mentioned above there’s no one-size fits all when talking about substrate for your Betta.
But, if you want the ultimate natural looks, I highly recommend combining sand, soil, and gravel. It looks awesome.
You’ll also get great results from using just sand or gravel.
What I don’t recommend, is having no substrate or using marbles if you really want to take care of your Betta.
The role substrate plays in the nitrogen cycle is very important for the growth of beneficial bacteria. Without it, your Betta is living in a toxic environment.
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Last update on 2019-10-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API