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The Best Gravel Substrates for Your Aquarium

a goldfish in an aquarium near the bottom layer of gravel and rocks

Because of its versatile, affordable nature, aquarium gravel has become the most popular choice of substrate for home aquariums. Gravel substrate serves many purposes: not only does it mimic the natural habitat of fish and aquatic plants, but it also acts as a breeding ground for beneficial bacteria that are critical for a thriving aquarium. Whether you are looking to create a healthy habitat for your aquatic pets or to simply enhance the aesthetics of your aquarium, gravel substrate comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, so you’ll never have trouble finding one that fits the needs of your tank. Here are some gravel substrates that we highly recommend.

Buying Gravel Substrate

Here’s what you’ll want to look into:

  • Formula: To prolong the livelihood of your fish and the overall wellbeing of your aquarium, you need to look for natural, high-quality gravel substrates. If you have a planted aquarium, you should look for porous, non-compacting gravel that will allow your plants to take root and flourish.
  • Natural Look: Mottled gravel that comes in different shades of earth tones is best for fish, as it replicates their natural habitat and helps them feel safe.

Best for Fish: CFKJ Aquarium River Rock Gravel

small aquarium filled with goldfish and brown gravel on the bottom of the tank

This gravel substrate is designed to add a touch of natural beauty to your aquarium. The package comes with 18 pounds of natural river rocks that have been lightly polished with an ultra-smooth finish. The rocks come in different shades of brown, black, and white to create a neutral background that’ll highlight the beauty of your aquatic pets. Each rock measures between 1 and 2 inches, making them bigger than most gravel substrates and super easy to clean. This smooth gravel will make a great addition to any high-quality aquarium.

Best for Fish

Best for Aquatic Plants: Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum

green plastic bag with a cover that features aquatic plants growing out of brown gravel

This gravel is derived from the mineral-rich foothills of the Mount Aso Volcano in Japan. With a full range of micro and macronutrients, this gravel is perfect for stimulating the growth of aquatic plants in freshwater aquariums. The gravel has a light, non-compacting, porous structure that allows plant roots to easily penetrate and spread through the substrate; it is also highly beneficial for nitrifying bacteria that work to provide optimal water quality for live aquatic plants. The gravel’s inherent nutrient-rich properties help maintain a neutral to slightly acidic pH level ideal for most plant species.

Best for Aquatic Plants

Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum, For Fish Tanks, 8.8 lbs.,

This gravel has a light, porous structure that allows plant roots to easily penetrate and lock into the substrate.

Best Colored Option: Mimosa Natural Mix Fluorite Gravel

small circle of aquarium gravel in shades of blue, purple, and brown

If you want to add a pop of color to your aquarium, this gravel should do the trick: it is crafted from natural fluorite crystals that come in a wide range of mystical colors. The gravel has been tumbled and polished in order to create a colorful, safe base for your tank and provide superior-quality filtration. While the majority of the gravel is derived from fluorite, it also includes a mix of selenite and other tumbled crystals that are safe for use in your aquarium tank.

Best Colored Option

Also Great: GloFish Fluorescent Aquarium Gravel

small circle of black aquarium gravel mixed with brightly colored stones

Does your tank come with an LED lighting attachment? If so, you should check out this fluorescent gravel! When paired with LED or other blue wavelength lights, this brightly colored gravel creates an underwater paradise for your aquatic pets. It is designed to absorb light and then re-emit it, so the gravel will appear brighter and more vibrant the longer it is exposed to light. The gravel works well on its own as a substrate, but it can also be mixed with other gravels for a more natural look.

Also Great

GloFish aquarium Gravel 5 Pounds, Black With Fluorescent Accents, Complements GloFish Tanks

This gravel is designed to absorb light and then re-emit it, so it will appear brighter the longer it is exposed to light.

Ellie Miller Ellie Miller
Ellie Miller is a full-time copy editor and occasional writer for LifeSavvy’s reviews articles. With years of experience in substantive and copy editing, proofreading, and publishing, she has edited thousands of online articles, as well as memoirs, scientific essays, book chapters, and workplace training documents. She hopes you’ll find some new favorite products here on LifeSavvy like she has. Read Full Bio »
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