For aquarists, a fish tank isn’t just a place where they can keep and pet their fish. Instead, you’ll find them turning it into a model ocean. The most passionate aquarists will do everything they can to make their aquarium look as natural as possible. It’s a combination of providing their pet animals/fish with the best ecosystem to live in and a desire for aesthetic pleasure that compels us to make our aquariums look better.

For this purpose, you’ll find many different kinds of aquarium accessories in the market. The live plants, floating plants, decoration items, moss, customized-lighting, substrates, and more – the list is endless.

In this article, we will only be reviewing the substrates – or more precisely, the aquarium gravel. Gravel is the most common form of substrate for freshwater aquaria. As soon as you have your aquarium ready, one of the first things that will get your ecosystem building is the substrate. It will not only add aesthetics to your aquarium but it’s needed to balance the environment inside.

Your plants, your fish, your tank’s hygiene – the gravel will contribute to each.

By the end of this article, you will have learned how gravel is vital for the health and looks of your tank. You will also find answers to some frequently asked and informational questions around the topic, a list of 10 best aquarium gravel in the market, and a buying guide to help you choose the best gravel out there.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

 

Do I Have To Use Gravel In My Fish Tank?

While newbies would argue on the importance of gravel for beautification purposes, an aquarist will always know that having a gravel in your aquarium is just as important as oxygen. You see, without having a proper substrate in your aquarium, your fish become directly exposed to dying from impurities and the organic waste in the fish tank.

The gravel comprises of small particles that makes them have tiny spaces between them when layered at the bottom of the tank. The organic waste goes down the gravel into these spaces and in return, the gravel ends up serving as a filtration medium for the tank.

Moreover, the aquarium gravel also serves as a home for bacterial colonies that help to maintain the tank’s hygiene and keep it healthy.

The aquariums up to 55 gallons should be fine with 1-2 inches high layer of gravel in the tank. Larger aquariums can do well with a layer that’s 2-3 inches in height. This helps to balance the water in your tank. Also, in right conditions, such a setting will help your plants thrive and root properly after plantation.

If you are anchoring plants like Java Moss, you will be needing anchoring mediums to keep them standing in the aquarium – gravel is the way to anchor any aquarium plants that you add in your aquaria.

In simple words, your gravel will affect the health of your fish, water filtration, help you add plants, and improve your aquarium’s aesthetics.

 

Types of Aquarium Gravel That You Can Buy

Besides the traditional aquarium gravel, there are a few more directions that you could go towards. Let’s dig a bit into various types of aquarium substrates.

 

Aquarium Gravel

The most common and the most beneficial substrate, aquarium gravel, is an ideal addition for freshwater aquariums. The key here is to have small-to-medium, smooth, non-sharp, particles so they are not harmful for the fish.

 

Marbles

Marbles can be used as another type of substrate. However, the large gaps between multiple particles make them a less-favorable choice for most aquarists. They’re usually flat and not spherical. The ends up causing the fish food to get stuck between the large gaps.

 

Coral Gravel

Coral sand is made of calcium carbonate. It slowly dissolves in the water – offsetting the built-up impurities and acid in the aquarium. However, this results in the increase in the pH level of the water – making it only suitable for fish that live in higher pH-level waters.

 

Marble Chippings

Marble chippings are like coral sand – they’re also made from calcium carbonate. They increase the hardness and pH levels of water much faster than coral sand.

 

Factors To Consider When Choosing The Best Aquarium Gravel

If you want to avoid being regretful in the future – getting that old bag of gravel that lacks the necessary features – then it’s best to have an eye out for certain features. Consider the following factors in your aquarium gravel before you finalize your purchase:

 

Size

The major difference that stems from the variance in particle size is the gap they generate between individual particles. The gap is used as a space for biological and food waist. If this area is not maintained well, it can end up being harmful for the fish. When you get an aquarium gravel, you need to get a reasonable-sized substrate that will sit well with the aquarium, work as a filter for the biological waist and help your plants thrive, and be easy to clean afterward.

The live plants you want to put in your aquarium will also affect your decision-making. The smaller particles are more suited to anchor live plants well.

 

Budget

Aquarium gravel quality varies, especially when it comes to the size to price ratio, you will come across a couple of offers. Getting yourself a larger bag will allow you to pack a better offer that will save you money in the long run.

 

Color

Whether you want black aquarium gravel, glow in dark rocks, or planning to match the gravel aesthetic with your fish colors, you’ll have a decent room for customization here. As many aquarists prefer building an ocean-like aesthetic for their fish tank, going for a natural aquarium gravel look would make sense too.

 

Tank Size/Type

One of the most important things to consider before exploring your substrate options it to determine the type of tank you have. A breeder tank, marine aquarium, reef tank, fish only, etc. these would all have different gravel requirements. Some species will do well with one gravel and the fish will do well with another.

For instance, some cichlids do better in sand, planted aquariums would thrive well in a clay gravel, sand substrate will go well with fish that enjoy burrowing, etc.

 

Safety

The gravel goes inside your fish tank and contributes to the ecosystem you are building for your fish. You always have to opt for a non-toxic gravel. Something that does not result in inadvertent issues for your fish. So, it goes without saying that you have to ensure a safe gravel for your aquarium – checking in with the manufacturer/provider specifications is the best way to do so.

 

Here Are Some Fine Aquarium Gravel Choices For 2020

So, without any further ado, we want to hitch you to our much-arraigned and well-sought list of aquarium gravels. We had initially chosen 35 gravel types from amazon from different manufacturers. However, we have narrowed the list down to 10 products and all the products are chosen with respect to customer reviews, quality, size, looks, and compatibility with aquarium types.

ProductTypePolished/rinsed
Natural Aquarium Gravel (River Rock) Natural Aquarium Gravel (River Rock) River RocksYes
Black Aquarium Gravel Black Aquarium Gravel River RocksYes
Polished Fish Tank Glass Rocks Polished Fish Tank Glass Rocks High-quality glass gravelYes
Nature’s Ocean Aquarium Gravel – Pure Water Pebbles Nature’s Ocean Aquarium Gravel – Pure Water PebblesBlue LagoonAcrylic Coating
Flourite Clay Gravel – Seachem Flourite Clay Gravel – SeachemPorous ClayNot chemically treated
River Rocks Natural Gravel River Rocks Natural Gravel River Rock PebblesYes
Mix Color Fluorite Polished Gravel Mix Color Fluorite Polished Gravel Fluorite Pebble GravelYes
Glass Stone Artificial Pebbles Glass Stone Artificial PebblesArtificial Crystal GemstonesYes
Natural Decorative Polished White Pebbles Natural Decorative Polished White PebblesArtificial Crystal GemstonesPolished in pure paraffin wax
 Black with White Fluorescent Gravel Black with White Fluorescent GravelFluorescent white with black stonesNo




  • Package Dimensions: 07 x 13.86 x 3.43 inches
  • Weight: 18 lbs.
  • Size: 1 – 2 inches
  • Type: River Rocks
  • Polished/Rinsed: Yes
  • Suitable For: 20-gallon tank (1 layer)

 

This aquarium gravel by CKFJ packs a river rock aesthetic and happens to be an ideal gravel for fish tank, aquarium, and vase. It can also be used as a potting soil for indoor plants, cactus soil, and succulent soil. It has a very natural color and the pebbles include a variety of different shades of black, brown, and white rocks. A few may be broken, out of shape, or thin/oval. This adds to the natural aesthetic of the gravel and makes it look more natural!

There aren’t any sharp edges – so that’s taken care of. It can be used as an alternative to mulch in indoors/outdoors environment. It’s the perfect accent for your aquarium and you can use the stones just well to fit in your live plants.

Ideal for aquariums or other ornamental purposes, this polished natural gravel is what every aquarist needs.

 

Pros

  • Super easy to clean
  • Your fish are going to love them
  • Safe
  • Big enough to clean and preventing fish from swallowing these
  • Excellent price to value ratio

 

Cons

  • If you are looking for an even-sized gravel particles, this may not be the right choice

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 06 x 10.67 x 3.43 inches
  • Weight: 18 lbs.
  • Size: 85 – 1.55 inches
  • Type: River Rocks
  • Polished/Rinsed: Yes
  • Suitable For: 15-gallon tank (1 layer)

 

This river rocks polished gravel comes in black color and has a very smooth effect to it. It won’t fade and this river rock is naturally black, so it isn’t just black polish on your average river rock. It’s actually black river rock. The features of this aquarium gravel are almost same as the first one. However, particle size of this gravel is a bit smaller than the previous one. Each particle is around 0.85 to 1.55 inches in size.

Due to its smaller size, black color, and beautiful smooth look, this aquarium gravel will serve as a great substrate for your aquarium. There aren’t any sharp edges and most of the gravel particles will be in round, oval, or rectangle shape.

Whether you want to use it for your aquarium or as a vase filler, this black gravel will look both elegant and naturally beautiful!

 

Pros

  • Natural black gravel
  • Easier to clean
  • Lovely rocks
  • Best price for weight

 

Cons

  • They might not go so good in a walstad tank

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 45 x 6.69 x 1.97 inches
  • Weight:4 lbs.
  • Size: 15 – 0.24 inches
  • Type: High-quality glass gravel
  • Polished/Rinsed: Yes
  • Suitable For: 5-gallon tank (1-inch layer)

 

This tiny glass gravel isn’t a natural one. However, its colors do not fade away over time. It can be used as a decoration and anchoring layer for fish tanks, plants, vases, and more! Add it to your fish tank and your whole aquarium will develop an elegant and shiny look.

Before using, you will have to rinse the gravels 34 times before you put them in a fish tank and it’s highly advised that you do not rub these violently or you’ll mess up with their shine. The rocks are tiny so there won’t be much space between multiple particles – allowing you to anchor multiple plants to the gravel layer.

This aquarium gravel is smooth and will work perfectly for a 5 gallon tank. It’s a safe gravel, is easy to clean, and looks great. We haven’t found anything wrong with this one.

Pros

  • This is a beautiful looking gravel
  • Small particles – making it an ideal place for healthy bacterial colonies

 

Cons

  • It’s not a natural gravel

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 3 x 6.9 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight:8 lbs.
  • Size: 12 – 0.24 inches
  • Type: Blue Lagoon
  • Polished/Rinsed: Acrylic Coating
  • Suitable For: 8 to 10-gallon tank

 

This blue lagoon aquarium gravel is heat sanitized, hand-washed, safe for your fish, and all ready to be a part of your aquarium. It has a 100% acrylic coating that will not alter the chemistry of your fish tank. The pebbles are absolutely safe, well-shaped, and safe.

The manufacturers emphasize their usage as fresh and saltwater aquarium décor, outdoor and indoor ponds, vases, ash trays, and more. Each package brings home enough pebbles to carpet a 10-gallon tank with 1-inch layer – so the quantity department is taken care of.

For cleaning the gravel, let the pebbles sit in a bucket of warm water at least for 30 minutes and gently rinse them before putting the gravel back. We’d also suggest you to wash the pebbles once after taking them out of the package – it’ll help you get rid of any old/weary fainting pebbles and you’ll safe yourself the trouble of changing your aquarium water in the long run.

 

Pros

  • Enough quantity for a ten-gallon tank
  • You’re going to love the color of your tank after this
  • Great product for a great price

 

Cons

  • We advise you to treat them after taking out of the packaging – just to be safe

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 17 x 11.75 x 1.75 inches
  • Weight: 16 lbs.
  • Size: It’s a clay gravel
  • Type: Porous Clay
  • Polished/Rinsed: Not chemically treated
  • Suitable For: 15 Gallon Tank

 

This fluorite clay comes in a natural porous clay form and packs a beautiful black color. It is specially fracted for a natural planted aquarium. The appearance is best suited to aquaria. It may serve well for other purposes but we won’t suggest it.

If you use this clay, you won’t have to get any gravel modifier. This product is most-effective when used individually as a nice substrate layer. However, if you combine this clay gravel with a natural aquarium gravel stones and it’ll make your aquarium look aesthetically ah-mazing!

Moreover, since it is not chemically coated, it is 100 percent guaranteed that it will not alter the pH of the water. After placing the clay bed in your aquarium, place a bowl in your aquarium and slowly pour water onto it – let the water fill very calmly so it doesn’t mess with the shape of your substrate bed. Close your eyes and order this – trust us.

Note: It’s not black sand – it’s clay gravel.

 

Pros

  • Seachem products are amazing
  • Looks amazing
  • Contains little rocks that add a natural touch

 

Cons

  • We recommend rinsing the gravel in a fine mesh screen before putting in the tank

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 6 x 4.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Weight:2/5 lbs. (Comes in two bags)
  • Size: 3 – 4 inches pebble
  • Type: River Rock Pebbles
  • Polished/Rinsed: Yes
  • Suitable For: 2 – 3 gallon tank

 

This isn’t exactly your traditional gravel. It can serve as an epic accent for aquariums, gardens, and vase etc. However, since each pebble is around 3-4 inches in size, you will have to use this gravel in combination with another clay – the above fluorite clay gravel would do!

It’s perfect for home décor projects, floral arrangements, pillar candle, display cannisters, aquariums (of course), and more! The warm-toned pebbles come in multiple colors. Brow, off-white, gray, skin, etc.

River rock also qualifies as a beautiful patio design. The different colored shapes and aesthetic warm-toned cozy colors can sit in multiple fittings. Just get a small bag and you won’t regret utilizing them ever. They’re super easy to clean as well!

 

Pros

  • Add an extra beauty to every ornament around you
  • They’re 3-4 inch each so can be used as a great anchor for a plant like java moss

 

Cons

  • You may have to grab multiple bags of this for a complete gravel bed for your tank

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 4 x 3.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Weight: 1 lbs.
  • Size: 35 – 0.59 inches pebble
  • Type: Fluorite Pebble Gravel
  • Polished/Rinsed: Yes
  • Suitable For: 10-gallon tank (4-5 bags)

 

This beautifully polished gravel packs a multi-colored feature to it and surprises you with bonus crystals often such as tumbled crystal, selenite stick, and more. You are going to find orange, yellow, violet, gray, purple, and a whole bunch of unique color pebbles in this gravel.

This is not only an excellent stone for an aquarium but also serves as a great substrate for air plants, bottle fillers, home décor ornaments, and more.

It comes with a 100% money-back guarantee – if you aren’t happy with the product, receive your money back.

It comes in multiple shapes, the tumbled, irregular fluorite chip stones, polished stones, and natural pebbles. This gravel has what it takes to become the heart of your fish tank.

 

Pros

  • Comes with a 100 percent money-back guarantee.
  • Beautifully colored, royal product by Mimosa
  • Serves as glitter for your tank

 

Cons

  • Not the quantity you’d expect
  • Some pebbles appear to be a glass

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 15 x 3.85 x 1.14 inches
  • Weight: 1 lbs.
  • Size: 2 – 0.35 inches pebble
  • Type: Artificial Crystal Gemstones
  • Polished/Rinsed: Yes
  • Suitable For: 1-gallon tank (1-2 bags)

 

These glass stone pebbles are good selection of glass material, pieced and processed into irregular-shaped gravel. These are safe and long-lasting pebbles – just like any river gravels. Made from glass, they are lustrous, glossy, and their color won’t fade away through time.

Not only can you use these for your fish, succulent plants, etc. but they’ll also help you in building a more shining look for your home. Vase fillers, candle fillers – use them anywhere.

Since they’re safe and very uniquely colored, this fine aquarium gravel will light up your fish tank. We are hitching you up with the blue ones but they’re available in multiple colors, feel free to check them out as well.

 

Pros

  • Available in vibrant colors
  • They’re small. They’ll serve as a plant-anchoring heaven
  • Not natural but still safe for fish and aquarium

 

Cons

  • They can be very small. Make sure this is what you need first.
  • Come in only 1 lbs. bags.

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 5 x 4.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Weight:05 lbs.
  • Size: 3/8” inches average size
  • Type: Artificial Crystal Gemstones
  • Polished/Rinsed: Polished in pure paraffin wax
  • Suitable For: 10-gallon tank (4-5 bags)

 

We wanted to include one white-colored gravel in case anyone had a particular preference. This small, natural, paraffin-wax polished gravel is shined to perfection. Each stone’s size is around 3-4 inches and comes in oval-like, spherical shapes.

They are eco-friendly stones and don’t require any additional fillers, dyes, or oils. Just take them out of the packet and place them in the spot.

You can use them in betta fish tanks, mix them with other aquarium gravels to achieve an even better look, or use them to add color to your interior décor items.

 

Pros

  • Would look amazing in a combination of white/black gravel bed
  • Good quantity and quality for the price

 

Cons

  • Some people might want smaller pebbles. These are all above 3 inches on average

more reviews and price on Amazon

  • Package Dimensions: 4 x 5 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Size: 25 – 0.5 inches
  • Type: Fluorescent white with black stones
  • Polished/Rinsed: No
  • Suitable For: 5-gallons tank (1 bag)

 

This GloFish aquarium gravel can be the missing piece to your puzzle. It can complete your experience as an aquarist and will complement your fish. It is specifically put together to stand out under blue lighting. The pearlescent gravel highlights your fish and makes your aquarium shine in dark.

One five-pound bag is enough for a sheet of substrate in your aquarium. The gravel will normally be clean on order. However, it’s suggested that you wash it once and clear out the little dust/residue before putting it into the tank.

Make this gravel a combination with one or more large-sized pebbles and you’ll have yourself a very natural-looking aquarium in no time.

 

Pros

  • Multi-colored (black/white) in one gravel
  • Glows under white light
  • Great quantity and value for price

 

Cons

  • You should wash it before putting it into your tank
  • Not ideal if you want large-sized pebbles

more reviews and price on Amazon

 

 

 

What Is Better For An Aquarium, Gravel or Sand?

This is a scenario-based debate. Most aquarists believe that gravel is the better choice for most freshwater aquariums. It comes in variety of colors so it will always help you satisfy your aesthetic sense.

When it comes to sand, it can also be good in some cases – especially where you don’t want water to flow through (or for sectioning your aquarium). A sand substrate, in most cases, will not be the best filter because the water won’t flow through. On the other hand, a gravel will act as a filter for organic waste and prolong your water-replacement sessions.

 

How Deep Should Gravel Be In A Fish Tank?

If you have only got fish in your aquarium, then a 1” to 2.5” inch layer would do! However, if you are planning to keep plants, you may have to add another 1” nutrient layer below the gravel so it may result in thickening the overall look.

 

How Much Aquarium Gravel Do I Need?

Generally, 1 pound of gravel per gallon of water or maximum per 2 gallons of water. For a 10-gallon fish tank, a safe bet would be 5 pounds of gravel. But, a lot of people would adjust anywhere between 5-10 pounds of gravel for a 10-gallon fish tank.

 

Some DIY Fish Tank Gravel Ideas To Get You Going

Pea gravel and pool filter sand are some of our top-of-the-line suggestions. You will find pea gravel being used in landscaping but it’s also considered safe for aquariums. It will make your aquarium look natural! If that’s the look you want, go for it.

Similarly, pool filter sand is also available in bulk in lesser price, so it can be an economical choice.

Lastly, using your outdoor pebbles and stones may work as well. However, you have got to make sure that your stones don’t have any pointy ends or your fish might end up getting hurt. Also, an ideal tip in this case would be to test your potential outdoor-gravel for calcium. The testing can be as simple as dropping a few drops on vinegar. If there appears a foam-like layer on the stones, don’t use them. It means that the gravel has calcium, which will eventually alter the pH of your water. You get the point, right?