10 Best Aquarium Gravels for This Year

BEST OVERALL

Seachem Flourite Dark Clay Gravel

PREMIUM CHOICE

Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

GREAT VALUE

SACKORANGE Aquarium Gravel

Gravel helps create the optimal environment for your fish. It oxygenates the water and stimulates the growth of helpful bacteria. It’s also particularly beneficial for tanks with plants as it ensures they root well and stay well-nourished. It’s easy to understand the benefits of gravel, but finding the right type of gravel for your aquarium can be tricky. Gravel comes in all shapes and sizes and there’s a wide selection of products to choose from. However, the right gravel for you will depend on several factors, including the size of your tank, the species of fish you have, and the existence of live plants.

Table of Contents

BEST OVERALL

Seachem Flourite Dark Clay Gravel

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This is a stable, porous type of gravel that’s particularly well-suited for natural planted aquariums, but it also works great in freshwater aquarium environments. It doesn’t require the use of gravel modifiers like laterite, and it’s most effective when used on its own, although you can mix it with other types of gravel. It’s compatible with an under gravel filter, which means that it won’t soften or decompose to an unsuitable state within your tank. It also won’t alter the pH levels of the water. Although it’s pre-washed, this gravel may become dusty in transit, so it needs to be rinsed before use. When adding water to the aquarium, it’s important to remember to fill slowly.

What We Like Most

Natural porous clay gravel

No artificial coatings or treatment

Works great for both natural-planted and freshwater aquariums

Compatible with an under-gravel filter

Requires rinsing before use

Our Synopsis:

This type of gravel is quite efficient in nourishing plants and it will look appealing in any fish tank.

Analyst Rating

PREMIUM CHOICE

Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

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This aquarium gravel is ideal for planted freshwater aquariums because it’s specifically formulated to enhance plant growth and root development. It’s biologically complete and packed with minerals to nourish your plants and prompt their growth. It also contains live Heterotrophic bacteria to rapidly convert fish waste into natural food for your plants. It doesn’t contain any artificial dyes, paints, or chemical coatings. If you’re adding it to an existing tank, make sure to mix in a few pounds a day over a period of a week or more to get the best results. Also, make sure to rinse thoroughly before adding it to your fish tank.

What We Like Most

Highly porous spherical grains

Encourages healthy plant growth

No artificial dyes or chemical coatings

Contains live bacteria to convert fish waste into food for plants

Suitable for freshwater planted aquariums

Our Synopsis:

This is a powerful gravel substrate that will keep your plants well-nourished.

Analyst Rating

GREAT VALUE

SACKORANGE Aquarium Gravel

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This aquarium gravel is lightly polished for smooth effect and it doesn’t contain sharp edges that may pose a danger to your fish. One rock measures approximately 1 inch in size. Gravel comes in a variety of natural colors, ranging from black and brown to grey and white. The colors resist fading and they will add a fresh touch to your fish tank. These river rocks help retain moisture and they provide good drainage, which also makes them great for potted plants. It works well not only for aquariums, but also for other water features, ponds, terrariums, driveways, and walkways.

What We Like Most

Polished and soft

An array of natural colors

Resists fading

Retains moisture

Provides good drainage

Our Synopsis:

This type of gravel is more suitable for fish that are bottom dwellers as it is smooth and polished.

Analyst Rating

4

Spectrastone Aquarium Gravel

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This gravel is designed for use in freshwater aquariums, although it also works great for potted plants as it provides good drainage. The creek stones are natural, so the color varies from light to dark brown and red. The size of the gravel pieces vary from 2mm to 4mm, so they are fairly small. This aquarium gravel is non-toxic and it won’t alter the pH of the water. Also, the stones don’t contain chemical coating. Gravel should be thoroughly rinsed before use.

What We Like Most

Natural creek stones

Work great for planted freshwater aquariums

Various colors

They provide good drainage

They don’t alter the pH of the water

Our Synopsis:

This aquarium gravel does the job well by giving your tanks a natural look and being a great substrate for plants.

Analyst Rating

5

Maynooth Natural Granite Mini Pea Gravel

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This Canadian product is 100% granitic gneiss, which means that it contains dark and light layers formed of minerals such as quartz and mica. The rocks have been naturally tumbled in a glacial deposit, which wore down the edges of the gravel. Although not completely smooth, the edges are rounded and they won’t pose a danger to the fish. The gravel is ¼ of an inch in size and it’s suitable for aquariums, planters, terrariums, and other water features. It’s been screened spray-washed with water only, but the natural fine dust from parent stone is still present in the bag, so it requires rinsing before use.

What We Like Most

100% granitic gneiss

Natural patterns

¼ inch diameter

Spray-washed with water only

Used for aquariums, planters, and water features

Our Synopsis:

This aquarium gravel contains natural minerals and it looks great in planted aquariums, although it has slightly rougher edges.

Analyst Rating

6

BXI Decorative Stones

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These decorative stones come in beautiful beige and white colors and they shine in water. Its size ranges from 13 to 18mm and it’s made of agate, a type of ornamental stone that consists of quartz. It’s non-toxic, colorfast, and it won’t affect the chemistry of the aquarium water. The stones are suitable for freshwater and saltwater aquariums. They can also be used as decorative items for ponds, gardens, terrariums, potted plants, and vases. It’s important to add that gravel needs to be rinsed 3-4 times before added to a fish tank.

What We Like Most

Made of beige and white agate

Shiny in water

Non-toxic

Doesn’t alter the pH of the water

Suitable for freshwater and saltwater aquariums

Our Synopsis:

This gravel elevates any aquarium’s look and gives it a touch of elegance. It’s also a good substrate for plants.

Analyst Rating

7

Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium Gravel

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These black-and-purple pebbles provide great anchoring for plants and they can be used in freshwater aquariums as well as in terrariums, ponds, gardens, potted plants, and vases. They contain acrylic coating and they are colorfast, so you won’t need to worry about fading. The stones have also been heat-sanitized and hand-washed, so they are safe for your fish. This natural decorative gravel won’t alter the chemistry of the aquarium water, but it requires rinsing thoroughly before use. The grain size ranges from 3.1mm to 6.3mm.

What We Like Most

Natural aquarium gravel

100% acrylic coating

Non-toxic

Black-and-purple color

Suitable for freshwater aquariums

Our Synopsis:

This aquarium gravel works great for planted fish tanks and it will please those who wish to add a touch of color to their aquariums. It looks great when paired with LED lighting.

Analyst Rating

8

Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel

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If you’re looking for the best way to create an authentic underwater atmosphere for your fish, these smooth blue stones make a great choice. This gravel helps simulate a positive natural environment and it reduces the amount of unhealthy debris in the water. In addition to adding an ocean feel to your fish tank, it helps in propagation of beneficial bacteria, which breaks down the accumulated waste. This gravel is made of non-toxic materials and it won’t alter the pH of the water. It can be used in freshwater aquariums and marine environments.

What We Like Most

Non-toxic

Stimulates growth of helpful bacteria

Good for plants

Ocean blue color

Suitable for freshwater aquariums and marine environments

Our Synopsis:

This aquarium gravel performs well in its basic function, which is propagation of helpful bacteria and plant growth. Its bright blue color makes a beautiful addition to any fish tank floor.

Analyst Rating

9

M--jump Aquarium Gravel

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These natural white stones make a classy addition to any fish tank, garden, terrarium or pond. They are made of white cobblestone, so they won’t affect the water parameters. They are slightly polished, smooth, and come in a variety of natural shapes. One package contains 75 stones, which can be round and oval, thick and thin, but they always provide good drainage and they help the soil retain moisture. For that reason, they can also be used as an alternative to mulch, without fear of deterioration. As these stones are natural, some may be broken or out of shape. The company offers a full refund if you’re not satisfied with the product.

What We Like Most

Natural white stones

Lightly polished

Smooth

Long-lasting

Can be used as an alternative to mulch

Our Synopsis:

This type of gravel for aquariums is an elegant alternative to your traditional gravel, and it has multiple uses outside of fish tank functions.

Analyst Rating

10

GloFish Aquarium Gravel

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This medium-sized aquarium gravel is specially selected to stand out under the blue lighting in your aquarium. Bright pink, blue, and green colors will add a fun touch to your fish tank and create an interesting fluorescent glow in the dark. Gravel needs to be rinsed before added to the fish tank, and you can use it exclusively or mix with other aquarium gravel. It’s very easy to clean using a gravel vacuum. The same company also sells plants and ornaments, so you can create a full underwater experience for your fish.

What We Like Most

Fun, vibrant colors

Works best when combined with LED lighting

Easy to clean

Rinse before use

Can be mixed with other aquarium gravel

Our Synopsis:

This aquarium gravel works best under LED lighting and it’s a great choice for those who wish to add a touch of glow to their fish tanks.

Analyst Rating

Buyer's Guide

Getting the right type of gravel for your aquarium is tricky because there are so many options available. Ultimately, your decision shouldn’t be based solely on the popularity of the product, but on how well it fits your needs. When choosing gravel, pay attention to the size of your fish tank and whether it has an under-gravel filter. If you have plants, you may want to look for gravel with nutritious elements that helps the plants grow. Also, if you have fish with delicate fins, you’ll want to make sure that the gravel doesn’t contain sharp fragments that might hurt the fish. By focusing on what’s important to you, you’ll narrow down your search to products that meet your requirements.

Natural Filtration

Gravel provides the source of beneficial bacteria for your fish. These bacteria are crucial for removing fish waste, food leftovers, and debris that comes from plants. While the bacteria will be able to survive without a gravel bed, it may not be able to grow sufficiently to create a healthy underwater environment. Another benefit of gravel substrate is that it cleans harmful waste such as ammonia and nitrites, making it essential for keeping the aquarium safe for your fish.

A Safe Spot for Fish Eggs

Gravel can provide a safe first home for fish eggs. Certain types of fish wouldn’t hesitate to eat their own offspring when hungry, so gravel can help keep the eggs out of their reach. Also, the microscopic organisms that inhabit gravel beds may be a great first food choice for the newly-hatched eggs.

Keeping the Plants Alive

Gravel is extremely beneficial for freshwater planted aquariums as it ensures that the plants are anchored and well-nourished. The minerals in gravel stimulate the plant’s growth and make sure that they root well. In addition to practicality, plants in gravel give a fish tank a more natural and appealing look. It’s important to add that plants in aquariums benefit most from highly porous gravel that’s rich in nutrients. Also, the roots of the plants tend to hold better to finer types of gravel that are smaller in size.

Water Chemistry

When deciding on the right type of gravel for your fish tank, you’ll need to take into account the way it affects pH levels of the water. For example, fish that prefer soft water habitats with lower pH levels, such as discus, will benefit from gravel that doesn’t contain limestone or coral, because they increase pH levels of the water. By contrast, fish that prefer hard water habitats, such as Central American chichlids or goldfish, require higher levels of pH, and gravel made of limestone or coral will help create alkaline conditions that meet the needs of your fish.

How to Clean Gravel Before Adding It to Your Aquarium?

Most substrates come pre-washed, but they are still quite dusty, so you’ll need to rinse them thoroughly before you add them to your fish tank or the water may become cloudy. The best way to remove dust from your gravel is to clean it in batches, using a bucket and a hose. Put a small amount of gravel in the bucket and spray it with water using a hosepipe. You’ll need to swirl the gravel around with your hand to remove the dust entirely, and you’ll need to pour away the dirty water until it becomes clear again. Once you’ve finished one batch, put the clean gravel in another bucket and move on to the next batch. Some types of gravel are harder to clean in this way, particularly the ones that are powder-coated or that contain laterite, as the swirling movement only makes the water dirtier. If you have difficulties cleaning them, it helps if you swirl around slowly, but don’t worry if you can’t do a perfect job, just try to remove as much of the dust as possible.

How Deep Should Gravel Be?

The amount of gravel you need will depend on the size of your fish tank and whether you have an under-gravel filter. If your tank contains up to 55 gallons of water, you’ll need 1.5 or 2 inches of gravel. Anything larger than that will require between 3 and 4 inches of gravel, which is also the optimal amount if you have plants. If your fish tank has an under-gravel filter, you’ll need a little more gravel substrate. Also, you should bear in mind the size of gravel. If your chosen gravel is too fine, the filter screen may get clogged.

How Often Should I Clean Gravel?

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how often you should clean your fish tank. It depends on several factors, including the type and number of fish you have, whether you have plants, and how much power your filter has. If you have a large number of fish, you may need to vacuum gravel more often as they are producing more waste, and you don’t want to let it build up. Also, some types of fish produce more waste than others, such as goldfish, plecos and chichlids, so you may need to clean gravel weekly. If you have rooted plants, you’ll likely need to vacuum gravel less frequently, as plants will naturally consume fish waste as a part of their search for fertilization. Another factor that can influence the frequency of cleaning is the filtration system you have. A strong pump will capture more waste, whereas a weaker one may not do such a good job. It’s important to monitor your aquarium and check whether the water is cloudy and whether you see the development of algae on your gravel. If you notice these things, it’s time to clean your fish tank.

Is Gravel Safe for Fish that Are Bottom Dwellers?

Bottom-dwelling fish species such as goldfish, corydoras, and kuhli loach have sensitive barbells and whiskers, and since they filter through substrate in search for food, gravel that is too large and has sharp edges may hurt the fish. For these types of fish, it’s best to use small-size gravel (0.2 – 0.5mm) with smooth surfaces.

Is Colored Gravel Safe for Fish?

If you decide on using artificially colored gravel for your fish tank, it’s a good idea to use those that contain a polymer seal. The dye on the gravel will eventually start to come off, which will release toxins into the water that may harm your fish. The polymer seal prevents the dye from wearing off and it keeps the fish safe. In some cases, adding colored gravel will cause pH levels of the water to rise. This may happen if you use angular gravel with slightly rougher texture, as these are often made of white dolomite. This mineral is packed with calcium and magnesium and when sold as a substrate, it’s intended for marine environments or for fish that prefer hard water conditions. If you have fish that don’t mind higher pH levels, this won’t cause any problems. However, if you have fish that require soft water conditions, you may want to choose gravel that doesn’t alter the chemistry of the water.

Can I Mix Different Grain Sizes?

You can mix gravel of different sizes to make your aquarium look more natural, especially if you have a reef tank. However, the larger grains will inevitably wind up at the top.

Is Gravel Better than Sand?

Gravel provides home for beneficial bacteria to develop and gives the plants essential nutrients. It also allows the water to flow through it, thus preventing the buildup of harmful bacteria. Gravel offers more choice when it comes to aesthetics and it comes in a variety of shapes and colors to suit every taste. On the other hand, sand can provide a more natural environment for the fish in your aquarium and for plants to grow. Dirt particles will stay on top of sand, making it easier to clean. However, it doesn’t allow the water to run through it, so it may require a regular stirring-up. Generally speaking, gravel is a better choice for freshwater aquariums, whereas sand may be a better option if you have fish who like to burrow and scavenge, as their behavior will enable better filtration of the sand. Fish like corydoras and loaches constantly turn over the sand while they feed, so this will prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and the growth of algae.

Expert tip

The best way of cleaning aquarium gravel is to use a gravel vacuum. This tool removes the water using a siphon, which in turn removes excess waste from the gravel without clouding the water as a result.

Did you know

Some consider dark-colored substrates to be better for fish, as the fish display more colorfully by comparison, and are less likely to behave timidly.

Conclusion

Choosing the right gravel for your fish tank can be tedious because of so many products to choose from, but it’s important to focus on the features that are useful to you. The reviews listed above should be a good starting point to help you decide what to look for. Once you narrow down your search, you’ll be able to find the product that meets all your requirements.