One of the best substrates for your fish tank is gravel. It can be used to give your tank a natural look, anchor plants, hide filters, and some fish will even eat the algae that naturally grows on the rocky bottom. Not only can you use the gravel in fish tanks, but it is also great for saltwater aquariums, some terrariums, coy ponds, potted plants, etc. The possibilities are endless.
So, how hard is it to pick out a bag of rocks? The answer might surprise you…
There is any number of aquarium gravel brands available. From super pricey to neon and flashy, gravel is available for every need. The hard part is finding a product that will be safe and versatile. Finding a bag with tons of tiny granules can not only clog your filters, but it can also be detrimental to your pets.
This is why we are here to help. We have found the seven best aquarium gravel brands available. We will review each one for its uses, material make-up, plus more much. We will also share some tips in the buyer’s guide below.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Exotic Pebbles||
|Best Value||Pure Water Pebbles||
|Premium Choice||Carib Sea Gemstone||
The 7 Best Aquarium Gravel- Reviews 2020
1. Exotic Pebbles Polished Mixed Gravel – Best Overall
Our first choice is the Exotic Pebbles Polished Mixed Gravel. This mixed rock gravel comes in 5 or 20-pound bags, and it is 100% sourced from nature and quarries around the world. You can use it in fresh and saltwater aquariums and fish tanks. You can also use it in all water features such as coy ponds, waterfalls, ponds, etc. Not only that, but you can also use it in terrariums, potted plants, gardens, or any other projects where you want a natural rocky style.
The Exotic Pebbles come in various sizes, and each one has a unique shape. That being said, you will not find any small granule pieces that will clog your filter or harm your fish and other animals. It is eco-friendly, and the brand uses minimal packaging. What’s more, they are easy to clean.
The individual pebbles are approximately ⅜-inch. They have a smooth texture and will give your tank or project a natural stone look. The colors are tan, cream, brown, and other earthy tones that will blend in with most natural backgrounds. Additionally, you will find the stone does not affect the pH balance of your tank, and it’s non-toxic. Overall, this is our favorite aquarium gravel.
2. Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel – Best Value
If you need a more affordable option, the Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel is a good option. As the name suggests, this is an all-natural substrate that is available in a five-pound bag. It’s non-toxic and coated with clear acrylic that gives the rocks a sheen. That being said, the coating will not affect the water chemistry or the pH balance.
This option can be used for all water features whether salt or freshwater. Uses include fish tanks, aquariums, terrariums, potted plants, flower beds, and other projects. The gravel allows space for beneficial microbes to grow, plus it is a great option for anchoring plants. What you will not find are particles that can be harmful to your tank or pets.
The Pure Water gravel has a variety of sized-pebbles to create a natural look. The stones are between 3.1 and 6.3mm, but you will not find any sand-sized granules. You can also choose from three natural color blends to suit your needs and taste. The only drawback of this product is that it can be harder to clean due to the different sized rocks. Other than that, this is the best aquarium gravel for the money.
3. Carib Sea Gemstone Creek Gravel – Premium Choice
The Carib Sea ACS00877 Gemstone Creek Gravel is a pH-neutral product that is safe for all water systems. It can be used in fresh or saltwater aquariums, plus many other uses with or without H20. You can pick the bag up in three sizes up to 50 pounds, and it comes in five grades. What’s more, the size and colors were selected to look as natural as possible as a substrate or other natural decor.
You will find the Carib Sea to have larger pebbles sizes which will reduce detritus. The product is made in the USA, as well. The stones are safe to use with your filters, and the rocks will be able to anchor plants to the bottom of your tank. You can also use the material in indoor fish tanks or outdoor coy ponds.
One thing to note about this gravel, however, is it’s more expensive than our top two picks. Besides that, you will find it easy to clean, and it’s non-toxic. If you are willing to spend a little more for top-notch aquarium gravel, this is a good option for you.
4. GloFish Accent Gravel
If you keep Glofish, or you are looking for something flashier for your aquatic set-up, the GloFish Accent gravel is made of multi-colored, neon stones that work well in conjunction with other GloFish materials. This is a non-toxic option that can be used with other gravel to add flair to your fish tank. Keep in mind, however, this option is best used in freshwater tanks. Although you can use these pebbles in flower beds, potted plants, etc., it is not recommended for terrariums or saltwater tanks.
That being said, the GloFish gravel is easy to clean. The rocks come in a variety of sizes from grape to dime size. You will also not find any particles or small sand-like stones that can clog your filter. You can find these pebbles in gray and blue, green and clear, pink, or multi-color.
As mentioned, this is a non-toxic option that is safe for your fish and tank. It will not disturb the water’s chemistry or cause any other disruption. You will also find the pebbles glow under your aquarium’s lights. Finally, the gravel comes in a 2.8-ounce bag. It is not a good option to cover the button of your tank and should be used with another substrate.
5. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel
The Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel is a good option if you have a bioactive freshwater tank. This natural clay substrate is porous and perfect for live plants. You can also mix this option with other gravel depending on your needs and taste. You can find the gravel in a 15.4-pound bag, as well.
The Seachem is easy to use and set up for your live plants. Be advised though, the granules are on the rougher side, so fish or animals that like to dig or nest in the gravel are not recommended. Other than that, this product is not chemically coated or treated. It won’t alter your pH balance, either.
With this gravel, you want to consider that it’s not recommended for uses other than a substrate in a live plant, freshwater tank. Be that as it may, you will not have to replace the gravel over time, as it won’t soften or decompose. The product is natural, and it can be used with under-gravel filters. Just keep in mind, it will take several days for the clay to settle and your water to clear.
6. Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel
In the number six spot, we have the Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel. As you can imagine, these pebbles come in a denim blue color. They are available in 1, 5, or 20-pound bags, and they are designed to simulate a natural environment plus reduce harmful debris in the water.
The Imagitarium gravel is made with non-toxic material and colors. Unfortunately, they can change the chemistry of the water, so you will need to keep an eye on the pH balance. Not only that, but you should also be careful of the smaller granules that can clog your filters. The sand-like pieces are also not good for smaller animals that can accidentally ingest the material. Caution is advised.
You can use these pebbles in fresh or marine environments. You can also use them in other water features, not to mention, flower beds, potted plants, etc. If you plan on using this product in an aquarium or fish tank, however, you should keep in mind that the gravel is more difficult to clean.
7. Estes Spectrastone Permaglo Aquarium Gravel
Our final option is the Estes Spectrastone Permaglo Aquarium Gravel. This is a purple-colored stone that is available in a five-pound bag. It’s safe with a non-toxic coating, but it should be used in a freshwater tank or aquarium only. You could also use this product with non-H20 projects, yet the color is not as vibrant as advertised.
One of the more concerning aspects of this gravel is it contains foreign debris such as glass, metal, and plaster. Although the glass and metal can cause issues, the plaster dissolves in the water. What’s worse, the color flakes off into the water, as well. Not only will this cause issues with your filtration system, but it is harmful to your aquatic pets…or any pets that would be housed with this substrate.
Besides that problem, you should also note that the Estes gravel is known to change the pH level of the water. There are many small granules mixed in with the pebbles which in turn makes it harder to clean. Overall, this is our least favorite gravel pick for your aquarium.
An aquarium will typically need some type of substrate to cover the bottom of the tank. Although there are several different options, gravel is the most popular for various reasons. In fact, there is a lot more to the small pebbles than just the visual effect. Take a look at the different purposes the gravel provides:
- Appearance: As mentioned, one of the first reasons for gravel is aesthetics. Depending on your taste, you can go with natural colors, neon stones, or there are even themed pebbles for a mermaid or Disney tank.
- Bacteria: Bacteria is another important aspect of your tank. Naturally occurring organisms grown on the rocky substrate. This will help keep your tank clean as they eat away at the fish waste.
- Calm Fish: When you have pets that live in a small space (such as a fish tank) it is important to recreate their natural environment as closely as you can. Gravel is a good choice for this reason. It will make your fish feel more at home, plus the pebbles don’t reflect other fish as glass would.
- Other Fish Specs: The rocky substrate is also important for burrowing fish. They enjoy nosing around in the gravel, and searching out food that has drifted to the bottom. What’s more, their eggs will be hidden among the pebbles, as well.
How To Choose an Aquarium Gravel
As you can see, picking out the right gravel is more involved than choosing your favorite color; although that is a consideration you need to keep in mind. Depending on your tank, type of fish or animals, etc, will play a role. Take a look at the key components you would decide before choosing a bag of pebbles.
- Color: Since we have already brought it up, we thought we would get this question out of the way first. You can find gravel in every color of the rainbow. That being said, there are varying opinions on whether color matters. Some experts believe the substrate should only be natural tones, while others think brighter colors work just as well because fish are very adaptable. Your best bet is to do some research on your particular finned-friend to see if there are any guidelines for their care…which brings us to our next point.
- Type of Pet: You should always research what substrate is best for your particular aquatic pet. For example, some types of fish like to borrow, so smoother stones are preferable.
- Other Pets: Gravel can also be used in other projects or tanks like terrariums. Again, you want to make sure you look into the most appropriate bedding for the animal. For example, many small reptiles can accidentally ingest small granules (sand-like size) which can cause impaction. This is a serious condition that can be fatal that can also affect fish.
- Water Chemistry: Some aquariums need to be kept as a specific pH level or water chemistry. Certain types of shrimp are a good example. You want to ensure you are using gravel that will either not affect the chemistry or will aid in keeping the water at the right nutrient levels.
- Bioactive Tanks: Many people prefer a bioactive tank where everything in the enclosure is live and indigenous to your pet’s natural environment. Saltwater tanks are a great example. In this case, the substrate and gravel you use will be very important. Even if you only wish to keep live plants, the particular stones will need to have the nutrients to keep the plants alive.
We hope the above reviews have helped you find the right gravel for your aquatic tank. In our opinion, the best option is the Exotic Pebbles Polished Mixed Gravel. They are a non-toxic, natural, and attractive option for your fish tank. If you need to find something more cost-friendly, we recommended going with the Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel. This is also a natural stone that has a beautiful sheen, and will not alter your tank’s water chemistry.
Featured Image Credit By: GloFish, amazon
An avid animal lover, Roland started this blog to help all varieties of pets and their owners on their journey to living their best lives.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 7 Best Aquarium Gravel- Reviews 2020
- 1. Exotic Pebbles Polished Mixed Gravel – Best Overall
- 2. Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel – Best Value
- 3. Carib Sea Gemstone Creek Gravel – Premium Choice
- 4. GloFish Accent Gravel
- 5. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel
- 6. Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel
- 7. Estes Spectrastone Permaglo Aquarium Gravel
- Buyer’s Guide