Are you in the process of setting up an aquarium tank? There are a handful of essential items you need to purchase together in order to make an aquarium that your fish will happily swim around in. One item you will need is substrate, a type of substance that lines the bottom of your tank. One of the best types of substrate is aquarium gravel. Aquarium gravel is not only an easy way to make your tank more aesthetically pleasing, it can also support the health of your fish by helping to maintain the quality of the water. This makes it a fantastic alternative to aquarium sand.
We reviewed dozens of aquarium gravels to identify the best of the best, based on Amazon reviews, quality of ingredients, cost, and other factors.
We’ve identified Worldwide Imports Pure Water Pebbles as our top pick for anyone looking for an easy to use and reasonably priced option. We are rating it so highly because it not only looks great in your fish tank, it is also designed to have minimal negative impact on the water quality. If you’re ready to learn more about this product and our other expert picks, read on.
The 5 Top-Rated Aquarium Gravels
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Best Aquarium Gravel Overall: Worldwide Imports Pure Water Pebbles
If you’re after an aquarium gravel that covers all the bases, Worldwide Imports Pure Water Pebbles is it. The color and shape of the pebbles mimic the look of the substrate found in natural fish habitats, making it a great option for anyone on the hunt for natural-looking gravel. According to user feedback, the diverse mixture of black, brown, grey, and white pebbles gives an attractive “earthy” feel to an aquarium.
What other qualities are there to look forward to with this highly-rated gravel? Not only are all the pebbles coated in 100% acrylic coating, they are colorfast and non-toxic as well. It’s no doubt a comfort that you won’t need to worry about these pebbles negatively impacting your fish, as they won’t change the chemistry of your aquarium water.
Worldwide Imports Pure Water Pebbles Key Features:
- Natural-looking gravel
- Won’t impact the water chemistry
- Safe for both fresh & saltwater aquariums
- 100% acrylic coating
Best Aquarium Gravel for Freshwater Fish: Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums
As any owner of freshwater fish can attest to, finding a reputable aquarium gravel that is specifically made for freshwater fish can be challenging. That’s why we’re so excited to share our top pick in this category with you: Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums. It’s not just us who think it’s a safe buy—over 200 customers have rated it an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Two standout features of this non-toxic gravel include the durable packaging and the absence of cloudiness in the water after the gravel is added. Many customers also appreciate the generous amount of gravel that comes in the bag. See what the fuss is about by trying it out on your own freshwater tank!
Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums Key Features:
- Made for freshwater aquariums
- Won’t impact PH levels
- Non-toxic coating
- Natural gravel look
- Doesn’t cause a cloudy residue
Best Budget Aquarium Gravel: Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel
If you didn’t look at the price tag for a packet of Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel, you’d certainly assume it was much higher. The gravel not only has a 4.7 out of 5 star rating, it also boasts many perks found in pricier gravels. Notably, the gravel helps to stimulate healthy bacteria in aquariums and reduces the amount of unhealthy debris in the water. These two attributes work to make a healthier environment for your fish to live in.
Customers rave about the beautiful blue color of the gravel and the fact that the product “does the job” it’s meant to do. This is a must-buy option for anyone looking for an inexpensive, no-fuss aquarium gravel.
Imagitarium Blue Jean Aquarium Gravel Key Features:
- Reduces debris
- Propagates healthy bacteria
- Available in 3 sizes: 1 LB, 5 LB, and 20 LB
- Inexpensive but feature-packed
- Vivid blue color
Best Fluorescent Aquarium Gravel: CNZ Aquarium Gravel Black & Fluorescent Mix
Are you after some tasteful accents to your aquarium that will help keep your freshwater fish happy and healthy? Grab a bag of CNZ Aquarium Gravel Black & Fluorescent Mix. The mixture of black and fluorescent polymer-coated gravel isn’t as bold or bright as completely fluorescent colored gravel, so it is ideal for anyone who wants to subtlety add more color to their aquarium.
In terms of the size of the gravel, most measure between 0.25 inches to 0.35 inches. Another feature you’ll be interested to learn about is the price. At 5 pounds and under $15, you’ll get bang for your buck without compromising on quality.
CNZ Aquarium Gravel Black & Fluorescent Mix Key Features:
- Polymer-coated gravel
- Average size of gravel is 0.25 inches to 0.35 inches
- Nice balance of black and fluorescent rocks
Best Pea Gravel for Aquariums: Maynooth Natural Pea Granite
Maynooth Natural Pea Granite is our top pick out of all of the pea granite options on the market for a good number of reasons. First of all, it uniquely uses 100% granitic gneiss, a type of metamorphic rock that originated one billion years ago. Secondly, we love the sophisticated mixture of different shades of black and brown rocks. Last but not least, it’s reasonably priced given its high quality.
Just make sure to remember to wash them before using! The rocks have been screened and spray-washed with water only, so you’ll need to make sure to rinse of any natural fine dust residue that may be present. It won’t take too long to rinse, so you’ll soon be on your way to adding these beautiful rocks to your tank!
Maynooth Natural Pea Granite Key Features:
- 100% granitic gneiss
- 4 inch diameter rounded gravel
- Product of Canada
- A mixture of black plus dark and light brown rocks
Who Should Buy Aquarium Gravel
If you’re a fish owner who’s wanting to not only to jazz up your fish tank but to also maintain the health of your tank (and in turn your fish!), you should give serious consideration to buying aquarium gravel. While there are indeed fish owners who choose to have a bare bottom tank (that is, no type of substrate in their tank at all), it is broadly recommended that fish owners use some type of substrate in their aquarium.
Aquarium gravel is one of the most popular types of substrate, making it a great buy for anyone who wants to make the switch from alternatives like aquarium sand or marbles.
Important Features to Consider
Before you reach for any old bag of gravel, you need to be aware of which features to seek—and which to avoid. Here are the most important features to consider when buying aquarium gravel:
- Aquarium-safe gravel. If you’re thinking of reaching for regular gravel instead of aquarium gravel, think again. The composition of the rocks is completely different and therein, their impact on your aquarium’s pH levels, so choosing the wrong kind will prove harmful to your precious fish. The easiest way to ensure you’re picking aquarium-safe gravel is to buy products clearly labelled as “aquarium gravel.”
- Rock composition and size. It is crucial that you consider the size and composition of the gravel in order to select the most ideal gravel for your aquarium. You may need to buy a specific type of gravel for your fish. For example, freshwater fish will need gravel that is made specifically with the needs of freshwater fish in mind.
- Non-toxic. As should be the case with anything you provide your fish, you should always opt for a non-toxic product. Buying non-toxic gravel is a non-negotiable as failure to do so may result in inadvertent problems for your aquarium and subsequently, your fish. The best way to ensure you’re buying a non-toxic product is to carefully check the product’s label as well as any information provided by the manufacturer.
- Price. Aquarium gravel can vary greatly in price, especially in terms of a size to price ratio. Buying larger bags will generally allow you to snag a better offer, so if you’re looking to save money, it pays to buy in bulk.
- Color. One of the most enjoyable parts of selecting aquarium gravel is picking a color. There is a wide range to choose from, from more natural looking options to fluorescent colors. Glow in the dark rocks are particularly popular, as they emit an eye-catching glow in your tank. Whether or not the color of gravel matters is a matter still up for debate. Some experts argue that more natural-looking gravel is preferably as it is most similar to the natural habitat of fish. Other experts recommend darker colors given that some fish have been shown to act relatively less timidly around them. Then there is the camp of experts that believe that it’s purely an aesthetic choice as picking one color over another won’t have a substantial impact the health of your tank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is gravel good for an aquarium?
Gravel is definitely good for an aquarium. Most notably, it acts to boost the beneficial bacteria in it, making it an essential item as a fish owner. While bacteria in your fish tank may sound like something best to avoid, there is a substantial difference between good and harmful bacteria. Good bacteria in your fish tank works to reduce unwanted waste in your fish’s home. There are many sources of waste in an aquarium; from your fish themselves to their food. The debris that naturally occurs in your fish tank is another source of waste.
By promoting good bacteria, aquarium gravel basically acts as a filter to the harmful kind. The benefits of gravel for an aquarium don’t end there, however. Other benefits include making the tank easier to clean, giving your fish a safe location to lay their eggs, and providing a place for aquarium plants to grow.
What type of gravel is best for an aquarium?
After you take a look at all the gravels on the market, you’ll quickly come to realize that there are many types to choose from. So which is best for an aquarium? There isn’t a hard and fast answer, as it is dependent on the particular needs of your fish, as well as your own preferences.
As we touched on above, it’s essential to buy gravel that is specific for use in aquariums. Gravel you find in nature or for other usage will not be safe to use in your tank. The reason being is that in addition to possibly not being clean enough for your fish, they will also likely impact the pH levels of your aquarium.
Most aquarium gravel is made of quartz. Others may contain a mixture of quartz and other natural minerals such as granitic gneiss. There are also some options on the market that use artificial rocks. It’s worth keeping in mind that many fish experts recommend against using artificial rocks.
The key way to select the best gravel for your aquarium is to pick one that supports the specific needs of your fish. That is, a gravel designed for your type of fish. For instance, freshwater fish require a different type of gravel to saltwater fish. Generally speaking, there are more gravel options for freshwater aquariums than saltwater aquariums as it is essential for the environment of a saltwater aquarium to emulate a natural environment. For this reason, fancy features like fluorescent or multicolored gravel is a no-go for saltwater aquariums.
To ensure you select the right gravel for your fish, look at the label to confirm that it’s made for your type of fish. When in doubt, consult your vet for expert advice!
Is gravel or sand better for an aquarium?
It is generally recommended that gravel is best for freshwater aquariums. The reason gravel comes out in front is because it promotes greater water flow, thus arguably providing greater filtration. It is also less likely to get caught up in your tank’s filter.
That being said, sand also has a number of benefits over gravel. Depending on the sand you choose, it may not need to change it as much as some types of gravel. Moreover, unlike gravel which has larger gaps, you may find that food is less likely to fall to the bottom of the tank with sand.
In terms of which is best for tropical and cold water tanks, generally speaking, neither is advised over the other. At the end of the day, it’s most important to choose a high-quality substrate that is safe for your particular fish and tank—whether that’s gravel or sand is up to you.
Can I grow aquarium plants in gravel?
Yes, you can grow aquarium plants in gravel, although you will have to pick a suitable type of gravel for your particular plants to thrive. Finding the ideal gravel for the purpose of growing aquarium plants will require you to take into consideration a number of factors. Namely, the gravel’s size, depth, and material will impact whether or not plants will be able to effectively grow in the gravel.
Other Aquarium Gravels We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other aquarium gravels. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best aquarium gravels list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your fish. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
- White Aquarium Gravels
- Glow in the Dark Aquarium Gravels
- Multi-Colored Aquarium Gravels
- Sea Glass Aquarium Gravels
White Aquarium Gravels
Spectrastone has made a name for themselves as a reputable brand of aquarium gravel. This is no more evident than with one of their most popular products, the Spectrastone Special White Aquarium Gravel for Freshwater Aquariums. We appreciate that the gravel uses an environmentally-friendly, plant based polymer coating and that it’s specifically designed with the needs of freshwater fish front and center.
- Made for freshwater fish
- 5.1 pound bag
With an impressive 2000 customers giving GloFish’s white gravel an average rating of 4.5 out of 5, you may be wondering whether it meets the hype. The short answer is yes; this medium-sized gravel is easy to use and even lights up under a blue LED light.
- Uniform white color
- 5.1 pound bag
- Lights up under blue LED light
On the hunt for larger white gravel for your aquarium? BXI’s aquarium gravel comes in at 8mm to 10mm and colorfast and non-toxic to boot.
- 2.2 pounds
In this 2 pound bag, you’ll find 100% natural gravel pebbles sized at 0.24 inches to 0.4 inches. All white in color, they are ideal for anyone wanting to make their tank bottom have a minimalist look.
- 100% natural gravel pebbles
- 0.24 inches to 0.4 inches in size
Hewnda’s offering is suitable for both seawater or freshwater aquariums. The gravel is 4mm to 10mm in width and is characterized by a vivid white color that allows the colors on your fish shine through.
- For seawater or freshwater aquariums
- Pure white color
- Comes in a variety of other colors
Black Aquarium Gravels
The last thing you want is for your fish to be hurt because you accidentally bought gravel with sharp edges. Fortunately, you won’t find any sharp edges in this 4.4 pound bag of jet black gravel. Notably, the gravel is also colorsafe and free of any chemical coating.
- 4.4 pound bag
- 3mm to 6 mm stone size
- No sharp edges
Despite its name, GloFish doesn’t just support the health of your fish. This solid black gravel also helps plants thrive, making it a multi-functional gravel to be rivaled with.
- 5 pound bag
- Can be mixed with other colors
- Supports plant growth as well as fish health
FloweRock’s aquarium gravel is comprised of lava pebbles in a stunning black colo that range from 3/4 inches to 3/8 inches in size.
- Made of lava rock
- 3/4 inches to 3/8 inches stone size
- 5 pound bag
This captivating black gravel from BXI is made from glass sand. With an assurance of being colorfast and safe for aquariums, it’s an easy pick for any fish owner.
- Made of glass sand
- 3mm to 6 mm in size
If you’re wondering why the price tag of this natural polished black gravel is so high, take a look at the quantity. You’ll get a whooping 18 pounds of these stones, so after you’ve added the sufficient amount to your tank, you’ll be able to use the leftovers on any home or garden DIY projects!
- 0.85 inches to 1.55 inches stone size
- 18 pound bag
Multi-Colored Aquarium Gravels
Colorfast and non-toxic, this multi-colored gravel option from Wayber is a product you can buy with confidence. While they look almost unnaturally gorgeous, this aquarium substrate is in fact made of natural raw stones.
- Made of natural raw stones
If you’re after multi-colored gravel in natural shades, this is our pick of the bunch. You’ll find it hard to look away from these rocks that feature a palette of browns, whites, blacks, reds, grays in a variety of patterns.
- Natural color palette
- Medium sized rocks
- Total weight of 2 pounds
The name should conjure up images of what to expect from this stunningly colored aquarium gravel. Beyond being aesthetically pleasing, it promises to help simulate a positive natural environment in your aquarium by breaking down waste and reducing unhealthy debris.
- Helps simulate a positive natural environment
- Breaks down waste
- Reduces unhealthy debris
While many aquarium gravels focus on looks over substance, Marina Multi-Colored Aquarium Gravel simultaneously offers both. Colored like a rainbow, this epoxy-coated gravel is dust-free and non-toxic.
Shades of blue characterize this multi-colored, 100% acrylic coated gravel by Pure Water Pebbles. It’s also non-toxic and colorfast, so your fish can happily welcome it’s addition to their tank.
- 100% acrylic coating
While we featured the white colored version of this freshwater aquarium gravel above, the rainbow version is so unique it wouldn’t be fair if we kept it to ourselves! It seems the secret is already out though, as it has a 4.9 out of 5 star rating. We think it’s the combination good value for money, high-quality, and the incredible colors that everyone talking!
- 5 pound bag
- For freshwater aquariums
- 4.9 out of 5 star rating
Sea Glass Aquarium Gravels
These aquariums stone aren’t only pretty to look at. Made from fluorite, they’re free of any chemical coating so they won’t impact your aquarium’s pH levels.
- Stone size between 0.5 inches and 1 inch
- Not chemically coated
- Won’t impact water pH levels
Wayber Sea Glass Pebbles are designed to be long-lasting, so you can rest assured they won’t need replacing any time soon. They are made from sea glass that has been beaten into gravel, and “processed into irregular shapes with top-class processing techniques.”
- Stone size between 0.5 inches and 1 inch
- Not chemically coated
- Won’t impact water pH levels
These 100% glass material pebbles from JZMYXA will look go down a treat in your aquarium. In addition to the mesmerizing natural blue color, we love that these pebbles are colorfast and non-toxic.
- Stone size between 4mm and 10mm
- 100% glass material
While TR318’s glass pebbles have many attributes, it’s hard to look past the head-turning combination of colors you’ll find. Keep in mind that unless you buy multiple bags, the relatively smaller quantity of gravel (250 grams) in this product makes it best for smaller aquariums.
- 7mm to 9mm stone size
- 250 gram bag
- Man-made pebbles