Best Aquarium Gravel – Review & Guide

If you own a fish tank or an aquarium, finding the best and most suitable gravel for your tank is essential. Gravel serves so many important functions in your tank. It keeps the water cleaner, it provides a base for plants and decorations, its aesthetic purposes, and it implements a home for beneficial bacteria to live which is crucial for keeping your fish healthy.

However, with so many gravel options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to find the right gravel for you. Therefore, I have provided a list of the top 10 aquarium gravel options on the market as of right now.

Aquarium Gravel Reviews

Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate

This aquarium gravel is most beneficial specifically for people who want to stimulate plant growth within their tank. The gravel contains important, nutritional elements that help nourish the plant at its roots and help them to grow.

It comes in the color black which is a perfect color for someone looking for something simple. It won’t look too overpowering in your tank and it will allow the fish to be the spotlight, not the gravel.

It is excellent at providing a home for beneficial bacteria, which is needed for efficient and effective plant growth. Specifically what it does is it captures healthy fish waste and turns it into nourishment for the plants to flourish.

Something important to note is this gravel is only suited for freshwater fish. Also, it works best for planted aquariums since that is what it specializes in. There are no artificial dyes or chemicals in this gravel, so it isn’t going to harm your aquatic life and/or plants.


  • Excellent for rapid plant growth
  • No artificial dyes or chemicals
  • Simple black color isn’t too overpowering


  • Only suitable for freshwater species
  • Only comes in the color black

Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium Gravel

This option is perfect for someone looking for a more decorative option. This specifically is a turquoise color that is all-natural and non-toxic, so it will not harm your fish. It is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater tanks.

This gravel is great at homing the beneficial bacteria needed for fish and plants to survive. It provides a home for plants as well as keeping the water clean for the fish. It also helps in the filtering process.

Since it comes in a decorative, bright color, it is perfect for all kinds of tanks to make them look fun and embellishing without too much effort. The downside is that sometimes colored gravel tends to fade out and lose its vibrancy.


  • Vibrant, decorative color
  • Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater tanks
  • Rocks are all-natural and non-toxic


  • Color starts to fade over time
  • Difficult to clean

CNZ Aquarium Gravel Black & Flourescent Mix for Plant Aquariums

This gravel is perfect to use specifically in freshwater aquariums. The rocks used in this gravel are coated with a high-quality polymer. Even though the rocks are so fluorescent, they are not going to affect the pH level of the water at all.

The color of the rocks is beneficial for someone looking for something not too bright but doesn’t want one solid color. The color scheme is mostly black with occasionally bright colors that pop out for a more creative effect. Therefore, this gravel is not going to overpower the tank at all.

Also, the fluorescent rocks glow in the dark making it super fun for kids or just anyone wanting to add a splash of color to any room in the light or dark.

It is important that you rinse this gravel before putting it in the tank. There will be no flaking or fading of the color.


  • Fun colors that glow in the dark
  • Will not affect the water’s pH level
  • Coated with high-quality polymer
  • Color does not flake or fade


  • Only suitable for freshwater tanks
  • Tends to have a slight odor

Marina Decorative Gravel

This gravel is perfect for holding plants and decorations in place while also providing cleaner water for your aquatic life. It is only suitable for freshwater aquariums. Again, it is perfect for someone wanting to add a pop of color easily to your tank. It is a low-effort way to make your tank more decorative and fun.

It is coated in something called Epoxy which does not have any negative effect on the water. Also, it helps to filter the water and create a surface for beneficial bacteria to land on.

This gravel comes in many color options to choose from like blue, yellow, and even black if you don’t want something decorative. You can also mix other rocks and marbles to this gravel for a more decorative look.


  • Comes in many colors
  • No negative effect on water’s pH levels
  • Helps to filter water and make it cleaner


  • Only suitable for freshwater tanks
  • The gravel is a bit rough for smaller and more delicate fish

OUPENG Aquarium Gravel River Rock

This versatile gravel rock is a multipurpose rock as you can use it for lots of aquariums. It works for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. They are polished with natural chemicals so they are shiny but won’t harm your aquatic life.

It comes in a faded, neutral mixed-color scheme, so it brings life and character to your tank without being too overpowering. They are perfect to blend in with another gravel that stimulates plant growth if your aquarium is planted.

They are long-lasting and easy to clean, so there will be minimal maintenance if that is what you are looking for. Something to note is that these rocks are larger than most.


  • All-natural rocks that won’t harm fish
  • Easy to clean
  • Long-lasting
  • Suitable for freshwater and saltwater tanks


  • Does not stimulate plant growth effectively for planted aquariums
  • No evidence to prove it doesn’t affect pH levels of water

Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums

This aquarium gravel works specifically for freshwater tanks. The rocks are coated with a non-toxic chemical that will not affect the pH levels of the water in the tank. This will also not affect the safety of aquatic life.

For aesthetic purposes, this gravel would be good to blend and mix together with other types of decorative rocks or stones. This gravel would be labeled as more of a base that promotes healthy living for the fish and growth for the plants.

It is very easy to clean so there is little maintenance in that aspect. You don’t have to rinse the rocks for long to get them clean, and there the rocks don’t really chip apart creating smaller rocks that are usually harder to pick up.


  • Doesn’t affect the pH levels of the water
  • Doesn’t make the water cloudy
  • Easy to clean; little maintenance


  • Not very decorative
  • Only suitable for freshwater tanks

CaribSea Coraline Aquarium Gravel

This gravel is great for both freshwater and saltwater tanks making it incredibly versatile. Also, it does a fantastic job of balancing pH levels. By harboring the tank’s natural beneficial bacteria, it keeps the water clear and the fish healthy. It also aids in the growth of corals.

It comes in a simple, neutral color that isn’t too overpowering. This gravel is more for functional purposes rather than decorative purposes. Although, if you want to increase the aesthetics to your liking, you can always just add more decorative stones or rocks to this mixture. You just have to make sure those added rocks won’t disrupt the water’s pH levels.

It is slightly more difficult to clean than the other options of gravel because it is more suited towards saltwater tanks (but it can be used for freshwater tanks as well). You just have to make sure to keep up with cleaning this gravel to prevent it from damaging your filter.


  • Suitable for freshwater and saltwater tanks
  • Helps make the water clearer
  • Neutral color isn’t too overpowering


  • More maintenance
  • Difficult to clean

Seachem Aquarium Substrate

This gravel is more tailored towards planted aquariums since it specifically is made to stimulate plant growth. But you can still home your fish with this gravel as well. It’s just not necessarily going to benefit your fish as much as the plants.

It is made from all-natural porous clay that is not chemically coated or altered in any way. This means it will not harm your fish and it will not affect the water’s pH levels. Something excellent about this gravel is that it never needs replacement so it has great value.

It is a dark black color so it will not overpower the look of your tank. Although, as I have said before, you can always mix in decorative rocks or stones to make it pop out more. It is completely up to you.

Some issues with this gravel are that it makes the glass a bit cloudy and it has more dirt in it meaning you will have to clean it more often than tanks with other types of gravel. This is because this gravel is tailored more towards planted aquariums.


  • Great for planted aquariums
  • Does not affect water’s pH levels
  • Comes in simple color that doesn’t overpower the look of the tank


  • Difficult to clean
  • Glass can get cloudy

Seachem Meridian

This natural gravel is suitable for all types of marine life, both freshwater and saltwater. It stabilizes calcium and alkalinity, while not dropping the pH levels down to a dangerous level. The particles are about grain-sized to it is a lot smaller than most other gravels.

Its main focus is providing a surface for the tank’s beneficial bacteria to be housed, thus making the water clearer and the fish healthier. This also means less hassle in cleaning and less work for the filter to do.

It has more of sandy color to it so it is very neutral. This is perfect for those wanting a more neutral base color that doesn’t overpower the color scheme of the tank. To spice it up a little bit, you could add more colorful plants and/or decorations on top of the gravel.


  • Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater tanks
  • Neutral color doesn’t overpower the tank’s aesthetic
  • Houses beneficial bacteria


  • Doesn’t come with any decorative colors
  • Way smaller size of gravel’s particles

GloFish Aquarium Gravel

This gravel is branded primarily for decorative purposes. Its glow in the dark feature is very enticing for those with young children who want to enjoy their fish tank. It comes in multiple glow in the dark colors, so there is a variety to choose from.

The GloFish brand comes with tons of other accessories to vamp up your tank, but it is totally optional. Even just the gravel itself allows your plants, decorations, and fish to stand out so much more and look so unique. The gravel is not too big and not too small, so it is versatile for any size tank with any type of fish.

The only downside is that it sometimes fails to keep its vibrancy because it tends to flake off when you wash it.


  • Glow in the dark feature is fun and unique
  • Other optional products you can buy from this brand to complement the gravel
  • Versatile


  • Might lose its vibrancy over time
  • Difficult to clean

Types of Aquarium Gravel

If you are currently in the market for aquarium gravel, it is important to understand all of the different factors beforehand. This will ensure that you get the best aquarium gravel that meets your expectations and keeps your tank healthy.

  • Natural pebbles: This type of gravel is best for people wanting their fish tank to resemble a natural underwater environment. Often times these pebbles are made from completely natural materials and resources, so they will most likely not harm your tank.
  • Colored gravel: Colored gravel is great for people wanting to spice up the look of the tank. There is a wide range of different colors to choose from (even glow in the dark). It is very important that this gravel is cleaned thoroughly before using it as some of the colors can make the water appear cloudy. Also, some colored gravel can fade over time.
  • Glass gravel: Glass gravel is a great way to add an illuminating glow to your tank without it being too overpowering. They are often non-toxic and do not give a cloudy look to the tank. They are also commonly used for multipurpose projects such as crafts and outdoor scenery.

Benefits of Aquarium Gravel

  • Promotes growth of beneficial bacteria: Aquarium gravel is essential is promoting growth of beneficial bacteria in your tank. Maintaining beneficial bacteria in your tank helps to optimize your fish’s lifespan. Beneficial bacteria breaks down fish waste, dead plants, and other free-floating bacteria that is in your tank. Then, it converts it into a less toxic substance known as beneficial bacteria.
  • It makes the tank look more visually appealing: One of the main reasons fish tank owners want to invest in good aquarium gravel is to make the tank look more visually appealing. This factor is completely up to personal preference. Some people like artificial-looking decorative rocks while others prefer gravel that makes the tank look more realistic.
  • Creates a natural environment: In order to create a natural environment in the tank, an aquarium gravel is needed. Your aquatic life are not going to want a glass bottom to the tank. There needs to be some sort of substrate to promote a natural underwater environment.
  • Essential for plants: Whether you have a full planted aquarium or just a few plants here and there, aquarium gravel is absolutely necessary. The roots of the plants need to be put somewhere or else the plants will just float to the top of the tank. Also, some gravels are specifically meant to promote the healthy growth of aquatic plants.

How to Maintain Aquarium Gravel

Before you even place the aquarium gravel in your tank, it is crucial that you wash it off and clean it accordingly. This is going to make sure that no excess bacteria that came with the packaging transfers to your tank. If any bacteria does go into your tank from the gravel, it could harm your tank environment and possibly your aquatic life. This will also ensure that your water will not cloud up. It is recommended that you soak the gravel in water for a full day before applying it to the tank, but it is not necessary.

As for keeping up with your gravel over time, it is important that every so often you clean the gravel out. This consists of removing the build-up of waste that has accumulated in the gravel. This can be done easily with a special aquarium gravel vacuum or manually.

As a general rule, the aquarium gravel should be cleaned every time you do a water change in your tank. However, some fish tank owners have a specific schedule for cleaning gravel that they stick to.

FAQ’s for Aquarium Gravel

Will aquarium gravel harm my aquatic life?

Aquarium gravel is not meant to harm your aquatic life. However, it is important to look out for gravel that does not have any sharp edges, as this type of gravel can potentially cause damage to the gills and scales of your fish.

What type of aquarium gravel is easiest to clean?

Usually larger sized gravel rocks are the easiest to clean. With smaller sized gravel particles, it is easy for bacteria to get lost in the gravel and not be picked up.

What type of aquarium gravel is best for planted aquariums?

The best aquarium gravel for planted aquariums is a gravel that is smaller sized. This is due to the fact that plants need something strong to be rooted in. Larger types of gravel are not compact enough and will leave small spaces that the plants will not be able to be rooted in.

Can I use multiple types of aquarium gravel in one tank?

Yes. Lots of fish tank owners like to use multiple types of aquarium gravel to achieve a visually pleasing look to the tank. The gravel can be applied to different areas of the tank or in layers. If you choose to layer the different types of aquarium gravels, a general rule of thumb is that the larger gravel should be placed on top. This is essential for healthy plant growth. Also, larger types of gravels can be placed towards the back of the tank to not affect the view of the tank.

Does aquarium gravel help with filtration?

Yes. Aquarium gravel is a great resource in helping filtration. Specifically, it helps with biological filtration by converting fish waste and excess food into beneficial bacteria. This will help ensure a healthy environment for your tank and aquatic life. Beneficial bacteria also helps with the growth of aquatic plants.

What type of aquarium gravel should be used for a community tank?

Since there are different species of fish all living together in a community tank, it is important that you choose neutral aquarium gravel. This means that it will not affect the pH level of the water in the tank and that it will provide the most natural environment.

Now I know that there were a lot of different factors thrown at you, but hopefully, after reading this you will have noticed what factors are important to you when choosing gravel for your aquarium or fish tank.

Whether you have a saltwater or freshwater tank, want to serve functionality or aesthetics, or want to simply find the most popular and reputable brand out there, I’m sure that this list provided you with gravel that is suitable for you.

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