Fish Tank Gravel – The Best Guide is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

If your aquarium is freshwater, gravel is likely the best substrate option for you. Saltwater aquarium owners should look into sand substrates.

After concluding our own independent research, we compiled a list of the best freshwater aquarium gravel on the market right now (less than 30 days from 2021). At the end of this list, you will find our reasoning as well as the Do’s and Don’ts that come with aquarium gravel.

The Best Aquarium Gravels

Most Natural Aesthetic

This aquarium gravel has the most natural aesthetic, meaning it looks most similar to something you would find in a riverbed in nature. This type of gravel is well suited for freshwater plants as well, since the smooth surface of the rocks won’t scrape the roots.

We have listed two of similar types here, one for a 5-gallon or less aquarium, and one for a 20-gallon aquarium. If your aquarium is more than 20 gallons, you will need multiple 20-lb bags. 1 Gallon = 1 Pound of Gravel.

Less than or equal to 5-Gallon Aquarium
5-Gallon Aquarium Gravel (5-lbs)

CNZ Gravel – Natural River (5-lbs)

20-Gallons or more
20-Gallon Aquarium Gravel (18-lbs)

BLQH Gravel – River Rock (18-lbs)

Safest for the Fish and Plants

While most fish are hardy and can withstand some chemical residue left on the gravel, some species of fish (generally the more expensive ones), are extra sensitive and can fall ill due to the by-products of the breaking down of the gravel over time. Plants can suffer the same fate.

This gravel has been tested and proven to have significantly less residual chemicals in the water than other gravels, even after both gravels were washed 5 times. Additionally, the porous nature of the gravel allows easier flow of water which is better for freshwater plants and aquarium stability.

15-Gallon Fish Tank Gravel (15-lbs)

Seachem Clay Gravel – Flourite Black

Budget Option

We like to keep things short a simple here at Son’s Fish. We give you the best looking, the best working, and the best for your buck. This one is pretty self explanatory.

While there isn’t much else to offer other than the price, the GloFish gravel is by far the superior choice for a budget fish tank.

GloFish Aquarium Gravel (5-lbs)

GloFish Aquarium Gravel

The Do’s and Don’ts of Aquarium Gravel

We have gone ahead and compiled a list of Do’s and Don’ts for your aquarium gravel shopping research as well as the gravel installation.

Do make sure the gravel you chose is suitable with your type of fish

Some types of fish, crustaceans, or plants will struggle to survive with certain types of substrates. Make sure the substrate you choose works well with your species inside the aquarium.

Don’t pick the cheapest option because you don’t have the money

It is always better to continue saving your money until you have all the funds you need to continue with your project. Choosing a poor type of substrate can result in the loss of the life inside your aquarium

Don’t pour the gravel into the aquarium

When installing the gravel into the aquarium, it’s important to put in the gravel one hand a time. If you pour the gravel, even from a short height, it can crack the bottom aquarium.

Do get (about) 1 pound of gravel for each gallon of water

The substrate isn’t just about looks. This thick layer of gravel will build up healthy colonies of bacteria for your aquarium. If the layer is too thin, your aquarium will become unstable. You don’t have to be exact, but shoot for somewhere around 1-lb per 1-gal.


Upon conclusion of our independent research we decided the three top gravels we listed above based on a few different things. This includes but is not limited to; price, water quality after submersion, plant and animal performance following installation, and aesthetics.

We hope this article has proved helpful to you and your journey in finding gravel for your aquarium.

It is important to also note is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to,, and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. We do not specifically market to children under 13.

%d bloggers like this: