Is Sand or Gravel Better for Planted Aquarium?

Is Sand or Gravel Better for Planted Aquarium?

If you are planning to add plants to your aquarium, you should know about the use of sand and gravel. In this article, we have explained the differences and benefits of using sand or gravel for the fish tank.

Is Sand or Gravel Better for Planted Aquarium? You can use both sand and gravel for a planted aquarium. The gravel is the best choice for all the planted aquariums with fresh water and the best environment. Tanks with a substrate in their bottom are a much better choice than a simple one. Sand gives a natural look to the plants.

Is Sand or Gravel Better for Planted Aquarium?

Planted aquariums require designing and a proper plan. The selection of the substrate is a technical process. It is not just about aesthetics, but it affects the plants, the living organisms, and the bottom of the tank.

You can choose and buy gravel from any fish farm and fish store. These have different textures and designs, and they make the aquarium worthy than the casual tank. 

Difference between sand and gravel in the planted aquarium

Gravel for aquarium Sand for aquarium
It is an ideal substrate for all planted water tanks. It has low filtration properties, and the water gets dirty soon.
It is good at working with all the processes of filtration. It is only best for delicate fishes, and not all fishes survive in the bottom of sand.
It has a better aspect, and it hides all the unnecessary material like debris and dust of the aquarium. It has a smooth and natural appearance, but it has less absorbance than gravel.
Multi-color gravel is best for gold and other fishes, and it is attractive to them. The color varies, but the water appears worst.
It has much variety as compared to the aquariums The prevention of debris is lesser than gravel, and it can spread in some cases.

Types of sand for aquarium

  • Sand for aquarium comes in different shades, and there are enormous varieties. 
  • Some of them are coarse, and they have a uniform size for the aquarium. 
  • Commercial sands are with labels and properties on them. 
  • It is usually 1/16 to 2mm in size, and it is for the aquarium. 
  • Living: It has living organisms like bacteria of water in it. They have the packaging, and it has both half-pints of water of salt and substrate in it.
  • Calcium-containing sand: These packets are with crushed particles of calcium. The carbonate is an additive part of the packaging. It is fantastic for saltwater aquariums.
  • Uniform dessert sand: These are smaller particles with a uniform and accurate size. They are best for all types of terrariums. It has natural shades and has a good interaction with water and its chemistry. 
  • Sands for plants: It has grounded small particles of clay, and it also has iron in it. 
  • Sand for pools: It is pale in color and better for changeable waters.
  • Artificial sand: It has silica, and it is economical. 

Types of gravel

  • Inert form 

These are almost 2mm in size, and they are best for aquariums. These are available in various packaging. The substrate contains living organisms like bacteria and some other microorganisms.

They help in reducing the syndromes of the tank. It is helpful in thrive the life of the fishes and provides them complete nutrition. They need no rising of water and work as a whole all along.

It is suitable for all types of water species and excellent for their growth. It is expensive than other substrates and comprises various sizes and colors. They do not alter the quality of water. 

  • Colorful 

These are river gravels, and they are from different rivers. The size is small, and they have multiple colors. The companies clean and process them, and they are available in commercial packaging at the fish stores. You can plant lucky bamboo in your fish tank.

The appearance is eye captivating, the texture is smooth, and they are attractive. There is a better flow through the substrate, and they do not allow the dead zones inside the tank. It suits all the fresh and living things.

It establishes the living creatures in the tank, and it is helpful for all the other fishes. The originating of algae is a drawback of this particular gravel. 

  • Small stones

These are the best source of nutrients for all the plants in the tank. The whole package contains small size stones which are almost pea shape, and it has nutrients and minerals inside it. There is an excellent circulation of water throughout the substrate, and it is a preventive measure for dead microorganisms.

It is stable in its consistency, and it does not alter the chemistry of the tank’s water. It is heavy on the budget, and it requires the rising of water inside the environment. This is perfect to anchor plants in gravel.

  • Artificial

Industrial materials make this type of gravel and have a coating of acrylic. It has a variety of colors, and it glows in the dark.

It is an exceptional and attractive feature for the home and other aquariums. The colors are fading naturally, and they do not alter chemistry. You can add a suitable type of wood to the aquarium.

How much gravel do you need for an aquarium?

The gravels are expensive, and it is essential to understand the amount to purchase and use for a specific tank. The depth decides various factors, and they are necessary before filling it. The calculations for a tank of fifty-five to sixty gallons contain two to three inches of gravel.

The larger tanks comprise three to four inches of substrate, and it increases with the increasing height of the water tank. The optimal efficiency requires the extra addition in the aquarium, and it increases the filtration. It is a simple process to calculate the amount in terms of purchasing. 

Measure the dimensions of the aquarium using a measuring tape. Calculate the width ad length of the tank. A tank that is 20 x 50 inches in length and width, and there is a need to multiply the figures. The resultant amount shows the requirements for the water tank.

It shows the weight of the material in pounds and keeps the surface 2 to 3 inches in height at the bottom.

In the case of commercial pouches of material, change the amount in pounds by dividing 2.2. It is a standard formula for calculating the casual amount, and you can also use online calculators for this purpose. 

Benefits of using gravel for aquarium plants

Better flow of water

It allows excellent flow, and no type of sand or another substrate can replace this feature. In those systems which have under gravels in them, it is suitable for them. The free-flowing of water keeps the fishes and all other living organisms alive.

It prevents the formation of bacteria and their pockets. They are not suitable for living life inside the aquarium. The bacteria pollute the water, and it creates a sense of suffocation. Different syndromes develop due to this process. 

Healthy for plants

The gravel is itself healthy for the better growth and survival of the plants inside the tank. It has all the flourishing and healthy nutrients to make the plants healthier. They develop good interaction between the aquarium stem plants and the fish. 

Excellent environment

It provides an excellent environment for fish and other living things. It makes the whole tank beautiful and appealing to everyone.

The colors disperse in water, and the addition of light makes it fantastic. The plants provide the best sights inside them, and the bottom area looks appealing with the collaboration of everything. 

No smell

Gravel has the potential that it keeps the aquarium and keeps water clean. The hygienic conditions enhance the life span of all the fish inside it.

The water remains clean and clear all the time, and it is attractive for the audience. The lack of any pollutant means there is no smell in the water. There are no chances of suffocation, and it is best in all possible ways. 

Allows filtration

The heavy gravel is better than the normal one due to its filtrating properties. The pressure of dirt and other debris forces the material to move upward, and it is not best for the tank. The upward movement pollutes the water and makes it stingy and smelly.

The sand moves in the up direction under such pressures, but the gravel sits at its position. This feature is helpful for the proper filtration of water in a specific area. It separates the dirty material and keeps the water in the best condition. It is a healthy and cooperative process that flows in favor of the whole life circle. 


Fish is a species that enjoys moving inside the tank all the time. They have that digging property, and they burrow inside the gravel. It does not form clouds despite all the force and continuous movement that keeps the water crystal clear every time.

It prevents the tank from changing the water every day and makes the fish life casual and secure. 


It is unique in its qualities and features for the planted aquariums, and it is excellent for the roots of plants inside the tank. Gravel is a natural fertilizer without adding anything as additional sources. 

Living organisms

The fish use algae as their diet, and it is highly nutritious for them. Gravel helps in the growth of algae, and the fish eats that and keeps it in control. It is a valuable food source in those cases when real food is not available for some time. 

Complex and versatile

It has a complex nature, but the shades make it versatile. It comprises multiple features that make it unique.

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