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10 Best Substrates For Goldfish – Reviews & Top Picks

Goldfish aquariums without substrate are easier to maintain, but substrate may provide a lot of visual appeal to your tank and serve as a foundation for a variety of aquatic plants.

Finding the correct substrate for your goldfish tank doesn't have to be difficult, but you should take your time when making your selection so that you don't have to remove it later to replace it with something better.

There are a wide variety of substrates to pick from, ranging in color, texture, and size. To make your search for the finest substrate for your goldfish tank as simple as possible, BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has compiled this list of the best substrates for goldfish available.

The Buyer's Guide

Finding the Right Substrate for Your Goldfish’s Aquarium


When it comes to goldfish tanks, you may choose from a wide variety of substrate colors. There are those who want a more natural look, and there are those who desire something colorful and lively.

If you’re searching for a brilliant hue, consider using a substrate that has been artificially dyed. To be on the safe side, be sure that anything you use won’t leech chemicals like polish or cleaner into your aquarium.


Choosing a tank’s texture is entirely up to you and your tank’s residents. Sand is a wonderful option if you like a smooth, undetectable texture.

Gravel and river rocks are fantastic options for a more dramatic look. You may also mix and match different materials to make your tank more visually appealing.

It’s important to keep in mind that placing heavy materials like gravel or boulders on top of a light one like sand will only function for a short time. Also, don’t forget about the fish you’ve got in the tank.

It’s best to avoid anything with sharp or jagged edges and stick to softer substrates that aren’t likely to injure your goldfish’s fins.


If you know what kind of plants you want in your tank, you’ll be able to choose a substrate accordingly. Substrate has little influence on the development and health of plants like Java Fern and Anubias, which receive nutrients from the water column.

Vallisneria and Crypts, on the other hand, require a nutrient-rich substrate to thrive. There are several methods to do this, but if your substrate is lacking in nutrients, root tabs are always a viable choice to consider.


The water parameters in most freshwater tanks won’t be much altered by the substrate you choose. However, it’s critical to recognize that there are some who do.

Crushed coral and argonite are saltwater aquarium materials that can drastically alter the chemistry of your tank’s water. Your water parameters may be affected by the use of nutrient-rich planting substrates.

Goldfish Tank Substrate Choices

  • A smooth substrate can be achieved with sand. Plants that favor soft substrates or have big root systems that want to spread out will benefit from this product, which is available in a variety of natural and artificial hues.
  • Substrate: Gravel and pebbles are a chunkier substrate between sand and rocks, making them ideal for aquariums. If you want plants that prefer to root in a nutrient-rich soil, this is the best option for you. Some plants are unable to penetrate gravel, so be careful when selecting your plants and substrate.
  • In aquariums, rocks, especially river rocks, might offer visual interest, depending on the design you’re striving for. Make sure you know what kind of pebbles you’re putting to your tank before you do so. Before adding any natural rocks to your tank, they should be well cleaned. Those plants, like the Java Fern, that prefer to grow on a hard surface, like rocks, are suitable candidates for rock gardens.
  • Clay is a good medium for growing beneficial microorganisms and plants. Water characteristics will be unaffected by certain clay substrates, but the pH will be lowered by many and these substrates are better suitable for acidic tanks, such as blackwater and other plant waste disposal facilities (BWD).


Substrates like AquaTerra Aquarium Sand and AquamountSantrol Aquaquartz Pool Filter Sand are great options, as are WAYBER’s decorative crystal pebbles, but they are more expensive. If you’re not sure about the texture or weight of the base coat you want, buy a few different types and return the one you don’t like.

Substrate should be purchased at a rate of one pound per gallon of water, regardless of the type of substrate used in your tank. To help you choose the right substrate, BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has put together these reviews to provide you with the best substrates for goldfish as a starting point when it comes to fish farming.


AquaQuartz Pool Filter Sand by FairmountSantrol

  • Texture: Fine
  • 50 pounds to 150 pounds
  • White is one of the options.
  • Cost Rating: $

For goldfish tanks, one of the greatest substrates isn’t really meant for aquariums at all! AquaQuartz Pool Filter Sand from FairmountSantrol is an excellent cost-effective option that is also aquarium safe. The pH or hardness of your water will not be affected by quartz sand, so there is no need to be concerned. Because it’s designed for pool filtration, this sand won’t form clumps, so you won’t have to deal with them in your aquarium. Unlike other substrates, sand is safe for goldfish since it won’t get lodged in their teeth or choke them. Although root tabs may be necessary, many plants thrive on sand.

Burrowing fish and snails and plants with extensive root systems can also be used to prevent gas pockets from forming in the sand. In order to prevent your goldfish from uprooting your plants, you may need to purchase plant weights.


  • Affordability
  • Optionally available in weights of 50 pound or 150 pound
  • Will not change the parameters
  • It’s quite improbable that a goldfish would accidently consume it.
  • In sandy soil, many plants may thrive.


  • Just a single hue to choose from
  • Goldfish may easily dislodge plants.

Sand for the aquarium

  • Texture: Fine
  • 5 pound weight limit
  • White and black are the only color options available for this item
  • Calculation of the price: $

AquaTerra Aquarium Sand, which comes in two shades, is a wonderful alternative if you want still another sand choice. However, you’ll need to purchase numerous bags for tanks larger than 5 gallons. With this sand, you won’t have to worry about the color fading or leaching out of your tank water because it has a safe acrylic covering. Because of its huge surface area, beneficial bacteria may thrive, resulting in better water quality. Your goldfish are unlikely to unintentionally consume this sand because it won’t form huge clumps in your aquarium.

This substrate may necessitate the use of root tabs and plant weights, as well as the addition of plants or animals to keep it turning. This sand is only sold in 5-pound sacks, so if you have a large tank, you’ll need more than one bag.


  • Affordability
  • Available in two different hues.
  • Will not change the parameters
  • It’s quite improbable that a goldfish would accidently consume it.
  • In sandy soil, many plants may thrive.


  • Only five-pound packages are offered.
  • Goldfish may easily dislodge plants.

Crystal Pebbles by WAYBER

  • Gravel with a smooth texture.
  • Sizes: 1-pound
  • Colors: Various
  • Amount Spent: Thousands of Dollars

These crystal pebbles are a beautiful addition to your goldfish tank’s substrate. Colors include blues, greens, and purples as well as clear ones, and the pebbles are the size of tiny to large gravel. Despite the fact that they weren’t designed with aquariums in mind, these stones are perfectly safe to use in your pond or lake. When it comes to plants, gravel is usually heavy enough to keep them in place, but it may not be strong enough for goldfish that are always trying to uproot them.

There have been stories of goldfish having grit lodged in their mouths, which is something to keep in mind. Goldfish that are still little or are really big are unlikely to pose a problem in this situation. Keep a watch on your goldfish if they are large enough to acquire gravel lodged in their teeth while they acclimatize to the new substrate. You’ll have to pay a premium for this gravel because it’s only sold in 1-pound sacks.


  • Colors that stand out
  • Combination of different sizes and hues
  • I will not change the parameters of the game.
  • Heavy enough to keep plants from wilting.


  • The premium cost
  • Only one pound packs are available.
  • A goldfish’s mouth may become clogged with gravel.

 Aquarium Gravel in Pisces Midnight Pearl

  • Gravel with a smooth texture.
  • Sizes: 4 lbs., 11 lbs., and 22 lbs..
  • Colors: A Variety of Options
  • Cost Rating: $$$$

Natural beauty abounds in the Pisces Midnight Pearl Aquarium Gravel, a stunning addition to any aquarium. Natural hues and sizes abound in this gravel, which comes from New Zealand. As a result, even though it’s smaller than typical aquarium gravel, it’s heavy enough not to be scooped up when the gravel is vacuumed. Grey, brown, white, and black are all beautiful natural hues that have a pearlescent sheen when viewed from below the surface. Using this gravel will not change your water parameters or leach any color into your tank.

Rinse this gravel well prior to use in order not to introduce any dust into the tank. You should expect some rough bits in the package because these rocks are naturally smoothed and not coated or polished.


  • Colors and sizes that are seen in the natural world
  • Minimal in size to avoid getting trapped in the mouth of a goldfish
  • Water parameters won’t be affected.
  • There are three different bag sizes to choose from.
  • Potted plants may perhaps be held in place by something as weighty as this.


  • Color options are limited to only one
  • To avoid water contamination from dust and particles, a thorough rinse is necessary.

Fluorite Black Sand by Seachem

  • Texture: Fine
  • Approximately four pounds in weight
  • Black is one option for a color.
  • Cost Rating: $$$$

Using Seachem Fluorite Black Sand is an excellent approach to colonize helpful bacteria because it is a natural product derived from very porous clay. It has been created for planted aquariums and won’t affect water parameters in any way. It’s hard to discern the difference between charcoal and dark black sand once it’s settled in a tank. You won’t have to worry about it leaching color into your water because it’s not covered in acrylic or other chemical coatings.

Before using this sand, it must be thoroughly rinsed many times. To avoid clouding your tank and taking many days to completely settle, you should use a filtration system that removes the waste. The water may need to be skimmed with a net or filter floss to remove dust and other floating particles if it is not thoroughly cleaned. This sand is designed to help hold plants in place, however goldfish may uproot plants before their roots are developed.


  • A hue that exists in nature
  • For aquariums with plants
  • No alterations will be made to the specifications.
  • It is rare that goldfish will consume it by mistake.


  • If not washed properly, it produces dust and floating particles.
  • This product is only offered in 15.4-pound bags.
  • Goldfish can easily uproot plants before their roots have grown in.

Author Image

Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler


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