Terrarium Gravel: The Ultimate Guide

If you want to take your terrarium from ordinary to extraordinary, a bit of gravel can go a long way. This guide will provide all of the necessary information about terrarium gravel so that you can make an informed decision about what type is best for your space.

From the different options you have to choose the right one and create a breathtaking terrarium, we will cover it all! Read on to unlock the wonders of terrarium gravel and turn your ordinary space into something magical.

What Is Terrarium Gravel?

Terrarium gravel is a type of substrate used to create and sustain vibrant landscapes in vivariums. Gravel is a necessary component of any terrarium to help provide an attractive and healthy environment for your terrarium plants. The rugged substrate serves a variety of functions, all of which this guide will go into complete detail about.

What are the best types of terrarium gravel?

Common Uses For Gravel

Terrarium gravel can either be placed on top of the substrate or mixed into the soil. One of the more common places for gravel is under the substrate where it is used as a drainage layer. When used as a drainage layer, It should have a coarse texture in order to promote the cultivation of healthy bacteria and help prevent surface runoff.

Benefits Of Using Gravel

In addition to cultivating bacteria, another benefit of using terrarium gravel is aiding to retain moisture and prevent the soil from drying out, which leads to promoting healthier roots and leaves.

As moisture accumulates in the gravel, the evaporation process creates humidity inside the terrarium, which helps the plants thrive. Gravel also looks appealing and gives your terrarium a finishing touch.

Best Types of Terrarium Gravel

Terrarium gravel usually consists of inorganic material, such as textured gravel, polished stones, and even sand. Gravel can also be made from organic material, such as wood chips or bark, but this can decay over time and attract harmful pests, so it is best to use inorganic gravel for terrariums.

Textured Gravel 

Plain gravel is composed of smooth, round pebbles of various shades, giving a terrarium a natural look. While plain gravel lacks the added color and texture of other substrates, it is a low-cost option and can be used with live plants.

Natural gravel is sourced from riverbeds, quarries, and other sources, providing varied textures and natural colors. This gravel contains beneficial minerals, is easy to clean, and creates a stunning aesthetic that complements a wide array of animal species.

Colored gravel is a popular choice as it offers a visual pop of bright shades and can be used in combination for additional aesthetic appeal. Depending on the type of gravel, some are toxic and require regular maintenance, so make sure to do your research prior to making a purchase of this option.

Polished Stones

Polished stones come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from gravel to pebbles and larger stones. They retain their intense coloration, giving the gravel a glossy look. Polished stones are a great way to add a variety of colors and textures to your terrarium, as well as to provide drainage and a natural substrate for living plants.

The stones can be securely layered under the soil for better drainage, as well as above it to allow for more interesting landscaping. The non-porous material of the stones helps in preventing mold and bacterial growth. Polished stones are easy to clean and maintain and make the perfect gravel for both damp and dryer areas within your make-believe world.

Calcareous Sand

Calcareous Sand is a type of terrarium gravel that’s made from sedimentary rocks, such as limestone and chalk. It has a light tan or brown color and is composed of large, gritty grains. It’s one of the most popular substrates for terrariums because it offers excellent drainage and moisture retention.

On top of that, it’s pH neutral, making it suitable for a wide variety of terrarium plants. In terms of maintenance, Calcareous Sand should be changed out every few years to be sure that it remains nutrient-rich.

It’s also important to keep an eye on the pH level of the terrarium, as this type of terrarium sand can begin to break down over time and affect the pH level. Calcareous sand is relatively easy to find and is a great choice for anyone looking to give their terrarium an attractive and natural look.

How to Choose the Right Gravel For Your Terrarium

Choosing the right gravel for your terrarium is essential for maintaining the health and beauty of your terrarium. When choosing gravel, it’s important to consider the kind of plants and animals you plan to include in your terrarium and their preferences.

You may also want to select a variety of different colors of gravel to create a unique look in your terrarium. Colorful gravel can help contrast and bring out the beauty of the inhabitants in the terrarium.

You may want to consider the size of the gravel. Certain types of gravel may be too small and can choke or injure your animals. larger, chunky pieces should be used for terrariums with larger plants, while smaller pieces are better for small terrariums with small plants.

Finally, you should also make sure to pick gravel with a neutral pH to ensure the terrarium of an optimal pH level.

Terrarium Gravel Maintenance: Tips & Tricks 

Terrarium gravel maintenance is essential for a healthy terrarium. It’s also relatively easy to achieve with a few simple steps. For above substrate gravels, the most basic step is to use lukewarm water when cleaning it, rinse it off, and replace the gravel when necessary.

After cleaning the gravel, it’s important to use a suitable container and fill it with wet gravel. Make sure to avoid adding any water other than in the cleaning process, as this can create unwanted bacteria growth.

Furthermore, be sure to keep the gravel dry between cleaning days, only adding a little water every few days depending on the type of terrarium you’re constructing. Finally, always use adequate ventilation to allow oxygenation of the terrarium and avoid waterlogged gravel, which can lead to mold or mildew buildup.

With routine maintenance, you’ll be able to properly care for your gravel and maintain a beautiful, healthy terrarium.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Terrarium Gravel 

Troubleshooting common issues with terrarium gravel are crucial for any terrarium enthusiast. Dilemmas such as uneven substrate and mold growth can arise if the false type of gravel or the wrong quantity is chosen.

To address these issues, it is important to understand the purpose of the gravel in the terrarium and the different properties of the gravel. Moreover, too much gravel can weigh down the terrarium and too much water can cause anaerobic bacteria growth.

It is essential to remove any contaminated gravel and add the right kind of gravel to ensure a healthy living environment. On top of that, the terrarium should be drained of excess water to avoid water logging.

To help prevent future issues, it would be ideal to regularly inspect the terrarium and gravel for any signs of contamination or mold. Regular maintenance and care will ensure that your terrarium is kept healthy and free from any issues.


Terrarium gravel can be a great addition to the beauty and health of your terrarium. As you can see, there is a wide variety of gravel available, each with its own type of benefits. By choosing the correct gravel for your terrarium, you can customize it to match the perfect look that you want and also increase the lifespan of your terrarium. With maintenance and a little creativity, you can create a wonderful and unique terrarium of your own!

How thick should gravel be for drainage?

The thickness of gravel used for drainage should depend on the volume of water that needs to be drained. Typically, a layer of gravel should be at least one to two inches deep. For larger drainage areas, up to four inches may be necessary.

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