The 5 Best Turtle Tank Substrates
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Decorating your turtle tank is half the fun, but it’s easy to get carried away in the excitement. When designing and equipping your pet turtle tank, you need to think practically as well as creatively.
Things like filters and heat lamps help keep your turtle healthy but you also need things like substrate to line the bottom of the tank. There are many kinds to choose from, so think carefully before you buy.
At a Glance: Best Turtle Tank Substrates To Buy
We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
Compare Best Turtle Tank Substrates
1. Exo Terra Turtle Large Natural River Pebbles
2. Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel
Best For Aquatic Turtles
3. CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight Freshwater Sand
Best For Terrestrial Turtles
4. Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate
Best For Planted Tanks
5. Flourite Premium Natural Substrate
What To Look For In Turtle Tank Substrate
The substrate you choose depends on the type of turtle you have. Aquatic turtles spend most of their time in the water, so you may not need a substrate as long as you provide basking areas. Land turtles, on the other hand, need substrate to cushion the bottom of the tank and to give them something to dig or burrow into, if they want to.
Here are some important things to look for in a turtle tank substrate:
- Soft and safe. When choosing substrate for a terrestrial turtle, it should be soft enough for your turtle to safely walk on. Pebbles can be used to line the bottom of an aquatic turtle tank because your turtle will be swimming above it rather than walking on it.
- Natural appearance. The goal of decorating a turtle tank is to make it look as natural as possible, so choose substrates like sand, small pebbles, or natural fibers. It also allows your turtle to perform important natural behaviors.
- No artificial additives. Some substrates are treated with chemicals or dyes, which can be harmful for your turtle. Make sure to choose a substrate that is all-natural and clean it well before using it in your pet turtle tank.
- Avoid dangerous materials. Things like calcium sand, newspaper, cat litter, and walnut shells are all to be avoided for various reasons. Either they are too rough on your turtle’s skin, or they contain ingredients that can be harmful.
Our Top Picks For The Best Turtle Tank Substrates
Now that you have a better idea what to look for in turtle tank substrate, it’s time to start shopping! Keep reading to see our top 5 picks for the best substrate for turtle tanks.
Here are our top 5 picks for the best turtle tank substrate:
Exo Terra Turtle Large Natural River Pebbles
- Type: Pebbles
- Amount: 10 pounds
- Materials: River pebbles
- Smooth edges prevent injury to foraging turtles
- Variable colors/patterns create a natural look
- Easy to clean and reusable
- Turtles won’t be able to dig or burrow in it
- Should be rinsed before using to remove dust/dirt
These pebbles are fine and smooth, so they won’t injury your turtle, and they work well as a base layer in a terrestrial turtle tank or to line the bottom of an aquatic turtle tank. They help create a natural appearance in your tank and they are very easy to clean.
Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel
- Type: Gravel
- Amount: 5 pounds
- Materials: Natural gravel
- Natural materials with a non-toxic color coating
- Provides good surface area for biologic filtration in a tank
- Won’t change the pH or chemistry of tank water
- Some pebbles may have rough edges
- The size makes them a serious risk for accidental ingestion for some turtles.
- Blue color may not look as natural as other substrates
CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight Freshwater Sand
- Type: Sand
- Amount: 5 pounds
- Materials: Fine sand
- Natural white color is very attractive
- pH neutral with no chemicals or dyes
- Fine texture is safe for turtles
- May compact too much for burrowing
- Strong filters may kick it up and cloud the water
Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate
- Type: Natural fiber
- Amount: 8 quarts
- Materials: Coconut fiber
- Creates a natural look for terrarium setups
- Made entirely from natural coconut fibers
- Supports proper humidity in the tank
- Some bags can be a little dusty
- Risk for ingestion if a sinking food is used
- Not intended for use as an aquatic substrate
Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Substrate provides these things and more. It is an all-natural substrate that is easy to use and helps keep up the humidity in your terrestrial turtle tank.
Flourite Premium Natural Substrate
- Type: Gravel
- Amount: 7.7 lbs.
- Materials: Fluorite
- Made from all-natural porous clay materials
- Supports healthy aquatic plant life
- Easy to rinse and simple to use
- Can be dusty at first, needs to be rinsed well
The best substrate for a planted turtle tank is SeaChem Fluorite Premium Natural Substrate because it is an all-natural porous clay that supports plant growth in an aquatic environment. It is quick to rinse, easy to use, and looks great.
Tips For Outfitting Your Turtle Tank
Designing and decorating your turtle tank is half the fun of owning a pet turtle. Don’t forget, however, that your turtle’s tank is its home and it should mimic the turtle’s natural environment as much as possible while also providing for your turtle’s basic needs.
Here are some general tips for decorating and setting up your turtle tank:
- Choose the largest turtle tank you can afford – your turtle will spend most of its life in the tank, so make sure it is spacious enough for your turtle to exhibit natural behaviors.
- Equip your tank for the type of turtle you have – all turtles can benefit from a basking area, but aquatic turtles need more swimming space than terrestrial turtles. Aquatic turtles should have water as deep as they are long from the front to the back of the shell.
- Select a substrate appropriate for your turtle and your tank – there are different substrates recommended for aquatic versus terrestrial turtles.
- Add natural décor elements such as smooth stones, plants, and water features in your turtle tank to make it more like your turtle’s natural environment.
The decorations you choose for your tank are largely a matter of preference, though you do need to keep your turtle’s requirements in mind. Choose the biggest tank you can afford and equip it appropriately, adding natural décor elements to create an environment your turtle will be happy in.
When it comes to decorating your turtle tank, there is plenty of room for creativity. As long as you provide for your turtle’s basic needs, you can make the tank look just about how you want it. Be sure to include a filter to keep the water clean, a heat lamp to keep your turtle warm, and the right substrate for the type of turtle you have.
If you’re still not sure where to start in looking for turtle tank substrate, try out one of the top 5 best substrates for turtle tanks we’ve reviewed above. Good luck!