In this article, we will certainly cover a really controversial topic, something that beginners battle when beginning out setup up their very very first turtle tank.

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Choosing thebest turtle substratefor your shelled reptile will certainly be important for you as a pets owner and also for the tortoise itself.

First the all, it’s crucial for you because depending top top what type of turtle substrate girlfriend will select for her turtle tank, it will mean how much time you will spend cleaning it up and transforming it.

Second, it’s additionally important for the tortoise when choosing the substrate, since different varieties of substrates are much more preferred by certain varieties of turtles.

Certain types of substrates require a different form of strategy than others as some species of substrates need to be changed an ext often than others

Don’t have time to dive right into this article? below you can discover our many preferred form of substrate because that both aquatic and land turtles.

We Recommend


Zoo Med ReptiSand, Desert tortoise White Sand Substrate

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After testing plenty of turtle substrates, we have actually a pretty an excellent idea the what characteristics make the best turtle substrate, and also theZoo Med ReptiSandit’s our peak choice.

All herbal no dyes or color addedPerfect because that desert reptilesStimulates herbal digging behavior

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Understanding turtle Substrates

A substrate is basically everything you placed on the bottom of your turtle tank or tub.

It deserve to be anything indigenous sand come gravel come nothing at all.The most renowned substrate the there is and also that world have for theirturtle tanks or tubsis gravel.

A substrate in a tortoise tank deserve to only accumulate uneaten food and wastes, which can easily dirty the water.

Some tortoise species, such together soft-shell turtles, which need a soft sand bottom, require it. However, most turtle keepers nothing use any type of substrate or gravel, make cleaning lot easier.

On the other hand, if a bare-bottom tank is not aesthetically satisfaction to you, girlfriend are totally free to decorate it, yet just be ready for much more frequent cleaning.

How To choose A turtle Tank Substrate

The substrate you choose can count on the species of turtle the you own.

Aquatic turtle spend most of their life in the water, so you may not need a substrate as long as you carry out abasking platform.

However, soil turtles need substrate forthermoregulationand to give them something to destruction or burrow into.

When purchase a substrate, you should consider the following:

Safety –When picking a substrate because that a softshell turtle, it need to be soft sufficient for her turtle carapace if he wishes to burrow right into it. Pebbles have the right to be used to heat the bottom of one aquatic tortoise tank since your turtle will be floating over it fairly than stepping top top it.Natural feeling –The goal of decorating a turtle tank is to do it look at as organic as feasible for the turtle, replicating the natural setting of the turtle have the right to make that feel much more at home.Avoid unnatural additive –Some substrates space treated with chemicals or dyes, which can be danger to your turtle. Make sure you check for substrates that are all-natural and wash castle well before using that in her pet turtle tank.Dangerous products –Substrates like calcium sand or little gravel are to be avoided for many reasons. One of two people they are too tiny and have the right to be eaten and cause impaction, or they deserve to contain ingredients that can be dangerous lengthy term for your turtle’s health.

The 5 Top-Rated tortoise Substrate

Editor’s Picks



Top Pick

Zoo Med ReptiSand, Desert turtle White Sand Substrate


Runner Up

Carib Sea ACS00120 Crushed Coral for Aquarium, 15-Pounds


Best budget Buy

Nature’s ocean Aragonite Gravel because that Aquarium, 10-Pound


Best turtle Pebbles

Royal Imports sleek Gravel flow Pebbles


Best Planted turtle Aquarium Substrate

Seachem Fluorite Planted turtle Aquaria


*Ratings space from Amazon at the time of publication and also can change

The best Turtle Substrate


1. Zoo Med ReptiSand, Desert turtle White Sand Substrate


After testing numerous turtle substrates, we have a pretty good idea of what characteristics make the ideal turtle substrate, and also theZoo Med ReptiSand, 10 Pounds, Desert Whiteit’s ours undeniable choice.

The look, the feel, and also quality are what made us conclude that this is our peak pick.

This sand’s good with any type of softshell turtle due to the fact that this sand is really smooth and also will make him feel appropriate at home providing him an extra point to perform throughout the day.

There is not lot else to say various other than the turtle will certainly love to burrow into this sand as this renders for wonderful heat conductor.

Combining this sand through turtle herbal decorations will create a very naturalistic and also attractive setting for the turtle.

Zoo Med ReptiSand Features:

All-natural no dyes or colors added which come in 2 colorsPerfect for desert reptiles and also softshell turtlesStimulates natural digging behavior

2. Carib Sea Crushed Coral for turtle Aquarium Substrate


TheCarib Sea ACS00120Crushed Coral, together opposed to sand, is great for civilization who are searching for a more natural aesthetic.

The load of this crushed coral helps keep the substrate from blowing around.

Having crushed coral in your turtle aquarium will certainly raise the ph and will stabilize itself.

Where it stabilizes will rely on the amount used and the acidity of her water during water changes.

The more you use, the greater the ph will certainly go, up to a point.

Carib Sea ACS00120Crushed Coral Features:

Contains Aragonite which originates from the ocean and also includes a high level the calcium and minerals i m sorry will normally buffer the water come a higher phGreat because that diamondback terrapin turtles together they favor to crush tough shells with their beaksCan look an excellent in the aquarium i beg your pardon will give it a an ext natural look

3. Royal Imports 5lb big Decorative polished Gravel flow Pebbles Rocks


One that the most popular options when it involves having pebbles in the tortoise tank.

The Royal Imports sleek Gravel river Pebbles are large enough to protect against them from gift chewed on cause impaction because that the turtle.

They also have varied variations that colors and also a smooth surface ar to prevent injury in case they desire to forage.

It have the right to be conveniently cleaned and re-used by simply soaking and disinfecting them in a big bucket that water because that 15 minutes, rinsing until all of the clearly shows particles space removed and the water operation clean.

Royal Imports sleek Gravel river Pebbles Features:

Round and large pebbles, bigger than a quarter coin sizeSmooth and easy come cleanDiverse colors and different patterns

4. Carib Sea Eco-Complete Planted tortoise Aquarium Substrate


If you room looking to have actually a substrate that deserve to be offered to prosper plants in it while in ~ the same be a good substrate because that a turtle the Carib Sea Eco-Complete is the perfect selection for this matter.

Getting to flourish plants into the tank while housing a turtle at the very same time will enrich the turtle’s next site making the feel an ext at home.

It all sounds too an excellent for the turtle but you must bear in mind the it’s pretty tough to start farming something when the turtle is there.

He will start eating most of the plants that he will see, therefore it’s a great idea to have something already planted.

Even so, the turtles will certainly love come dig into this substrate and exhaust their energy big doing so.

Carib Sea Eco-Complete Planted black color Substrate Features:

Encourages healthy plant root growthSafe for turtlesCompletely all-natural

5. Carib Sea Aragonite tortoise Aquarium Sand

The Carib Sea Aragonite Aquarium Sand substrate makes it an ideal aquarium substrate for North American turtle species.

It helps keep a ideal pH of 8.2 without the usage of chemicals. Has actually incredible surface area, approximately 100,000 sq inches per pound.

Most people’s madness water has actually a pH level of around 7.5 – 8.5. This substrate will work for many North American species, but when obtaining into the much more exotic species, then you need to pay attention to the pH levels.

With the phibìc American species, friend can get by through decreasing the pH levels to around 6.2 to assist in preventing shell diseases, however if you own a softshell turtle, we would not introduce going any type of lower than 6.5 for fear of hurting the turtle.

The grain dimension of the sand is lot bigger than oolite yet much smaller sized than pebbled gravel, that looks like a really small-grained crushed coral.

Carib Sea Aragonite Aquarium Sand Features:

Makes maintenance easierWorks good with phibìc American turtle speciesProven to alleviate nitrates far better than continuous aquarium gravel

6. Zoo Med Laboratories Aquatic river Pebbles because that Aquatic turtle Habitats

TheZoo Med Aquatic river Pebblesmakes that perfect because that aquatic tortoise aquariums and terrariums.

It’s an excellent For Red-eared Sliders, Map Turtles, Painted Turtles, Musk Turtles, Cooter’s, and also other species of totally aquatic turtles.

The pebbles sizes room varied however most room pretty large, almost about gravel-sized.

Most the the rocks have actually blue and also dark shade tents, but for the many part, they make the perfect rocks for your turtle.

Zoo Med Laboratories flow Pebbles Features:

Pre-washed pebblesSafe for all aquatic turtle (NOT because that softshell turtles)Easy come clean/re-useable

7. Seachem Fluorite Planted turtle Aquaria

The Seachem Fluorite substrate is a particularly fracted resilient porous clay gravel because that the natural planted aquarium.

Its watch is best suited to planted aquaria yet can be supplied in any freshwater aquarium setting.

Flourite is most reliable when supplied alone together a whole substrate bed, yet it might be merged with various other gravels.

Gravel modifiers such as laterite room not necessary.

Flourite is no chemically extended or treated and also will not transform the pH the the water.

Fluorite is good for the whole life the the aquarium and doesn’t have to be replaced. Although it is pre-washed, due to the fact that Flourite is a natural product, that may become dirty in transit and also require rinsing prior to use to eliminate any type of residual dust.

When including water to the turtle aquarium, fill it slowly to prevent disturbing the Flourite substrate bed.

Place a key in the aquarium and add water right to the bowl, enabling water come overflow lightly on come the gravel bed. Initial cloudiness is common so don’t panic when this will certainly happen.

To remove the cloudiness, usage any form of mechanically filtration.

Seachem Fluorite Features:

Rinse right in the bagAll herbal Porous clayFor Planted Aquarium

8. Nature’s ocean Aragonite Gravel because that Aquarium

The Natures ocean Aragonite (Grain size: 1.7 -2.5mm) it’s a premium aragonite reef substrate for aquariums the reduces nitrates and also maintains the ph levels.

Makes it right for reef mechanism tank bottoms, denitrifying anaerobic beds that have very high surface ar area filter media.

This substrate is a 5-star product on every front the has great value and quality included.

The little shells and also coral fragments are very porous and also will hold sand. For the ideal results, us recommend washing this product before adding it to any kind of tanks.

You will never ever get every one of the fine particles out, for this reason don’t expect crystal clean water throughout the to wash process.

Nature’s ocean Aragonite Features:

100% from The s FloorIncreases lead carbonate HardnessHeat Sterilized

9. Mosser Lee ML1110 Desert Sand soil Cover

The Hoffman Western it’s likewise a safe selection for your turtle together it’s clean and also fine enough to avoid any type of injuries for her turtle in case hes eating it.

The sand is good for her gardening and also terrarium making needs. The sand is an ext yellow or gold than white and also it is quite fine.

Hoffman west Features:

Western desert sandWashed silica sand

Types of Substrates For tortoise Tanks

There aren’t many choices for tortoise substrates that are specifically produced turtles yet getting to recognize the existing ones and also why several of them space being used and also preferred much more by part turtle holder is a an excellent step in coming to be a much better turtle owner.

Gravel tortoise Substrate

We will go end the great and poor parts that gravel substrate.

First turn off the good part is that it really looks nice and also it makes it seem more natural in the tortoise tank and more visually appealing.

Another point is the it can organize bacteria, it gives surface area for bacteria to grow on and that is walk to assist you v the filtration of the water.

The bad part is the if her turtles are huge enough come fit gravel in their mouths, castle will try and eat it and ingest it.

The worry arises as soon as they can’t pass the gravel, it becomes an impaction and also that will certainly block your stomachs.

And that’s why we just recommend gravel that is larger than the tortoise mouth and that can’t fit it in your mouths.

Large Rocks for turtle Tank

We introduce using bigger stones rather than little stones. Large gravel will certainly not catch as much debris as smaller rocks will, i beg your pardon will aid keep the water clean.

Turtles are less inclined to swallow large gravel once its large, i m sorry can cause deadly wounds.

Large, smooth stones are likewise less likely to damage your turtle’s carapace as soon as he sinks in the water.

Sand tortoise Substrate

Our personal favorite substrate the we will go over is sand.

The very first pro for the sand is that it’s cheap and also readily obtainable mostly everywhere.

It additionally looks really nice and really natural which likewise helps you the end to clean the tortoise tank as it will not hold any type of waste like various other substrates.

​The turtle have the right to ingest the sand since they have the right to pass it through with no problem.

For some varieties of turtle, largely the softshell turtles, will certainly absolutely love girlfriend if you placed sand in your enclosure, due to the fact that theylike to burrow right into it and stick their tiny heads up

The bad part with the sand is the if you have actually the layer of sand in ~ the bottom of her aquarium to thick, over lengthy periods of time, friend can acquire something called anaerobic bacteria.

This bacteria can grow without oxygen and also therefore can develop nasty gases and over time can bubble out of the sand which deserve to be toxicity for her fish and also turtles.

Needless to say for the to happen, it yes, really takes a lengthy time come happen however it can end up continue eventually.

Bare Bottom tortoise “Substrate”

Some take into consideration that having nothing at all in the tank to offer as a substrate is the finest option.

The benefits here are that it’s really easy to store the tank clean and also there’s nothing to really hold the rubbish of the tortoise in, nothing to clog your filter and also nothing because that the tortoise to ingest.


The just real concern here is that it doesn’t really look great, and also this is pretty lot the just con that we can find through this bare bottom substrate option.

But if you’re not bother at every by that right here are some benefits the comes with having actually no substrate in ~ all:

Easy come clean and maintainKeeps the water clean for longer periods of timeIt’s a good option if you room running short on money

Even if her turtle has the should forage ~ above something, there are plenty of ways to get approximately this such as hiding food in various decorations or offering them live foods items to hunting them.

Turtle Tank Sand or Gravel

Sand is a famous substrate that countless turtle keepers favor to have in your tanks. Sand can be an overwhelming to save clean even with constant vacuuming. Sand is perfect for turtles who like to dig in that such together softshell turtles.

If you do pick to usage sand, usage fine sand, favor the play sand that’s being offered for kids to pat with.

Gravel is yet one more popular type of substrate that’s being regularly used in turtle setups.

If you intended to location gravel into your turtle tank, be certain that’s big enough and smooth to avoid the tortoise eating it.

Water Quality when Using turtle Substrates

Some species of turtle substrates can have a much more or less an excellent effect on the water high quality of the turtle tank.

Poor water problems could mean troubles, wellness problems and also can reason death if not identified. There space 4 elements of water top quality that are vital in preserving water quality:


A an ext acidic pH is desired because of its capability to prevent details strains that bacteria and fungal eruptions.

The main issue for pH v turtles is that few of them depending upon the varieties require a certain of pH setting.

Without the appropriate pH levels gift maintained, there could be health issues that could occur for the turtle.

Commonly inquiry Questions around Turtle Substrates

Q: How often Should I change The Substrate?

It depends on the substrate the you use. If you usage gravel these deserve to be cleaned and reused again. If you room using sand it’s a good practice to adjust it every few months. If it’s a planted substrate you don’t must replace this in ~ all.

Q: deserve to I put Rocks In My tortoise Tank?

Yes. As long as lock don’t present any kind of sharp and also cutting edges, it’s for sure for them.

Q: What Is The finest Thing To placed In The Bottom that A tortoise Tank?

The finest thing to put at the bottom will depend on the form of types your turtle is. Many will controversy that having a bare bottom tank definition nothing at all, is the finest choice.

Q: Is Sand A great Substrate because that Turtles?

Yes. Specifically for the softshell turtles since they favor to burrow into it. It’s additionally a lot safer alternative than little gravel because the turtle deserve to pass it as soon as ingested.

Q: execute Turtles require Humidity?

Aquatic turtles having low humidity is no an issue because they live in water. However, having a high humidity deserve to be worrying while he’s basking due to the fact that it will stop the covering to dry off completely.

Q: will Turtles Eat Substrate?

There is no real scientific research study to support this theory so our evidence is anecdotal. Indigenous what we’ve checked out turtles will try and eat virtually anything that can fit right into their mouths, therefore that’s why our list is comprised of substrates that are safe for the turtle also if lock eat them.

Our Conclusion

​Choose bedding the fits her turtle’s demands closely and look because that safeness together the number one preeminence when selecting a substrate.

Also shot to stick to substrates native the very best brand to avoid any complications.

Use a mix of different types of substrates that could fit your turtle type of species.

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Remember the the best turtle substrate different from tortoise to turtle, and it might be a issue of trial and also error till you uncover something that fits their needs.