Best Substrate for Aquatic Turtles

Aquatic Turtles are fascinating tiny creatures, yet caring for them may be challenging. The main and most important equipment in a turtle’s tank is the substrate. Many individuals are concerned about finding the best equipment for their animals. Although filters and heat lamps help the turtle stay fit and healthy, the importance of substrate cannot be neglected.

So, I have finalized some of the best substrate for aquatic turtles on the basis of their softness, material, natural appearance, my personal experience with them, and users’ response to these substrates. Every substrate has some advantages and drawbacks, but these are the perfect ones in the market nowadays. 

Best Substrate for Aquatic Turtle

What is Turtle’s Substrate? 

A substrate is any stuff placed at the bottom of a turtle’s tank. Gravel, sand, charcoal, and fluorite are all options, with gravel being the most popular. Some turtle species don’t need a substrate. Furthermore, using a glass-bottomed aquarium reduces the risk of your turtle eating or being damaged by the substrate. It’s also simple to keep fresh and manage.

What are the different types of substrates for turtles? 

There are some options for substrates that are made for turtles. As an owner, you must know about all substrate types, usage, benefits, and drawbacks. 

Large Rocks or Pebbles

Large Rocks or Pebbles

A pebble is a smaller rock piece than a stone. They have a diameter of 10 to 150 mm and are rounded or elliptical. These rock shards are naturally tumbled with flowing river water from mountains towards planes, resulting in a smooth surface. Their advantage is, turtles can’t swallow them due to their large size, but large stones can not catch much waste. 



The significant benefit of the sand is that it’s an evergreen product and inexpensive. It’s a pure natural product and doesn’t produce waste while cleaning. Some turtles prefer to burrow into the sand and push their heads upwards, so it’s a good idea to put some in your habitat. Sand is especially recommended for softshell turtles because they prefer to burrow into it and keep their heads upwards. 



This substrate is the priority of all experts. It’s a natural and appealing substrate. The prominent feature is that it can hold bacterias and provide a safe and smooth place where bacteria grow and assist in water filtration. The disadvantage is that some turtles try to eat the gravel, and it blocks the animal’s stomach in some cases. Bigger size gravel than the pet’s mouth is suggested. 

Buying Guide: Best Substrate for Aquatic Turtles

Aquatic turtles live in the water. You would want to purchase the right and proper equipment for your aquatic turtle, so keep a few points in mind before buying. 

Natural Look

Decorating the turtle substrate is very interesting. The main goal of the tank’s decoration is to make it look like a natural setting. So, pick substrates like small pebbles, sand, and natural fibers. Aquatic turtles feel happy and secure in their natural habitat. 

Safe and Soft

When choosing a substrate for a turtle, make sure it’s soft enough for it to walk on safely. Rigid substrate like small pieces of rocks is not suggested. Pebble is an excellent material to be used at the bottom. Soft material at the button will not hurt the turtle while digging or burrowing. 

Avoid Dangerous Stuff

Many varieties of substrates are available in the market, and these all are not a good choice for your pet. Ignore the calcium sand and small gravel, and sometimes turtles try to eat these materials, and this stuff blocks their stomach veins. 

No Artificial Material

Some substrates have chemicals, or colors added, which might be toxic to your turtle. Pick the entirely natural substrate and thoroughly clean it before using it in your pet turtle aquarium.

Customers Response

If you’ve decided on a substrate, make sure to read customer reviews on Amazon or other sites where you’ll purchase it. These remarks will give you an idea of how the product performs out of the package. 

Five Best Aquatic Turtles Substrates

Flourite Premium Natural Substrate – best turtle substrate

Here is a fantastic product for those who are looking for a natural substrate. It’s made up of all-natural porous clay materials. Those who want to decorate their tanks add a few live plants to the tank. The plants are supported to grow in a watery environment by this substrate. These plants help keep the water clean and provide additional food for turtles. If you are thinking of mixing any other substrate with it, you can add it, but I have observed that fluorite gives the best results when used alone. 

Many readers ask, is it chemically processed? It’s 100% pure natural gravel, and it’s completely natural processed, so it will not change water’s pH. It’s easy to use and looks fantastic in an aquarium or tank. I have been using it for the last eight months, and I have found it excellent value for money. I bought it on Amazon, and delivery was on-time without any issue with the product. 

  • Pure natural substrate
  • Easy to use
  • For planted aquarium
  • Tanks looks great
  • Needs to be rinsed well before use

Exo Terra Turtle Pebbles – good substrate for turtle tank

If you’re a beginner and don’t know which substrate is best for your turtle, I recommend starting with this one. The pebbles are rounded and smooth, so they can’t damage tortoise skin and act as a superficial layer on the bottom. The unique aspect is that it’s packed in many different patterns and colors, so it looks natural and sassy.

These would be fantastic in a turtle aquarium. Because they’re bigger, your turtle won’t eat any of them. They need to be washed when they first arrive because they appear to have a layer of paper dust on them. You can reuse and disinfect them by soaking them in a water bucket. I’ve been using the Exo Terra turtle pebble for the last two years and quite satisfied with it. 

  • Smooth edges
  • Variable colors and patterns
  • Reusable
  • Easy to clean
  • Rinsed well before using
  • Turtles can’t burrow or dig in this substrate

Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Filter Substrate

Because land turtles prefer digging and burrowing, they require a different sort of substrate than aquatic turtles. The fibers in Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Substrate assists maintain a healthy level of humidity in the turtle’s aquarium. Most turtle breeds require a certain amount of moisture to keep their bodies healthy. They may suffer health problems if the humidity level is too low. Furthermore, this substrate gives a natural look, but it’s also soft enough to keep your turtle comfortable. It’s very simple to use and maintain. Similarly, you can use it damp or dry depending on your turtle’s demands.

  • Natural substrate Maintains humidity level
  • A bit pricey

Read More: Best Snake Racks

Pure Water Pebbles Natural Aquarium Gravel

It’s our final product and one of the most affordable substrate on this list. It’s a pure natural substrate and would not change the pH of water. Many readers say it’s fish gravel, but I took a risk and bought it. I was surprised to see the tank after using it. These pebbles will increase the look of the tank. It’s secure and safe for turtles, and simple to use. 

  • Natural materials
  • pH will remain the same
  • Safe for turtles
  • Some complaints about its rough edges

Carib Sea Super Natural Moonlight Sand

Here is our fourth best substrate for aquatic turtles that is specially designed for these turtles. The company claims that no chemical is used in the formation of this substrate, and I believe it because I have used this product and didn’t find it toxic. For beginners, it’s the perfect substrate to start a tank. Its white color looks fantastic. Wash it well before using. 

  • Natural white color
  • Chemical proof
  • Easy to use
  • Safe for turtles
  • Does not offer to burrow

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Which substrate is perfect for the bottom? 

Gravel is the best and perfect substrate for all experts and pet parents. Some turtles may eat gravel which can cause stomach issues, so use gravel that is large in size. 

Q2. What are the necessary items in the tank? 

Here is some essential equipment in turtle’s aquarium:

  • Water heater
  • Filter
  • Basking platform
  • Heat source
  • Ultraviolet light
  • Water
  • Substrate
Q3. What’s the best time to change a turtle's water?

Must change the turtle’s water after one week. After two or three weeks, clean the whole tank and filter. 

Last Words

There’s a lot of room for creativity when it comes to designing your turtle tank. You can customize the tank to appear almost any way you want it as long as you meet your turtle’s fundamental needs. Include a heat lamp, a water filter to keep water clean, and the best substrate for aquatic turtles. Go through the complete buying guide to select a suitable product. 

Leave a comment