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Best Turtle Substrate Reviewed

You want to give your turtles the best possible habitat. Whether you have an aquatic turtle or a land-dwelling pet, getting the right substrate can be an important part of that. It can improve the look of any tank but also serve a vital role in giving them a comfortable environment.

What makes the best turtle substrate? There are several factors to take into account such as its suitability to your turtle, how safe it is and how easy it is to clean. Other factors such as how it looks will also be important.

With plenty to think about, it can be hard to know what the best turtle substrate is for you. That’s where we want to help. We’ve found the 13 best substrates out there and have also answered some FAQs in case you had any queries. Let’s get started!

The 13 Best Turtle Substrates for Your Tank

Here are our reviews of the 13 best turtle substrates available right now.

CFKJ Aquarium Gravel River Rock

For those that wanted to have rocks for their turtle substrate, this would be perfect. They have a polished finish which means that they not only look great but they are also smooth and therefore won’t cause any abrasions. That style is also increased by their range of colors.

The rocks are far too big for turtles to think about eating them and will be comfortable on their feet. The large bag gives you plenty to work with but there aren’t any other buying options. The stones are easy to clean and require minimal maintenance. They are perfect for any turtle lovers looking for rock substrate.

What we liked

  • Polished finish
  • Stylish appearance
  • Variety of natural colors
  • Easy on their feet
  • Too large to swallow
  • Value for money
  • Easy to clean
  • Large bag

What we didn’t like

  • No buying options
  • Some chipped stones

Sackorange 2 LB Aquarium Gravel River Rock

Sackorange is another company that has made an elegant rock solution. The standout feature of these rocks is their bright natural colors that will make your habitat look fantastic. They are rounded, polished and will be completely safe with the large pieces you get. The pieces are far too big to worry about your turtle ingesting them.

They are a little expensive when compared to other rocks but have plenty of great features. No pre-cleaning is required and you’ll get the benefit of quick delivery. If you want to combine a healthy habitat with stunning beauty then these rocks would be a good choice.

What we liked

  • Brightly colored rocks
  • Rounded and polished
  • Large pieces
  • Looks great
  • No pre-cleaning required
  • Simple to clean
  • Too big to swallow
  • Fast delivery

What we didn’t like

  • Some cracks and chips
  • A little expensive

Exo Terra Riverbed Sand

For those looking for a sand solution, Exo Terra has you covered. This is a high-quality substrate that your turtles are going to love burrowing in. The packaging can be a little poor at times but if you get your product in one pieces then you’re going to love it. Some users have reported receiving open bags but this is rarely an issue.

It comes in a large 10-pound bag that will go a long way. The fine sand is going to be safe and comfortable for any turtle. Added to these features, the sand is completely natural and it will also be an attractive addition to any habitat. It can be used at the bottom of an aquatic tank but also for a basking area.

What we liked

  • High-quality sand
  • No impaction worries
  • Large 10-pound bag
  • 100% natural
  • Perfect for aquatic turtles
  • Ideal for burrowing
  • Very fine sizing
  • Makes an attractive habitat

What we didn’t like

  • Poor packaging
  • Can be a little messy

Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding

This bark is going to be perfect for a box turtle or any land-dwelling turtle. The large pieces of bark look great and gives them a great surface on which to explore. It will also be safe and you don’t have to worry about impaction.

There are three size options available and they all give you great value for money. The bark will aid in maintaining high humidity and it will last for a long time. The packet can be a little dusty which can be a little annoying. Aside from that, it’s a brilliant substrate and one that both you and your turtles are going to love.

What we liked

  • Three size options
  • Aids in high humidity
  • Large pieces of bark
  • Easy to burrow under
  • Great for box turtles
  • Impressive longevity
  • Looks great
  • Value for money

What we didn’t like

  • Can be quite dusty
  • Too small for some users

Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Substrate

Another brilliant substrate for box turtles is coconut fiber. These Zoo Med packages come in a compact size and then expand massively. That makes them great to store for future use. You also get a minimum amount of dust from these bricks and therefore aren’t going to be as messy at some other options.

That expansion does mean that there is a fair amount of preparation time required but that’s not a problem for most people. It’s very easy to use and will be popular with many different types of turtles. It’s able to retain a high level of humidity and is fairly easy to clean.

What we liked

  • Huge expansion
  • Great for high humidity
  • Ideal for many turtle types
  • Easy to use
  • Simple to store
  • Good for bulk buyers
  • Fast shipping
  • Minimal dust

What we didn’t like

  • Preparation time
  • May be too fine for some

Zoo Med (2 Pack) Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate

We’ve looked at large bricks of coconut fiber substrate but this is perfect for anyone who wants all those advantages but without the preparation time. This substrate is nice and soft for your turtle while also being able to hold a high level of moisture.

It will look great in your turtle’s habitat and it also has a fairly pleasant smell to it. All of this comes at excellent value for money, especially considering how easy it is to clean. It’s impaction safe and the two 8 quart bags will be able to go a long way in giving your turtles the perfect habitat.

What we liked

  • Pleasant smell
  • Nice and soft
  • Hold moisture well
  • Two 8 quart bags
  • Excellent value for money
  • Easy to clean
  • Impaction safe
  • Looks good

What we didn’t like

  • Some delivery issues
  • Average customer service

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

If you need to fill a large area then this Zoo Med forest floor bedding would be ideal. The natural cypress mulch is perfect for land-dwelling turtles. It can retain a high level of moisture for the right humidity and they’ll also be able to burrow their way underneath it.

It comes at a great price and there are a range of different sizes available to you. Cleaning is fairly simple and the substrate isn’t too messy to use. It sometimes arrives wet which can be a little annoying but it’s otherwise great to use and looks great too.

What we liked

  • Natural cypress mulch
  • Retains moisture
  • Good for burrowing
  • Ideal for box turtles
  • Great price
  • Not too dirty
  • Range of buying options
  • Easy to spot clean

What we didn’t like

  • Sometimes arrives wet
  • Can attract bugs

Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand

If you have an aquatic turtle then this sand will be the perfect substrate. It looks brilliant and there is a range of buying options to get exactly what you need. The only thing to note is that it does require a lot of rinsing before you put it into the tank as otherwise, it will cause a lot of clouding.

The sand itself is easy to clean and maintenance is going to be minimal. It’s great for burrowing and your turtles are going to love being able to dig it up. Added to these qualities is that it is also great for those who want to add plants to their substrate. It’s ideal for those looking for a sand option.

What we liked

  • Range of buying options
  • Beautiful color
  • Easy to clean
  • Great for burrowing
  • Turtles love digging it up
  • Incredibly soft
  • Good for plants
  • High quantity

What we didn’t like

  • Requires rinsing
  • Can cause clouding

Exo Terra Coco Husk

Here we see another brilliant option for those land-dwelling turtles. It’s excellent at being able to increase the humidity to give your turtles the healthiest possible habitat. It’s also bug-resistant and you won’t have to worry about those little critters.

Another great feature of this substrate is just how easy it is to clean. It won’t develop any mold and will allow you to create a comfortable environment. It’s ideal for burrowing and will also give them stimulation. It does require a little preparation time but that’s a small price to pay for this quality substrate.

What we liked

  • Increases humidity
  • Bug-resistant
  • Mold free
  • Easy to clean
  • No bad smells
  • High moisture retention
  • Ideal for burrowing
  • Stimulating for turtles

What we didn’t like

  • Preparation time
  • Can be a bit messy

Exo Terra Plantation Soil

Exo Terra has also been able to make this exceptional plantation soil. It’s completely natural and another substrate that will be able to add humidity to their habitat. It will also be suitable for live plants and allow you to create both a healthy and beautiful environment.

It can be a little messy and you will need to expand it. That ability to expand, however, makes it great for storage and is ideal for those who like to bulk-buy substrate. This soil can also be mixed with sand if you wish and is ideal for any turtles that love to burrow.

What we liked

  • 100% natural
  • Great at adding humidity
  • Ideal for burrowing
  • Suitable for live plants
  • High value for money
  • Mixes well with sand
  • Impressive expansion
  • Ideal for bulk buying

What we didn’t like

  • A little messy
  • Requires expansion

Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

An important aspect of sand is that it doesn’t cause your turtle any harm should it get into their system. It’s a feature you get here as this sand is easily digestible. As well as the high level of safety, there are plenty of other features to love with this substrate sand.

The sand is great for a range of different turtles and has a natural look that would look great in any habitat. It’s easy to use and comes in a large 10-pound bag. The packaging isn’t the best but that’s only a minor issue on an otherwise brilliant product.

What we liked

  • Digestible with no abrasions
  • Natural look
  • Ideal for basking
  • Easy to use
  • Great price
  • Large 10-pound bag
  • Safe to use
  • Versatile for a range of turtles

What we didn’t like

  • Average packaging
  • A little gritty

Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel

Small pieces of gravel are often not suitable for turtles but they’ll have no interest in this Flourite black clay gravel. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to have plants in their habitat as it will allow them to thrive. It does require come pre-cleaning and there may be some initial clouding issues.

The gravel is non-toxic and will allow friendly bacteria to thrive. The dark gravel makes a stylish change from the lighter substrates you often see. This can be easily cleaned and will settle quickly. It’s the perfect option for anyone looking to introduce plant life.

What we liked

  • Perfect for plants
  • Non-toxic
  • Turtles don’t eat it
  • Allows friendly bacteria
  • Settles quickly
  • Stylish dark look
  • Easily cleaned
  • Range of buying options

What we didn’t like

  • Needs pre-cleaning
  • Initial clouding

Imagitarium Turtle Terrain Tiger Stripe Rocks

The final substrate we look at here is another great rock solution. It comes in a large 20lbs bag and the rocks are large, rounded and safe to use. They are also easy to clean, meaning that maintenance is going to be minimal.

The stones help to give it a beautiful natural look. Some people have complained that the rocks are too big but most uses love them, especially considering they are too big to swallow. They can initially cloud the water but will soon settle into any tank.

What we liked

  • Large 20lbs bag
  • Gives a natural look
  • Rounded and safe
  • Far too big for swallowing
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to clean
  • Strong packaging
  • Beautiful finish

What we didn’t like

  • Can cloud the water
  • Too big for some

Best Turtle Substrate – FAQs

What is the best substrate for turtles?

The answer to this question will depend on the type of turtle you have and the habitat you’re looking to create. Sand, gravel, bark and natural fibers are all common substrates that are perfect in different environments.

Do I need substrate?

For aquatic turtles, substrate isn’t a definite requirement and some people prefer to have a clear bottom. While this is fine, it doesn’t look great or very natural. The likes of sand or bark are important for turtles that love to burrow. Substrate can also be important if you want to have live plants in your tank.

Best substrate for land turtles?

For land-dwelling turtles, you want a substrate that is natural, safe and easy to change. The likes of coconut fibers and bark are perfect. These are easy to clean while being able to keep humidity high. Soil can be used but can be harder to change over and clean.

Best substrate for aquatic turtles?

Some like to have a clear bottom on their tank but if you want substrate, there are some great options out there. The two main ones are sand or rock. It’s important that it is safe for your turtles and it helps if it’s easy to clean. For an out of water area, you can use bark, fibers or sand.

Is sand a good substrate for turtles?

Sand is a great substrate for aquatic turtles and can be used for land-dwelling turtles as a basking area. Also, the likes of soft-shell turtles love to dig and burrow themselves into it. It’s best to have fine sand that is going to be soft enough for them and isn’t dangerous if it happens to be ingested.

What do turtles like in their tank?

The answer to this question will depend on what type of turtle you have. If it likes digging and burrowing then it will most likely want something fine and easy to move such as sand, bark or fibers. Many aquatic turtles won’t pay much attention to the type of substrate you have.

Will my turtle eat gravel?

One of the biggest dangers with substrate is your turtle digesting it. It can often mistake rocks for food. Due to this, you should have substrate that is either too large for them to eat or is safe for them to digest. The worst thing is small pieces of hard gravel as this is most likely to cause them a serious issue.

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