Best Plants For Your Turtle Tank

Best Plants For Your Turtle Tank

Being a turtle owner myself, one of the problems I struggled with was decorating my turtle tank. Turtles don’t really like fish, so it isn’t easy to maintain a school of beautiful fish in your tank. There are very few options to decorate their habitat, and they are absolutely evil in sharing their space with anything. But then, how could we make a turtle’s tank interesting?

Thankfully turtles can live with aquatic plants in their tank. Plants are a great way to decorate the aquarium. There are plenty of options available to select from to add to your turtle tank. Plants not only help enhance the beauty of the tank but also help keep the tank water clean.

In this article, we will figure out the best plants for your turtle tank. We will also discuss which plants are safe for turtles to eat and which ones to avoid. So let’s get into the topic.

Related Article: Do Turtles Eat Worms?

Do turtle tanks need plants?

It is not necessary to add live plants to your turtle tank. However, plants help reduce the ammonia and nitrate concentration in the tank. It also helps reduce algae by competing for carbon dioxide. At the same time, plants are also a great way to beautify the tank and works as a hiding spot for your pet turtle. 

What plants are good for turtle tanks?

Plants enhance the beauty of the tank and reduce the toxic buildup from turtle excretes. While selecting a plant for your turtle tank, it is important to ensure that it is safe for turtles and does not cause any harm if they eat it.

Hundreds of plants are available in the market suitable for tanks, but not all are good for your turtle.

Some of the common plants which are good for your turtle tank and harmless for your turtle are Hornwort, Anubias barteri, Java Moss, African Water Fern, Anacharis, Java Fern, Amazon Sword Plant, and Moneywort. These are several other plants as well, but these are some of the best for your turtle tank or aquarium. 

What plants are safe for turtles?

As mentioned before, there are hundreds of plants available for the turtle tank but choosing the right one is important. Turtles are curious animals, and they love to tear apart anything in their tank. There is no way to avoid your turtle messing up or eating plants inside their habitat.

Turtles are omnivores, and they can eat plants easily. However, if the plant is poisonous, it could hurt your turtle’s health or even cause them to die.

Below is the checklist for selecting turtle-safe plants. Let’s have a look.

1. The plant should be non-poisonous/non-toxic for turtles

While selecting the plant, make sure that it is safe if consumed by your turtle. 

Turtles are habitual of eating various plants in the wild, but some plants like milkweed, ivy, and water hemlock are poisonous and could lead to health problems for your turtles if consumed. 

These contain high amounts of alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, and other highly toxic substances, which should be avoided in turtle enclosure at any cost.

2. Select plant which can grow even in low light conditions

Always try to select plants that can grow in low light conditions. It is very unlikely for you to put your turtle aquarium under sunlight and so you probably are using UVB/UVA light bulbs for your turtle. These bulbs are great for your turtle, but plants require more UVB/UVA than that.

While technically it is possible to place a more powerful bulb in the tank but costs your money for all new arrangements. To avoid such hassles, it is always good to select a plant that needs a minimum light condition.

3. Select plant which can withstand warm water

Turtles have very specific temperature requirements. As being cold-blooded animals, they would need warm water in winter. It is very important to select a plant that can withstand the water temperature and not rot. Plant rotting is the most common problem people face as this creates a lot of mess and could even choke water filters.

4. Choose aquatic plants only

Not all plants are meant to grow underwater. Unfortunately, due to negligence or misinformation, people often buy non-aquatic plants, and they eventually disintegrate and die after some time. While purchasing the plant, ask for aquatic ones who can live submerged in water.

5. Choose a plant that needs very less substrate

Many plants need substrate to hold their roots. The substrate is fine for turtles, but this could be a reason for cloudy tank water and a bad smell. Make sure the plant does not require much substrate. Also, it should be grown organically without any use of fertilizers. Plants absorb chemicals from fertilizers, and so if your turtle chews their leaves, it could lead to health problems.

Best plants for turtle tank

There are a lot of options for aquatic plants available in the market. While selecting a plant, make sure it is non-toxic and edible for turtles. Aquatic plants are the best suitable options for any turtle tank. Also, avoid plants that need substrate as it will make the water dirty.

Below is a list of the best plants for turtle tanks which you can buy:

Image Product Details   Purchase Link
Hornwort Hornwort – Quick growth
– Low maintenance
– Provides good filtration
Buy on Amazon
anubias Anubias Barteri – Low maintenance
– Can grow in low light
– Grow up to 10-12 inches
Buy on Amazon
java-moss Java Moss – Quick growth
– Inexpensive
– Provides good filtration
Buy on Amazon
african-water-fern African Water Fern – Can grow up to 20-22 inches
– Best for larger tanks
– Long life
Buy on Amazon
Anacharis Anacharis – Quick growth
– Long life
– Can attach to any hard surface
Buy on Amazon
java-ferns Java Fern – Grows in normal UV light
– Quick growth
– Can grow up to 12 inches
Buy on Amazon
amazon-sword Amazon Sword Plant – Large plant
– Suitable for large tanks
– Excellent filtration
Buy on Amazon
moneywort Moneywort – Best decorative plant
– Quick growth
– Turtles love to eat
Buy on Amazon


Hornwort is among the easiest and most affordable plants to have in your turtle tank. These are quick growers and do not need much care. Hornwort is inexpensive, and these are not the favorite of turtles to munch on.

These plants can be placed at the bottom of the tank. These can be used without any substrate. You can use driftwood or some stones to strap its roots in your aquarium.

Hornwort can do well if provided with plenty of water and plant light. These plants do not require much CO2 in the tank, and that’s why it is among the most widely used aquarium plants.

Hornwort provides excellent filtration to the tank. These plants work great in reducing nitrates and ammonia levels. However, as they grow faster, a little trimming might be required every once in a while.

Anubias barteri

These are other non-toxic plants that you can put in your turtle tank. Anubias are natively found in the African continent and require a temperature of 72 to 82 °F, which is easy to achieve in a turtle tank.

These plants do not require any special care. It can even grow well in low-light conditions. The leaves of Anubias barteri can grow up to 10-12 inches, making them unique from other plants. These plants do not need substrate, making them even easier to manage.

If we talk about growth, then these are slow growers. However, these are not so favorite of turtles due to bitter taste, so chances are very low that your turtle will mess with it.

Java Moss

Java moss can be placed in your turtle tank to give it a natural feel. These plants are known for their fast growth, and they can grow up to 5 inches tall. These are inexpensive and easy to manage.

Java moss can grow in low light conditions. You can use stock or driftwood to make it sit at the bottom of the tank. These plants provide good filtration and could survive in tanks for longer.

If we talk about negatives, then java moss has one. Turtles can eat these plants as they have a nice taste for them. You can give it a try for a natural-looking enclosure.

African Water Fern

African water ferns are great for your turtle tank with their distinct leaves. These are absolute tank beautifiers and provide good filtration too. They can grow up to 20-22 inches long, making them suitable for larger tanks. These plants are slow growers.

African water fern requires little to no care and can live longer. Also, turtles do not usually like to eat these plants, so it is likely to survive longer in their tank.


Anacharis or waterweed are fast-growing plants. These can grow up to 3 feet, so you can consider it if you have a larger tank. Anacharis need regular light in order to grow. They are not meant for low-light aquariums.

Turtles love to eat anacharis, so it will not last long as other plants. However, they are always in demand for turtle owners due to their beautiful appearance. These plants are non-toxic, so it is safe for turtles to eat.

Waterweed plants can be anchored to the bottom or left floating around, and in both ways, they will survive.

Java Fern

Java ferns can grow well under normal UVA/UVB light. You can anchor the root to the bottom, and it’s ready to grow. These plants are easily available in all aquatic plant shops and are inexpensive.

Java fern does not require any substrate, so it is easy to keep in your tank. These plants do provide decent filtration. Java ferns are non-toxic, and turtles generally avoid eating them due to their bitter taste.

It is not a superfast grower but can grow up to 12 inches if provided with the right light condition. If you are looking for a plant that needs low maintenance and can live for a longer time, then it should be your choice.

Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon sword plants are large plants ideal for larger tanks or ponds. These plants do require extra work to keep them alive. Though turtles don’t eat it, it requires good lighting conditions to grow.

The reason why people prefer this plant is that it provides excellent filtration to turtle tanks. Sword plant requires substrate to survive, and so it is not a low maintenance plant.

These are slow-growing plants but provide a nice hiding spot for turtles. The Amazon sword needs to be anchored well in the tank. Otherwise, turtles will uproot it easily.


These great-looking aquatic plants are perfect for decorating turtle tanks. These are fast growers and do not need too much light. In moderate light conditions, these can grow very well.

Bright green colors are perfect for any turtle tank. It is non-toxic, and turtles love to eat it. However, as they grow pretty fast, you need not worry about it.

Moneywort is easy to keep in your turtle tank, and it does not require anything extra to keep them alive. These are fast-growing plants, and they may need regular trimming.

Plants safe for red-eared sliders

Red-eared sliders are monster eaters. They can eat anything and everything in their tank. All the plants mentioned above are well suited for red-eared sliders. However, you will need to replace the plants frequently as they will keep eating them. Some of the plants they love to eat are hornwort, waterweed, and java fern.

Box turtle safe plants

Waterweed and java moss are the favorites of box turtles. These plants are non-toxic and grow fast even in low lighting conditions. Waterweed plants give them a lot of areas to sit and relax. However, if you plan to keep waterweed in your box turtle’s enclosure, make sure they don’t overeat. 

Can you put fake plants in a turtle tank?

Yes, you can put fake plants in your turtle tank. Turtles would not eat it. However, they would sometimes try to bite it, but they would not eat it. There are several aquarium-safe artificial plants available in the market which you can use for your turtle tank. It is recommended to use plants with no sharp edges or small pieces which could tear apart. If this happens, turtles may try to ingest the plastic, which can cause health problems to them.

You can buy aquarium-safe artificial plants from the link given below. These are built with a good quality ceramic base which does not allow them to tear apart in your tank.

Are fake plants safe for turtles?

Yes, fake plants are safe for turtles. Chances are very low that your turtle will mistake it as their food. Even if they try to eat, these plants are built in such a way that they will not tear apart easily. 

Will turtles eat fake plants?

Turtles may try to eat fake plants, but they soon will realize that it is not edible. Always use good quality aquarium-safe artificial plants that do not have any sharp edge or plastic pieces that turtles can easily rip apart. 


Plants are great for decorating turtle tanks. It also helps reduce ammonia and nitrate levels in tank water. When selecting a plant for your tank, it is important to choose non-toxic plants. There is a fair chance that your turtle will try to eat these plants, and if it is poisonous, it could harm your pet. Another thing to consider before choosing a plant is that it can grow in low light conditions. Do proper research before selecting a plant for your turtle. We have added some recommendations which you can try confidently.