5 Best Plants for Turtle Tank: Create a Natural Habitat!

As a responsible pet owner, you want to create a comfortable and natural habitat for your turtles.

One of the best ways to achieve this is by adding live plants to your turtle tank.

Not only do plants add aesthetic value to your tank, but they also provide numerous benefits for your beloved turtle.

Live plants are superior to plastic plants because they provide a more natural habitat for your turtles. They help maintain water quality by absorbing harmful toxins, and they create hiding spots for your turtles to explore and feel safe in.

In this article, we pick and explore top 5 best plants for turtle tank!

Key Takeaways

  • Aquatic plants are an essential addition to a turtle tank to create a more natural and comfortable habitat for your pets.
  • Live plants are better than plastic plants because they provide multiple benefits, including water filtration and hiding spots.
  • With the right plant choices and care, live plants can thrive in a turtle tank environment, providing enrichment and stimulation to your turtles.

Why Do Turtles Need Plants in Their Tank?

One crucial element of creating a natural and comfortable habitat for your turtle is the inclusion of live plants in their tank.

But why do turtles need plants in their aquarium, you may ask?

There are several reasons, starting with water quality. Plants can help filter out toxins that may be harmful to turtles, maintaining a clean and healthy aquatic environment.

Additionally, plants provide hiding spots and create a more natural environment for turtles. This is especially vital for shy or stressed turtles who need a safe spot to retreat to in their tank.

Overall, live aquatic plants are a valuable addition to your turtle’s tank and can greatly improve their quality of life.

Keep reading to learn about the best live plants for turtle tanks and how to add and maintain them properly.

Top Picks: Best Plants for Turtle Tanks

If you want to create a natural habitat for your turtle pets, live plants are the way to go. They provide a range of benefits for turtles, including hiding spots, enrichment, and stimulation. However, not all plants are suitable for turtle tanks.

Here are some top picks for aquatic plants that can thrive in a turtle tank environment:

Plant NameCharacteristics
AnubiasEasy to care for, can grow in low light, and can attach to rocks or driftwood
Java FernLow maintenance, can grow in low or moderate light, and can attach to rocks or driftwood
Amazon SwordFast-growing, can grow up to 12 inches, and provides ample hiding space for turtles
Water LettuceFloats on the surface of the water, can absorb excess nutrients, and provides shade for turtles
AnacharisFast-growing, can remove toxins from the water, and provides hiding spots for turtles

1. Anubias

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Anubias is an excellent aquatic plant choice for a turtle tank due to its hardiness and turtle-safe properties.

Native to Africa, Anubias is a genus of attractive, broad-leaved plants that can thrive both submerged and partially submerged in water. Its sturdy, dark green leaves make it resistant to turtle nibbling, making it a durable addition to the tank.

The plant’s ability to grow on rocks, driftwood, or directly in the substrate provides flexibility in tank design, creating natural hiding spots and climbing opportunities for turtles.

As an added benefit, Anubias helps improve water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and providing oxygen, promoting a healthier and more balanced ecosystem for your turtle.

2. Java Fern

How to add Java Fern to aquarium

Java Fern is a fantastic aquatic plant option for a turtle tank, known for its adaptability and turtle-safe characteristics.

Originating from Southeast Asia, Java Fern is a robust and easy-to-care-for plant that can thrive in a variety of water conditions, making it ideal for turtle habitats.

Its long, leathery leaves are resistant to most turtle nibbling, ensuring the plant remains undisturbed in the tank.

The Java Fern’s rhizome should be anchored to rocks, driftwood, or placed directly in the substrate without burying it, as this will promote healthy growth.

With its lush, green foliage and ability to help maintain water quality by absorbing nutrients, Java Fern adds natural beauty and environmental benefits to the turtle tank, providing a stimulating and enriching environment for your aquatic friend.

3. Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon Sword plant care guide

Amazon Sword (Echinodorus amazonicus) is a popular and visually striking aquatic plant that can be an excellent addition to a turtle tank.

Native to South America, this plant features broad, sword-shaped leaves that add a lush and vibrant touch to the tank environment.

As a rooted plant, it provides a more natural look to the habitat, mimicking the lush vegetation found in the wild. The Amazon Sword is relatively easy to care for and can tolerate a range of water conditions, making it suitable for turtle tanks.

However, keep in mind that turtles may occasionally nibble on its leaves, so monitoring the plant’s health and providing occasional pruning is recommended.

With proper care and maintenance, the Amazon Sword can thrive in the tank, contributing to better water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and providing hiding spots for your turtle to explore and feel secure.

4. Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce plant care

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is an excellent floating plant choice for a turtle tank, offering both functional and aesthetic benefits.

Native to tropical regions, Water Lettuce has rosettes of light green leaves that float on the water’s surface, creating a beautiful and natural look in the tank.

Its floating nature provides much-needed shade for your turtle, helping to reduce stress and preventing excessive direct light exposure. Additionally, Water Lettuce serves as a refuge for baby turtles and small aquatic creatures, enhancing the tank’s biodiversity.

As a bonus, this plant contributes to water quality by absorbing excess nutrients, helping to control algae growth and maintain a healthier environment for both the plants and the turtles.

However, it’s essential to keep the plant population in check, as it can spread rapidly and cover the entire water surface if left unchecked.

Regular thinning and removal of excess growth will ensure a balanced and thriving turtle tank ecosystem.

5. Anacharis

Anacharis aquatic plant beginner guide

Anacharis (Elodea) is a popular submerged aquatic plant that can be a beneficial addition to a turtle tank.

With its slender, bright green stems and delicate leaves, Anacharis adds a refreshing touch of greenery to the underwater landscape.

It is a fast-growing plant, which makes it an excellent choice for helping to maintain water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and preventing algae blooms.

The dense growth of Anacharis also provides cover and hiding spots for baby turtles and other small aquatic inhabitants, promoting a more natural and enriched environment. However, since turtles may nibble on Anacharis, occasional pruning and monitoring are necessary to ensure the plant’s health and growth within the tank.

With proper care, Anacharis can thrive in the turtle tank, contributing to a healthier and more visually appealing aquatic habitat for your turtle.

How to Add Live Aquatic Plants to Your Turtle Tank

Adding live plants to your turtle tank can be a rewarding experience for both you and your aquatic pets.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure your plants thrive in a turtle tank:

  1. Prepare the plants: Start by washing the plants to remove any dirt or debris. Trim away any leaves or roots that seem damaged or unhealthy.
  2. Choose the right substrate: Your plants will need something to anchor themselves to in order to grow properly. Gravel or sand are good options. Avoid using soil or potting mix, as they can cloud the water and release harmful chemicals into the tank.
  3. Place the plants strategically: Consider the size and type of your plants when placing them in your turtle tank. Taller plants can be placed in the back of the tank to create depth, while shorter plants can be placed in the front. Make sure to leave enough open space for your turtles to swim around.
  4. Keep the water clean: Adding live plants can help keep the water clean, but you’ll still need to perform regular water changes and filter maintenance to keep the tank healthy for your turtles. Test the water regularly to ensure optimal water conditions for both your plants and turtles.
  5. Consider lighting: Different plants have different lighting requirements, so be sure to research the needs of your specific plants. Invest in a good quality light source to provide adequate lighting for your plants to thrive.

By following these simple steps, you can create a lush and natural environment for your turtles to enjoy. Remember to monitor the plants regularly and adjust as needed to ensure they continue to grow and thrive in your turtle tank.

Benefits of Live Plants for Turtles

If you’re considering adding live plants to your turtle tank, you might wonder how they can benefit your pet. Here are some of the benefits that live plants can offer:

  • Turtles like to hide: Live plants provide excellent hiding spots for turtles. They can retreat to the plants when they feel threatened or stressed, which helps to reduce their anxiety levels.
  • Make your turtle’s habitat more engaging: Just like humans, turtles appreciate a stimulating and enriching environment. Live plants provide a more natural-looking habitat that encourages exploration and activity.

Not only do live plants enhance your turtle’s quality of life, they can also help maintain the health of your turtle tank:

  • Plants help keep the water clean: Some types of live plants can filter out toxins and impurities from the water in your turtle tank, helping to maintain water quality without the need for chemical treatments.
  • Turtles love to munch on plants: Certain types of live plants are safe for turtles to eat, which can add some variety to their diet. This can be especially important for turtles that have a limited selection of food available.

Overall, live plants can greatly benefit your pet turtle and improve the health of their tank. Consider adding some to your setup and watch your pet’s environment come to life!

Aquatic Plants That Are NOT Safe

When come to choosing live plants for your turtle tank, it’s important to ensure that the plants you add to your turtle tank are safe.

Some plants can be toxic to turtles if ingested, so it’s crucial to do your research before introducing any new plants to their habitat.

Here are some of the aquatic plants that might not be safe for your turtle:

Plant NameToxic ComponentPotential Harm to Turtles
PhilodendronCalcium oxalate crystalsIrritation and discomfort if ingested
DieffenbachiaCalcium oxalate crystalsIrritation and discomfort if ingested
Calla LilyCalcium oxalate crystalsMouth and throat irritation if ingested
Elephant EarToxic compoundsHarmful to turtles
DaffodilsToxic compoundsHarmful to turtles if ingested
IrisToxinsCan be dangerous to turtles
LilyVarious toxinsToxic if leaves or flowers are ingested
HyacinthOxalic acidHarmful to turtles if consumed
TulipsToxinsHarmful to turtles if ingested

Remember to always research a plant before adding it to your turtle tank. If a plant is toxic to your turtle, it should be avoided. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Tips for Maintaining Live Plants in a Turtle Tank

Adding aquarium plants to your turtle tank is a great way to create a natural and comfortable habitat for your aquatic pets. However, keeping those plants healthy and thriving can pose a challenge. Here are some tips to help keep your live plants looking their best:

  • Lighting: Make sure your plants are getting the right amount of light for their type. Consider investing in a UVB bulb or natural sunlight if your tank is positioned near a window.
  • Fertilization: Use a plant-specific fertilizer to promote healthy growth. Avoid over-fertilizing, which can lead to an excess of nutrients and algae growth.
  • Pruning: Regularly trim your plants to prevent them from becoming too large and blocking out light to other plants in the tank. Remove any dead or yellow leaves to keep the plants healthy.
  • Water Changes: Changing your tank’s water regularly is important to keep the water quality high and reduce the risk of algae growth. Observe your plants and adjust the frequency of water changes and fertilization based on their condition.
  • Algae Control: A small amount of algae growth on your live plants can be beneficial for turtles to graze on but, excessive algae can be harmful to the plants and can be a sign of poor water quality. Use an algae scraper or add algae-eating fish to help keep algae growth under control.

By following these tips, you can help keep your live plants healthy and thriving, providing your turtles with a natural and stimulating environment to call home.

Alternatives to Live Plants: Plastic Plants

If you’re hesitant to add live plants to your turtle tank, plastic plants are a viable alternative. While they don’t offer the same benefits as live plants, they come with their own advantages.

One major benefit of plastic plants is their ease of maintenance. You don’t have to worry about providing the right lighting or fertilizing them. They’re also durable and won’t deteriorate over time, allowing you to enjoy them for years without replacing them.

However, keep in mind that not all plastic plants are created equal. Some may contain toxins that can harm your pet turtle. When selecting plastic plants, make sure they are high-quality and safe for your turtle.

Overall, the decision to use live plants or plastic plants in your turtle tank ultimately comes down to personal preference and what you feel is best for your aquatic pets. Consider the pros and cons of each option before making your decision.


Congratulations! You’re now equipped with the necessary information to create a comfortable and natural habitat for your aquatic pet.

Including live plants in your turtle tank not only enhances the aesthetics but also ensures the quality of the water by filtering out toxins and providing hiding spots. Remember to choose the best plants for your turtle tank based on their characteristics and your turtle’s specific needs.

By following the steps to add live plants to your turtle tank, you’re not only creating a visually appealing environment but also promoting your turtle’s well-being and engagement.

Don’t forget to maintain the plants by providing proper lighting, fertilization, and pruning, which can help keep the water clean and healthy.

While plastic plants are a viable alternative, live plants offer a more natural and stimulating environment for your turtle. However, if you do choose to use plastic plants, make sure to opt for high-quality ones that are safe for your pet.


1. What are the best plants for a turtle tank?

The best plants for a turtle tank are the ones that can tolerate being submerged in water and are not toxic to turtles. Some popular options include anubias, amazon sword plant, java fern, water lettuce and anacharis.

2. Can I add live plants to my turtle tank?

Yes, adding live plants to your turtle tank can be beneficial. They provide cover and hiding spots for your turtle, help keep the water clean by absorbing nitrates, and create a more natural environment.

3. Are there any plants that are toxic to turtles?

Yes, some plants can be toxic to turtles if ingested. It’s important to research and avoid plants such as pothos, peace lily, and philodendron, as they can be harmful to your pet.

4. What kind of plants can thrive in a turtle tank?

Plants that can thrive in a turtle tank are typically hardy and can tolerate the occasional nibbling or disturbance by the turtles. Some good options include anubias, java fern, water lettuce, and water hyacinth.

5. Can I use plastic plants instead of live plants?

While plastic plants may be easier to maintain, they don’t offer the same benefits as live plants. Live plants help improve water quality, provide enrichment for the turtles, and contribute to a more natural and aesthetically pleasing tank setup.

6. Are there any safe plants for my turtle’s tank?

Yes, many plants are safe for your turtle’s tank. Some examples include anubias, java fern, water lettuce, hornwort, and java moss. Always ensure the plants you choose are not toxic to turtles.

7. How do live plants help keep my turtle’s tank clean?

Live plants help keep your turtle’s tank clean by absorbing nitrates, which are harmful to turtles in high levels. They also help oxygenate the water and provide a natural filtration system, contributing to overall water quality.

8. Can I keep sliders and painted turtles with live plants?

Yes, sliders and painted turtles can coexist with live plants. However, keep in mind that they may occasionally eat or uproot the plants. Choosing hardy plants that can withstand these interactions is recommended.

9. How do I add live plants to my turtle’s tank?

To add live plants to your turtle’s tank, choose appropriate aquatic or semi-aquatic plants, set up proper lighting and substrate, quarantine plants before introducing them to the main tank, and provide hiding spots for your turtle.

About David Nitta

I am a lifelong lover of turtles and have dedicated years of research to understand and care about this wonderful creature. I regularly post blogs, mostly from what I read and my own experience, covering everything from turtle care, health, feeding habits, habitat setup, and so much more.