Best Aquatic Plants for Turtles That You Have Been Looking For (The Ultimate Guide)

Turtles are lovable and one of the easiest pets to keep in an aquarium.

These wonderful creatures are just a delight in the tank, and you want to replicate their natural environment, so they’re super comfortable.

One of the necessary additions to a turtle’s tank is aquatic plants, but it can be challenging knowing what to look for.

In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about selecting plants for the adorable turtles in your aquarium. 

Got questions? We’ll answer those too.

Let’s get started, shall we?

So, here comes the big question: “What Plants Are Safe for Turtles?”

Top 5 Plants for Turtle Tanks Recommendations

Green Dwarf Hairgrass Live Aquarium Plants

It isn’t uncommon for you to mistake this grass plant for any other grass that inhabits your lawn. In reality, the main difference between Dwarf Hairgrass and a lot of lawn grasses is that it can survive in water.

Key Features

Dwarf hairgrass is perfect for turtle tanks because of the great substrate layer that makes it convenient for turtles to walk as they go about in the tank. You also don’t have to worry about turtles making a mess with it because it isn’t tasty, so they’ll hardly be attracted to it.

It doesn’t need a lot of maintenance and propagates through its runners that spread around your tank. Dwarf Hairgrass requires a pH of 6.5 – 7.5, a temperature range of 50 – 77oF, and a water quality ranging from soft to hard.

Our Thoughts

It’s almost as if this plant was made as a perfect fit for turtle tanks. It is sturdy, has a beautiful appearance, and grows fast.


  • Great beauty piece that emulates the natural environment of turtles
  • Excellent hiding spot for your turtles
  • Does not take up much space in the tank
  • Thrives in cooler temperatures
  • Needs minimal maintenance


  • Doesn’t have good taste, so it isn’t an ideal treat for your turtles
  • CO2 is compulsory for it to grow fast

Aquatic Arts Java Moss – Live Aquarium Plant Large

You might have probably come across Java Moss one time or the other, especially if you’re not a beginner in aquariums. It is one of the most live aquarium popular plants and rightly so because of its excellent features.

Key Features

Java moss is very easy to maintain and does not require any special attention like air supply or intense lighting for its survival. It also helps keep your tank clean and reduce pressure on your filter as it improves the quality of your water in the tank.

Your turtles will find Java moss tasty, but you shouldn’t worry about that because they grow so fast, and another would have taken its place before you notice. It requires a pH of 5.0 – 9.0, a temperature range of 59 – 90oF, and a water quality ranging from soft to hard.


  • Grow excellently under low lighting
  • Source of biofilm for your tank inhabitants
  • Gives the smaller and younger turtles a place to hide
  • Fast growth rate
  • Can serve as treats


  • Could become a nesting area for pest snails
  • Might see some discoloration on the leaves if nutrients aren’t adequate

Our Thoughts

If you’re a beginner, this should be the first plant on your list. You will have no troubles with it, and your turtles are going to love it.

Aquatic Arts Moneywort Live Aquarium Plants

You will easily spot this plant in a tank because of its distinctive bright green coloration. It is also quite popular in the practice because it grows in simple setups, so you’ll have no problem finding where to purchase one.

Key Features

You don’t need to purchase a lot of Moneywort because it is one of the fastest-growing aquarium plants for a turtle setup, and just a little will spread fast in your tank. It possesses a lush, beautiful appearance that makes tanks look homely and appealing to you and the turtles.

Your turtles will love chewing on Moneywort, but you don’t need to bother about that since they grow fast. It requires a pH of 6.1 – 7.8, a temperature range of 60 – 77oF, and a water quality ranging from soft to hard.


  • Great beauty piece for any tank
  • Versatile in any aquatic setup
  • Edible plant, so your turtles can eat it
  • Pruning is easy
  • Undemanding


  • May take up lots of space in short periods
  • It requires high lighting conditions to grow fast

Our Thoughts

It is an excellent option for turtle tanks however, just as we’ve advised, don’t put too much in the tank.

Aquatic Arts Live Hornwort Plant – 2 Extra Large Bunches of Pond Plants Over 10 Stems

Hornwort grows underneath the tank and is easily recognizable from its horn-like needles and long, slender stems. 

Key Features

A beautiful plant that can survive in varying water conditions as long as they don’t get too extreme, the Hornwort remains a fantastic choice. Your turtles will have fun nibbling away at this plant because it’s tasty and grows fast, so there won’t be any permanent damage.

Beware, it can be a little challenging to keep track of your turtle as they might get lost in the plant, but it’s no reason to worry. This is one of the hardiest plants, so it can withstand whatever nibbling or damage your turtles throw its way. It requires a pH of 6 – 8, a temperature range of 64 – 86oF, and medium light requirements.


  • Excellent beauty piece
  • Can survive in harsh tank conditions
  • Fast growth rate
  • Helps with filtration
  • Edible and safe for your turtles


  • Causes you to risk attracting snails into the tank if it isn’t cleaned properly
  • Performs better as a floating plant

Our Thoughts

At first glance, it seems like this plant ticks all the boxes including providing cover, metal absorption, filtration, and beauty.

Java Fern Bare Root | Microsorum Pteropus: Live Aquatic Plant with 10+ Leaves

Java Fern can fit into most aquarium setups because it is compatible with most tank inhabitants. It is also easy to plant and cultivate for even beginners in the trade.

Key Features

Java Fern is an excellent plant for the mid-ground to background areas of your tank, and the main downside to putting this plant in your tank with turtles is its slow growth rate. Also, you need to get its roots anchored (rocks or lines work fine), so it doesn’t drift.

Java Fern isn’t as tasty as other plants, so your turtles will not be interested in eating it, and you don’t have to worry about them making a mess. It requires a pH of 6.0 – 8.0, a temperature range of 68 – 82oF, and a light requirement ranging from low to moderate.


  • Great natural filter for your tank
  • Forms a dense shade to protect your turtles and give them cover
  • Has a long lifespan
  • Can survive in intense temperatures
  • Needs minimal care 
  • Great decorative piece


  • You need to wash them before putting them in your tank, so snail pests don’t infiltrate the area
  • Not a very fast growth rate

Our Thoughts

This is an inexpensive plant to start with, especially if you’re a beginner. It also hardly dies, so you don’t have to worry about replacing it anytime soon.

Commonly Asked Questions About Live Plants for Turtle Tanks 

Benefits of Keeping Live Plants In Your Turtle Tank

There are many advantages of keeping live plants in your turtle tank. Check some of them out below:

Sources of Food

Some plants are edible and act as food sources for turtles. Putting these edible plants in your tanks gives your turtles access to roughages and the rich nutrients many these plants have.

Additional Filtration

Live plants help to filter out nitrates, ammonia, and any other unwanted organic compounds in your water.

They, therefore, give your water filters less work to do by making the water more sanitary for your turtles. Just putting them in your tank helps improve the quality of water and makes your water filter last longer.

Hiding Spots:

Turtles need a lot of hiding spots to make them feel safe in your tank. Without these hiding spots, they may get stressed and refuse to eat, which could have adverse effects on their health in the long run. Plants are necessary to keep turtles safe and secure.

Beauty Piece

In turtles’ natural habitat, live plants are present in the waters they swim and live. A turtle tank without live plants doesn’t look attractive and can be quite unnatural for the turtle.

Putting plants in your tank beautifies it and makes your turtle feel more comfortable as it would resemble its natural habitat better.

Algae Reduction

Through photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the water and release out oxygen. Other organisms that use carbon dioxide are algae which could constitute a headache in your tank.

Putting plants in your tank will make them compete with the algae for carbon dioxide, thereby reducing their number.

Source of Oxygen

Plants produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis to feed themselves and sustain growth. This oxygen produced in your tank will be beneficial for your turtles, and other tank inhabitants as a lot of them absorb the oxygen from the water.

Disadvantages of Keeping Live Plants in Your Turtle Tank

You need to be aware of some disadvantages if you intend to put plants in your turtle tank.

Dirty Tanks

Sometimes, your turtles will feed on your plants and leave a mess in the process, making your tank look unattractive. They could also dig up the plants and expose the roots or let dirt into the water and mess it up.

Substrate Needs Special Care

Certain live plants cannot grow without a substrate. Having this plant in your tank means the substrate could harbor poop, leftovers, and other unwanted materials in your tank.

You will have to frequently vacuum all that substrate so these substances will not accumulate and contaminate your water, making your inhabitants sick.

Health Hazard

Not all live plants are appropriate for consumption, and certain species are poisonous. If you don’t conduct proper research into these plants before putting them in your tank, your turtles might become sick or worse if they consume the plants.

Can I Use Plastic Plants in My Turtle Tank?

Yes, you can use plastic plants in your tank.

However, they will not be able to provide you with all of the benefits of putting live plants in your tank, as listed above. They will only be good hiding places for your turtles but will not provide oxygen or filtration. There is also the risk of your turtles falling sick if they eat the plastic plant. 

Can You Put Live plants in a Turtle Tank?

Yes, you can put live plants in your turtle tank.

However, not all live plants are compatible with turtle tanks, and you have to select them carefully. You should also observe your snails after putting live plants in your aquarium and see how they react to know if you will leave them in your tank.

Do Turtles Eat Aquatic Plants?

Yes, turtles can eat aquatic plants.

However, they do not eat the whole plant and mostly nibble on some of them. This is why it is important to make sure that any plant you put in your turtle tank isn’t poisonous and is safe for turtles.

Is Turtle Water Good for Plants?

Turtle water isn’t harmful to plants, and they will not have any abnormal reaction from it. Plants also help purify the water of any impurities and particles to improve the quality of water.

How to Choose the Best Live Plants for Turtle Tanks

Several aquatic plants exist, and it may be difficult to narrow down your choice. Here are some factors/characteristics to look for in a plant you want to keep in your turtle tank.

Fast Growth Rate

Choose plants that grow fast so you can reach your wanted results faster. Within a couple of weeks or months of putting the plant in your tank, they should’ve grown to their full size and provide cover for your turtles. If the plants have a slow growth rate, the turtles might nibble on them before they reach their potential and stunt their growth. Also, slow-growing plants will not be ideal hiding spots for your turtles.

Low Light

Turtle tanks do not usually have high lighting conditions because of their nature, so you need plants compatible with that. Most plants will wither and die under low or minimal light conditions in a couple of days. Dead plants will contaminate your tank and make it inhabitable for your turtles, so try to avoid this at all costs.

Hardy Nature

Turtles tend to nibble, dig or claw on plants which could kill delicate plants easily. The plants you pick should be strong enough to resist an attack once and last for a long time without getting destroyed. If you put sturdy plants in your tank, there will not be any dislodging accidents that will remove the plants from the substrate. Your plants will stay in place so they can grow to their fullest potential.

What Plants are Toxic to Turtles?

Plants that are toxic to turtles will harm or make your turtles sick if they eat them. In extreme cases, these plants could even kill your turtles. Examples of these toxic plants you should steer clear of are milkweed, ivy, and hemlock.

Another category of plants you should stay away from is those that need too much CO2 or light as they will not be compatible with the tank conditions for a turtle aquarium. The plants may not eventually survive and will take too much of your time because they will need special attention.

It is better to choose plants with an adequate root system, so they don’t just float around in your tank. Above all, checking and taking proper care of your turtle should determine if a plant works for your aquarium.

2 Types of Plants That Should Not Be Added To a Turtle Tank

Dwarf Water Lettuce

This is a floating plant that grows fast, especially if the water in your tank is stagnant a lot of the time. It isn’t ideal for a turtle tank because it could be challenging to keep in control, and may block light from touching your turtles.

Red Root Floater

Red root floater is another floating plant that is susceptible to floating randomly about in your tank. Also, they multiply quite fast and could become a nuisance in your tank.


Now that you’re at the end of this article, you should have some ideas of which plant would be best for your tank from the options listed above.

Remember that apart from making your turtles feel more comfortable, plants also keep the tank clean and provide oxygen.

Any of the above plants would be great in a turtle tank, but our top choice is Java Moss because of their versatility, and from our experience, turtles seem to love them the most.

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