Best Live Plants for Turtle Tanks (2020) | Buying Guide and Reviews

by Julia Lopez | Last Updated: June 14, 2020
Best Live Plants for Turtle Tanks

Turtles are very lovable and easy to keep and fend for, making them one of the most sought after pets.

This in no way implies that they only need little care because they can get sick and die if not properly looked after.

The care they require usually involves a source of heat, UVB, substrate, basking platforms, amongst others. All these are to replicate a conducive environment that is similar to what they would have in the wild.

Apart from all these, the addition of plants in their tanks will make them feel more at home and that is why we have this article here to help you make your choice among the best live plants for turtle tanks.

There are a lot of questions regarding the types of plants that can be included in a turtle tank and it is of great concern.

This is because once these plants are introduced, your turtle will eat it, and if it is poisonous, will cause harm to your pet.

So great care has to be taken in ensuring that as you try to provide the best environment for your pet, you do more good than harm.

We Recommend

After seeing numerous live plants, we have a pretty solid idea of what characteristics make the best live plant for turtle tank, and the Greenpro Dwarf Hairgrass Plants it’s our top choice.

Advantages of Having Live Plants in Your Turtle Tank

Keeping live plants in your turtle tank comes with a number of benefits.

Backup Filtration

One of the most outstanding benefits of having live plants in your turtle tank is the ability to filter water. These live plants can filter out ammonia, nitrates, and other organic compounds that are not wanted in the water.

They make the water cleaner and healthier for your turtle and because they act as a filter system, they reduce the load on your tank filter.


In the water, there are live plants where turtles swim and it has become a necessary part of a turtle’s habitat. A tank without plants looks unnatural and unattractive to you and the turtle also.

Incorporating plants in the tank will give it a more beautiful look and it will be more homely for your pet too.


Plants give out oxygen to the atmosphere and that also happens underwater. This increase in oxygen content is good for your turtle especially if you have more than one aquatic pet in the tank.

The more live plants you have in the tank, the more oxygen and the better it will be.

Happy Pet

The presence of aquatic plants in your turtle tank will make your turtle feel more at home and this will leave you with a happy turtle.

Turtles eat certain aquatic plants and if you have these in the tank, they will occasionally eat them and also hide behind them. It makes them more comfortable and keeps them healthy.

Disadvantages of Having Live Plants in Your Turtle Tank

Special Care Of Substrate

Some live plants require a substrate for their roots to grow in. if you have this type of plant and you have a substrate in the tank, then you will need to vacuum the substrate regularly to take out poop and leftovers.

Accumulation of these in the substrate can contaminate the water and make your turtle sick.

Toxic Plants

Not all aquatic plants are good for consumption by turtles. Some are poisonous when eaten and it is advisable to abstain from using a plant you are not sure of.

Messy Tank

Turtles feed on the pants occasionally and when they do, they mess up the whole tank requiring you to clean up. They also dig up the plants for no reason and you will need to clean up the mess. So it puts you under stress unnecessarily.

The disadvantages of keeping live plants in turtle tanks are more of warnings and not things you cannot handle easily.

The Best Live Plants for Turtle Tanks

Live Plants for Turtle Tanks

1. Greenpro Dwarf Hairgrass Live Aquarium Plants

First on our list of best live plants for turtle tanks is the Dwarf Hairgrass. It is similar to the normal grass found on your lawn, the only difference being that the grass on your lawn isn’t aquatic.

Dwarf Hair Hrass forms a good substrate layer so that your turtles can comfortably walk on it as they move about the tank.

It adds beauty to the tank as it looks like an underwater lawn. It is not tasty so chances are turtles will barely even touch it.

It requires low maintenance, doesn’t need too much lighting or CO2 to grow and survive, so it is a great option for indoor tanks. It grows slowly and won’t take up too much tank space.



2. Aquatic Arts Java Moss – Live Aquarium Plant Large

Java moss is another great option of live plants for tanks. It doesn’t need any special requirements for survival like lighting or air supply.

This means that you can keep it in any aquarium and it will grow perfectly well.

You will enjoy the good filtration it gives your tank water. This filtration is necessary and helps your tank stay clean and healthy for your turtle. You can easily care for it and it grows fast so being eaten by your turtle won’t be a problem.

It grows on substrates and other tank items, adding beauty to the entire habitat. A perfect piece to making the aquarium a home away from home.



3. Aquatic Arts Moneywort Live Aquarium Plants

Moneywort is another great option when looking for live plants. It has a beautiful look that makes your turtle tank more appealing and homely even for your pet. They grow straight with long and tall shoots.

It is tasty, so apart from being aesthetically appealing, serves as treats for your turtle. It grows fast and being eaten up is not a problem.

It is better to have just a few of them in your tank because they grow fast and tall and can take up a lot of space. Moneywort grows well in the presence of a lot of sunlight and CO2. 

It is not too demanding and will do just fine with your turtle in the turtle tank.



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

Hornwort is a great addition to your turtle tank. It doesn’t reach the surface but grows underneath, providing filtration and beauty, amongst others.

It is known to survive different water conditions like temperature; either warm or cold, and lighting. 

This is, of course, the case if the conditions are not extreme. It is tasty and your turtles will enjoy the occasional thrill of eating this, but that is not an issue as it grows fast. It is not demanding and will survive with no effort from you.



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

We will be ending this list of best live plants for turtle tanks with the Java Fern. It demands very little care but does a lot as an addition to your turtle tank.

Just be sure to anchor its roots with rocks or a line to keep it from drifting and you are good to go. It is a natural filter and is great at taking out waste from the tank water. 

Your turtles won’t jump at this plant because it isn’t too tasty, but they will take a bite once in a while. It is hardy and resilient and will do well in low CO2 levels.



Things to Look Out For In a Good Live Plant for Turtle Tanks

When looking for plants that are fit to be in your turtle tank, there are a lot of options. In narrowing down these options, it is important that you take a lot of things into consideration so that the life of your turtle will remain healthy.

It is important to add plants that are edible by your turtle. If you have any confusion here, ask questions from professionals before you proceed.

You also do not want to add any plant that is overly tasty because your pet will eat it all up before it even grows. 

But as you try to avoid the overly tasty plants, do not pick up plants that contain toxic compounds.

Make your choice from plants that have a good root system. These plants stay firmly rooted in the substrate and will stay in place. But if you need to add floating plants like water lettuce, it is also fine.

Turtle tanks do not have so much sunlight and CO2 in them. So when making your choice, go for a plant that needs little CO2 and light to grow.

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

Most plants are edible by turtles, but some of them are toxic. Avoid adding toxic plants to your turtle tank because it can kill your turtle. Examples of toxic plants are water hemlock, milkweed, and ivy.

Avoid the use of a plant that requires too much light and CO2. Such plants will not survive and will need extra care from you if they must.

Choose plants that are less demanding and can survive in low light levels and low CO2 levels because those are the conditions in a tank.

Choose a plant with a good root system. This will prevent its random floating about in the tank.

Commonly Asked Questions About Live Plants for Turtle Tanks

Q: Can I Use Plastic Plants in My Turtle Tank?

Yes, you can. But the use of plastic plants will deny you the benefits of having live plants like filtration and oxygenation.

It is also risky because if your turtle eats the plastic plant, it will fall sick.

Q: What Kind Of Plants Do Red Eared Sliders Eat?

Red-eared sliders can eat any of the following plants; common waterweed, hornwort, java fern, and amazon sword.

Not all red eared sliders may like all of these plants, but the plants are safe to be eaten. 

Q: Is Bamboo Safe For Turtles?

No, bamboo isn’t safe for turtles. This doesn’t stop your turtle from eating it so try to keep it away from your turtle tank.

Q: Are Spider Plants Toxic To Turtles?

No, spider plants are safe to be eaten by turtles.

The San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society has spider plants listed among their Tortoise Diet Care Sheet.


The confusion on what plants are safe for your turtle tank has been taken care of to a large extent by now. Knowledge is power and with what you have now learned, you can provide better care for your pet turtle.

Adding plants to its tank helps in keeping the water clean, and in providing more oxygen. These are all very relevant and make the tank feel more like home. Your choice of Dwarf Hair Grass would be a nice one as it is easy to maintain and takes up little tank space. 

Aquatic Arts Java Moss is also a top choice, and turtles love them. Do not worry about them being eaten to death as they grow fast and acts as a hiding place for your pet. 

All products here are the best for your turtle tank and it lies in your choice of what is best for your turtle. No matter your choice, you will not be disappointed.