Best Sand and Substrate for Your Turtle Tank [Reviewed 2022]

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All turtle owners want the best things for their turtles. The best food, the best water, the best aquarium, and the best sand. But how do you know what products are the best for you and your little pet friend? 

Read the article below in order to find out what are the best 7 sands and substrates for a turtle tank and a small guide on how to find the best substrate for the aquarium. Enjoy!

Top 7 Sands and Substrates for Turtle Aquariums

LANDEN Namale Aquarium Sand

The best sand to use if you are into aquatic landscaping and want to build a fancy and beautiful aquarium for your turtles. This Landen sand is perfect for different designs and is applicable in a wide variety of ways. In addition to its good-looking texture, this sand has a pretty strong absorption performance. It can enhance the purity of the ecosystem and will ramp up the water quality. 

Landen is using only natural sand with no additional chemicals or parabens. Their sand has a moderate pH level and is not using any harmful substances like chlorine. Its grains are uniform, with a diameter of 0.3-0.5 mm. The pack contains 5 kg of sand. It would be better for your turtle if you rinse the sand before putting it into the tank. 


  • Great shape and color 
  • No chemicals used 
  • Good absorbing performance 


  • Needs to be rinsed before adding to the tank 

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Carib Sea Sunset Gold Sand

This USA-made sand is the best product if you have some soft belly fish and turtles in your aquarium. Its soft and elegant texture won’t hurt your animals and will give you the opportunity to build the design you want. In addition to that, Carib Sea doesn’t use any artificial dyes or paints, its sand is 100% natural-looking. 

Also, this type of sand produced by the Carib Sea is proven to reduce the number of nitrates better than regular aquarium gravel. It’s also pH neutral. Hence, your turtle will feel better and far more comfortable with this type of sand. 


  • 100% natural-looking  
  • Soft and elegant grains 
  • Doesn’t use any paints and dyes 


  • Is too small for big turtles 

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Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

This sand is made of 100% Calcium Carbonate, a chemical compound that is literally found in every turtle’s natural habitat. You may know this but, in their natural habitat, turtles often absorb calcium through their skin, from the water. Now, you can add calcium to your water in the aquarium by using this sand. 

Also, this sand made by Reptile Sciences is working as a natural pollution filter and maintains a clean and healthy environment for the turtle. This sand is collected from nature and has nothing to do with chemicals and parabens. Its fine-grade quality lowers the risk of causing indigestion and other digestive tract problems that occur when the turtle is swallowing the sand. 


  • High quantity of calcium 
  • Works as a pollution filter 
  • Lowers the risk of indigestion 


  • Can’t be combined with other substrates

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BXI Decorative Stones

These shiny little rocks are actually made of glass sand and can be used as interesting and captivating aquarium substrates for your turtle tank. However, they need to be combined with some other type of sand if you have turtles. They can get too shiny. 

These little pebbles are non-toxic. BXI isn’t using any type of chemicals for their manufacturing and, partially because of that, these little glass rocks are the best way to add some shiness and color to the aquarium. They come in different shapes and colors. Therefore, you can really start to customize your aquarium as you please. 


  • Non-toxic material used 
  • Perfect for designing and decorating 
  • Come in different shapes and colors


  • You’ll need to rinse them a lot before putting them in the tank

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WAYBER White Stones

These smoothly polished river pebbles are the best aquarium substrate for aquatic turtles. They are the most familiar substrate you can find for your little pet friend. Also, their texture, size, and shape give you the opportunity to wash them easily. You just need a bucket with soapy water and a piece of cloth, that’s it. 

It’s normal if you see some powder on their surface when you open the back. During the transportation process, the rocks are hitting each other. These rocks are perfect for aquariums that use some plants in their interior. Also, Wayber white stones can be combined with other types of substrates. Sand, for example, is the perfect substrate to combine them with. 


  • Polished and smooth 
  • Non-toxic river gravel 
  • Colour won’t fade away with time 


  • You need to wash them before putting them in the aquarium 

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Stoney River Blue Aquatic Sand

These little blue particles of sand are made of non-toxic material that won’t affect the pH levels of the water in the tank. If you have a sensible turtle or even an allergic one, Stoney River Blue Aquatic Sand is the best option for your aquarium. 

Also, remember that, due to their deep blue color, your aquarium will literally look like an ocean. This sand is the best option if you want an interesting and original design for your turtle tank. This sand works great for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums and turtles. 


  • Non-toxic material 
  • Deep, blue color 
  • Thin particles that won’t injure your turtle 


  • You’ll need to rinse the sand before using it

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How to Choose the Best Substrate for Your Turtle Tank

As a good turtle owner, you should know how to choose the best substrate for your turtle tank. Although it isn’t as hard as it could seem, there are some particularities you must know about. In this part of the article, you can find a thorough guide on how to choose the best substrate for your turtle tank. 

Why do You Need Substrate for Your Turtle Tank?

There are many reasons you would want to put some type of substrate in your tank. 

The first and most important one is your turtle’s health. Whether it is sand, pebbles, or gravel, this substrate is doing a great job at filtering some of the impurities and letting the water cleaner than before. Yes, you might not observe that, but it is happening. That is why you need to clean the substrate once in every 2-3 weeks. 

Also, it can help your turtle’s general well-being. A turtle will be more comfortable if it will have a familiar substrate under its feet, not just pure glass. Also, it can help reduce the possibility of sore feet and other such health issues in your turtle. Their feet are adapted to pebbles and sand, not smooth glass. 

Another thing you should take into consideration is the aesthetic part of the aquarium. The more things you add to it, sand, rocks, and some plants, the more habitable and natural it will look. The aquarium is a part of your interior after all. You need it to be as beautiful as possible. 

While all these benefits are great, a substrate needs attention. Don’t forget to rinse it before putting it in the tank and clean the substrate and the tank every 2-3 weeks. It can help the ecosystem a lot, making it cleaner and more comfortable for your turtle to live in. 

Also Read:

Sand Benefits

Sand is actually one of the most popular and advantageous substrates out there. The best thing about this substrate is that it comes in a wide variety of grain sizes, smoothness, and colors. This way, you can find the best type of sand for your aquarium and your turtle in particular. 

Also, another great advantage of the sand is that it works as a very good water filter. It can retain a lot of bacteria, impurities and other particles you don’t want your turtle to interact with. You just need to wash the sand and get rid of them once in a while.

Many will say that sand is dangerous due to the turtle swallowing it. Yes, it is a valid point. However, if you choose the sand wisely, you won’t have to worry about it. Its grain is smooth and very small. Therefore, if the turtle is big enough for the sand you chose, it won’t even feel the sand in its digestive tract. 

Another cool thing about sand is its impermeability. The bottom of the aquarium won’t ever be messy or covered in algae. The sand just won’t let the impurities get to the bottom of the aquarium. Thus, you’ll have less work to do when washing the aquarium. 

Other Substrates

Other than sand, there are river rocks or pebbles and gravel. Let’s talk about both of them and decide what substrate is actually the best. 

River rocks are the perfect choice for decorating your aquarium in a certain way. These pebbles are too heavy for your turtle to move. Therefore, if you arrange some river rocks in a certain way, they will stay still until you move them once more. 

Also, river rocks are very smooth and round. Thus, your turtle won’t ever hurt itself on such a rock. They are perfect for decorating an aquarium, your turtle won’t ever get injured or somehow cut. 

The last advantage of this type of substrate is also their size. Due to their size, your turtle will simply not be able to swallow such a bit of object. As a consequence of that, you won’t be forced to stress other every meal of your turtle. 

River rocks are also very easy to wash. 

Gravel is probably the worst substrate you can find. While it is very easy to wash and there won’t be any algae or food underneath the first layer of gravel, it is a little sharp and can cut or somehow injure your turtle. 

Also, the gravel comes in a lot of different shapes and colors. Some types of gravel can even be fluorescent. 

Also Read: Best Tanks for Red-Eared Sliders

Can You Use Only One Type of Substrate?

Yes, you can use only one type of substrate. Sand, for example, is doing very well on its own. However, we suggest you use more than just one type. Do you want to know why? Read further!

By using multiple types of substrates, you are getting all the advantages out of each one. Sand, for example, can be a pollution filter and sort out all the impurities and bacteria from the water. Gravel and rock can’t do that. So, it would be more reasonable to use all three of them.

Also, from an aesthetic point of view, using multiple types of substrate cans really help you design the best aquarium you can. By using just one type of substrate you are denying the existence of others.

In addition to all that, your turtle’s health will get better if you for more types of substrates. That is happening because in the rivers, their natural habitat, turtles get to step on both rocks and sand. It is an instinct for them to feel all these materials under their feet.

Is Sand or Rocks Better for a Turtle Tank?

Sand is probably the most universal material for substrate in the turtle tank. It is practically better in any way and here is why.

Rocks, in comparison to sand, are harder to get and significantly bigger. Although they are smooth and extremely polished, which is a big advantage, they can’t cover the whole bottom of the aquarium. Therefore, you would have to clean it anytime you clean the aquarium.

Sand has very small grains. Its particles are so small you can barely see them. Thus, it covers the bottom of the aquarium with a thick layer that can’t be breached by dirt, bacteria, and algae. Therefore, you won’t have to clean the bottom all the time.

Sand is also looking prettier if used on its own. An aquarium with just sand is looking empty but pretty. An aquarium filled with bit river rocks is looking very heavy and uncomfortable for the turtle. And yes, it is very uncomfortable for the turtle.

Heavy river rocks are used for decorative purposes only. You can’t fill the aquarium with just rocks and expect your turtle to be happy about that.

Honestly, neither sand nor rock can’t be used on their own. In my opinion, you must use these materials together in order to get the best habitat for your turtle.

Can I Use Beach Sand in a Turtle Tank?

No, we wouldn’t recommend you to use beach sand for your turtle tank. It is filled with different impurities left by humans that are living or relaxing on the beach. Even if you could sort all the impurities out, beach sand is not quite the finest and purest form of sand you can find. Therefore, it would be better not to use this type of sand. 

However, if you have the means to sort all the impurities out and drizzle all the big particles, you can use this sand in your turtle tank. Also, it would be a great idea to use beach sand for big turtles because, even if a big turtle will swallow this type of sand, it won’t hurt it much. 


Now you found out everything there is to know about turtles and tank substrates. Remember, choose the substrate according to your turtle’s size and behavior. Every turtle is different and every turtle has its own preferences. Therefore, you should choose a substrate that will please your little pet friend. 

Dorothy Razo

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