Plants for Turtle Tanks You Need to Know This main picture

Aquatic plants are a great addition to a turtle tank. Not only do they enhance the space by making it much more aesthetically pleasing and pretty to look at, but they are also very beneficial for your turtle! In this article, we’ll explore the various plants that are best for your turtle tank and discuss the benefits that they can have on your turtle.

If you are more of a visual learner, you should check out my video below where I test out 5 different plants for my turtle tank. It includes java fern, anubias, rosette sword, amazon sword, and el nino fern.

Summary of the best plants for a turtle tank

Java Fern

java fern for turtle tank

Java Fern is great for a beginner. It is easy to grow and doesn’t require special attention.


anubias plant for turtle tank

Also a good aquatic turtle tank plant for beginners. Doesn’t require a lot of light.

Rosette Sword

rosette sword plant for turtle tank

Since turtles don’t really like the taste or rosette sword, it is a good plant to get if you are afraid of your turtle eating your plants.

Best plants for turtle tank

The best plants for a turtle tank are Java fern, Anubias, and Rosette sword. If you don’t want live plants, you can also choose from some cool fake plants.

The most important thing is ensuring that the aquatic plant is safe for your turtle. After that, you’ll want to consider the caretaking aspect. In this section, you’ll find several recommendations for plants that are easy to care for and beneficial for your turtle. 

Turtle safe plants

Below are a list of easy to grow, turtle safe plants.

Java Fern 
java fern for turtle tank

Java Fern is one of the most highly recommended plants for turtle tanks because of how common, cheap, and easy to care for they are. This plant grows easily and requires very little care.

In particular, Java Ferns only require a small amount of light. Unlike other aquarium plants, you don’t have to put additional carbon dioxide into your tank to help them grow.

You will, however, need to put some sort of substrate in your tank. This will allow places for the roots to latch onto. Other than this quite simple installment procedure, the Java Fern is a tranquil, uncomplicated plant. 

While it depends on the type of java plant, most reach a height of around 5 inches.

What I really like about the Java Fern above is that you get a free replacement if the plant is dead when it arrives.

If you don’t want to commit yet to a full plant, you can also try putting java moss on driftwood to make a bonsai tree. I did this for my turtle tank, as you can see in the video below.


anubias plant for turtle tank

Anubias is another great turtle friendly plant. While they typically take longer to grow, they are good for beginners. They have very few requirements to thrive, so you won’t need to put in too much effort to ensure that they grow steadily.

Like the Java Fern, you’ll also need to anchor this plant to the bottom of the tank with a substrate so it doesn’t float freely around. Though they take quite a while to grow, they can eventually sprout beautiful, large leaves. I have a couple of them in my red-eared slider tank.

When they are smaller, they typically of brownish leaves. However, once they start to sprout, the leaves change to a dark green color.

If you are having trouble growing your plants, you should check out my article on why aren’t my aquarium plants growing?

Rosette Sword

rosette sword plant for turtle tank

Rosette sword is another good aquatic plant for your turtle tank. While my turtle usually nibbles at all other types of plants, for some reason she stays away from rosette sword. For this reason, it is a great option if your turtle has eaten plants in the past.

They also help increase the oxygen in your water, and help keep the water clear. To help aid its growth, make sure you have a big enough aquatic turtle tank.

Similar to other plants on the list, it is also easy to care for and a great plant for beginners. However, this plant does require a substrate.

If you are looking for another easy plant to grow in your turtle tank, you should check out the el nino fern aquarium plant.

Do turtles eat plants?

Turtles are herbivores, and they do eat plants. In the wild, the majority of a turtle’s diet consists of plants. If you do put live plants in your turtle tank, there is a good chance that your turtle will eat some of them.

However, I still recommend that you feed your turtle vegetables on the side, instead of relying solely on the plants as a vegetable source.

Related: Land plants that can go in an aquarium

Benefits of live plants for turtle tank 

If you’re considering getting live plants to decorate your turtle aquarium, it’s important to understand the pros and cons. Plants can liven up your aquarium and make it a very beautiful space.

There are many different kinds of plants that can thrive in a turtle tank, so you can create a beautiful color scheme with many different leaf shapes and plant textures. Live plants can additionally have many benefits for your turtle’s well-being.

Since there are surrounded by live plants in their natural habitats, adding plants can create a much more comfortable, natural space for them to spend their days in. Your turtle may enjoy exploring the plants, playing with or hiding in them.

Furthermore, live plants perform waste removal services within your tank, eliminating unnecessary and unflattering algae growths. This can help prevent black and brown spots on your aquarium glass. They also remove excess ammonia and nitrite that builds up in the tank over time.

Plants are also great if you have fish in your turtle tank, as it gives your fish a good place to hide.

However, there are some important things you need to know about live plants before investing in them for your turtle aquarium. First of all, it is important to be knowledgeable about the type of plant you are buying. Some plants can be toxic for turtles and can have devastating effects on their health.

Therefore, you need to research each plant before you purchase it to make sure it is actually a turtle safe plants. You should also understand the caretaking requirements for each plant you are looking at before you purchase. Decide how much effort you are willing to put into maintaining the plants in your tank and base your selection on that. 

Aquarium plants for turtles

Most aquarium plants for turtles are not going to harm your turtle if or when they are consumed. Turtles often eat a wide variety of plant and foliage when they are in the wild, and they often are willing to try something that looks green and delicious at least once. 

That being said, there are certain things that grow in the wild that are just downright harmful for turtles, such as ivy, milkweed and water hemlock. Some plants contain harmful toxins, and if your turtle consumes even small amounts, it can have very damaging effects on your turtle’s health.

What plants can’t go in turtle tank?

Here is a list of plants and vegetables that you should never, under any circumstances, feed or let your turtle eat: 

  • Onion, avocado and potato 
  • Boxwood and yew 
  • Hyacinth 
  • Rhododendrons 
  • Azaleas 
  • All plant bulbs and seeds (they cause intestinal damage and the turtles cannot process them) 

Always double-check to make sure that whatever plant you choose will not harm your turtle.

Also, make sure you have a proper turtle tank filter in your tank. If not, the decaying parts of the plant might cause your tank to smell or get cloudy.

Best fake plants for turtle tank?

The best fake plants for a turtle tank are the CNZ Aquarium Aquascape and JIH Aquarium Plastic Plants. Both closely resemble a turtle’s natural habitat.

The advantage of fake plants is that they require less maintenance and last longer than real plants. They usually cost less than $12 and last for years.

If you are looking for more ways to spice up your tank, you should check out my list of the best turtle tank accessories.

fake plants for turtle tank

If you have an enclosure instead of a tank, I recommend checking out plants for desert tortoise enclosure.

Final Thoughts

Live plants are a great addition to any turtle tank as they create a more diverse, interesting space. They can have plenty of benefits for your turtle, providing a place to sleep, explore, or hide.

Furthermore, they create a more natural-looking environment that is sure to make your turtle more comfortable in their space.

However, it is important to research what plants you purchase beforehand to avoid purchasing an unmanageable plant or, at worst, a toxic plant. In this article, we’ve discussed three of the best plants to put in a turtle tank: the Java Fern, Rosette sword, and Anubias.

All three are excellent choices that are relatively simple to care for, turtle-friendly, and very beautiful.