10 Best Turtle Substrate in 2021: Best to Choice

Choosing the best turtle substrate is one of the most important phases in building your turtle an amazing dwelling place. It is like finding sofas or beds for your home. I agree that having a turtle substrate in the turtle tank can be a piece of work since it calls for cleaning and maintenance. However it is not something you need to do daily or weekly, you can do it once or twice in a month. 

Turtles are not vulnerable to dirt because of their outer hard shell that protects it. It is even better when the substrate is present; it will hold all the excess food particles so that the turtle will barely get dirty. To help you in finding the right turtle substrate we have provided you with reviews on turtle substrates and a buying guide.

Best Turtle Substrate Comparison Chart

Product NameBrandSizeWeightPrice
Zoo Med Reptile Bark Fir BeddingZoo Med24 QUARTS/FOR 59.35 pounds
Exo Terra Turtle PebblesExo Terra10-Pound10.15 pounds
Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber SubstrateZoo Med24 quart6.55 pounds
Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium GravelPure Water Pebbles5-Pound5 pounds
Zoo Med ReptiSandZoo Med10 Pounds6 pounds
Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight SandCarib Sea5-Pound1 pounds
Flourite, 7 kg / 15.4 lbsSeachem7 kg2 pounds
Zoo Med Forest Floor BeddingZoo Med24 quart9 pounds
Carib Sea ACS00110 Crushed Coral for AquariumCarib Sea10 Pounds1 pounds
Carib Sea ACS00120 Crushed Coral for AquariumCarib Sea15-Pound1 pounds


Best Turtle Substrate Reviews

After an extensive research on the market, our team came up with a list of top turtle substrates that you can use. Compare their features and benefits to find out which one is right for you.

The Zoo Med is all-natural green product that is made from the bark of fir vegetation no wonder its name. It has the quality of being hygroscopic which means that it absorbs moisture and does not form a solution. It releases moisture into the air resulting in humidity ideal for high humidity reptiles including turtles.

What I like

It provides the turtle with an environment suitable to burrow and dig to its satisfaction. It is reusable and easy to maintain following a simple procedure of soaking the bedding after two to three months to keep it clean and fresh all through its use.

What I don’t like

What I do not like is that it needs replacement after a year but nothing lasts forever.

  • The substrate is an all-natural product made from fir.
  • It is reusable after being soaked in hot water.
  • It is ideal for high humidity reptiles.
  • It has a rainforest decorative look.
  • It can last for 1 year.
  • It may be infested with mites.

The Exo Terra Turtle Pebbles are river pebbles that are naturally extracted from fast-moving rivers. They have a smooth texture that will not hurt the carapace of the turtle. If you are worried about swallowing the pebbles, you need not to because they are too large for the turtle to ingest.

What I like

The pebbles are rounded up without any sharp edges that may cause harm to your pet. The décor is breathtaking; it has shades of different colors and patterns that give a flawless natural look. Your pets will feel right at home and live in the comfort of its new surroundings with grace and fun.

What I don’t like

The pebbles may seem hard for the turtle to burrow and dig in for its size and weight.

  • The pebbles are smooth preventing blisters on the turtle's carapace.
  • The blend of colors and patterns offer a natural look.
  • They are easy to clean and reusable.
  • The substrate comes in large and small sizes.
  • They are round and too large for the reptile to swallow.
  • Some pebbles may be broken.

It is made up of coconut fiber bedding and coconut husk reptile bedding that keeps your pets healthy and happy.  It offers a wide range of options suitable to accommodate reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. It is an excellent choice for your pets being entirely natural; it is made from coconut husks. The coconut fiber bedding is kept slightly damp to regulate and to break down the odor and waste.

What I like

The fiber is easy to clean and maintain; it is advisable to replace it twice a year. You can recycle the coconut fiber after you have replaced it. Animals that love burrowing can freely do that in the bedding to spark joy and satisfaction in the pets.

What I don’t like

A turn off for this substrate is the fact that the environment for low humidity may attract mites and attack your pets.

  • It is naturally made from coconut husks.
  • It is ideal for any humidity level.
  • Can be sustainably recycled.
  • Naturally breaks down waste and odor.
  • Good with any reptile amphibian or invertebrate.
  • Might attract mites.

The pure water pebbles are naturally made and provide a living surrounding for your turtle and anchor the plants that you may have in the aquarium. They are sturdy and stay in place. It can be used in a couple of areas such as salt and freshwater aquariums, garden potted plants, terrariums, vases and also for DIY crafts.

What I like

The coat that is man-made has been sanitized and safe for your pets ready to be installed in your aquarium or terrariums. The colors come in shades of red, blue and gray making it look beautiful in every way. The pebble sizes are not consumable by any turtle due to its round nature.

What I don’t like

Unfortunately, the dye is washable and fades within no time losing its color. The odor of the dye can also be displeasing to your pets.

  • Are naturally made.
  • Are smooth and round
  • Come in different colors.
  • Can be used in a couple of areas.
  • Reduce the filtering process.
  • The dye comes off.
  • It can make your fish sick.

The sand is smooth and good for any turtle with a soft shell; the turtle will feel at home without a doubt. It gives a natural look and feels that it blends in with your home décor; either indoor or outdoor. The turtle will love to burrow in the sand all day long keeping him busy.

What I like

The quality is amazing and can hold off any uneaten food or waste above the substrate making cleaning of the tank easy. The smell is natural and does not affect the turtle’s surroundings. The substrate is very accommodative with reptiles and they do not feel anywhere far from home.

What I don’t like

The substrate needs regular replacement due to the quality of sand; sand is not reusable

  • Great for softshell turtles.
  • Is completely natural without additives.
  • It has a nice look.
  • Adds environmental stimulus by allowing burrowing and digging.
  • Ideal for low humidity reptiles
  • It may be clumpy and sticky.
  • Needs regular replacement.

If you want to create a supernatural experience by adding a fine natural look, this has to be what you need.  It is ideal for North American turtles and helps to maintain a neutral pH of about 8.2. This is suitable for any fresh or salty water that ranges from a pH of 7-8.5. The sand is completely natural add has no additives such as chemicals.

What I like

The turtle can freely move and burrow in the sand without difficulty creating a happy experience. The texture will feel nice on the carapace of the turtle ideal for comfort and a thriving environment. The look is suitable for your home and provides living space for your turtle.

What I don’t like

Do not expect the color to be white as drawn on the paper; it is beige. This is an area that they can choose to improve on or just brand it as a brown color.

  • Reduces nitrates better than most gravel.
  • Is completely natural without additives.
  • The white appearance gives a natural look.
  • It is pH neutral.
  • It is good for the turtle to burrow and dig in.
  • The color is not too white as expected

Flourite substrate is a unique fracted porous clay gravel made for the natural planted aquarium. When adding water, fill the aquarium slowly to prevent disturbing the fluorite bed; you can use an overflowing bowl instead of pouring directly. Your turtle will love burrowing and digging in it with a lot of comfort and happiness.

What I like

The look is suited to blend in with planted aquatic plants and can also be used on freshwater environment. Fluorite substrate works best when used as a single unit however it can be incorporated into other gravels.

What I don’t like

The gravel is washed before packaging since it is natural and may attract dust during transit. The more the need for you to rinse it before laying it on your aquarium.

  • Natural.
  • It offers a natural and unique look.
  • Great for aquaria.
  • Easy to clean with plenty of water.
  • It comes with a lot of dirt that needs effort while rinsing.

The Zoo Med Forest flooring is made from natural cypress and is a mulch substrate. It gives you terrarium a fine natural look that invites your turtle to have a warm and comforting stay on the bedding. The substrate is ideal for pets that love high humidity due to its hygroscopic nature.

What I like

The mulch substrate is easy to clean and maintain. You simply soak the layer in disinfected hot water after you have lain if for 2 to 3 months.

What I don’t like

The substrate may have sharp ends that could hurt your pet; it would be best if you look through first.

  • It is made from natural cypress.
  • Ideal for high humidity level pets.
  • Easy to clean and is reusable.
  • Good for reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
  • Easy to see waste and other material on it.
  • May be sharp and too dry.

The coral is crushed to fine texture than gives it a white natural look. The feel is good for your turtle to move about without getting splinters or blisters; no harm will be invoked. Providing the best surrounding for it to thrive is the best decision you could ever make.

What I like

This is ideal for a light and cheerful mood for your turtle at all times and keeping him busy. Don’t they just love burrowing? It’s like that is what they live for.

What I don’t like

Have peace with the fact that to use you will have to rinse it thoroughly. It is better if they did the cleaning for you.

  • Good for any pH level.
  • It is natural and chemical-free.
  • The white look gives it a more natural look.
  • It can last for over a year.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Needs thorough rinsing.

The crushed coral is made up of a mixture of tiny seashells, small slivers of black and brown materials that look like crushed leaves and some small gravel. The substrate is natural and the mixture of materials added gives a fine look that is appealing to you and your pet.

What I like

The mixture forms a perfect replica of their natural habitat; the turtle will feel in the right place.

What I don’t like

If you want all the pretty sides you will also have to face the ugly sides. Prepare to rinse the substrate until it becomes clean; this will cost you time and resources.

  • It is natural.
  • Has a fine mixture of beautiful materials.
  • Is great for all pH levels.
  • Some of the slivers may say afloat.
  • May prove hard to rinse.

Buying Guide

Different substrates work well with different turtles; their responses contrast. Similarly, every substrate requires its approach based on the time and method of cleaning and also the replacement timeline. Below are some of the things you need to put into consideration before choosing the best turtle substrate.

Turtle Species

The turtle can either be aquatic or land.

Aquatic turtle – These turtles are ideal for water conditions where the humidity is high. They may not need a substrate; all you need to provide is a basking environment.

Land turtles – They are different from the aquatic turtles since they are created to thrive in low humidity regions. A substrate is necessary for their existence; turtles burrow in substrate and helps in thermoregulation.


For a softshell turtle, it is important to use a substrate that is soft for the turtle’s carapace whenever they burro in it. The substrate is lined above the bottom for the turtle to step on comfortably to allow movement. It should also remain harmless to your pet in case he consumes the substrate; most brands are nontoxic. Make sure the quality of the substrate is vulnerable to harboring bacteria and dirt causing harm to the turtle.

Natural feel

Your substrate should imitate the natural habitat of the turtle. We are trying to make a home for it that in most ways resembles their original home. While adding decorations to the turtle tank, add an aesthetic look that will attract the turtle. They even love playing with natural shells that are usually found on the coastline. The air should smell clean and fresh while the substrate lining should have to invoke pleasure in the turtle’s feet and body. Therefore a plain natural look will do.

Avoid unnatural additives

The substrates have to look, feel and stay natural all the way meaning that no additives are advisable. Ensure that you look out for any unnatural compositions in the substrates and clean it before laying it on the turtle tank. Some of the additives may be harmful to the turtle which can be fatal. They could be scent or taste-related causing discomfort in the turtles surrounding.

Dangerous materials

Substrates such as small gravel and calcium sand are highly avoided due to their susceptibility to being eaten by the turtle. The effects of harmful substrates may be long term and even cause death. Some of the resultant effects are impaction, eye irritation and can cause injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do turtles smell?

A: Some turtles do smell quite bad while others do not smell. The truth is that turtles are scent-free, so if they smell it is due to their environment. They tend to gather particles while feeding which may cause unpleasant smells. And pretty much obvious the solution to preventing odor in turtles is cleaning them together with their resting tank. As much as they spend nights in water does not necessarily mean that they do not get dirty, because they do. When you clean them to ensure that you use disposable containers, clean water, and a toothbrush without adding any detergent or soap; it could be harmful. This applies to both aquatic and non-aquatic turtles.

Q: How often should I change the substrate?

A: This is entirely dependent on the quality of the substrate you are using for your turtle. For a substrate like gravel, replacing it is not the best option since cleaning it will keep it in perfect shape. Sand, on the other hand, is soft and cannot be cleaned therefore it is best if you replace it instead. If you are using planted vegetation as the turtle’s substrate you will not have to replace it at all.

Q: What is the best substrate for my turtle?

A: The best substrates to use are those that work in favor of the turtle health and wellbeing. You know turtles can eat anything that fits into their mouth. Fortunately, most substrates are nontoxic therefore will not cause harm to the turtle. Furthermore, a substrate that is too wet can lead to health issues and infections such as shell rot. You can choose to use a combination of substrates or try a single substrate and see if it fits the needs of the turtle. Unfortunately, there is not a specific scale that you can use to determine the most suitable substrate for your turtle.

Final Words

I suggest that you stick to using the most recommendable turtle substrate brands. It is best if you keep an open mind while looking for the best turtle substrate because it is not shocking if the first time you get a turtle substrate that your pet will dislike. As much as it may take time, believe me when I say that it will be rewarding; it will all work out for the good of your turtle. After all your turtle will spend most of its time on the substrate so do your best to find the right one for it. The best turtle substrate is the key to keeping your pet in perfect health and wellness.

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