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7 Best Plants For Turtle Tanks

There are 7 great plants for turtle tanks in this list. There are many advantages to having plants in your turtle’s aquarium. Not only do they provide hiding spots and make the turtle feel safe, also they add to the aesthetics and help filter ammonia & nitrates out of the water.

When obtaining aquatic plants for your freshwater turtle’s enclosure, go with plants that are edible. This way, there will be no adverse consequences if the turtle decides to snack on the plant.

Some simple plants for your turtle’s aquatic enclosure include Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus), Amazon Sword Plant (Echinodorus amazonicus & other variants), and Anubias. Of course, these aren’t the only aquatic plants you can plant in a turtle tank, but they are some of the best.

All About Turtle Tank Plants

Why have plants in the turtle tank?

There are many benefits to having plants in the turtle tank. Plants help filter the water, add to the aesthetics of the tank, and even increase the oxygen levels of the tank.

These are all things you want. There may be some disadvantages to having plants in the enclosure, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.


  • Plants provide additional filtration – Plants filter harmful compounds out of the water. These harmful compounds include ammonia, nitrites, and unwanted organic compounds. This means that water quality is improved.
  • Plants help reduce algae – They achieve this by competing with algae for carbon dioxide.
  • Plants are visually appealing – They add to the natural beauty of the tank.
  • Plants provide additional oxygenation – Plants add oxygen to water. Many turtle species have the ability to absorb oxygen from the water. The more plants you have in the water, the higher the oxygen level will be.
  • Plants provide hiding spots – Turtles need several hiding spots to feel safe. A stressed turtle may even refuse to eat which can be detrimental to the turtle’s health. Plants help turtles to feel safe, secure, and at home.
  • Turtles snack on plants – Edible plants are best, as they provide the turtle with roughage and foods high in nutrients.


  • The turtles can tear up the foliage and make a mess, which you will have to clean up.
  • The turtle may dig out the plants.

Best plants for a turtle tank

Some plants can be toxic. It is important to make sure that the plant isn’t toxic to turtles before you plant it in the aquarium.

Plants safe for turtles are best. Also, some plants require substrates. Substrates need to be regularly cleaned to remove pieces of food and turtle excrement.

This can be a chore. For this reason, it may be best to acquire plants that don’t need substrates.

1. Hornwort

hornwort (ceratophyllum-demersum)
Hornwort (ceratophyllum-demersum)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Ceratophyllaceae
  • Binomial Name: Ceratophyllum demersum
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Recommended Temperature: 85°H/60°L
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Buy It On Amazon

The scientific name of this plant is Ceratophyllum demersum, and it is also commonly referred to as rigid hornwort, coon’s tail, or coontail. Hornwort is one of the most popular aquatic plants for turtle tanks.

They look elegant, are affordable, and easy to care for. They also do not require a substrate. To care for them, you simply need to provide plant lights. Because of how easy they are to care for, they are excellent for both beginners and experts.

You can anchor these plants to the bottom of the aquarium by using a suction cup. Alternatively, you can let them float.

Reasons to grow hornwort

  • This plant is hardy and thrives with little to no help as far as you provide enough plant light during the day.
  • Don’t worry about the turtle snacking on this plant as they grow fast.
  • Hornworts provide excellent filtration. They keep the water clean by removing a lot of nitrates.

2. Anubias barteri

Anubias barteri
Anubias barteri
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Araceae
  • Binomial Name: Anubias barteri
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Recommended Temperature: 82°H/72°L
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Buy It On Amazon

This is another easy plant to care for. The broad-leaf Anubias is native to West Africa and requires temperatures of 72 to 82 °F, which is easy to acquire in a turtle tank.

In addition to this, they thrive at any pH level and don’t require a lot of light to grow. There are about 5 varieties of the Anubias barteri.

Another plus is that turtles don’t like to eat this plant and won’t make a mess. On top of that they’re non-toxic and don’t need a substrate.

You can anchor these plants to the bottom of the aquarium by tying them to a weight (such as rock).

Reason to grow Anubias barteri

  • Although this is a slow-growing plant, the Anubias doesn’t require much care. Additionally, turtles don’t eat them.
  • They can thrive in almost any condition. They can even thrive in low-light.
  • Anubias has gorgeous leathery leaves that can grow to 12 inches.

3. Java Fern

Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)
Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Polypodiaceae
  • Binomial Name: Microsorum pteropus, synonym Leptochilus pteropus
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Recommended Temperature: 82°H/68°L
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Buy It On Amazon

Another popular aquatic plant that can be commonly found in most aquariums and turtle tanks is the Java Fern. The scientific name of this plant is Microsorum pteropus. The java fern can be found in almost all pet shops that sell aquatic pets.

This elegant plant doesn’t need substrate and can be anchored down with a rock or driftwood. Since it doesn’t need a substrate, its care is simple. In addition, it thrives in low light. The turtle’s UV light should provide enough light for the plant.

Reason to grow Java fern

  • Java fern is a great natural filter and as such will help keep the aquarium clean and free of nitrites.
  •  In addition to this, turtles don’t find this plant tasty. As such, you won’t need to keep replacing it. Also, it isn’t toxic so you don’t need to worry about the turtle ingesting it.
  • Anubias has gorgeous leathery leaves that can grow to 12 inches.
  • It can live for a long time.

4. Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon sword plant
Amazon sword plant
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Alismataceae
  • Binomial Name: Echinodorus grisebachii/amazonicus
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Recommended Temperature: 82°H/61°L
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Buy It On Amazon

The amazon sword plant is one of the most common plants kept in freshwater aquariums. As a common plant, they are easy to find and easy to care for.

While the Echinodorus amazonicus is the more popular species, others such as the Echinodorus bleheri can also be found in pet stores. Nevertheless, every variety of this plant is perfect for turtle tanks.

For starters, the amazon sword plant is a plant that needs a lot of light. As such, it is necessary to keep it in a well-lit spot.

Unlike the other plants mentioned, the amazon sword plant needs a substrate to thrive.

You can keep it anchored using a rock and use aquarium gravel as the substrate. If the turtle ever uproots it, just replant it.

Reasons to grow the Amazon Sword Plant

  • The Amazon sword plant is an elegant plant that is easy to maintain.
  • The broad leaves of the  Echinodorus bleheri provide excellent hiding spots for the turtle.
  • It’s a large plant and as such offers a high level of filtration.
  • While it is a slow-growing plant, it isn’t favored by turtles. As such, the turtles won’t feed on it.

5. Anacharis

Anacharis Elodea
Anacharis Elodea
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Hydrocharitaceae
  • Genus: Elodea
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Recommended Temperature: 82°H/60°L
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Buy It On Amazon

This is another popular aquatic plant as it is quite easy to care for. This plant is also known as waterweed. As some of you may already know, anacharis is one of the plants that turtles love to eat.

Turtle species such as red-eared sliders and painted turtles love anacharis. As such, it is great that they are fast-growing.

Carnivorous turtles such as musk and mud turtles generally leave this plant alone. This is one of the best turtle safe plants.

The anacharis plant is known as waterweed as they grow very quickly. Because of their fast-growing nature, they should never be planted outside as they are an invasive species.

Reasons to grow Anacharis

  • Anacharis is extremely easy to maintain. In fact, the species is considered a ‘weed’. All you need to do is plant it.
  • Anacharis provide a lot of cover for the turtle.
  • Anacharis provides excellent filtration.
  • This plant will naturally anchor itself to the bottom of the tank.

6. Java Moss

Java Moss plant (Taxiphyllum barbieri)
Java Moss plant (Taxiphyllum barbieri)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Hypnaceae
  • Binomial Name: Taxiphyllum barbieri
  • Water pH: 5.0-8.0
  • Lighting: Low to High
  • Recommended Temperature: 86°H/59°L
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Buy It On Amazon

Another beautiful plant to consider is the Java moss. This plant grows quickly and beautifully in all conditions.

It can grow in poorly lit areas of the aquarium and even in murky water. As you can see, they don’t require special lighting. The appearance of this plant adds a very natural feel to the aquarium.

The java moss plant will grow along rocks, driftwood, substrate, and any other item in the aquarium. The binomial name of the java moss is Taxiphyllum barbieri. This plant can be found in aquatic pet stores.

Reasons to grow Java moss

  • Java moss thrives in dim environments.
  • Java moss is a fast-growing plant. As such, even if turtles snack on it, it replenishes itself.
  • It gives the tank a very natural feel.
  • It provides cover for hatchlings and subadults.

7. Moneywort

Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia)
Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia)
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Primulaceae
  • Binomial Name: Lysimachia nummularia
  • Water pH: 6.1-7.8
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Recommended Temperature: 77°H/60°L
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Buy It On Amazon

This is another great plant to have in the aquarium. It is adaptable and has a nice bright green coloration. This popular plant grows well even in simple setups.

Moneywort grows quickly and requires moderate to high lighting to grow quickly. It will also thrive in low lighting, although it will grow at a much slower pace. It doesn’t require CO2 supplementation to grow at a stable rate.

In addition to being a fast-growing aesthetically pleasing addition to the turtle’s aquarium, it is also edible and nontoxic. Expect your turtle to eat the plant. However, this is not a problem as it grows very fast.

Reasons to grow Moneywort

  • This is a versatile plant that will grow in even the simplest aquatic setups.
  • The plant is productive.
  • It’s easy to prune.
  • They are very easy to maintain and are excellent for beginners.

Choosing a plant for the turtle tank

The plants mentioned aren’t the only plants that can thrive in the turtle’s tank. There are many other plants out there. However, before you choose a plant for the aquarium, the plant needs to pass the following checks.

The plant cannot be poisonous/toxic

While most turtle keepers prefer plants that the turtle won’t eat, the plant mustn’t be toxic.

Accidental ingestion can lead to health issues and even death. It is a must to know the species of the plant and whether or not it is toxic.

Some toxic plants to avoid include milkweed, ivy, and water hemlock.

Avoid plants that require a lot of light and/or CO2

While technically, you can maintain these, they are a lot of work and require extra care. You may need special lights for them to thrive.

An example is the water hyacinth, this plant requires full sun and hot summer temperatures.


Plants have many benefits. Not only do they add to the beautify of the tank, they also provide filtration, nourishment as well as cover. There is no reason to not have plants in your turtle tanks.

There are plants that require no substrate and little to no care. When you decide to get a plant for your aquarium, make sure it is safe for turtles to ingest.

It is easy to mistakenly plant plants that are toxic to the turtle. Make sure to properly research the plant you wish to have in the tank. 

If you have any questions or extra information, leave a comment below.

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Monday 15th of November 2021

Hello, I have a small, 4’x4’x2’D concrete pond that has 2-red eared sliders. I’m located in Las Vegas, NV and would like to know what plants I can put in the water that will take the summer heat and a lot of light with hopes that the plant will not need much care for.


Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Your pictures won’t pin to Pinterest 😱. I save everything there. Is it possible that that can be fixed?