Do Turtles Need Rocks In Their Tank?

Written by Emma Watson

Every pet needs a specific environment relative to its natural habitat. So, the perfect way to know your pet’s choices is to study its origin and live in the wild in detail. Turtles belong to different habitats and are found all over the world. Therefore, the requirements usually vary from a species to another. However, certain things are expected. Among which are the essentials of the tank.

A debate was running on the Internet about the necessity of rocks in a turtle’s tank. We also received a lot of queries from reptile lovers regarding this matter. So, I decided to write a detailed topic and cover every aspect of having marbles and rocks in the turtles’ tank. Are they necessary? If yes, which are best and in which you should invest. So, let us begin. Do not forget to write down important points in your little turt diary.

As a matter of fact, we can put it in a single line

Turtles love rocks in their tank, but they are not essential for their survival!

So, you see, it is not necessary but completely optional to put rocks or gravel in the bottom of your pet turtle’s tank.

The important and primary things for a turtle’s habitat include

  1. A light source.
  2. A suitable water temperature
  3. A good diet.
  4. A calm environment.

Benefits Of Rocks In Turtles Tank

1.     Protect The Soft Ones:

Turtles are messy, so it is a better option not to use any type of rock or gravel. But sometimes, soft turtles require some soft bottom layer. In this case, gravel is a suitable option. Gravel will provide 1-3 inches of a large and smooth layer. Thus, it will not harm your turtle’s health.

2.     Make It Lavish And Aesthetic

Other decorative items such as gravel, sand, charcoal, fluorite, or artificial plants are considered secondary. These are not necessary, and their only purpose is to make the turtle tank beautiful.

Best Substrate For Turtles Should Have

When selecting a substrate for your turtle’s tank or tub, choose one that is soft. It must be smooth, not slippery, so your turtle can easily walk. Furthermore, if your turt wants to burrow or dig into it, the Substrate should stay unharmed. Because the turtle will be floating above the tank rather than walking on it, you can line the bottom with small pebbles.

Gravel can Also Be Harmful!

Pet owners are anxious about this very aspect. So, we received queries saying can gravel be also harmful to their turtles

Yes, gravel can harm your turtles.

However, gravels can only be harmful if you are not careful in their selection. Following points, you need to consider before selecting one for your turtle’s tank.

  1. Some of them are small and can be eaten up by the turtle.
  2. It also contains some chemicals which will have adverse effects on your turtle’s health.
  3. Gravel and rocks also trap dust and debris and will have an untidy waste layer on them. This will pollute the tank.

Why My Turtle Always Eats The Gravel?

Turtles crave minerals and calcium. By eating rocks, turtles fulfill their cravings.

So, if you are not careful with your turtle’s diet and do not maintain a good balance of minerals and vitamins, it will probably go malnourished. A malnourished turtle depicts many signs of illness and abnormal behavior.

For example: if the turtle lacks calcium, it will sense it in rocks and try to eat it. Doing this will be of no good but can choke the throat or gut of your pet in the struggle.


You can take the following steps to avoid turtle’s ingesting gravel.

  • Clean your turtle’s tank now and then.
  • To avoid eating rocks, you can use 1-3 inches of large rocks. It will make it difficult for your turtle to ingest them.
  • Introduce calcium in their diet. This will reduce their cravings.
  • You can also use PLAY SAND for your turtles. Play sand is considered the safest sand for turtles.

Moreover, you can also buy pebbles and rocks from Amazon. If you are not sure about the type, here are a few best options which you can use:

Exo Terra Turtle Pebbles

These are small substrates and are of proper size. It cannot be eaten up by your turtle. This will not cause any injury to your turtle.   

You can buy it on Amazon.com for about $10 to $28.98. Prices of products may vary by size and color.


Adding live plants in the tank can have several advantages. It will make your tank look more and more natural. Your turtle will also have plant food in its diet. You don’t need to worry if your turtle eats them. You can also use the fluorite with gravel, but it is best to use it alone. It will make the tank water fresh, clean and also provide more oxygen making the environment of your turtle healthier.

You can buy it on Amazon.com for about $19.99.

Product Pros Cons

Exo Terra Turtle Pebbles

No Impaction, No Harmful Chemicals, Reusable, Easy Cleanliness.
It will make it difficult for your turtle to dig holes.


It Makes the tank Attractive, Easy to use, Easy to wash, It Supports Plant Growth, No Laterite is Needed.
It can catch dust, So clean it properly before use.


Use rocks that are not too hard. Go for softer ones. Soft rocks will not harm your turtle’s plastron. One problem which can arise while using harder rocks is that it will injure your turtle when he/she is swimming. 

Maintaining Cleanliness

Place your turtles in a temporary holding tank on a regular basis and thoroughly clean the gravel. The simplest method is to sweep the gravel with a siphon-style aquarium vacuum. Begin in one corner and work your way around the tank in a systematic manner.

To suck up the polluted water, press the siphon deep into the gravel. You can clean sand in the same way, but it’s a much more difficult task, and you have to be careful not to stir up dust, which can damage the tank filter.

Advantages Of Not Putting Gravel In Turtle's Tank

Without a substrate to trap debris, such as gravel, a turtle’s water stays much cleaner and is easier to maintain. Gravel is an acceptable substrate for most turtles if their water is kept clean.

Hazards Of Eating Rocks For Turtles

  1. Life-threatening.
  2. Obstruction or impacting of the digestive tract.
  3. Turtles can die even by eating sand.

What Is Impaction In Turtles?

It is the obstruction in the digestive tract of the turtles. This will make your turtle resist eating food. It will prevent your turtle from digesting food. If you see your turtle is not eating food, there is a possibility that he is suffering from impact. Consult your turtle’s veterinarian as soon as possible.

Symptoms Of Impaction In Turtles

Following are the major symptoms of impaction in turtles:

  1. Loss of appetite.
  2. Lethargy
  3. Swelling around the eyes
  4. Swelling of the ears
  5. Any respiratory issue
  6. Discharge of white liquid from eyes or nose.
  7. Any problem regarding kidney, for example, kidney failure.

What To Do If My Turtle Has Eaten A Rock?

If you put rocks and gravel in your turtle’s tank and are not careful about it, your pet will end up ingesting it.

To Avoid This

  • Firstly, remove all the stones and gravel from the tank.
  • Monitor your turtle properly. If he is normal, then he doesn’t need to worry about it. Just be careful the next time.
  • If you see any strange behavior, consult the veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Replace the small rocks with the larger ones for your turtle cannot feed upon them.


So, Now you know rocks and gravel are not necessary for a turtle’s habitat. However, they can make the tank more aesthetic and appealing. Moreover, turtle’s natural habitat have lots of them. Therefore, adding them will have a positive impact on the overall mood and behavior of your pet.

I hope this article helped you answer every related question. In case of any further queries, you may comment down or contact us by email. We would be happy to help.