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7 Best Sands for Turtle Tanks – 2023 Reviews & Top Picks

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

Red-eared turtle in a home terrarium

Keeping a turtle as a pet comes with several responsibilities, including creating a suitable habitat that mimics their natural environment. The right substrate is crucial for your turtle’s overall well-being and comfort. While various options are available, sand is popular due to its natural appearance and ability to facilitate digging and burrowing behaviors. However, finding the right sand for your pet can be difficult with so many brands available. Keep reading as we list reviews of the most popular options and provide the pros and cons of each. The buyer’s guide will help you know what to look for as you shop.

A Quick Glance at Our Favorites (2023 Update)

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Zoo Med Vita-Sand Zoo Med Vita-Sand
  • All-natural
  • Ultra-fine texture
  • No artificial colors
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand
  • 100% natural
  • Acrylic colorfast coating
  • Several colors
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Zoo Med Reptisand Reptile Terrarium Sand Zoo Med Reptisand Reptile Terrarium Sand
  • Easy to use
  • Stimulates digging
  • Attractive appearance
  • Best for Hatchlings
    AquaNatural Sugar White Sand AquaNatural Sugar White Sand
  • Triple washed
  • All natural
  • Ethically sourced
  • Exo Terra Dog Riverbed Sand Exo Terra Dog Riverbed Sand
  • Promotes digging
  • Soft
  • No dyes of chemicals
  • The 7 Best Sands for Turtle Tanks

    1. Zoo Med Vita-Sand – Best Overall

    Zoo Med Vita-Sand

    Weight: 10 pounds
    Suitable for: Tortoises

    Zoo Med Vita-Sand is the best overall sand for turtle tanks. It contains only all-natural sand with no filler ingredients and no artificial colors. The extra-fine sand is high quality and perfect for tortoises. It also contains vitamin fortification, which can help keep your turtle healthy. It’s easy to clean and looks great in any aquarium.

    The downside to Zoo Med is that some users complain that it can get quite dusty.

    Pros
    • All-natural
    • Ultra-fine texture
    • No artificial colors
    • Vitamin fortified
    Cons
    • Dusty

    2. Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand – Best Value

    Weight: 5 pounds
    Suitable for: Aquatic turtles

    Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand is the best sand for turtle tanks for the money. It’s 100% natural and features a colorfast acrylic coating that helps achieve bright colors that look great in any turtle tank. You can choose from several colors, including green, red, white, black, and blue. The sand is extra fine and suitable for more than one use.

    The downside to Aqua Terra sand is that it can make the water cloudy and takes several days to clear.

    Pros
    • 100% natural
    • Acrylic colorfast coating
    • Several colors
    Cons
    • Cloudy water

    3. Zoo Med Reptisand Reptile Terrarium Sand – Premium Choice

    Zoo Med Reptisand Reptile Terrarium Sand

    Weight: 10 pounds
    Suitable for: Aquatic turtles

    Zoo Med Reptis and Reptile Terrarium Sand is our premium choice sand for turtle tanks. It’s a natural, easy-to-use substrate that looks great in any turtle tank. The soft sand stimulates digging, and it’s not too dusty, so it won’t make a mess out of your habit or cause respiratory issues with your turtle.

    The downside to Zoo Med is that the sand can cake and clump up, making it difficult to dig through and clean up.

    Pros
    • Easy to use
    • Stimulates digging
    • Attractive appearance
    • Not too dusty
    Cons
    • Cakes

    4. AquaNatural Sugar White Sand – Best for Hatchlings

    AquaNatural Sugar White Sand

    Weight: 10 pounds
    Suitable for: Aquatic turtles

    AquaNatural Sugar White Sand is our pick as the best for hatchlings. The ethically sourced sand is all-natural with no fillers, and it’s triple washed to help reduce dust and cloudy water. It has an attractive off-white color that many people enjoy as it helps brighten up any habitat while remaining easy to use.

    The primary downside of AquaNatural is that it’s expensive compared to other brands on this list.

    Pros
    • Triple washed
    • All natural
    • Ethically sourced
    • Attractive appearance
    Cons
    • Expensive

    5. Exo Terra Dog Riverbed Sand

    Exo Terra Dog Riverbed Sand

    Weight: 10 pounds
    Suitable for: Aquatic turtles

    Exo Terra Dog Riverbed Sand is an extra-fine sand that is soft and promotes digging. It’s great for aquatic turtles and many other types of reptiles and fish. There are no added chemicals or dyes. The brown color looks natural and attractive, and the sand is easy to use and clean.

    The main thing that many customers have complained about concerning Exo Terra sand is that it can be hard to get clean, requiring many rinses to reduce the risk of clouding the water when you first add it. Many people have also complained that it’s pricey.

    Pros
    • Promotes digging
    • Soft
    • No dyes of chemicals
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Creates cloudy water

    6. Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand for Aquarium

    Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand for Aquarium

    Weight: 10 pounds
    Suitable for: Tortoises

    Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand for Aquarium is a great choice for tortoises. The sand is extra fine, so it’s soft and easy to dig in. It also contains strontium, potassium, and magnesium, which help keep your pet healthy, and calcium carbonate, which helps with digestion. Another great benefit of using this sand is that it aids with odor control.

    While Reptile Science sand gets generally favorable reviews, many people complain that it’s quite dusty. It also has a slight odor that some people don’t like.

    Pros
    • Calcium carbonate
    • All natural
    • Natural odor control
    Cons
    • Dusty

    7. Estes Gravel Products Este Marine Sand

    Estes Gravel Products

    Weight: 1 pound
    Suitable for: Aquatic turtles

    Estes Gravel Products AES06606 Este Marine Sand is an attractive black color that will look great in any aquarium. It’s also a good choice to use with other colors to create interesting color-contrasting designs. The polymer-coated sand is fine and easy to dig in, and it won’t change the pH of the water. This sand is environmentally friendly and non-toxic.

    Unfortunately, a few customers have complained that the quality of the sand can vary from one bag to another, and it also tends to make the water extremely cloudy, even after several washes.

    Pros
    • Attractive color
    • Won’t change water pH
    • Fine
    Cons
    • Cloudy water
    • Inconsistent quality

    Buyer’s Guide: Picking the Best Sand for Turtle Tanks

    Species-Specific Requirements

    Understanding your turtle’s species and their natural habitat preferences is essential for choosing the most suitable sand substrate. Consider their water type (aquatic or semi-aquatic), burrowing behavior, and preference for coarse or fine-grained sand. Most of the sands on this list are extra fine to promote digging, which is a common turtle behavior, but some turtles may prefer coarser sand.

    Small land turtle in the terrarium
    Image Credit: Yulia 0606,Shutterstock

    Sand Texture and Composition

    Opt for sand with a texture that allows for easy digging and burrowing, resembling the natural environment of your turtle. Ensure that it has a suitable mineral composition and is free from harmful chemicals or additives. Avoid sand that clumps excessively when wet.

    Safety Considerations

    Prioritize the safety of your turtle by choosing non-toxic sand that won’t harm them if ingested. For instance, finer sand will pass through the digestive system much easier than coarser sand. Avoid sand with sharp particles or substances that may irritate their skin or eyes as they move through it.

    Hygiene and Maintenance

    Select sand that is easy to clean and maintain, minimizing the risk of bacteria or mold growth. Look for sands resistant to foul odors and facilitate quick spot cleaning. Light-colored sand makes it easier to spot debris, but it can be harder to keep looking nice.

    Brand Reputation and Reviews

    Research different sand brands and read customer reviews to assess their quality and performance. Seek recommendations from your vet and experienced turtle owners for help choosing the best sand for your turtle species.

    red-eared turtle in a home terrarium sitting under a heat lamp
    Image Credit: Liubov Sydorenko, Shutterstock

    Cost and Quantity

    Evaluate the cost and quantity of different brands to ensure that a sand will fit your budget and meet your needs. Consider the size of your aquarium, so you know the number of bags that you need to purchase to create an even layer of substrate for your pet.

    Additional Considerations

    Consider the environmental impact of the sand, opting for eco-friendly and sustainably sourced options if possible. Choosing sand that enhances the natural appearance of your turtle’s habitat is also a good idea.

    Making an Informed Decision

    Prioritize the most important factors for your turtle’s specific needs and preferences. Compare different brands’ features, benefits, and potential drawbacks before deciding on a brand for your pet.

    Conclusion

    When choosing sand for a turtle tank among these reviews, we highly recommend our pick as the best overall. Zoo Med Vita-Sand is vitamin fortified and all natural. The extra-fine granules won’t cause digestive issues and promote digging. Another great choice is our best value one. Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand is budget friendly, so it’s easier to create large habitats, and the acrylic coating is non-toxic and allows for a wide range of colors that will enable you to create a colorful and unique habitat for your turtle.


    Featured Image Credit: Liubov Sydorenko, Shutterstock

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