The Case For Having A Bare Bottom Turtle Tank

Bare bottom turtle tanks have been a talking point among turtle tank owners for a while now. Many people that have a bare bottom turtle tank do it to keep cleaning to a minimum. Keeping a clear bottom tank can benefit turtles as well! Let’s look at some of the benefits and disadvantages of having your turtle’s tank bare at the bottom.

Are There Any Benefits Of Having A Bare Bottom Turtle Tank?

  1. Allows For Better Water Flow
    By not having any sand or gravel, a bare bottom turtle tank allows you to have significantly more water flow throughout the tank.
  2. It Makes It A Lot Easier To Clean
    Without worrying about gravel, a bare bottom turtle tank makes cleaning much easier! You can siphon the detritus right off the bottom without needing to worry about disturbing the gravel at the bottom.
  3. Visible Dead Zones
    Although having dead zones isn’t really a problem for turtles, it still allows you to see where waste builds up the most.

Disadvantages Of Bare Bottom Turtle Tanks

  1. Less Beneficial Bacteria
    Beneficial bacteria, or biological filtration, needs a lot of surface area to thrive. Often, this is provided by rocks and gravel. Without a gravel bed, bare bottom turtle tanks offer a limited surface area for beneficial bacteria.
  2. Appearance
    Having gravel and rocks at the bottom of your turtle’s tank makes it look more natural. Some people really don’t like the appearance of bare bottom turtle tanks, which is understandable.

Do Turtles Really Need Rocks In Their Tank?

Every turtle species needs a specific environment that is relative to its natural habitat. So, the perfect way to know your pet’s preferences is to study its origin and live in the wild in detail. As turtles belong to different habitats and are found all over the world, the requirements usually vary from species to species.

There has been a debate running on the Internet about the necessity of rocks in a turtle’s tank. Are rocks necessary for a turtle tank? If so, what types of rocks are the best and which you should choose?

Are Rocks Necessary For Turtles Tanks?

Put simply, turtles love rocks in their tank, but they’re not essential for their survival!

So, rocks aren’t necessary but completely optional to put rocks or gravel in the bottom of your pet turtle’s tank.

The most things for a turtle’s habitat include:

  • Decent light source
  • Suitable water temperature
  • Good diet
  • Calm and clean environment

Benefits Of Adding Rocks

It Offers Protection
As turtles are messy, it’s a better option not to use any type of rock or gravel. However, sometimes, soft turtles need some soft bottom layer. In this case, gravel is a good option. Gravel provides a few inches of a large and smooth layer.

It Makes The Tank Look Naturally Aesthetic
Other decorative items, including gravel, sand, or artificial plants, are considered secondary. While they are visually appealing, they aren’t considered necessary, and their only purpose is to make the turtle tank beautiful.

Gravel Can Be Harmful!

Turtle owners are anxious about this very aspect. Can gravel be harmful to turtles? Yes, it’s possible for gravel to cause harm to turtles. Although, gravel can only be harmful if you are not careful in gravel selection. Here are some points to consider before selecting one for your turtle’s tank.

Some types of gravel are small and can be eaten by turtles

Gravel can contain some chemicals which will have adverse effects on your turtle’s health.

Using substrates like gravel traps dust and debris and will have an untidy waste layer on them. This can make the tank a lot dirtier.

Why Some Turtles Eat Their Gravel?

Because turtles crave minerals and calcium, they can sometimes try to eat gravel to fulfil their cravings.

So, you need to be careful that your turtle doesn’t eat their gravel. You need to make sure that your turtle gets a good diet and maintains a good balance of minerals and vitamins, or it will probably go malnourished.

For example, A turtle that lacks calcium will sense it in rocks and try to eat it. Doing this will be of no benefit to them and can choke the throat or gut of the turtle.


Here are some steps you can take to avoid a turtle ingesting gravel:

  • Make sure to clean your turtle’s tank every now and again
  • To prevent a turtle from eating rocks, you can use rocks that are 1-3 inches
  • You should introduce calcium to their diet. Doing this will reduce their cravings


So, now you know that it’s perfectly fine to keep your turtle tank bottom bare. Rocks and gravel aren’t necessary for a turtle’s habitat. Although rocks and gravel can make the tank more aesthetic and appealing. Moreover, a turtle’s natural habitat has lots of them. Therefore, adding a few rocks can have a positive impact on the overall mood and behavior of your turtle.