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The health of your Turtle is of utmost importance, so everything you put in its tank should be well-thought of. This includes fake or live plants. Since we know most Turtles love to nip at things, it would be helpful to know how safe these plants are for your pet.
Is It Okay To Put Plastic Plants In Aquarium?
Some people don’t like taking care of live plants, so they choose plastic plants for their aquarium instead.
Plastic plants are okay in an aquarium depending on their size and quality. Pet stores sell aquarium-safe plants that don’t get damaged easily or color the water. They’re attractive and easier to maintain than live plants.
The keyword here is “aquarium-safe”. Never buy fake plants from a craft store as they are not specifically designed to withstand conditions inside an aquarium. They will disintegrate, bleed off color, or emit toxic substances like lead.
The purpose of having plants in the aquarium— whether real or fake— is so that the turtle has a natural environment where it can interact with, hide, or rest on. Turtles seem to acclimate faster and better with plants in an aquarium, even if they’re not real.
But Turtles tend to move plants around the tank, uproot them, or tear them to shreds. They do this on both real and fake plants. They might bite or pull those plants as normal for them to do so.
If you choose to put plastic plants in your aquarium, tuck them under heavy plants or put them in a heavy planter that can’t get knocked down by your Turtle. You can also try using a suction cup to stick them against a wall.
Why Is My Turtle Eating Fake Plants?
It’s in a Turtle’s nature to bite. This is how they test out new things and protect themselves. When they find a new object in their aquarium, they will nip at it to taste and test it.
Some Turtles, particularly the herbivorous ones, seem to like biting even fake plants more than omnivorous or carnivorous ones. Most would take a bite or two and lose interest when they find the taste unappealing.
And it’s not just plants. They may bite gravel, animals, other Turtles, or even your finger. It’s not an issue if they’re small, but bigger ones may cause harm.
Are Fake Plants Safe For Turtles?
So the question remains whether or not we can use fake plants.
A fake plant can be relatively safe for a Turtle if it’s the kind that’s made of sturdy plastic and is too large for them to eat. These plants can’t get torn to pieces even if a Turtle bites them.
Most fake plants are made of plastic or silky cloth such as polyester. Don’t go for the cloth plants as these are usually the kind that breaks down over time or the paint comes off and tints the water.
It’s imperative to choose sturdier plants for your Turtle tank because there’s always the danger of ingestion. When bitten, they’re not always able to pass it out by pooping. Thin plastic or cloth might block their digestive track and make Turtles sick. Without a veterinarian’s intervention, your Turtle might even die.
Synthetic plants made of harder plastic and with large leaves are advisable. The wide leaves block some light for when your Turtle prefers some shade. They’re also easier to clean when algae or slime sticks to them.
There are fake plants from pet stores but please ask to touch them first before buying so you can determine the material up close. When you come home, submerge it for a day or two to see if the color bleeds into the water.
If parts of your fake plants are missing and you can’t find them, observe your Turtle for signs of a tummy ache. It will:
- not eat as much or stop eating altogether;
- would spend more time basking and less time swimming;
- act oddly.
You’ll find evidence of your Turtle’s “eating” habits if you find pieces of plastic in their poo. Look for them when you’re cleaning their basking dock or substrate. If your Turtle is indeed eating them, take the plants out.
Treatment For A Turtle That’s Ingested Plastic
As soon as you observe the symptoms above, act quickly.
If your Turtle is very sick, take him to the vet as soon as you can to avoid further complications.
Taking pets to a vet may be costly but is sometimes necessary to save your Turtle’s life.
If you think your Turtle is acting just a bit odd, try the methods below along with constant observation.
To treat a Turtle that’s ingested plastic or cloth, feed it some mineral oil so that its digestive systems will flush the substances out. Do this only once. You may find your Turtle passing the material along with its usual poo. If you find similar-looking poo for weeks, your Turtle is most likely re-ingesting the same stuff.
If it seems lethargic after treatment, try doing a carrot soak to give it back its energy. You can do it in two ways:
Carrot soak method 1: If you have a juicer, stick one carrot in and collect the juice. Make sure it doesn’t contain pulp. On a bowl that fits your Turtle, put the carrot juice with some tank water on a level that’s low enough so it can stick its head out. Soak the Turtle for 30 minutes.
Carrot soak method 2: Using a blender, add some warm tap water and blend one carrot. Remove the pulp and put the juice in a bowl that fits your Turtle. Add some dechlorinator to purify the tap water you used. Then soak your Turtle for 30 minutes. Make sure it can stick its head out to avoid drowning.
You can do the carrot soak daily for about a week. Make sure you do the soak AFTER they’ve passed the plastic or cloth out.
You can also feed them vitamins like Hikari Germ for extra nutrition.
If you are interested in learning more about your fish behavior, check out the links below:
Do Turtles Eat Floating Plants?
To reduce the incidence of Turtles eating fake plants, give them something tastier to eat.
Yes, turtles love to eat water wisteria, hornwort, Java moss, duckweed, red ludwigia, and water lettuce. They can be anchored on a rock or left floating on the water where the Turtle can interact with and feed on them.
Alternatively, you can also raise these on a separate container and provide them to your Turtle as you see fit. They’ll be too fast-growing for your Turtle to finish.
There are also plants that Turtles don’t like and are more likely to survive in your tank. These are Anubias, Amazon swords, and Vallisneria. They’re sturdy and have an unpleasant taste for Turtles.
Keeping live plants is ideal because aside from giving shade, food, and a comfortable environment to your Turtles, they also help filter your water and keep it clean.
Healthy Greens, Healthy Pets
Plants provide a lot of good benefits to Turtles, but you have to be careful how you use them.
We prefer live plants to fake ones as they are healthier and more naturalistic for your Turtle. But if you want to use plastic ones, follow the guidelines and observe your Turtles closely from time to time. If you’re still unsure, better skip the plastic altogether.