How To Setup A Turtle Tank

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How To Setup A Turtle Tank

This is our guide on how to setup a turtle tank and also everything else you need to know about your pet’s environment to ensure a comfortable setting for them. Turtles have lived since the dinosaurs were around and they are loved by everyone but having a pet turtle means that you have to provide them with proper care and the first step for this is to offer a great habitat where they can feel at home.

General Overview

The general idea with a turtle tank is that it needs to have both water areas and some terrain. One other thing is the illumination and filtering which will determine the quality of life that your pet will have. To make a list, the things that you must absolutely have are a large enough tank, a basking area, heaters to ensure the right temperature, a system of cleaning the water (filter) and an aquarium water test kit or strips for the water content.

Aside from the things mentioned above you might also want a substrate that lines the bottom of the tank and an air pump to aerate the water. Decorations and live plants are up to you but the two things we mentioned are quite recommended. The air pump will discourage the growth of bacteria in the water and the bubbles will fascinate your pet.

Turtle Tank

How To Setup A Turtle Tank

The tank you choose should be sturdy enough and the glass ones made for fish can be a very good choice. The size should be quite large and it depends on the size of the turtle. The volume is somewhere between ten to 15 gallons for each inch the turtle has in length but if you have a young one make sure to do this calculations on the estimated adult size. In case you have more than one turtle the size of the tank should increase by half of the original size for each additional turtle.

For the shape you should pick a tank with a low profile since you will want horizontal room instead of vertical. This might depend on the species of your turtle though since some will prefer to swim in deeper waters. The water in the tank should in any case be deeper than the width of the turtle and at least five inches of water will be recommended. The water needs to be clean and it can come from the sink or from jugs of distilled water.

Illumination and Basking

The artificial light isn’t something that is very good for turtles and they will definitely require a place where they bask. This means that they usually stay in the sunlight and thus you will need to set up an area specifically for this activity.

The land area needs to take up at least half of the space in the tank. You can buy special turtle docks from a pet supply store or use a rock or a log. Floating docks are great since they won’t take up the water space. If you take things directly from nature you will need to clean them properly since they can harm your turtle. One other thing that is really important is to make sure that the turtle can reach the basking area with ease so in some cases you might need to add a ramp.

For the light you will need a full spectrum UVB light bulb since it stimulates the production of the D3 vitamin. The UVA light will encourage more activity from your pet so they will have more of an appetite but the UVB is the main choice. They should have at least 12 hours of light each day but it is not recommended to put the tank in direct sunlight since this will increase the temperature too much.

How To Setup A Turtle Tank

Water Maintenance

A water heater will ensure a consistent temperature throughout the year and they will be necessary if the turtle species that you have prefers warmer waters than the room temperature. If this is the case then make sure you put it in a place where the turtle won’t be able to reach it easily.

A good filter is important since turtles produce a lot of waste and this is why canister filters are the best choice. They are quite pricey but they will reduce the cleaning that you have to do and since you will have to change the water less they will certainly be worth the investment over time.

With a good filter the water should still be changed at least once in two weeks.


A heat-proof metal tank cover is the most common choice and they will protect your pet from various things that can enter into their habitat. They will also be a protection if the turtle will attempt to climb out of the tank. Make sure you don’t use plexiglas or glass covers since they will filter the UVB rays and the heat can cause the plexiglas to melt.

The main reason why you want this cover though is because the lamp bulbs can explode if water will splash them and this can cause a lot of damage.

The Monitoring of the Conditions

How To Setup A Turtle Tank

You should monitor the conditions of the tank to ensure that the pet is in the right atmosphere and there are several things you should pay attention to.

A thermometer will be the first thing required as it will measure the temperature of the tank and water and this can be easily found at any pet store. You will want to ensure that the water is the right temperature and that the basking area is also sufficient. What this means differs from one species to the next but around 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the water and between 80 and 85 on the land should be right.

One other thing that you should evaluate is the humidity level since this will be important for a turtle’s health. The tool for this is a hygrometer and if you notice that things aren’t as they should be you can simply add more substrate or remove some of it from the basking area to provide the appropriate humidity.

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