August 16, 2022

Aquatic Turtle Tank Setup and Care: The Ultimate Guide

If you're considering adding an aquatic turtle to your family, then you need to read this guide! In it, we will discuss everything you need to know about setting up and caring for a turtle tank. We'll cover topics such as choosing the right tank size, filtration system, and décor. We'll also provide tips on how to keep your pet turtle healthy and happy. So whether you're a first-time turtle owner or just looking for some updated information, this guide has got you covered!

Aquatic Turtle Tank Setup

How to choose the best turtle tank:

When it comes to choosing a turtle tank, there are a few things you need to take into consideration, these include tank size and cover. We'll look at each of these below.

What size tank do you need?

Aquatic turtles are a popular pet, and for good reason! They're unique, interesting animals that are relatively low-maintenance. But one thing you do need to be aware of is the size of tank you'll need to properly house your pet turtle.

As a general rule of thumb, if you wan to keep multiple turtles you'll want 80 gallons for every 2-3 turtles. So, if you're planning on keeping 3 turtles, a 100 gallon tank would be appropriate. If however you're only planning on keeping one, a 55 or 60 gallon would be fine. You could get a smaller tank for baby turtles, but you would need to change it as they get larger if you want to keep more than one turtle in there, so unless you're planning on reusing the smaller tank afterwards it's likely more cost effective to get the larger take straight away.

Of course, this is just a guideline - every turtle is different and some may require more or less space. If you're unsure, it's always best to err on the side of caution and go with a larger tank. After all, your turtle deserves a comfortable home!

What turtle tank cover should you use?

A tank cover should always be placed over a turtle tank. This is to protect your turtle in a number of ways. First, it will keep outside items from falling into the tank. Furthermore, it helps establish a barrier between your pet and any heat or illumination sources you may have above the tank. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, a cover prevents your turtle from escaping its enclosure. Get a lid that locks with the tank or has some form of locking mechanism so that curious turtles can't push it off.

Turtle enthusiasts everywhere typically choose steel mesh covers. The heat-proof mesh material can stand up to having a heat lamp placed on top of it, as it won't melt or catch fire. They also provide enough ventilation that your tank won't become too hot or humid.

What equipment do you need for a turtle tank?

In addition to a tank and cover, you'll need a few other items to set up your turtle's new home. These include a basking area, water filter, light source, and thermometer. Let's take a closer look at each of these items.

Aquarium heater:

You'll need to install an aquarium heater to keep the water at a consistent temperature, this is because turtles are cold-blooded animals, and they need warm water to stay healthy.

When choosing a heater for turtle aquariums, it's important to select one that is reliable and easy to use. Look for a model that has an adjustable thermostat so that you can easily set the temperature of the water.

Additionally, make sure that the heater you choose is the appropriate size for your pet turtles tank.


Another important piece of equipment you'll need for your aquatic turtle tank is a thermometer. As explained above, turtles are cold-blooded animals, so they require warm water to stay healthy. A thermometer will help you to keep the water at a consistent temperature, which is essential for your turtle's health.

When choosing a thermometer for turtle tanks, it's important to select one that is accurate and easy to use. Additionally, make sure that the thermometer you choose is the appropriate size for your turtle's tank.

UVB light:

While all turtles require some exposure to UVB radiation in order to maintain their health, aquatic turtles are especially dependent on these rays. UVB light helps turtles to produce vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium absorption and bone growth. Without enough vitamin D3, turtles can develop a variety of health problems, including metabolic bone disease which is much more common in domesticated turtles than those found in natural turtle habitats that get exposure to natural sunlight.

When choosing a UVB light for an aquatic turtle tank, it is important to select a bulb that emits full-spectrum light. These bulbs will provide the turtle with the full spectrum of UVB rays, allowing them to absorb the maximum amount of vitamin D3.

Additionally, full-spectrum bulbs tend to last longer than other types of UVB bulbs, making them a more cost-effective option in the long run.

Turtle Tank UVB Light for Basking

Basking light:

When setting up an aquatic turtle tank, one of the most important pieces of equipment you will need is a basking light. Basking lights are used to create a basking area within the tank where the turtles can climb out of the water to dry off and warm up.

These lights also provide essential UVB rays that turtles need for proper calcium absorption and shell growth.

When choosing a basking light, it is important to choose one that provides full-spectrum light, as this will provide the most benefit for your turtle.

You should also look for a light that can be easily adjusted to create the perfect basking spot for your turtle.

Aquarium filter:

One of the most important pieces of equipment you'll need for your aquatic turtle tank is a filter. Aquatic turtles produce a lot of waste, and a filter is necessary to keep the water clean and free of harmful bacteria. When choosing a filter for your tank, it's important to select one that is powerful enough to handle the size of your tank. Additionally, you should look for a filter that is easy to clean and maintain. There's a few different options here so we'll look at each of them below.

Canister filter:

Aquatic turtles are a popular pet, but they require special care to stay healthy. One important element of their care is filtration. A canister filter is a type of filter that helps to remove debris and waste from the water, providing a cleaner environment for your turtle. Canister filters are typically more powerful than other types of filters, making them ideal for larger tanks. They also tend to be less obtrusive than other types of filters, making them a good option if you want to keep your turtle tank looking neat and tidy. In addition, canister filters typically require less maintenance than other types of filters, making them a good choice for busy pet owners. If you are considering an aquatic turtle as a pet, be sure to research the filtration requirements for your specific turtle species. A canister filter can help you create a safe and healthy environment for your new pet.

HOB filter:

Aquatic turtles are popular pets, but their tanks require special filtration to keep the water clean. A HOB filter, or hang-on-back filter, is a type of filter that hangs on the back of the tank and uses a pump to circulate water through the filter media. HOB filters are relatively easy to maintain and are an effective way to remove debris and waste from the water. They also create a current in the tank, which can be beneficial for turtles that spend a lot of time swimming. While HOB filters are not required for all turtle tanks, they can be a helpful addition for those who want to keep their turtle's home clean and healthy.

Internal filter:

A turtle's tank is more than just a place for it to swim; it's home. As such, you want to make sure it's as comfortable and clean as possible. One way to do this is to use an internal filter. Internal filters are devices that help to keep the water in in turtle tanks clean and free of debris. They work by drawing water in from the tank and then filtering it before returning it to the aquarium. This helps to remove harmful toxins and waste products from the water, making it healthier for your turtle. In addition, internal filters can help to improve water clarity and reduce algae growth. As a result, they are an essential piece of equipment for any turtle owner.

Filter media:

Whatever materials are in your filter are called filter media. The dirty water goes through a variety of media on its route to becoming clean, with each layer of the filter consisting of a different substance. Sponges, activated charcoal, ceramic rings, lava rock, polyfill or fiberfill floss, and Bio Balls (especially designed spheres made for filtering water in aquatic environments) may be found in some multi-stage filters.

Basking platform:

In addition to a filter, your turtle tank will also need a basking platform. This is a raised area where your turtle can climb out of the water and rest. Basking platforms provide a warm, dry environment for your turtle to bask in and also help to keep the water in the tank clean by preventing debris from accumulating on the bottom of the tank.

Basking platforms can be made of a variety of materials, including rocks, wood, or plastic. Be sure to choose a material that is safe for your turtle and easy to clean. In addition, the platform should be large enough for your turtle to comfortably bask on and should be securely attached to the side of the tank.

An alternative to the platform would be a turtle dock. This is a floating device that allows your turtle to bask without taking up space in the tank. Turtle docks are typically made of foam or plastic and can be easily added to most tanks.

Aquatic turtle basking platform


While not required, live plants can be a nice addition to your turtle's tank. Plants help to create a naturalistic environment closer to the turtle habitat your turtle would experience in the wild. It can also help to keep the water clean by absorbing nutrients and waste products. You can choose from fixed ones or floating plants depending on the size and depth of your tank.

In addition, plants provide a place for your turtle to hide and can help to reduce stress as they would in a natural turtle habitat. If you choose to add plants to your tank, be sure to select species that are safe for turtles and easy to care for. Artificial plants can also be used, but they will not provide the same benefits as live plants.

How to set up a turtle tank:

Once you have all the equipment you need, it's time to set up your turtle's tank. Begin by placing the tank in a location that is out of direct sunlight and away from any drafts. Then, add enough water to fill the tank to a depth of about eight inches. Be sure to use dechlorinated water or distilled water, as tap water can contain harmful chemicals that can harm your turtle.

Next, install the filter and basking platform according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you are using live plants, plant them in the substrate at this time. Once everything is in place, turn on the filter and allow the tank to run for 24 hours before adding your turtle. This will give the filter time to cycle and establish a healthy bacteria colony in the tank.

After the tank has been set up and running for 24 hours, it's time to add your turtle. Start by slowly acclimating your turtle to the water temperature. To do this, float the container that your turtle is in on top of the tank water for 30 minutes. Then, open the container and allow your turtle to swim into the tank at its own pace. Once your turtle is in the tank, it's important to provide a hiding place where it can go to feel safe and secure. A piece of driftwood or a plastic cave can be used for this purpose.

Now that your turtle is settled in, it's time to start caring for it.

Tips for aquatic turtle care:

- Be sure to provide a hiding place where your turtle can feel safe and secure.

- Don't overfeed your turtle. A healthy diet for a turtle includes fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as protein sources such as insects, fish, and poultry.

- Keep the tank clean by removing uneaten food and waste products regularly.

- Monitor the water temperature and pH level of the tank and make adjustments as needed.

- Take your turtle to the vet for regular checkups and vaccinations.

What should you feed an aquatic turtle?

As any reptile enthusiast knows, turtles are unique creatures that require special care. One of the most important aspects of turtle care is providing the proper diet. While turtles can eat a wide variety of food, it is important to choose options that are specifically designed for aquatic turtles. These foods usually contain a higher concentration of calcium and other minerals, which are essential for turtles to maintain strong shells.

In addition, most aquatic turtle foods are specially formulated to float, making it easy for turtles to eat while swimming. When selecting a food for an aquatic turtle, be sure to choose an option that meets the turtle's specific nutritional needs. With a little bit of research, you can ensure that your turtle stays healthy and happy for years to come.

Additional questions:

Can fish tanks be used for turtles?

Yes, fish tanks can be used for turtles. However, it is important to choose a tank that is large enough to accommodate both the turtle and the fish.

In addition, the tank must have a filter and a basking area to provide the necessary environment for the turtle. The water in the tank should also be kept clean by performing regular water changes.

Finally, it is important to monitor the turtle and fish carefully to ensure that they are getting along and that the turtle is not harming the fish. If you have any concerns, it is best to consult with a veterinarian or other reptile expert.

How much is a turtle setup?

The cost of a turtle setup will vary depending on the size of the tank, the type of filter and basking platform you choose, and whether or not you use live plants. In general, expect to spend at least £100 on the basic setup, but you could easily spend much more if you want to.

How deep should your pet turtles water be?

The water in your turtle's tank should be deep enough to allow the turtle to swim and dive, but not so deep that it can't touch the bottom. A depth of about eight inches is usually sufficient.

Aquatic turtle swimming in a tank

How frequently should you change your tank water?

The frequency of water changes will depend on the size of the tank, the number of turtles, and the type of filtration system you are using. In general, it is best to perform a partial water change (about 25%) every week or two.

How long do aquatic turtles live for?

The lifespan of an aquatic turtle will vary depending on the species. However, most turtles can easily live over a decade and live for 20 to 30 years with proper care.

What's the difference between aquatic and semi aquatic turtles?

Aquatic species live primarily in water, while semi-aquatic turtles spend part of their time on land. As a result, aquatic turtles require a larger tank with more water than semi-aquatic turtles. In addition, aquatic turtles need a filter and basking platform to maintain the proper environment, while semi-aquatic turtles can get by with a simple heat lamp.

What are some common problems with aquatic turtle care?

One of the most common problems with aquatic turtle care is feeding. Many people make the mistake of overfeeding their turtles, which can lead to obesity and other health problems. It is important to choose a food that is specifically designed for aquatic turtles and to feed them only as much as they can eat in one sitting.

Another common problem is water quality. Aquatic turtles produce a lot of waste, which can quickly pollute the water in their tank. To prevent this, it is important to perform regular water changes and to choose a filter that is powerful enough to keep the water clean.

Finally, many people do not provide their turtles with a basking platform or heat lamp. This can lead to health problems such as respiratory infections.

What are some common diseases in aquatic turtles?

The most common disease in aquatic turtles is respiratory infection, which is caused by a bacteria called Mycoplasma. Symptoms of respiratory infection include wheezing, sneezing, and runny nose. If left untreated, respiratory infection can be fatal.

Another common disease in aquatic turtles is shell rot, which is caused by a bacteria or fungus. Symptoms of shell rot include softening of the shell, discoloration, and bad odor. Shell rot can also be fatal if left untreated.

Finally, many turtles suffer from metabolic bone disease, which is caused by a lack of vitamin D and calcium. Symptoms of metabolic bone disease include softening of the shell, lethargy, and paralysis. Metabolic bone disease can be fatal if left untreated.

How can I prevent my turtle from getting sick?

The best way to prevent your turtle from getting sick is to provide it with a clean and spacious tank, a basking platform or heat lamp, and a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals. In addition, it is important to perform regular water changes and to monitor the turtle carefully for signs of illness.

If you have any concerns, it is best to consult with a veterinarian or other reptile expert.

Can all turtles live in water?

No, not all turtles can live in water. For example, desert tortoises do not tolerate being submerged in water for long periods of time and will drown if they are not able to reach the surface to breathe.

Can I keep terrapins in a fish tank?

No, terrapins cannot be kept in a fish tank. Terrapins are a type of aquatic turtle that requires a larger tank with more water than most fish tanks can provide. In addition, terrapins produce a lot of waste and can quickly pollute the water in their tank.

Can turtles live in an outdoor pond?

Yes, turtles can live in an outdoor pond. However, it is important to choose a pond that is large enough for the turtle to move around freely and that has a basking area where the turtle can warm itself up. In addition, the pond should be located in an area where water temperatures are warmer and it will not freeze during the winter months.

Final thoughts:

Aquatic turtles require a bit more care than semi-aquatic turtles, but they can make for very rewarding pets. With the proper setup and care, your aquatic turtle will thrive and provide you with years of enjoyment. Just be sure to do your research before bringing one home, and always consult with a reptile expert if you have any concerns. Thanks for reading!

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