Before getting a turtle, you need to have a place that is conducive for it to stay comfortable and be healthy.
Since it will be with you indoors and away from its natural home, steps should be taken to replicate its natural environment.
Taking care of a turtle is the least of your problems as they do not need much from you, but they do have needs from their environment and you have to try as much as possible to provide these for him.
A good turtle tank is key to a healthy and happy turtle with a long life. It is not all about getting a tank, filling it with water and placing a turtle inside.
It is more complicated than that and in this article, we will put you through everything you need to know in a turtle tank setup from start to finish.
What a Turtle Tank Needs
The needs of your turtle tank should be able to cater to your semi-aquatic pet.
Keep in mind that the tank should have both water and land areas, with good conditions brought about by proper lighting, heating, and filtering.
The following are necessary considerations and requirements in a turtle tank setup:
1. Make Use of a Large and Solid Glass Tank
When considering the tank size to get, you should bear in mind that your turtle will need a glass tank that can hold up to 10 to 20 gallons (38 to 57 liters) of water for every 1 inch of turtle.
If you are getting a baby turtle, to avoid getting another tank when it grows into an adult, base the tank measurement on the average size your turtle species reaches when it becomes an adult.
Ensure that the tank is deeper than it is wide so that your turtle can have enough room to flip itself upright if it gets turned upside down.
With the measurement of the adult species of your turtle in mind, make the length of the tank thrice or four times the length of the turtle, and the width twice the turtle length.
The height of the tank should be two times the length of the turtle but to further make sure that the turtle can’t climb out, let the highest point of the tank by a full 1 foot above where the turtle can reach.
If you plan on keeping more than one turtle, the tank size won’t be the same as that of one turtle of course.
To get the tank size that will accommodate all the turtles, size the tank according to one turtle and add half of that to the original size for each turtle.
Keep in mind also that a glass tank for terrestrial reptiles is not an option for your aquatic turtles.
The glass for those kinds of tanks is thin and can’t withstand the pressure from the water in the tank causing them to break eventually.
Go for tanks with a glass thickness of at least 0.4 inches.
2. Make Provision for a Lamp
When making provision for a lamp, bear in mind that your lighting could be mounted directly on the tank itself, or separately but directed towards the tank.
Let the light also shine on the basking portion of the tank to give the turtles proper lighting.
Note that the light doesn’t have to be on for 24 hours. You could use a timer or switch to control the light on and off when necessary.
Turtles need 12 hours of light to simulate daylight, and 12 hours of darkness to simulate night time.
When choosing a lamp, keep in mind that turtles need full-spectrum light, so the lamp you use should adequately provide UVA and UVB rays.
UVA encourages behaviors and activity in turtles, while UVA stimulates the production of vitamin D3. It also helps your turtle develop a healthy shell.
You can let in natural sunlight in your tank but avoid keeping it in the path of direct sunlight. Place it near indirect sunlight or in a shade as direct sunlight can kill your turtle in its tank.
3. Use a Water Heater
The use of a tank water heater depends on the species of turtle you are getting. If your turtle species prefer water at room temperature, you will have no need for this but if the species prefers a warm environment, you should get a submersible heater.
Hide the heater behind a wall in the tank to prevent your aquatic friend from breaking it as it swims around.
4. Use a Good Filter
Turtles are a messy kind and they can get the water dirty very easily. Changing the tank water daily will be a cumbersome task for you and it will make caring for your turtle more demanding than it should be.
So to maintain a healthy tank without stressing yourself, you need to get a filter.
Canister filters work best in keeping your tank clean. Although they can be expensive, they do not clog up easily and work continuously to maintain a healthy tank.
5. Make Use of Tank Covers
Tank covers are not compulsory, but they provide added security to your turtle.
When choosing a cover, go for one made of materials that do not melt easily or shatter, and that will not absorb or prevent the passage of UVA and UVB rays into the tank.
6. Create a Land Area in the Tank
Both aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles need a dry area in the tank.
The area of the dry part depends on the species as some turtles need a dry area of 50% of the total tank, while others need no more than 25% of the total tank.
This dry land is necessary as a basking area for your turtle and also to dry off.
You can easily acquire a dock from the store if you want, or make use of a floating rock or log.
Using a log or rock directly from your environment can pose a threat to your turtle as those are breeding sites for harmful organisms. If you must use them, boil them properly to disinfect them before use.
As you provide a dry area, provide a ramp also so that your turtle can easily climb unto the dry area.
The ramp should also slope into the water but if it cannot serve as an entry to the dry land and exit from it, then you will need two separate ramps for each purpose.
7. Use Appropriate Decorations
Decorations are not a necessity for the survival of your pet, but they make the aquarium more homely and comfortable for your pet.
Do not add too many decorations that your turtle won’t have space to move around.
Choose plants that are edible and non-toxic to your pet because it will nibble on the plants.
8. Fill the Tank with Clean Water
It goes without saying that you have to fill the tank with clean water at all times. Most turtles are freshwater creatures and so are comfortable with water from the tap.
Most turtles need at least 4 to 6 inches of water, but you have to make sure that the water depth is at least three-quarter the turtle length.
Turtle Tank Kits
Filters are an important component of a turtle tank because of the messy nature of turtles. Without filters, your tank will be dirty all the time and you have to change the water daily or risk your turtle getting infected
There are three types of filtration your turtle tank needs, and these are provided by a filter:
- Mechanical filtration: this filtration involves taking out solid debris like poop, dirt and uneaten food from the water. It makes the water look clean and free from floating particulate matter. Mechanical filtration is a lot easier when there is no substrate that could clog up the filter.
- Biological filtration: this is the most important type of filtration your turtle tank needs. Turtles excrete their waste into the water and it contains a good amount of ammonia. If left unchecked, this ammonia builds up quickly in the tank and the water becomes toxic to your pet. Biological filtration involves the suction of ammonia and turtle waste through a sponge or other type of media used in the filter that contains a good bacterial colony. This bacteria breaks up ammonia down to nitrite. Nitrite is still toxic to turtles and that is why a special type of bacteria colony also grows on the filtration media to break down nitrite to nitrate. Nitrate is less toxic to turtles but could be harmful if allowed to accumulate that is why you need to clean your turtle tank fairly regularly and change the water too.
- Chemical filtration: chemical filtration is not a necessary type of filtration, but if you can afford a filter that provides this you sure should get it. What this type of filtration does is to make the tank water look extra clear and crisp by breaking down any excess material that passes through. Examples of chemical filter materials are activated charcoal which helps in the breakdown of organic matter, and ammonia removers which are responsible for the further break down of ammonia. You have to be careful when using them because they do interfere with the nitrogen cycle set up by biological filtration.
Types of Turtle Tank Filters
- Internal filters: these types of filters are popularly used with small tanks and are also called submersible filters. They are only good for baby turtles because of their low cleaning capacity. Most internal filters have little media capacity and the less media your filter contains, the less thorough the filtration will be.
- Canister filters: canister filters are regarded by most turtle owners to be the best types of filters. They are expensive but they do a thorough job of keeping your tank very clean. Being mounted outside the tank, they take up no space and so your turtle can swim around freely.
- Hang on the back filters: if you plan on using hang on the back filters for your turtle tank, you should go for one rated three times the water in your tank. This is because hang on the back filters are designed for fish and since turtles are messier than fish, the filters need to do more work to keep the water clean.
- Under gravel filters: these types of filters traditionally work by drawing water through the gravel by passing them through vertical tubes using aquarium powerheads. The gravel serves as a medium for bacterial growth necessary for biological filtration but the problem is that sometimes poop and other debris get deep into the gravel and clogs it up. This problem is fixed by pumping the water the other way round; that is pumping up through the gravel so that debris doesn’t get stuck inside.
Choosing the Best Turtle Tank Filter
In choosing the best filter that will serve you and meet the needs of your turtle tank, there are a number of factors you should consider:
- Go For a Product From a Renowned Brand: brands with a good reputation are your best bet to getting a good product as they have reached their height through quality. Even if the brand is new, it will rise quickly if its products are trusted.
- Consider Your Tank Size And Flow Rate: the specification of a filter is always provided by the manufacturer, and you need to check it out before the purchase. Choose a filter with a very high flow rate as this is the only way to manage the mess your turtle will produce.
- Durability: this goes without saying. You need to choose a filter that is strong and able to run constantly without breaking down. If you compromise quality for cost and choose a filter that is not strong enough, it will cost you more in the long run as you will need to replace often.
- Ease of maintenance: go for a filter that is easy to take apart for the sake of maintenance and cleaning. Proper cleaning is the only way to be sure no dirt is left in the filter and the more you can take apart, the deeper your cleaning will be.
Lighting and Heating Lamps
Turtles in the wild depend on the sun for light, heat and other ultraviolet rays that are necessary for their health.
Since your turtle will be kept away from this natural sunlight, its needs have to be provided through other means.
Luckily there are lamps that can help mimic a turtle’s natural habitat.
Day Time and Night-Time
Naturally, all living things are active based on the amount of sunlight available. Turtles are active during the day and rest at night.
This routine has to be maintained even in its terrarium and it means you have to provide it with 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
You may want to use a timer with the light so that you won’t forget to maintain this cycle.
If you want to observe your turtle even at night, you could install a night bulb that emits a red light and allows you to see your pet.
They also emit heat so it is useful to keep your turtle at a warm temperature.
UVA and UVB Bulbs
UVA and UVB rays are vital for your turtle’s overall health and these rays are gotten from the sun.
Since your turtle will be indoors and away from the sun, you need to provide these necessities through light bulbs.
Buy a lamp that emits both types of rays and check the amount of UVB it emits just to be sure it is within safe limits.
Your turtle needs at least 3% of UVB and no more than 8%.
Bulbs for Heating
Turtles are coldblooded creatures, and so require an external source of heat to stay warm.
All types of bulbs emit heat but your turtle will bask better in the heat from an incandescent bulb.
The bulb for heating should be placed at least 12 inches above the basking area.
Apart from basking, your turtle needs to have a bit of heat in the water too.
This is because as already mentioned, they can’t produce their own heat as they are cold-blooded and depend on the heat from their environment.
Juveniles prefer more heat than adults so be sure to monitor the temperature and effect the change as your turtle grows.
The heat requirement depends on turtle species and age.
Low temperatures make a turtle sluggish and can even cause it to go into hibernation. In worst cases, your turtle could die without heat.
Apart from being sluggish, cold water makes turtles susceptible to diseases, so you need a good heater if you want a happy and healthy turtle.
Types of Heaters
- Submersible Heaters: these types of heaters are the most popular. They are stick-shaped and contain the heating element encased in a protective cover. Some models are set at a fixed temperature but it is better to go for the type with an adjustable temperature. Ensure that the heater you choose has a thermostat to regulate the water temperature and prevent the water from boiling your pet. Also, always double-check to be sure all areas of the water are at the same temperature.
- External Heater: external heaters maintain the beauty of your turtle tank as you do not see the heater sticking from it. They require the use of canister filters and can be a little complicated to set up, that is why some aquarists do not use them.
- Undergravel Heater: contrary to what you may think when you hear the name, it is not a hidden heater. Undergravel heaters are designed to help improve aquatic plant growth as they heat the water.
- Heating Mats: heating mats are like the undergravel heaters which go to the bottom of the tank.
Every turtle tank requires a basking dock on which the turtle can dry off and be exposed to light and heat.
Turtles do not spend all their time in water and so they require a dry area also.
Types of Turtle Basking Docks
1. Topper Basking Platform
A good side and probably the most endearing feature of the topper basking platform is the fact that it takes no extra space in the aquarium.
It sits at the top of the aquarium and gives the turtles enough basking space, and allows them enough swimming space underneath.
You do not require any experience in setting this up as all you need to do is place it on top of the aquarium.
With great ease of cleaning and maintenance, you can ensure proper hygiene is maintained at all times.
You may be wondering how your turtle will get to the top and bask using this dock. Topper basking platforms come with a ramp that allows your turtle easy access to the top.
The ramp is designed to look natural and appealing to your pet also. A good topper basking platform will ensure your turtle is secure even at the top and will prevent your turtle from escaping.
The only downside to these types of platforms is the fact that most manufacturers make these for small to medium-sized turtles and so when your turtle gets big, you may need to replace it.
2. Floating Basking Platforms
These types of basking platforms are very cheap and easy to maintain, making them very popular amongst turtle owners.
Just as the name implies, they float on the water and do not require any skill or expertise to mount. Maintenance and cleaning are easy.
The only drawback to this type of platform is the fact that they can only support small size turtles. Once your baby turtle grows into a medium-size you will need to opt for another basking platform.
3. DIY Basking Platforms
DIY basking platforms are very popular because they are cheap and easy to make. Moreover, you can design it however you please and turtles do love them.
While making this type of platform, you have the option of choosing from a range of materials for your construction from Styrofoam, natural logs, and river rocks among other materials.
If you are making a DIY platform for a large turtle, it’s better to use a large log as it can bear its weight and provide enough space for basking.
The only downside to this type of platform is the fact that some people make use of materials that are toxic to turtle health and end up causing more harm than good.
Apart from using toxic materials, ensure that the material you use is 100% safe and free from harmful microorganisms.
Suitable Materials for Making Turtle Basking Docks
A wide range of materials can be used to make turtle basking docks but not are safe.
Apart from being toxic to the turtles, it can also lower the quality of tank water so you have to be careful with your choice of materials.
Companies that produce commercial docks make use of plastics that are toxic-free and pose no threat to turtles, but when you are making DIY docks, you need to pay close attention.
Here are some of the materials you can use for your DIY basking dock:
Plastic is one of the most commonly used materials in the construction of DIY basking platforms.
However, not all plastics are safe for use with your turtle.
Plastics that release Bisphenol A are toxic to your turtle and can also pollute the water so you should avoid using them.
Styrofoam is another popular material used in the construction of basking docks.
This is because of their light weight and ability to hold a good amount of weight.
Not all Styrofoam boards are of the same quality, strength and density so before you choose a board, make sure it is durable and select the smoother one.
Many people use metal sheets as the material for their basking dock construction because it is hard, durable and long-lasting.
Their disadvantage is the ease of corrosion and a way to by-pass this problem is to coat it with a preventive layer.
Be sure that this preventive layer is not harmful to turtles before you go ahead.
Ceramic tiles are hard and durable and they last for long.
They do not rust or undergo corrosion, making them a more suitable choice than metal sheets.
However, they are a lot heavier and harder to maintain. If you plan on using ceramic tiles as a basking dock, make sure you secure it properly to avoid it being pushed down.
Choosing the Best Basking Docks
Before you make a choice of a basking dock for your turtle tank, here are the important considerations you must make:
- Ensure that the platform is spacious enough so your turtle can move around
- The dock should be easily accessible. This means it should have a submersible ramp
- The ramp needs to be easily accessible and sturdy
- The basking dock shouldn’t occupy all of the aquaria
- The dock should be strong enough to hold the weight of at least 2 large turtles
- It must be secure and able to prevent the escape of your turtle
- The texture of the dock should allow for easy drying of the turtle’s plastron
Not all turtle tanks necessarily require substrates.
Land turtles need substrate to serve as a cushion and since they love to dig, give them something to dig into.
Aquatic turtles, on the other hand, do not necessarily need substrates and the only time you will need a substrate for an aquatic turtle tank is when you introduce plants into the aquarium.
When choosing a turtle tank substrate, here are some important things to look out for:
- When selecting a substrate for a land turtle, check to be sure that it is soft and safe for turtles to walk on without getting injured. Hard materials like pebbles can be used for aquatic turtle tanks as the turtles will be swimming above it and not walking on it.
- When choosing substrates, make you choose from the ones with a natural appearance, it makes the tank look more homely and comfortable for your turtle.
- Some manufacturers add chemicals and dyes to substrates to make them more appealing and long-lasting. These chemicals are sometimes harmful and can pose a threat to the health of your turtle. To be safe, choose a substrate that is free from any additives and is all-natural.
- Not all materials are good for use as substrates. They are either too rough for your turtle or contain harmful ingredients. Substances like sand can cause constipation if ingested. Other materials to be avoided are newspapers, cat litter, and walnut shells.
What Size of Turtle Tank Do I Need?
There is no one fixed size of turtle tank for your turtle as the choice of tank size depends on a number of factors for you to consider.
These factors include the species of turtles you are getting, the size of the turtle, number of turtles, and if you plan to breed.
The tank size will also depend on how much time you have to put into cleaning and maintaining the turtle tank. Note that the larger the tank, the more attention it requires.
– Aquatic Turtles
When considering tank size for a turtle, you should do this based on the average size the turtle species usually grows as different species have different sizes as adults.
You can either choose a size that will be of use even when the turtle turns into an adult or you choose a size based on its present size and you upgrade as it grows.
Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles do not stay in the water all day long and so require a dry space as well as a dry one.
The wet space should be wide and deep enough to accommodate the turtle flipping and turning over without hitting the walls of the tank.
– Land Turtles
Just like tortoises, land turtles are easier to maintain when compared with aquatic turtles.
All they need is a tank with a substrate and a shallow water dish to soak in. Long tanks are better for land turtles than high walled tanks to encourage movement and roaming.
For a single small-sized turtle, the appropriate size would be a 2-by-3 foot tank. Just as always, the overall tank size depends on the average growth size of the adult turtle of the same species.
The ideal tortoise enclosure space should be six times larger than the turtle size.
– Breeding Turtles
If you plan to breed your turtle, then you need an adequate tank space that will be enough to contain a sandy area for laying of eggs.
Good egg-laying conditions will encourage your turtle to release its eggs and are these are not provided, it may not release its eggs.
Turtle Tank for Large Turtle
As far as turtle housing is concerned, it is better to have a lot of space. Aquatic turtles are known to be active swimmers, so you should choose the biggest tank size you can get.
Glass aquaria are the most popular among turtle owners for a number of reasons like beauty and being able to appreciate your pet always.
Smaller species measuring between 4 to 6 inches require a minimum of 30-gallon tank capacity.
For turtles measuring between 6 and 8 inches, it is recommended that you use a 55-gallon tank.
For turtles measuring more than 8 inches, you should go for a tank capacity of 75 to 125 gallons.
You could start with a small tank if your turtle is still small but be sure to change the tank size as your turtle grows.
Turtle Tank for 2 Turtles
Before you consider housing more than one turtle in a tank, you have to know that naturally turtles are solitary animals and may not get along.
They could only stay together if the habitat has all that they need but apart from that, they are not social.
Juvenile turtles are far more likely to get along but as they grow, series of fighting and struggle is not uncommon among them.
This is not always the case though as some turtles get along their entire lives.
The most common cause of their fight is territoriality.
This depends on the available resources you have provided for your turtles and if the resources are adequate for both to be comfortable without having to fight, the chances of both fighting will be reduced.
In getting a tank ready for two turtles, here are what you should consider and put in place to reduce the chances of fighting between them:
Make Sure the Tank Is Big Enough For Two
The minimum tank capacity for each turtle is 10 gallons of water per shell inch of your first turtle.
An additional space of half the overall space for the first turtle should be provided for the second turtle.
Simply put, you should have at least 10 gallons of water for every inch of your first turtle, and at least 5 gallons of water for every inch of your second turtle.
This size is not fixed in stone and you always have more, but no less.
If you plan to get juveniles, the tank space calculation should be done based on the average size that an adult of the same species attains.
This will save you money and stress, but if at the moment you cannot afford that size of the tank, you can choose a tank based on your turtle’s current size but be sure to upgrade as your turtle grows.
Include Visual Barriers in the Tank
Visual barriers will help keep both turtles out of each other’s way.
The reason a dominant turtle always chases the other away is so it can leave its space.
Make use of barriers like plants, rocks, and other things in the tank to help mark out each other’s territory and allow less fighting in the tank.
Feed Your Turtles Frequently
Turtle food is a major cause of struggle among living things.
Normally you have to feed your turtle once every 3 days, but to reduce food-related fight and struggle in the tank, you should feed them more frequently.
Feeding every day or twice daily will go a long way to reducing the fight for food each time but remember the key is not to overfeed them.
If you increase the frequency of feeding, you should reduce the ration you feed them so they get the same food quantity spread over more days.
Provide Spacious or Separate Basking Areas
If your turtles do not get along in the water, chances are they won’t get along on the basking platform too.
The dominant turtle may even prevent the less dominant one from basking and this is not good for its health.
To prevent them from fighting always, you need to try to maintain the solitary lifestyle they have naturally even if they stay in the same tank.
A large enough basking platform with visual barriers will do nicely, or you provide separate basking platforms for each.
Maintain Good Water Quality
Having more than one turtle in the tank means more waste and more mess in the water.
You will need a bigger and stronger filter if you want the water to remain safe, and you will also need to change the water often.
Bad water quality can stress the turtles as they won’t be comfortable, and this will make them more aggressive towards each other.
Try To Avoid Having Two Males in One Tank
Adult male turtles are more likely to fight one another than mixed-gender or females together.
It can be difficult to know the sex if you bring them as juveniles but as they grow, you should separate them if they are both males and constantly attack each other.
Be Careful When Mixing Sizes and Ages Together
Some adult turtles will tolerate and live peacefully with a juvenile turtle, but when it starts to mature fighting begins.
Some will attack even if the other one is juvenile. You have to observe and be sure the adult is not going to cause any harm to the small size turtle.
How A Turtle Tank Should Look Like
Turtle Tank with Lid
To make sure your pet turtle gets the best treatment and good security, you should consider adding a lid to your terrarium.
The cover should always be at the top of the tank to ensure that at all times, objects do not gain entry into the tank.
It also serves as a barrier between your pet and the light and heat sources you have mounted above the tank.
Another important reason why you should add a lid to your tank is to keep your turtle from escaping.
Turtles are very cunning and will always look for ways to escape and a lid above the tank will ensure it stays inside.
When choosing a lid, go for one that has interlocks and can be opened from outside only.
The most commonly used material for tank covers is steel mesh. It is a top choice among turtle owners due to its heatproof feature.
Since heat lamps will be at the top of the cover, a material that is heat resistant will prevent melting or ignition.
Steel mesh also provides adequate ventilation so your tank is secure and airy.
Turtle Tank with Stand
A stand for your turtle tank gives it its own space and allows you to set it comfortably where you want it to be.
Choosing the right stand just like everything else is not by random selection and we will put you through on the things to consider when choosing the right stand.
Consider the Size, Shape, and Weight of Your Tank
You need to take into consideration every detail of your tank before choosing your stand to get the best performance.
If you are getting a large and heavy tank, the stand should be durable and strong enough to carry it without breaking down. In other words, choose a stand whose strength matches the weight of your tank.
When choosing a stand, make sure that it is suited for your tank’s shape. Some stands are made for rectangular tanks while others are made for tanks of other shapes. Cross-check this information before making a purchase.
Metal stands are commonly used especially to support large tanks.
This is because of the support metals give over time without getting damaged.
Wood tanks are another option and although they last for long, getting in contact with water makes them depreciate fast and could give way over time.
So if you choose a wood tank stand, check it regularly to prevent accidents.
Make Provision for Equipment
Your tank stand has to provide enough space for both your tank and the tank equipment.
Some tanks come with a storage compartment and a door and these are very good at preserving the beauty of your tank as all equipment will be stored away there.
Ease of Set-Up
Your experience in assembling parts should be taken into account when purchasing a tank stand as not all are easy to put together.
Even if you get help the first time and set it up, you may need to change the position of your tank in the future and you will encounter difficulties.
Doing it wrong could even lead to the stand getting damaged, so be sure to go for a set up you can easily handle.
This is a common question among beginners in keeping turtles. The height of your stand is very important in the visibility and accessibility of your tank.
If you have a short tank, then it is better to have a tall stand so that you can better interact with your pet. Some stands have fixed heights, while others have an adjustable height.
Adjustable heights are preferable because in the case where you change your tank position, you may also want to adjust the height to suit the new environment.
Turtle Tank with Basking Area
Every turtle tank needs a basking area so that turtles can dry off and absorb both heat, UVA and UVB radiation. These basking areas are the dry areas and depending on the turtle species, it could take up either 50% or 25% of the tank space.
You have a lot of options as regards the type of basking area you want to go with and it all depends on your style and preference.
You could go with the topper type of basking platform and its advantages are the fact that it takes up no space in the tank as it sits on the tank itself. It comes with a ramp so your turtles can access it from the water easily.
It has a large area so your turtle isn’t confined to limited space as it basks but can walk around. You do not have to worry about your turtle escaping from here as they are made to be secure and escape-proof.
The only downside to these types of platforms is that those available in the market are mostly for medium-sized turtles and the big sized turtles can’t benefit from it.
The floating basking platform is another choice that will look good on your tank. It is a cheap choice, easy to maintain and has a simple design.
They share the same flaws with the toppers in that they cannot bear the weight of large turtles. So you will need to replace this as your turtle grows.
DIY basking platforms are the solution for large size turtles basking. They are easily made with a number of safe materials that pose no threat to the health of your pet.
The materials used in the construction of DIY platforms include plastic, foams, metal sheets, ceramic tiles, and logs.
Turtle Tank With and Without Filter
It is ideal that your turtle tank has a filter so as to ensure the water quality remains good enough in between changes.
You have the option of having your tank with the filter visible, or you could make use of a filter that leaves your tank looking natural and no filter insight.
Internal water filters are ideal in keeping your turtle tank water clean while retaining a seamless looking tank.
The beauty of your tank remains put and more natural, and younger turtles can always play and hide behind the filter formation.
The downside to having an internal filter is maintenance. Since it is located inside the tank, it is a bit of a problem to take it apart for repairs and cleaning.
External water filters are easily spotted and they sit outside your tank with a pair of hoses that go into the tank.
One hose draws water from the tank into the filter and the other hose sends the filtered water back into the tank.
As you would imagine, the use of an external canister filter doesn’t leave your tank with a very natural look.
The advantage of an external canister filter is maintenance. These types of filters are very easy to maintain as everything is done outside and access is easy.
Both filters, however, need to perform mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.
Not all filters perform chemical filtration as it is not a necessity, but for clearer water, you should go for a filter that does all three.
Depending on the look you want for your tank, you could choose either type of filter. But bear in mind that there is a sacrifice to be made for each choice, either a natural look or ease of maintenance.
Turtle Tank with Fish
Another way to give your tank that natural and appealing look is to introduce fish into the tank together with your turtle.
This, of course, is not an easy task considering the fact that turtles do not just live together in peace if some specifications and considerations are not put in place in the tank.
To give your tank the more beautiful look by adding fish to it, you have to follow some guidelines to make it work:
- Provide a tank that can hold no less than 80 gallons of water as turtles need a lot of space. This space is to provide your turtle with all the comfort it needs and prevent uncomfortable confrontations between your turtle and fish.
- Provide a powerful filter for your tank to keep the water clean and safe for both your turtle and fish. Fish makes a bit of a mess, but turtles go all out and can mess up the whole tank if left unchecked. While turtles are resilient and can survive in a bit of a mess, fish can’t. A filter that is strong enough to filter all the rubbish and maintain the pH of the water is a canister filter. The filter you choose should be able to provide mechanical, biological, and chemical filtrations so as to maintain the cleanliness and healthy nature of the water.
- You need to constantly check your tank’s pH and maintain the chlorine and ammonia levels at zero or very close to it. It is recommended that you do this check monthly so that the water doesn’t become toxic to your pets.
- Aerate your water regularly so that good bacteria can thrive in it. These bacteria are necessary for biological filtration and since fish will consume a lot of oxygen, you need to make provision for more.
- To ensure that your fish is safe and not stressed, you need to make provision for hiding places inside the tank. Hiding places for your fish could be turned over flowering pots, pieces of driftwood, large rocks, PVC pipes, or commercial fish hideouts. Whatever choice of a hideout you make, it should be safe and provide security for your fish by preventing the entrance of your turtle.
- Choose the right turtle to stay in the tank with your fish. Some species of turtles are more skilled at hunting than others. Turtles like red-eared sliders painted turtles, and cooters are good at hunting, while others like mud and musk turtles are not that skillful or really interested in hunting. So the right species can further ensure the safety of your fish.
- Introducing an adult turtle is safer than a juvenile turtle. Juveniles have a high need for protein and your fish will look like food at all times. A mature turtle prefers more veggies and greens than proteins, so it will have less interest in eating your fish at this age.
- You also have to choose the type of fish that can survive in a tank with turtles. When thinking of the choice of fish, go for fish that are fast and can easily get away from a turtle in pursuit, small and slender in size and shape, intelligent at least for a fish, and is a bit feisty. Examples of fish species that can live with turtles are tetra fish, zebrafish, and yellow cichlids.
- Do not put in a fish that is too aggressive or can potentially harm your turtle. Examples of fish species to avoid with your turtle are piranha, catfish, electric eels, and lobsters.
When and How to Clean Turtle Tank
If your turtle tank starts to smell like rotten egg, ammonia, or like sulfur, it could be a sign of a chemical imbalance, bacteria buildup, or accumulation of dirt.
This type of environment is not only stressful for your turtle, but it is also unhealthy and can lead to infections and so needs to be taken care of immediately.
There are several ways to ensure your tank stays clean and free from smell:
Take Out Food Remnants
Always take away food remnants in the water with the use of a skimmer net. Allowing them to stay in the water can clog up your filter, preventing the entire process that keeps the water clean.
Also, greens in particular decay rapidly and shouldn’t be left floating around as they can smell.
Clean Molted Shell Skin
Unlike other reptiles, turtles do not shed their skin in a single piece. Their skin peels off in bits and this can float around and clog the filter.
When you see this floating on the water, be sure to take it out.
Regulate Temperature Properly
Allowing your turtle to live at the right temperature will help in reducing the smell from the tank.
A tank that is too hot will encourage the growth of algae and contributes to a bad smell, while a tank that is too cold contributes to shell rot.
Clean the Tank Regularly
Even though you have a filter you still need to change about a quarter of the tank water and replace it with non-chlorinated water weekly to be safe.
Do a thorough and complete tank cleaning every few weeks with a reptile safe cleaning agent and hot water.
Keeping Your Turtle’s Water Clean
Apart from proper feeding and security, what you owe your turtle is clean tank water. Clean water means a happy and a healthy turtle.
Keeping your tank water clean makes it clear and allows you to appreciate the beauty of your tank more.
It is not an easy task to keep the tank clean as turtles are very messy and cannot clean up after they make a mess.
It’s all up to you to ensure that all the mess they make is taken care of and the tank water remains clean and clear.
There are a number of ways to ensure that your turtle’s water stays clean:
1. Use a Big Tank
Small tanks are more stressful to keep clean and get dirty a lot faster. Apart from the hygiene status of your tank, a bigger tank allows your aquatic turtle enough space to swim around and stay healthy.
Turtles excrete a lot of ammonia and it is toxic to them. Good enough the filter takes care of this before it builds up and becomes a problem to your turtle.
A small tank means a rapid growth in ammonia concentration more than the filter can clear off and your turtles could get sick and even die.
If you are wondering how big your tank should be, it is pretty easy. Your tank should be able to hold at least 10 gallons of water for every inch of your turtle.
If you plan on having more than one turtle, get the tank size for the first turtle, and add half of that size for each turtle you plan to get.
Bigger is always better when it comes to turtles, but if you cannot afford such large tank size, your turtles may turn out okay but keeping the water clean will be difficult and require extra effort from you.
2. Use a Good Turtle Tank Filter
The use of a good and powerful filter is essential in maintaining the cleanliness of the tank water. A filter takes out all particulate matter and also breaks down the ammonia turtles excrete making the water safe and clean.
3. Clean Up Debris
Food and poop will be seen floating all over the water. These can cause the water to smell and gives it a dirty look if left unattended. Always take all debris out with a net as soon as you notice them.
4. Vacuum Frequently
It is necessary to vacuum your tank frequently especially if you have a substrate. Each time you vacuum, you also do a partial water change simultaneously and it is good in keeping your tank clean.
If you are using a siphon type vacuum cleaner, avoid using your mouth to suck create the suction pressure.
Turtle tanks are housing grounds for a lot of bacteria that can make you sick.
Rather use the squeeze bulb you will find attached to the siphon always.
5. Keep a Check on the Water’s Chemical Levels
Even though turtles are not very sensitive to pH changes in water, it is good to monitor the chemical levels in the water for pH, ammonia level, and nitrite/nitrate levels. Ideal chemical levels for your tank should be:
- A pH of between 6 and 8
- 0 Chlorine
- 0 Ammonia
- Nitrite level of 0 or 0.5ppm
- A nitrate level of 40ppm or less
6. Change Tank Water Regularly
The frequency of water change depends on the tank size, number of turtles, and also the strength of filter. You should not wait until the water gets cloudy or smelly before you change it.
7. Aerate the Water
Turtles breathe air as humans do and so you may be wondering why you need to aerate the water. Aerating the water discourages the growth of anaerobic bacteria, keeping the water safe.
8. Move the Water Around
Moving your tank water is beneficial for a number of reasons:
- It improves the efficiency of filtration
- Evens the water temperature
- It properly diffuses oxygen and useful bacteria in the tank
- It helps slow down the growth of algae
9. Add Fish to Tank
Fish in the tank is a good way to get rid of leftovers and algae in the tank.
Be careful though with your choice of fish and try to ensure that your fish are safe being in the same tank with your turtle.
10. Use Ultraviolet Sterilizers
Ultraviolet sterilizers are useful in killing algae, fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other parasites. They help in keeping your water clear and safe for your turtles.
Commonly Asked Questions About Turtle Tank Setup
Q: How Big Of A Tank Do You Need For A Turtle?
When choosing a tank size, it is better to have an idea of the average size an adult of your turtle’s species can grow. Add 10 gallons for every inch of its length.
Q: Do Turtle Tanks Need To Be Cycled?
Yes, you need to establish a working nitrogen cycle in your tank. This cycle will help in the breakdown of harmful ammonia which turtles produce a lot into the less harmful nitrate.
Q: What Kind Of Filter Should I Use For My Turtle Tank?
Since turtles are messy, it is better to use a powerful filter if you want to maintain a clean tank. Canister filters are very powerful and are good for use with turtle tanks.
Q: Can Turtles Live In Tap Water?
In most cases, it is fine to make use of tap water for your turtle. If you are not sure if your water supply process, you should use a water conditioner.
Q: How often should I clean my turtle tank filter?
You should clean your turtle tank filter at least once a week due to its duty in the tank. Cleaning it prevents clogging and reduces the ammonia or nitrite level in the water. Clean the whole tank in two to three weeks.
There you have it, all you need to know about setting up a turtle tank from scratch till finish. It is a beautiful thing keeping a turtle as a pet, but in the wrong environment, your turtle will suffer and may eventually die.
Following these instructions will help you provide a conducive and safe place for your pet to live in all its life.
Thankfully there is a lot of equipment to help you in maintaining a clean tank, all you have to do is choose the best of each.
With this guide, your pet will be happy and you will have fewer issues with your tank.
For most new turtle enthusiasts, the easiest kind of habitat to build is in a Turtle Tank Setup.
This turtle care guide can aid you to figure out how to take care of your new pet help you build your habitat in a Turtle Tank Setup.
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