How to Set Up a Turtle Tank: Step-By-Step Guide

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how to setup a turtle tank

The perfect turtle tank for your pet is a place where he doesn’t get bored, if you see your turtle continuously active and doing his own thing, then you will know that the turtle tank you’ve set up is meeting his needs.

In this guide, we will put you through everything you need to know when it comes to setting up a turtle tank from start to finish.

A good turtle tank will consist of both water and land areas, and the conditions of the tank should be sustained by proper lighting and filtering.

Replicating the natural environment of a turtle should also be on the top of your list by adding different types of decorations like plants, hiding areas, and basking rocks or logs.

By accomplishing the things we just mentioned, not only you will have a healthy pet but he will also grow to be happy with his new home.

Turtles can be a bit messier than your regular pet so maintaining the turtle tank is also an important step when setting up the turtle tank.

Turtles are typically considered to be low-maintenance pets, yet they need the proper setting in order to flourish.

Turtle tanks may be elaborate or simple, but providing your turtle with a lovely home is part of the appeal!

In fact, setting up turtle tanks has evolved into a hobby of itself, with some turtle fans adding ornate rock formations, waterfalls, and other dramatic elements to their tanks.

Please note that this article is meant for semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles and in no way it’s recommended to add a land turtle into your aquatic turtle tank.

RELATED READ: How to Keep Turtle Tank Clean

1. Choosing the Correct Turtle Tank

aquarium with a lot of turtles

The initial set-up of your turtle will be expensive.

Filtering, lighting, and temperature are all important aspects, however, as turtles grow from juvenile to adult size, another aspect that most people don’t think about is adult turtle size.

Contrary to popular belief, turtles do not grow in size in order to match the dimensions of their enclosures; therefore, keeping your hatchling in a 20-gallon aquarium will not keep the turtle small. It will just make the turtle unhappy and eventually sick.

Our opinion is that in order to save money from the start is to buy the biggest turtle tank you can.

Some people believe it’s simpler to change their aquariums while the turtle grows. This not only gets more expensive over time, but you also end up having a lot of useless aquariums.

Many people begin with a 20-gallon tank for one or two small turtles, later upgrading to a 55-gallon aquarium, eventually to a 75-gallon aquarium, and so on.

This might look like a less expensive option since you’ll be buying numerous items at once but it won’t be until later that you realize how much extra money was spent.

Not only that you will just be changing the tank but you will also need to upgrade the lighting and filters since the previous lights and filters won’t work on bigger aquariums.

Consider the adult size if at all feasible and acquire a turtle tank with that in mind. Don’t be fooled by the turtle’s baby size.

Other reasons to not get a small tank:

  • It will be more difficult to clean.
  • A small aquarium will get dirty more quickly than a larger tank.
  • In an enclosure that isn’t big enough, your turtle will not be able to fully enjoy its life.
  • Adding too many turtles to a cramped enclosure usually leads to rivalry and fighting.

RELATED READ: Do Turtles Fight?

Pet turtles are commonly kept in glass aquariums. Plastic tubs, on the other hand, can also be used. Some turtle keepers who reside in hot regions even create open-air habitats outside their homes.

aquarium vs plastic tub

We’ll go through the process of setting up a glass tank for this tutorial. But mostly everything that we will cover can be applied to other types of turtle tanks.

When purchasing an aquarium, first assess your available space and choose the biggest one you can fit in your home.

What’s the significance of this? In all honesty, bigger aquariums are easier to care for than smaller ones, which means you’ll not have to change it in case the turtle gets too big or you want to add more turtles.

There is also plenty of room for error in larger aquariums because there is more water to remove any contaminants if something goes wrong.

A word about Aquarium Kits: The all-in-one kits may be tempting to buy, but the filters that come with them are rarely enough for the tank size. It’s usually preferable (and less expensive) to purchase the components separately so you can build your aquarium to your preferences.

Quarantine Tank: If you’re shopping for an aquarium, consider purchasing a 10-gallon tank to use as a quarantine tank. If a turtle develops illness in your main tank you may want to quarantine it for treatment in a separate tank to prevent the illness from spreading to the other turtles.

RELATED READ: African Sideneck Turtle Care

How Big Of A Tank Do You Need For A Turtle?

People don’t really realize how big a turtle can get when they see them so small in the hatchling stage.

Keep in mind that a baby turtle grows quite fast and if you’re going to house him in a small tank you may have to buy another one soon if it outgrows that one.

Here you can see the difference between the 2 stages of hatchling and adult turtle.

hatchling vs adult 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.

To get the tank size that will accommodate more than 1 turtle, size the tank according to one turtle and add half of that to the original size for each turtle. 

A full-grown turtle can reach 12 inches.

RELATED READ: How Big do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Get?

How Deep Should The Water Be?

Calculate their adult length by multiplying it by 2.5, and that will be how deep your water should be.

This gives them plenty of areas to move about freely and get some exercise while also allowing you to set up a basking spot halfway up the tank so your turtle can’t try to climb out.

They are fantastic climbers!

The height of the tank is also important to 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.

You can also use a tank cover to avoid this issue.

Tank Covering: What You Need to Know

A cover should always be placed over turtle tanks. This is because it protects your turtle in a number of ways.

First, it will keep outside items from falling in.

It also protects your turtle from any heat or lighting sources you may have above the tank by acting as a barrier. Finally, a cover prevents your turtle from escaping its enclosure.

Turtles love exploring and are great climbers and they can easily escape if they can reach the rim of the aquarium. Turtles can also stack on top of each other and gain the extra boost they need to reach the rim.

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In addition to escaping, you must also be wary of things that may enter the tank, such as children and other pets, such as cats.

To prevent this from happening, get a lid that locks with the tank or has some sort of locking feature so your turtles can’t push it away when they’re playing.

As with most things, there are a variety of items that can be used to cover your aquarium:

Aquarium HoodThe most common of the cover. It includes a lid that opens to allow for little access to the interior. They have easily removable sections in the rear to make room for filters or filter tubes.
Glass TopsGlass tops are very attractive and do an excellent job at keeping the heat in. Watch out to not overheat the glass and position your UVB lighting such as it won’t get filtered.
Screen TopsThese are ideal for turtles since they can come in a variety of styles and are safe to use. These screens also work great with plastic or Rubbermaid tanks.

Aquarium Stands

Consider the flooring on which your aquarium will be set up and make sure it can support the weight of a full aquarium.

Purchase an aquarium stand that is designed for tanks or, if you’re handy with tools, you may construct your own.

RELATED READ: How Often to Clean a Turtle Tank

2. Designing the Layout and Aspect of the Turtle Tank

turtle tank ideas

Turtles do, in fact, require a dry place to go out of the water and completely dry, including softshell turtles.

They might get a fungus that can be deadly if they don’t have this included in their enclosure.

Some elements of designing your tank’s layout are truly subjective, but there are a few key components you must include.

Your turtle’s tank should be divided into two regions: an underwater area where it will probably spend the majority of its time, and an above-water basking area or a land area.

RELATED READ: Mud Turtle Care

Underwater Area

turtle aquarium

At least half of your aquarium if not more should be underwater.

Turtles, like all aquatic and semi-aquatic species (depending on the type of pet turtle), require daily swimming and activities in order to be satisfied and healthy.

Water depth should be at least as deep as your turtle is long, and deeper is better. The more swimming space you can provide, the better.

When creating the layout of your tank, try to provide several areas where your turtle can swim and explore. This could be a cave area, a deep end with plenty of rocks and plants to hide in, and a shallow area for little turtles.

Land Area

above the tank basking area

The remaining portion of your tank should be utilized as a drying area and a basking spot for your turtle.

You may also build your own pathways and platforms to create these areas yourself using rocks, logs, or pre-made ramps and platforms.

Stacking stones is yet another fantastic method to create a natural-looking environment.

Two things to consider here on rocks:

  1. Make sure they’re thoroughly washed to remove any parasites or other harmful organisms.
  2. Make that what you are building is sturdy as turtles have a tendency to rearrange things.

Turtles grow quickly, so, when they become big, it’s difficult to provide them with enough swimming area in addition to a secure basking location.

What you can do, in other words, is provide them with the entire aquarium for their swimming area by building a basking spot above the tank and filling it completely.

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Another method to create a natural, functional, and readily available basking area is to use a large piece of driftwood. Some have suction cups and can be attached directly to the glass.

A key consideration when building any kind of basking area is to ensure that the turtle can easily exit the water and avoid injuring its plastron.

The basking platform, or at least the ramp section, is the most common cause of plastron issues. Make sure there are no rough surfaces! When it comes to softshell turtles, avoid using rocks and other abrasive goods as a basking surface.

Another point to keep in mind is that your turtle should not be able to get wedged between the glass and the basking area or any other portion of the basking area. If there’s a place where your turtle can fit, it’ll eventually find its way there.

When it comes to building a basking area it may be also useful to go online and check out some of the techniques other people have used to set up their turtle habitats if you want to do it yourself.

RELATED READ: The Best Turtle Basking Platforms

3. Adding Substrate In A Turtle Tank

sand / gravel / river rocks

A substrate is anything you put at the bottom of the aquarium, whether it’s gravel, rocks, sand, nothing, or something else.

There are many different substrates to choose from, ranging from nothing to enormous river rocks and expensive tiles, as well as everything and every size in between.

Table with different types of substrates that can go into a tank:

NothingThis is the simplest option to go with. It’s easy to maintain, and there’s no danger of the turtle ingesting it and getting ill. The drawbacks of this are that it demonstrates how filthy the tank is, as turtles are messy and have a bare bottom readily apparent. There are no additional bacteria-creating locations other than the filter. Some turtle keepers despise this method of caring for their pets because it loses its natural appearance. Plastic plants may be added at the bottom of the tank for individuals who wish to personalize their turtle tank. This is a wonderful “fix” for the bare bottom look, but it won’t work with bigger turtles since they’ll just move the fake vegetation around.
SandA sought-after substrate. Siphon cleaning is difficult, yet it’s lovely, safe, and simple on turtle shells when they dive in and hit the bottom. The issue is that sand is light and gets kicked up easily, leading to clogging. Sand and filtering equipment do not get along well. In a few days, a sandy bottom can grind an aquarium filter to dust. A sponge pre-filter may be used before the main intake of a turtle tank to help reduce smaller particles. The disadvantage is that you have to clean it frequently and that the filter won’t clean out larger items. For having a planted tank with both artificial and live plants, sand is so-so since it may be readily dug up. This is the ideal substrate for all turtles, especially softshells, if you can manage it.
Fine GravelThis is a wonderful substrate for all turtles, including softshells. This gravel looks similar to sand and is also quite popular. It has no health risk and compliments live plants well. This gravel is somewhat simpler to clean than sand, but it may be sucked up by a siphon if you use enough of it.
Standard GravelThis is the gravel that you see in fish tanks and is most common in pet stores. Gravel of this sort is quite attractive, natural-looking, and simple to maintain with a siphon. Gravel of this size, on the other hand, has the potential for health concerns. Gut impaction and prolapses are major possibilities. Although these occurrences are unusual, the potential exists, and some turtle owners choose one of the other substrates as a precaution because turtles have a propensity to eat gravel.
River RockThese are smooth stones that may vary in size from the diameter of a golf ball to that of a tennis ball. They’re completely natural-looking and lack any potential health concerns. A siphon is difficult to use on a bottom like this since it’s so mucky. Large rocks are readily and inexpensively available. Another disadvantage of utilizing big stones is plastron damage. Turtles frequently strike the bottom with their plastrons when diving into the water, causing injury to the shell and possibly causing medical issues.
TilesHowever, some keepers continue to be inventive! Ceramic or plastic tiles that are attractive and sometimes natural-looking can be utilized. It’s safe and looks nice. It appears to be simple to clean, although some of the waste tends to accumulate beneath the tiles.
Crushed CoralCrushed coral may be utilized as a turtle tank substrate, particularly for saltwater or brackish water turtles. However, crushed corals may not be the ideal substrate for growing rooted plants in the enclosure. Corals, as well, can alter the pH of your water. If you choose to use coral in your substrate, be aware that it may do so.

Any substrate that you use needs to be kept clean, which can add to the level of maintenance required to care for your turtle tank.

RELATED READ: The Best Turtle Substrate

4. Include A Turtle Tank Filter

canister filters

Once you’ve decided how you’ll arrange the components of your tank and what kind of substrate you will add, it’s time to include the most necessary item to your turtle tank.

A good filtration system is required for the cleanliness and health of your pet. Tank water in a turtle tank can become murky quickly. It’s not only unsightly, but it also isn’t healthy for your turtle.

Your turtle’s excrement, as well as any other undesirable detritus floating throughout the tank, will be removed by your filter. It also rids the aquarium of harmful chemicals and substances that are produced.

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A charcoal insert in your filter system will assist combat the odor that our friends can produce.

There’s no such thing as too much filtration. Consider big when deciding which water filter to purchase since you can’t go overboard.

Turtles produce more waste in a single day than a fish does throughout a week, so select something that will fit your tiny pets’ bathroom habits.

Table with different types of filters:

Canister FiltersCanister filters are most frequently used in turtle aquariums. They perform well in even very big tanks. If a stand or cabinet is not available, you can hide them by attaching them to the underside of the tank. Canister filters are multi-stage filtration systems. This means they have multiple stages of filtering media.
Internal FiltersFilters can also be added to aquariums that have exterior walls. Submersible filters, which are sometimes known as internal filters, may be positioned within the tank. They are often secured to the walls of your aquarium with suction cups. Internal-style filters are small, and they’re only useful for smaller aquariums. Internal filters can be multi-stage as well, but because of their size, they may only have a limited number of stages.
Hang On Back FiltersA rear-mounted filter is, as you might have guessed, attached to the back of a tank. Because this kind of filter is designed specifically for aquariums, you may need to be more careful if you want to use one in your turtle tank. Because turtle tanks are not filled to capacity like fish tanks are, you’ll need a filter cutout to fit a hang-on back filter. Another thing to bear in mind with this filter is that you’ll have to get one that’s suitable for a bigger aquarium than the one you’re actually using. This is due to the fact that turtles create waste at a higher rate than fish, thus tank-based size measurements aren’t correct.
Under Gravel FilterUnderneath gravel filters are attached, just as the name implies. Many turtle keepers are hesitant to use these, but some people actually are having success with them. Water first reaches the main filter after flowing through the gravel, which is part of the filtration system. There are several distinct types of under-gravel filters available, but they all function in the same way. It might be difficult to use with a turtle since they like to dig.

Make sure the filter you choose is compatible with the size of your tank.

RELATED READ: How To Care For A Tortoise

Quick Note About Filter Media

The materials inside a filter are called media. Each layer of a filter has a different kind of media. The water that is dirty goes through each layer so it becomes clean.

Sponges, activated charcoal, ceramic rings, lava rock, polyfill or fiberfill floss, and bio balls are some of the components that can be found in a multi-stage filter.

The average duration for which a filter should be replaced is 6 months, according to the majority of manufacturers. However, this is incorrect.

Replacing your filter media can be harmful to the beneficial bacteria that your aquarium requires, so it’s best to replace only enough to keep things stable.

Filter media does not have to be replaced until it is completely broken down (which may take years), and if you do need to change some filter material, replace a little amount at a time.

RELATED READ: The Best Filter for Turtle Tanks

5. Incorporate Turtle Tank Heaters

Here’s a double concern that you could have. Turtles will require a heat lamp for basking and also a heater for their water.

Turtles that are cold can be bad for their health.

Turtles are cold-blooded, so they cannot control their own body temperature so you’ll be responsible for keeping your pet’s habitat within a healthy range. 

You must keep an eye on and control the temperatures in both the wet and dry areas of the tank.

Heating the Water

different types of water heaters

A submersible heating element is recommended for heating the water, but anything you use to properly heat the water is acceptable.

Turtles can’t regulate their body temperature if the water is too hot, so keep it cool.

Water that is too hot will prevent the turtle from going out to bask and may result in excessive shedding. A submersible heater with temperature control is ideal.

When the turtles are sufficiently heated, they cool down by swimming in the water. The ideal water temperature for a turtle is between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on its species.

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It’s always a good idea to research the climates in which your turtles dwell and try to replicate them as closely as possible.

You can keep your turtle habitat’s water temperature at the correct level by using an aquarium heater. Here are some things to consider:

  • Choose a heater with the correct wattage for your tank. Don’t get a heater that is too big for your aquarium; a 200-watt heater isn’t suitable for a 10-gallon tank since it might cause your tank to overheat if something goes wrong.
  • When it comes to heaters, bigger isn’t always better. The packaging on the heater will often indicate how many gallons the device can accommodate. Also, purchasing an adjustable heater is highly recommended since you may regulate the temperature.
  • If you don’t have an adjustable heater, you’ll need to choose a heating unit that is powerful enough to heat all of the water in your tank.
  • Submersible heaters must be positioned an inch below the lowest point at which your water could fall. If this sort of heater is ever used without being submerged, it will burn out and shatter catastrophically.
  • A GFI (Ground Fault Interceptor) outlet should be used for any aquarium-related items. The electricity is briefly grounded (about 2 – 3 seconds) and then automatically shut off to that outlet only if something goes wrong in the habitat (heater breaking, light falling into the water, etc.). The waiting period of two to three seconds is actually beneficial since it prevents a jarring jolt that might harm your turtles!
  • A covering made of metal or heat-resistant plastic must be used with any submersible heater. Never use an aquarium heater that has a glass shield. They’re only meant to be used with fish since hard turtle shells might break through the glass.
  • Unplug the submersible heaters before removing any water from the tank for safety’s sake. If you leave the heaters on and take away the water, they will quickly overheat, causing them to crack and possibly result in electrocution.
  • For turtle habitats, undertank heaters are not advised. They aren’t made to heat water, and they don’t do much for the terrarium.
  • Heat rocks should also be avoided because they can cause burns if used in an aquarium that will be filled with water.

RELATED READ: Best Turtle Tank Heater

Heating the Basking Area

heating bulbs

A regular basking lamp that you may buy at a pet store will suffice for their basking area. Just make sure they’re not too close to it when basking.

A temperature of between 85 and 90°F is ideal for basking. Anything hotter than that may burn them or cause them not to want to stay under it.

A good indicator that your basking area is too hot for your turtle, is if the turtle moves from underneath it after a few minutes.

Heat lamps should be used in ceramic-tipped domes rather than plastic-tipped housings with on-off switches since they last considerably longer.

These bulbs become excessively hot for the plastic, and the on-off switches stop operating. Timers are extremely useful with appliances like these, which have no on/off switches. Because you won’t need to plug and unplug them, this saves time.

The majority of the heat lamp holders include a hook for hanging or a clamp to secure them. The basking area is heated using a heat lamp that is positioned directly above it.

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To be able to do this, your turtle should have several mild temperatures in the basking zone, with the hottest spot positioned directly under the light. As a result, your pet may go about its business as it sees fit to balance its body temperature.

Different wattage ratings are available when purchasing heat lamps. Read the specifications for each bulb to see which one will give your turtle species the ideal temperature.

The closer the bulb is to your basking area, the hotter it will be. Take care not to place it too near that your turtle might access it and get burned.

Some bulbs can get quite hot. They can also be destroyed if they come into touch with water. If you have one, make sure the shield on your tank is adequate to protect your turtle from glass shards if something went wrong.

There are different heat bulbs types such as:

Mercury vapor bulbLight, UVB, and heat – get very hot
Ceramic light bulbDoesn’t produce light, only heat, so is good for night time, if required
Incandescent light bulbsSome glow, some don’t (do not give off heat or light), better for small tanks
Halogen flood light bulbsThey put out almost all of their energy as heat
Fluorescent bulbsDon’t produce a lot of heat but do give off light that turtles may or may not need, so can be used in smaller tanks
Daylight LED bulbsSimilar to incandescent but doesn’t produce as much heat as incandescent

You can use household bulbs if they provide the basking temperatures in the proper range.

RELATED READ: Best Basking Light for Turtles

Nighttime Heating

It’s also critical to provide heat for your turtle over the winter months, especially during the cold and occasionally chilly days in the winter.

There are two types of heat lamps, but owing to the difficulties that previous keepers and I have encountered in the past, we do not advocate using colored heat lamps at night. Ceramic heat emitters are generally sufficient in most situations.

They can be used in the same heat lamp holders as basking lights and may also be controlled using timers.

aquarium heat distribution

How to Measure Heat The Heat on the Basking Spot?

Taking a thermometer and a rock of equal height to your turtle is the most effective approach to evaluate the temperatures.

Place the rock on the basking platform and then place the thermometer on top of it.

Allow approximately 30 minutes for an accurate reading. This will tell you if your light is too close, too far away, or insufficient.

Basking Health Advantages

  • It has psychological advantages. Turtles are ectothermic, so they bask to warm up and increase their metabolisms.
  • The processing of nutrients and the immune system, for example, are two bodily processes that function best when they’re basking.
  • Basking is a method of monitoring your turtle’s health. A healthy turtle will usually have its legs kicked out and it’s head up high as it basks frequently.
  • Turtles appear to enjoy it!

RELATED READ: How to Care For a Red-Eared Slider Turtle

6. Adding Lighting To The Turtle Tank

Turtles require a combination of light and heat for proper growth and development.

Lighting is not just essential for turtles during the day. They require specific amounts of sunlight for various bodily processes to run properly.

This is mainly the process of making Vitamin D3 from a precursor so your body can use it to metabolize calcium.

vitamin D pathway
vitamin d pathway

UVB radiation is required for turtles to exchange messages among chemicals in their skin. The turtle’s bones do not develop properly without it, and they become sick and deformed.

Metabolic bone disease is a medical condition that causes the deterioration of bones due to a deficiency or malfunction of their metabolism. If left untreated, it can be deadly. MBD is most often fatal if not noticed early on. When symptoms of MBD appear, it is usually too late.

It also relates to making certain that turtles have a nutritious diet and are given the required calcium. The development and health of turtles depend on their nutrition as well as artificial lighting.

UV stands for Ultra Violet, which is light that you can’t see. There are three distinct sorts, all of which will be described below.

UVAThe visible wavelength is what you’re seeing. It’s responsible for triggering typical reptilian activities such as feeding, climbing, mating, and so on. In other words, UVA aids in the mental well-being of animals.
UVBThe other non-visible wavelength of light. This is what gives people their tan. UVB allows reptiles to make vitamin D3, which helps them absorb calcium so they can digest it and avoid or cure metabolic bone disease.
UVCThe wavelength utilized in UV sterilizers to destroy germs is 254 nanometers. This wavelength is highly dangerous and may actually harm DNA.

If at all possible, provide your turtles with as much natural sunlight as possible.

It is also verified that direct, unfiltered natural sunshine is essential not only for general health but also during the healing process. It is thought that spending 15 minutes in actual sunlight is preferable to spending 5 hours under the best artificial UVB source.

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Your turtle also requires regular light cycles. By turning the lights off and on at the correct times, you’ll be able to approximate daytime and nighttime.

Turtles should have about 10-12 hours of “daylight” each day, on average. This can be automated using a simple timer to guarantee a consistent cycle for your pet.

Keep in mind that 95% of all UVB radiation is blocked by glass. About 30% is filtered out by aluminum screening. If a screen cover is used between the light source and the animal, the holes in the screen should be 1/8 inch or larger.

Viewing Lights

Although not required for your turtle’s health, you might want to invest in a daytime viewing light. This is just more illumination to assist you to get a better look at the inside of your turtle tank.

Using an LED light is one of the most popular options for this. This is because LEDs are typically bright and clear, last a long time, and consume very little energy.

RELATED READ: The Best Tanks for Red-Eared Sliders

7. Other Things You Might Need

Here are some more things to think about when putting together a turtle tank:

  1. Turtle Ledge – A ledge is a great addition to your tank and can provide your turtles with a place to rest.
  2. Turtle Ramps – Ramps are also a great addition and can help your turtles get in and out of the water.
  3. Rocks and Decor – Adding rocks and other decors can make your tank more interesting for your turtles. Just be sure to select items that are safe for them to swim around.
  4. Hiding Spots – Turtles need a place to hide, and you can provide this by adding some artificial caves or rocks to your tank.
  5. Plants – Adding plants to your tank can help to oxygenate the water and provide a place for your turtles to rest. Just be sure to select plants that are safe for turtles to swim around.
  6. Waterfalls and Fountains – A waterfall or fountain can be a nice addition to your tank, but be sure to select one that is safe for turtles.
  7. Décor Backgrounds – Adding a décor background to your tank can make it look more interesting. Just be sure to select one that is safe for turtles.
  8. Small Net – It makes scooping out leftovers (if you feed in the tank) much easier, as well as removing other trash and feces.
  9. Glass Cleaner – Keeping your tank glass clean will make it easier to see your turtles and also make the tank look nicer.
  10. Algae Mitt Cloth – An algae mitt cloth can be used to clean the glass and also help get rid of any algae that may grow in the tank.
  11. Airline Tubing – If you want to add a filter or waterfall/fountain to your tank, you’ll need some airline tubing.
  12. Bucket(s) – A bucket can be used to scoop out water when cleaning your tank or to hold fresh water while you’re adding it to the tank.
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8. Maintaining Your Turtle Tank Clean

You’ll also be responsible for keeping your turtle tank clean and well-maintained. The water must be changed on a regular basis, and the tank will have to be cleaned out at various intervals, even if you have a strong filter.

Here are some helpful tank cleaning instructions:

  • Every two to three weeks, perform a 20-30 percent water change. I use this opportunity to vacuum the gravel substrate.
  • Before cleaning your tank, make sure to unplug any electrical equipment, such as your filtration and lighting systems.
  • If you have the possibility, try and feed in a separate tank to avoid the leftovers.
  • Make sure your turtle is in a secure location while you clean the tank.
  • When cleaning your aquarium, use rubber gloves.

Can Turtles Live in Tap Water?

One of the most common questions people have when it comes to turtles is whether they can live in tap water. The answer, unfortunately, is no.

While it is possible for turtles to live in tap water, it is not ideal. The problem with tap water is that it contains chlorine and chloramine, which can be harmful to turtles.

For this reason, it is important to dechlorinate the water before adding it to your turtle tank.

RELATED READ: Can You Have Turtles And Fish In The Same Tank

9. Preserve the Water Quality Within the Turtle Tank

You’ve selected, bought, gathered, and put together all of the components of your turtle tank.

Keeping aquatic turtles is a difficult task, but it is not impossible. The quality of the water that they eat in maybe just as important. If left undetected, water quality issues may lead to difficulties, illness, and even death in aquatic turtles.

Water quality plays a role in the health of our small friends. There are four different aspects of water quality that must be monitored and maintained. Things may go wrong as a result of poor water quality, which is why it’s so important.

There are 4 aspects of water quality that are important to maintaining within the turtle tank:

1. pH

The pH level of your water is determined by the amount of acid or alkaline it has. It’s a scale with 7 being neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline. Anything below 7 is considered acidic, while anything above is called alkaline.

The major concern with pH in turtles is that certain species need a particular pH level.

For example, diamondback terrapins require a pH of approximately 7.5, whereas mata matas require a lower pH of about 5. The appropriate pH is critical for a happy and healthy turtle. There may be difficulties if the pH is incorrect.

Furthermore, a more acidic pH is desired since it inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus.

The lower the pH value, the less likely certain kinds of dangerous intruders are to survive. The higher the pH rating, the more these terrible things can develop and flourish in your turtles’ territory.

2. Ammonia

Ammonia might be more harmful than you realize. This is due to the turtles’ bathroom habits, as well as any decaying food in the aquarium water. It’s really terrible stuff. Get a testing kit and test it on a regular basis.

At your local pet shop, you’ll find more anti-ammonia items. Inquire about it and they’ll be able to connect you with the appropriate goods to combat this disgusting stuff, which is also a major concern among fish. There’s nothing better than a good, old-fashioned water change if a high Ammonia level is an issue for you.

3. Nitrite

When you introduce a new turtle to your tank, or if the population of turtles has significantly grown, the nitrite level in the water will spike.

This could be potentially deadly to your turtle if left unchecked and can often result in fatalities.

The spike is often caused by the increase in organic matter, including turtle droppings and uneaten food. The nitrite level should be monitored and maintained through water changes and the use of anti-nitrite products.

4. Nitrate

The end result of the nitrite level is nitrate. It is not as deadly as ammonia or nitrite but is still harmful to the turtles.

High levels of nitrate can cause deformities in the turtles and can also increase the susceptibility to disease.

Like the other levels, nitrate should be monitored and kept at safe levels through water changes and the use of anti-nitrate products.

List of items to help you with the water quality:




amazon product

Home Water Quality Test – Well and Tap Water

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API pH Down pH Adjuster

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API AMMO-LOCK Ammonia detoxifier

chewy product

API Ammonia Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit

chewy product

API Nitrate NO3 Freshwater & Saltwater Aquarium Test Kit

chewy product

API Nitrite NO2 Fresh & Salt Water Aquarium Test Kit

Can Turtles Live in Tap Water?

Tap water has a pH of around 7.5 to 8.0 for most people in their homes. This will suit the majority of North American species, but you must pay close attention to the pH levels if you are going into more exotic types such as goldfish and koi fish.

You may cope with lowering the pH levels in the North American turtles species to around 6.2 to help prevent shell infections, but I wouldn’t go lower than 6.5 for a softshell because it might burn him.

For this reason, it is important to test the water’s ph level by using tests kits that are easy to use and has accurate results.

RELATED READ: The Best pH Meter for Aquariums

10. Acclimating New Turtles To The Tank

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It’s time to introduce your pet to its new home after you’ve finished setting up the tank! Here are some suggestions for reducing anxiety while performing the procedure.

  • Place your turtle gently in the tank, don’t just drop him in.
  • Picking up a turtle by its legs or head is not advised. Turtles, like other animals, despite being picked up in this manner. In addition, you risk causing serious damage.
  • Give your new pet some time and space to become acclimated to its new environment. Turtles don’t always enjoy being handled, especially those that are adjusting to a different location with new people.
  • Continue to keep the tank’s various sections at the temperature needed. Check your equipment on a regular basis to ensure that it is in good working order.
  • Another factor to consider is humidity levels in your turtle’s habitat. What ideal means for different species of turtles varies. When the humidity level in your tank is too high or low, your turtle may get sick.

RELATED READ: How to Take Care of a Baby Turtle

Be Responsible ❤️

Remember that your turtle tank is not just a piece of furniture or something new to look a, it is a home for living animals who solely depend on you for their health and survival.

Before making any decisions, do your research and gather information from different sources (not just the pet store).

Keep in mind that owning a turtle is not just a hobby, it’s a responsibility.

Thankfully there is a lot of equipment on the market to help you easily set up a turtle tank, all you have to do is choose the best of each. 

Follow the steps from this article and enjoy a healthy aquarium that will last for years.