How to Pick the Best Turtle Tank in 2021

by Carl Crane | Updated: November 10, 2021

Turtles are a charming and popular reptile pet, however, what you need to know is that most species of turtles become too large for your most standard turtle tank.

So choosing the tank where they will spend most of their time, it’s the most important part of becoming a more responsible turtle keeper.

Picking the best turtle tank will depend on all kinds of factors, and these are your turtle’s size, species and how many turtles you own.

So how do you know which one is best for your shelled companion?

To help make your purchasing decisions more comfortable, we’ve compiled a list of the best turtle tanks around. We’ve rated these products based on:

A good rule of thumb when buying a turtle tank the ideal size for it is to have about 10 gallons per inch of turtle shell, so as an example, if you own a turtle that’s about 3 inches, you should ideally put him in an at least 30-gallon turtle tank.

The Best Turtle Tanks

The Best 20 gallon Turtle Tank

Top Pick

Tetrafauna Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Aquarium Kit

Size: 33.9 x 17.6 x 15.8 inches | Weight: 41 pounds | Includes Kit: Yes Material: Glass

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If you’re just getting started with a new reptile pet to the family, the best way to start on the correct foot is with Tetrafauna’s Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Aquarium. This turtle tank kit has everything you need to give your aquatic turtle everything he needs!

It comes with a tank that features a screen top for plenty of ventilation, a decorative, waterfall filter, a basking platform, cartridges, two heat lamps, a sample of ReptoMin Baby Floating Food Sticks, and Tetra’s AquaSafe Water Conditioner.

Your turtle will love being in this roomy 20-gallon aquarium and you’ll enjoy having all the essentials to easily get started.

The Best 30 gallon Turtle Tank

Top Pick

Landen Rimless Low Iron Aquarium Salt Water Tank

Size: 23.6 x 15.7 x 17.7 inches | Weight: 75 pounds | Includes Kit: No Material: Iron Glass

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If you are looking for a more sturdy turtle tank, the Landen Rimless Low Iron Aquarium Salt Water Tank is the one for you.

Made out of 8mm thick crystal clear low iron glass with a 91% transparency, you can expect this product to be a premium quality buy.

It’s a handmade product created by expert craftsmen with high standard work on silicone rimming and it comes packed in a wood crate with a steel frame.

The Best 40 gallon Turtle Tank

Top Pick

Tuff Stuff Products KMT101 Oval Tank

Size: 40 x 27 x 13 inches | Weight: 16 pounds | Includes Kit: No Material: Flexible Plastic

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If turtle tanks are made out of glass it’s not your thing, then Tuff Stuff Products KMT101 Oval Tank is the turtle tank for you. Made of out 100% recycled LDPE flexible plastic it gives a rubber-like quality to it.

It’s a cheap option compared to the glass tanks which many could find appealing. The downside to it is that it wouldn’t look as good as a nicely decorated aquarium tank.

Other than that, this is a nice and affordable option for a turtle tank.

The Best 50 gallon Turtle Tank

Top Pick

Landen Rimless Low Iron Aquarium Tank

Size: 40 x 17.7 x 17.7 inches | Weight: 85.8 pounds | Includes Kit: No Material: Tempered Glass

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.


Getting the Correct Tank for your Type of Turtle

First of all, you must know how to distinguish a tortoise among all turtles in order to buy the right tank for your pet turtle.

This can be a bit confusing for some people because tortoises and turtles look very much alike and they live very similarly.

This is important in choosing the turtle tank because tortoises are turtles that dwell mostly on land and can’t swim.

There were some reported cases where people were ‘freeing’ the tortoises in the wild by throwing them into the water, which inevitably results in them drowning.

The simplest way to determine which turtle is a tortoise is to look at their feet.

If the turtle has digitigrade (walking on its toes and not touching the ground with its heels) elephant-like feet and walks on their toes, that’s a tortoise or a land turtle. If it has plantigrade (walking on the soles of the feet) feet and walks on their whole feet, that’s an aquatic turtle.

The aquatic turtle tanks are the most common when housing any type of turtle because you can set it as an enclosure for both aquatic and land turtles.

On the other hand, the tortoise tanks are not usually designed to get filled up with water, so getting a tortoise tank is not advised for an aquatic turtle.

1. Aquatic Turtle Tanks

The aquatic turtle tanks require more care and are more demanding than the land enclosure tanks.

The water needs to stay clean and have the right temperature for the respective turtle species. 

Also within the aquatic turtle tank, there needs to be a land area or have at least a turtle basking platform.

Some turtle keepers like to have a turtle tank with land and water as this can help feed the turtles outside the water since usually, substrates can retain food wastes.

The good part about having an aquatic turtle tank made out of glass or acrylic, is that they are available everywhere, so in case an accident happens to your turtle tank and gets cracked, there are a lot of available places where you can buy these fast.

2. Land Turtle Tanks

Their enclosure is usually easier to maintain and mostly requires much lower maintenance than the aquatic enclosures.

The land turtles prefer shallow waters to sink themselves into it and a basking area to regulate their body temperature. 

The more important part about these types of enclosures is selecting the right type of tortoise substrate since they are hard-wired to the land and like to dig and burrow.

Factors to Consider when Buying a Turtle Tank

Usually, most people when starting out with a turtle pet they will go straight for a 10-gallon turtle tank which is sufficient if he’s still small.

We don’t advise this because having to swap out the tank with another one every time the turtle grows, it’s costly and time-consuming.

1. Turtle Tank Size

There is no fixed size of a turtle tank for your pet since the choice of tank size can depend on a number of factors for you to consider.

These factors include the species of turtles, the size of the turtle and the number of turtles.

When considering the tank size for a turtle, you should do this based on the average size the turtle species usually grows as different species have various sizes as adults.

You can either pick a size that will be of use even when the turtle becomes an adult or you choose a size based on its current size and you upgrade as it grows.

If you do have a second turtle in the tank, you don’t have to double the number of gallons, you can just add the number from the rule of thumb (10 gallons per inch of turtle shell) and add 30-gallons of water per each turtle added in the tank.

In short, turtles need large tanks, and we’ve seen cases where they are very often sold in improper setups.

Sometimes you will see baby turtles being sold with these little beach tank setups where they have a limited water area and almost no land to get dry.

Those are awful and we advise you do not do that, you need a proper tank and it needs to be big.

A common misconception is that people usually think that the turtle tank size will limit its growth.

In other words, if you buy a small turtle tank your pet will stop growing once it reaches a comfortable size in the tank and it will not grow any larger than its habitat can support.

That’s a false assumption and your turtle pet will continue to grow until it reaches it’s full adult size, depending on the species.

Usually, adult turtle females can grow a bit larger than a male can.

Turtle Tank Size Calculator

If you are unsure about what size you’re turtle tank needs to be, you can check this turtle tank calculator to determine the right measurement for your turtle tank.

Turtle Shell Length
1 in.
Turtle Tank Size
10 Gallons

2. Turtle Tank Durability

Durability is an essential factor to consider before purchasing a turtle tank. Aquatic turtle can live up to 30+ years in captivity so having to change the turtle tank because it’s durability is low and it gets damaged it’s not ideal.

The best kits feature durable materials and sturdy foundation that will offer your turtle a home that will last a long time without breaking down.

Additionally, well-known brands are the best though more expensive than other unknown brands.

However, some undiscovered brands are feature-packed though you may need to check their reviews and do some research before purchasing from them.

Also be sure that when you’re buying other accessories for your turtle tank, you check their quality for durability.

3. Type of Turtle Tanks

There are a variety of types of turtle tanks available on the market, depending on what you actually prefer having set in your home and the needs of your turtle, size, and species.

When you are looking for a suitable turtle home, you should consider the material used for the turtle tank, if it’s safe for your turtle and it’s characteristics.

Turtle Plastic Tank

Compared to the turtle tanks, tubs are much cheaper and affordable. A 20-gallon turtle tank will be much more expensive than a 20-gallon tub. 

These are so cheap that you can find a 120-gallon stock tank for about 70 dollars, so you are getting something for less than a dollar per gallon.

They are also pliable made out of rubber/plastic so you can move it around more easily and you don’t have to worry about breaking it, relatively speaking, just be careful with them. 

The turtle can scratch the plastic tub as much as he wants, they can bite it doesn’t matter for the tub.

The only issue we found with these tubs for the aquatic turtles at least is that you can’t see your pet horizontally, you can only see them from a top-down angle, which sometimes makes it hard to see your turtle.

Our honest opinion on turtle tubs is that if you have space and it doesn’t bother you to keep one in the room, to go with a turtle tub.

It’s not as aesthetic as a turtle aquarium, but for sure the turtle tub will closely imitate the turtle’s natural environment.

Turtle Tank with Lid

To make sure your pet turtle gets the best treatment and good protection, you should consider adding a hood to your turtle aquarium.

The cover should regularly be at the top of the tank to ensure that at all times, objects and dust do not gain entry into the tank. It also serves as a boundary between your pet and the light and heat sources you have mounted over the tank.

Another important reason why you should add a lid to your tank is to keep your turtle from escaping.

Turtles are very clever and will always look for ways to escape especially if they see something outside the aquarium that will catch their eye and a lid above the tank will prevent him from doing so.

When choosing a turtle tank lid, go for one that has interlocks and can be opened from outside.

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 sufficient 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.

Most of the turtle tanks need to be big and having a stand for the tank is not only crucial for you back but it will prevent any future accidents when deciding to move the turtle tank.

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 aspect of your tank before choosing your stand to get the right execution.

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, pick a stand whose strength matches the weight of your tank.

When choosing the stand, be sure that it is suited for your tank’s dimensions and shape.

Some stands are made for rectangular tanks while others are made for tanks of other shapes. Cross-check this information before making the purchase.

Stand Material

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 deteriorate fast and could give way over time.

So if you choose a wood tank stand, check it frequently to prevent accidents.

Stand Height

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 properly interact with your pet.

Some stands have fixed heights, while others have an adjustable height.

Flexible heights are preferable because if you change your tank location, you may also want to adjust the height to suit the new setting.

5. Ease Of Attaching Filters, Heaters And Other Components To The Turtle Tank

Before even buying the tank for your turtle, ensure that all components that you own are easy and able to connect.

If you have or intend to buy a lid or a hood for your turtle tank, having the right dimensions from the start to match with your turtle house can prevent the trouble of having to return the components.

Setting Up The Turtle Tank

Your goal with setting up the turtle tank is to provide the turtle with enough room and depth for him, to be able to swim and submerge itself completely, to turn around in the enclosure and be able to get some exercise.

Finding the right turtle tank dimensions will help your shelled friend not feel stressed or confined in small spaces.

Experienced turtle keepers recommend ten times the length of the shell of the turtle in gallons

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

Also, if you’ll house more than one turtle in the same tank, a good decision would be to buy a slightly larger tank rather than a small tank.

Filter For Turtle Tank

When you are dealing with an aquatic turtle setup, we also need to think about the state of the water quality

Aquatic turtles can be very messy eaters, and they can also produce a lot of waste.

So it’s important to have some sort of turtle tank filter system in place to keep the water clean or else you are going to have to change the water regularly.

Some opt-in to have the turtle tank without a filter but we recommend against it as turtle tank filters can be cheap and pretty useful for the price paid.

A lot of times if the water looks clear to you, it could still be bad bacteria present or different types of chemicals building up in the water that could harm your turtle.

The more water you have in the turtle tank, the easier it is to keep clean.

These types of turtle filtration systems can also be used with your fish tanks.

Again, because turtles are messier, you may need a more heavy-duty type of filter to deal with their wastes

Even when you do use a filter, you’re still going to have to change the water periodically.

Basking Area In The Turtle Tank

All aquatic turtles also need an area to come out on the land. This is called a basking area. They need to be able to get completely out of the water, dry out of it, and warm themselves up under a light source.

While they’re basking and warming up they also need to be exposed to an ultraviolet light source, more specifically a UVB light source.

The most common way of providing heat and UVB/ UVA light in these aquatic turtle setups would be through bulbs or lamps that can be clipped on the tank or hang over the top of the turtle tank.

Some people will actually modify the turtle tank to be half water half land if the tank it’s big enough.

The land section of the turtle tank can contain a substrate such as bark. Just make sure you’re able to keep things clean for your reptile pet in the land area.

Turtle Tank Decorations

Another thing when you’re setting up your turtle tank habitat is to decorate the tank to match the natural environment of your type of species that you own. 

A bit of research is required before this to figure how the turtle’s natural environment actually looks like and try and replicate that type of habitat in your tank.

Turtles can be curious creatures and can excavate and swallow the substrates and artificial decorations that are present in the tank. 

Ensure that the decorations you are using such as plastic plants and rocks are large and safe enough for them to not get sick and provoke impaction.

How To Keep The Turtle Tank Clean

Turtle tanks need to stay clean first of all because the smell can get really bad.

Secondly, having the turtle tank cleaned regularly can prevent harmful bacteria to grow and cause infections to the turtle.

To keep it clean here are some tips that you can follow:

  1. Large Tank: Before adding any type of decoration and substrate, ensure that you have enough room in the tank to fit your turtles and all other accessories. Also the bigger the tank the easier is to keep the turtle tank cleaned.
  2. Eating in the Turtle Tank: If you want to keep the water clear and not feed your turtle while he’s in the water you can either put in the food in the land or basking area. By doing this it can prevent old food that got stuck in the substrate to form a bad odor-causing a huge health threat to your turtle.
  3. Filter System:  You need an excellent turtle tank filter, period. It’s so much easier when you have a filtration system included in your turtle tank. There are a lot of options when choosing a filter but if you want to be sure you can use an external filter (canister filter) since they have a lot of filtration capacity and are great for big turtle tanks.
  4. Regular Tank Cleaning: We suggest you do an overhaul cleaning of your pet’s habitat once every week so that you can keep harmful bacteria and odor away. This includes cleaning the floor mat, the net, sponges, the decorations and all other accessories.
  5. Frequent Water Changes: To cut down on remaining food, stinky water, and turtle waste, a frequent water change is recommended for a healthy turtle.

Common Questions About Turtle Tanks

What Does A Turtle Need In Its Tank?

1. UVB light for turtles and a light source for the tank
2. Basking area with a bulb that produces heat for the turtle to completely dry off
3. Heater for the tank to keep the water temperature in an acceptable range
4. Filter for the water that needs to stay fresh and clean
5. A substrate which can help with filtration if it’s gravel (optional)
6. Turtle decorations to enrich his environment (optional)
7. And obviously, freshwater in the turtle tank

Can I Put A Turtle In My Fish Tank?

You can definitely put a turtle in your fish tank. As a matter of fact, mostly all turtle owners have them placed into a fish tank. This is so common because generally turtle tanks meet the same needs as a fish tank.

Just a heads up, remember that turtles are omnivores and they will eventually eat the fish.

If you are buying a fish tank kit with a filter included just be sure it’s powerful enough, since turtles tend to leave a lot more waste behind.

Do Turtles Need Rocks In Their Tank?

They don’t necessarily need rocks in their tank but imitating their natural environment would really help them in feeling more secure.

Just be sure that the rocks (including any gravel used in the tank) are larger than your turtle’s head in order to prevent the risk of impaction.

How Often Should I Clean My Turtle Tank?

Partial water changes, at least twice a month are recommended.

Do I Need A Heater For My Turtle Tank?

A lot of the turtles need a water heater so that the water in their tank is maintained between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The basking temperature that they prefer is often around 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Is The Natural Habitat Of A Turtle?

Turtles prefer to live where the water reaches the land, as they have a necessity for both water and land. They prefer to bask when they are on land and retreat into the water only when they have to.

Dwelling in the water for too long will damage their shell, they have to come outside to land and dry themselves into UVA and UVB light rays.

What Plants Can I Use For Turtle Tank

There are a couple of water plants that we had a good experience with and these are:
1. Java Fern Planted on Driftwood
2. Anubias barteri
3. Hornwort
4. Imported Anacharis Bunch
5. Water lettuce

Further, you will need to be mindful of something, namely, the ability of the plants you will get to be able to grow and mature in a low-light condition, as well as that certain live plants, will need specific substrates.

Conclusion

Your turtle is likely providing you with great joy and it’s up to you to make him feel safe and healthy by providing the perfect turtle tank.

Just be sure you pick the right enclosure for your shelled companion because it’s not a thing that you can replace every month.

Carl, the reptile-obsessed creator of this website, got his first turtle years ago and he made a ton of mistakes along the way. His goal now with TheCritterCove is simple: help others to not make the same mistakes that he did!