How Much Water Should Be In A Turtle Tank

When you bring home a pet turtle, one of the most important things to consider is how much water should be in a turtle tank. Well, different turtle species need different amounts of water in their tank.

How Much Water Should You Put In A Turtle Tank?

The amount of water that should be in a turtle tank is dependent on the species of turtle. Below is a general guide for aquatic, semi-aquatic, and tortoises.

  • Aquatic turtles: Pet aquatic turtles should have most of their aquarium or tank filled with water. A common turtle care mistake is that people don’t fill up their tank with enough water. I usually advise people to have at least 60% of the tank filled with water. This means if you have a 100 gallon turtle tank, there should be at least 60 gallons of water. However, most aquatic species still need a dry area to bask and dry off.
  • Tortoises or land turtles: Tortoises should have very little water in their aquarium or habitat. For most species, a simple shallow water bowl will suffice. Their habitat should be primarily or exclusively terrestrial. The only exception is an area for the turtle to drink or soak in.
  • Semi-aquatic turtles: These species should have a mixture of water (usually at least a few inches deep) and terrestrial environments. I usually advise that you have at least 25% of the tank filled with water for semi-aquatic turtles. A common semi-aquatic turtle species is the box turtle.

Having the incorrect water level is one of the most common turtle care mistakes.

Change the water

Regardless of how much water you put in your turtle tank, it is important that you perform a water change about every two weeks. You only need to replace around 25% of the water when you do this.

Below is my favorite technique for how to do water changes quickly.

If you don’t perform water changes, you will end up with cloudy water like my tank in the video below.

Aside from the amount of water and water changes, it is also important that you have a big enough tank for your turtle. If you are shopping for a tank, I would suggest you check out some of the tanks below:

Aqueon Standard Glass Aquarium Tank 75 Gallon

    Price: ~$125

Check Price On Petco
Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit

    Price: ~$350

Check Price On Amazon
SC Aquariums 120 Gallon Starfire Glass Aquarium

    Price: ~$1,200

Check Price On Amazon

Water requirement for turtles

Since just about all turtle species will reach a size of at least 5 inches as an adult, it is essential to have a tank that is at least 50 gallons. While a baby turtle can certainly live in smaller tanks that are 10 or 20 gallons, they will quickly grow out of them and you will need to buy a larger tank anyways.

If you are unsure if your turtle is aquatic or semi-aquatic, you can look for clues on their feet.

Webbed vs. non-webbed feet: An easy method to figure out how much water your turtle needs is to simply look at their feet. Check if their feet are webbed or not. Webbed feet turtles need more water while turtles with no webbing need more land. Aquatic turtle have webbed feet because it helps them swim.

Rule of shell

As a general rule, you should have at least 10 to 15 gallons of water for every one inch (2.5 cm) of a turtle.

  • Fill the tank with enough clean water so that the turtle can swim comfortably.
  • The water should always be deeper than the turtles are wide. You need to ensure that the water depth is at least three-quarters the length of the turtle. Water should be deep enough for the turtle to flip itself upright, in case it accidentally turns upside-down in the water.
  • Try to provide clean water from your sink or jugs of clean, bottled water.
  • It’s better to start your turtle’s habitat in a big tank right from the start. Just start with a lower water level and gradually raise it.

With very little water in the tank, the water quickly becomes dirty due to your turtles’ feces and pee. This makes it smelly, tough to clean, and unhealthy for your turtle. A larger tank allows waste to disperse and dissolve more easily.

You can learn more in my guide on why a red-eared slider needs to be in water.

Water conditions for turtles

Turtles can live in a wide range of water conditions, but generally they prefer stable water conditions. Turtles also enjoy tanks that provide enough light and lots of hiding spots. You must ensure that you have a well-circulated tank. This means you should invest in a water filter for your turtle tank.

When keeping a pet turtle, choose compatible tank mates and have a lot of hiding places in the tank. Let’s have a look at the important water parameters for turtles:

  • Temperature for hatchling: 80 – 82 F
  • Temperature for adult turtle: 77 – 80 degrees F
  • pH level: slightly alkaline; between 7.4 to 7.8

Captive turtles prefer to reside in conditions that are similar to their outdoor habitats. They thrive in a wet and warm environment. Turtles require the right amount of water, a heat source, and a spot to get out of the water and bask.

  • Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. Excessive cold temperature can trigger a variety of health issues including gastrointestinal woes and respiratory illness.
  • Turtles produce more waste than fish. So, without a good filtration system, you would need to change the water at least once a week.
  • The lungs of baby turtles are not very well-developed. They need shallow water when they are very young. Although it is very rate, a turtle can drown.

Can turtles stay in the water all the time?

Though all turtles breathe air, aquatic turtles like sliders and painted turtles can stay underwater for quite some time. Some turtle species can even spend the entire winter underwater due to their slow metabolisms and adaptations for extracting oxygen from the water. You can learn more about his in my article on where do turtles go in the winter.

In closing

While creating a habitat for your pet turtle, the most common mistake is using a tank that is too small that doesn’t have enough water.

It is important to understand that as a pet turtle owner, you are responsible for the care and well-being of your little friend. You must give your turtle a proper feed, a clean environment, and take care of the tank requirements.

If you have any comments, please do let us know. We would be happy to hear from you.

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