How to Make a Turtle Habitat?

So, you’re thinking about adding a pet turtle to your home. That’s fantastic! However, setting up the perfect turtle habitat can be a little overwhelming. You have a lot to consider like size, water to land ratio, temperature, foliage, and much more! But don’t worry, we have the perfect checklist to get you started on creating the perfect turtle habitat!

How to Make a Turtle Habitat?

The key to making a turtle habitat is choosing the right tank, water vs. land ratio, temperature, and providing adequate foliage and hiding places.


The first thing you are going to need for your turtle habitat is a place for your turtle to stay. One of the most common options for people to choose from is a tank. You can find these at most if not all of your local pet stores.

When you are purchasing a tank for your new turtle, there are a few things that you are going to have to keep in mind to make sure that you are picking the best one.

Semi-aquatic turtles tend to swim a lot, so you need to be sure that there is enough space. Most semi-aquatic turtles are going to need a tank that is at least 50 gallons. Remember that your new turtle is going to want to swim back and forth more than up and down.

If you plan on housing more than one turtle in the same habitat, make sure that you are providing enough space for each one by getting a tank with additional space. Most people recommend that you have 10 gallons for each inch in length of turtle. Therefore, if you have two turtles that are 5 inches long, you should have at least a 100 gallon tank.

It is also important to make sure that the tank you are buying for your turtle’s habitat can hold water. Not every tank is meant for aquatic or semi-aquatic species, so picking the wrong tank could be bad. To learn more, check out my article on the best turtle tanks.

Water vs Land

The next step to setting up the habitat for your semi-aquatic turtle is figuring out whether your turtle needs water, land, or both. Well, the answer to this question is in the name “semi-aquatic”. A semi-aquatic animal lives partly on land and partly on water. This being said, you are going to need your turtle’s tank to have both plenty of water and at least some land. But how much of each, and how do you accomplish this?

When it comes to how much water to land you need, it’s pretty simple. Your semi-aquatic turtle is going to want there to be more water for swimming than land for basking. That being said, you should try to have around 75% of your turtle’s habitat made of water.

However, there are some pet turtles such as box turtles that live mostly on land. These turtles should have around 75%-90% of their habitat as land.

Now that you know how much water you are going to have, now you have to decide how to create the perfect basking spot for your turtle. Luckily for you, there are plenty of options in stores to get the look you are going for.

There are floating docks, rock-like structures that sit on the bottom of your tank and rise out of the water, and even tanks that are designed with a basking spot already attached. You can learn more in my article on turtle basking platform ideas.

No matter what option you choose, make sure you have a ramp from the water to your basking spot so that your turtle has easy access.


Once you have your tank set up with the water and land proportions correct, you need to determine what temperatures the water and the basking spot need to be to keep your turtle happy and healthy. You see, turtles are cold-blooded creatures, meaning they can’t maintain their body temperature without the aid of outside sources.

If a cold-blooded animal isn’t able to be in an environment that is warm enough, drastic health problems could occur. In extreme cases, this could lead to death. That being said, maintaining proper temperatures in all places of your turtle’s habitat is essential. Cold temperature is the number one cause of pet turtle diseases.

There are many different species of pet turtles, and each one is going to have specific temperature requirements. However, most species tend to do best when the water they are kept in ranges from 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit. You can buy heaters for your turtle’s tank at most pet stores. When you purchase a heater, it is important to make sure that you are getting one that can heat the amount of water that you will have in your tank.

The basking spot that you have set up for your semi-aquatic turtle is going to need a higher temperature than the water. Most turtles need a basking spot that is around 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit. You can heat your turtle’s basking spot with a heat lamp hovering above it.

There are thermostats and dimmers that can be bought and attached to your heat lamp. This will make it much easier to monitor the exact temperature your turtle’s basking spot is.

It is also important to note that even with keeping the temperature of the water and basking spot just right, you need to keep your turtle’s habitat in a warm room. If you have your turtle in a room that is cold, your heaters and heat lamps will work harder than they need to.

Foliage and Hiding Places

Now that you have everything you need to keep your turtle healthy in his new home, you need to start looking into buying some foliage and hiding spots. Would you want to live in an empty home?

Well, neither does your turtle!

There are plenty of options for creating “clutter” for your turtle to hide amongst and explore. From fake plants, sunken ships, rocks, and more, you have so much to choose from. Some turtle owners will regularly switch up their turtle’s habitat to keep their pets from becoming bored with their homes.

After setting up everything for your new semi-aquatic turtle, you are going to want to have it running for at least 24-48 hours before you put your turtle in it. This will allow you to monitor the water chemistry and temperature.

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