turtle care mistakes

While taking care of a turtle isn’t the hardest thing in the world, there are certainly a lot of mistakes that can be made. In today’s article, I’ll dive into some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to turtle care. If you prefer a video, you can watch my video below on the most common turtle care mistakes.

Most popular turtle care mistakes

The most popular turtle care mistakes are incorrect water levels, drowning hazards, feeding outside water, overfeeding, and incorrect temperature.

Incorrect water levels

One of the biggest mistakes I see among aquatic turtle owners is that they don’t have the correct water level in their tank. While there isn’t a perfect level, you should aim for your tank to be filled with around 70% to 80% of water.

If your tank is only filled with 50% of water or less, it can cause a couple of problems. For one, your water will get dirtier faster because the waste in the tank will not be broken down as easily. Additionally, low water levels mean your turtle will have less room to swim. This can negatively affect both their physical and mental health.

On the flip side, a tank that is filled up near the top can pose a serious risk to your turtle. Surprisingly, turtles are pretty good climbers, and they can easily climb out of a tank if there is no lid. Therefore, if you do have your water filled close to the top, then you should make sure to have a cover over the entire tank to prevent escape.

Drowning hazards

This mistake is often overlooked, but it can be deadly. You should make sure that you don’t have any decorations or filters arranged in such a way that could cause your turtle to get stuck underneath the object. For example, you should make sure that your filter isn’t positioned in a way that could cause your turtle to get stuck underneath it.

Unfortunately, drowning is one of the most common deaths of pet turtles.

Feeding outside water

Many turtles are not aware that most aquatic turtles prefer to eat their food directly in the water. This is because the water helps soften the food and makes it easier for your turtle to break it down and swallow it. When you feed an aquatic turtle out of the water, it can cause digestive issues, and in extreme cases even choking.


While we are on the topic of feeding, it’s also very important that you do not overfeed your turtle. It can be very hard when they constantly beg you for food, and they might even be able to trick you into thinking that you haven’t fed them enough.

It’s important to realize that it is natural for turtles to beg for food 24/7, regardless of whether or not they are hungry or not. Therefore, it’s important to stick to a regular feeding schedule. To learn more, you can check out my article on how much to feed a turtle.

Incorrect temperature

Another common turtle care mistake is that people don’t have the right water or basking platform temperature. It is important that you regularly check the temperature of your tank. Your water temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees fahrenheight. Your basking platform should then be around 10 degrees warmer. If your basking platform is too warm, you should try moving the basking light further away.

Incorrect habitat temperatures can cause a range of health issues for turtles, including respiratory infections.

Dangerous substrate

Another dangerous turtle care mistake is choosing the wrong substrate. It’s important that you don’t choose a substrate that will cause issues if your turtle swallows it. Since turtles are pretty avid scavengers, you have to assume that at some point your turtle will ingest the substrate.

Therefore, you should stay away from substrates such as crushed coral or small rocks that fit in your turtle’s mouth. This is because these substrates can cause very bad digestion issues if swallowed.

Instead, you should try out sand or large river rocks that are too big for your turtle to eat. You can learn more in my article on the best substrate for a red-eared slider.

Neglecting filters

Since filters are used to clean your tank, many people forget that you also need to clean your filters. While it will depend on the type of filter, you should clean your filter every couple weeks or months. If you go to long without cleaning your filter, it will become so dirty that it loses it’s efficiency and can’t clean the water anymore.

If you are in the market for a new filter, check out my guide on the best turtle tank filters.

Water conditioner

Last on the list of common turtle care mistakes is water conditioners. It is an absolute must to use a water conditioner if you fill your tank with tap water. Just about every sink or shower will emit tap water that has chlorine and chloramine in it. While this isn’t extremely toxic to your turtle, it can be dangerous over time. It can eventually cause your turtle’s shell to become white and brittle.

Water conditioners help remove the dangerous chemicals from tap water to protect your turtle. Luckily, water conditioners are pretty cheap and you can buy them on amazon.

Tank size

Lastly, a very common mistake that people make is that they don’t get big enough tanks for their turtles. You should have at least 8-10 gallons of water for each inch of your turtle’s shell. If you can’t afford a large tank, you should read my guide on the best small turtles for beginners if you plan on getting a turtle.

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