turtle tank setup ideas

Have you decided to bring home a pet turtle? Congratulations, you picked one of the coolest pets possible!

Turtles are fascinating creatures and make excellent pets and little companions. They usually are quiet, gentle, and shy. Beste of all, you will not need to break the bank in order to keep and maintain a turtle. The adorable reptile adapts to a variety of tank conditions in your aquarium. Today’s article will cover everything your need to know about turtle tank setup ideas.

Ideas for a turtle tank setup

Turtles are generally considered low-maintenance pets. However, they require the right environment to thrive and stay healthy. The most important supplies for a turtle tank setup are a filter, heater, UVB light, thermometer, basking dock, ramp, and substrate.

  • Water filtration system:  A good filtration system is essential for the cleanliness of your turtle tank. It is important that you get a filter that is powerful enough for the amount of water in your tank. Most filters will tell you how much water it can effectively filter. To learn more, check out my article on the best turtle tank filter.
  • Aquarium heater: Turtles are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature. To maintain the right water temperature in your turtle tank and basking area, it is best to get an aquarium heater. This is essential if you live in a cold region where the power goes out occasionally. Here is a great article to read on the top brands and products when you are ready to get an aquarium heater.
  • UVB light: Daily exposure to UV light is important for turtles. You can use UVA and UVB lighting for your turtle tank. There are some light bulbs on amazon that produce both UVA and UVB light at the same time.
  • Thermometer: You will have to monitor and regulate the tank temperatures, in both the wet and dry sections.
  • Basking dock: Turtles need an above-water space where your turtle can dry out and bask. You can set up a basking area by purchasing a floating platform, tank topper, or a pile of rocks for your turtle tank. Basking is very important for pet turtles as it allows them to produce vitamin D3.
  • Turtle ramp: If your basking platform doesn’t provide an easy way for your turtle to climb onto it, you may want to add a ramp to your setup. One of the biggest mistakes that first time turtle owners make is that their basking platform is not easily accessible. This can result in your turtle spending way too much time in the water.
  • Tank substrate and decor: You can put some additional rocks, branches, and other decor items in the turtle tank. It can be more fun to observe your turtle in an aesthetically pleasing tank. You can purchase cheap coconut and rock substrate on amazon. Additionally items to consider are:
    • Hiding spots: Turtles are shy and enjoy having a couple of places to hide. You can use rocks or other decor items as a hiding place for your little friend. This is also important if you plan to put fish in a turtle tank.
    • Aquarium plants: Aquatic plants can look great inside a turtle tank. You can either use real plants or fake ones. Some aquatic species of turtle will eat live plants if you have them in the tank.

Choose the right tank size

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. The bigger the tank, the better. Smaller tanks get dirty more quickly compared to larger tanks. Large tanks will give the turtle enough space to swim and flip itself upright in the aquarium. Glass aquariums are usually better to house pet turtles, as acrylic tanks scratch much more easily. Glass tanks are also easier to clean.

Below is a guide for the right size turtle tank:

  • For small turtle around 4-6 inches: you need at least a 30-gallon tank
  • Medium-sized turtles around 6-8 inches: you need at least a 50-gallon tank
  • For large turtles around 8 inches and above: you need to choose a 75+ gallon tank. I would personally recommend a 100 gallon turtle tank.

Water parameters

Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles and thrive better in a warm environment. You must ensure that you have well-filtered tank water. The ideal turtle tank conditions include:

  • Good, filtered water
  • Temperature for hatchling: 80 – 82 F
  • Temperature for adult turtle: 77 – 80 degrees F
  • pH level: slightly alkaline; between 7.4 to 7.8
  • If you plan on using tap water to fill up your turtle tank, you should check put water conditioners in the water.

Tank cleaning schedule

Just about all turtle tanks are prone to foul smell and the buildup of dirt and other debirs. This can be damaging to a turtle’s health, so regular cleaning is essential. Turtles need clean water and frequent water changes to survive.

It is recommended to have a good filtration system and a large tank. Otherwise, you may end up changing the water every day. Make sure that the excess algae is eliminated from your tank. I suggest cleaning your turtle tank at least once a month.

Tank Conditions and Decorations

  • Turtle tanks should always have a tank cover on top of them. This will protect your turtle in many ways. The tank cover will trap heat or lighting sources in the tank. Also, it will prevent turtles from escaping and falling. It also prevents harmful objects from falling into the tank.
  • The turtle tank should be divided into two areas, a wet and dry zone. Turtles need an underwater tank space and an above-water basking area. At least half of your tank should be underwater.
  • You can also use pre-made ramps, platforms, rocks, or logs to configure these spaces.

Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines for a turtle tank setup. Tank layout and decor are matters of personal taste.

In closing

Getting a pet turtle is a long-term commitment. You are responsible for keeping your turtle habitat clean and well-maintained. This might be the beginning of an amazing friendship. Create a pleasant experience for yourself and your turtle by setting up a thriving and clean tank. If you really want to creative, check out these great Star Wars tank decoration ideas or this article on turtle toy ideas.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article on turtle tank setup ideas! Did you find this article helpful? Feel free to share your thoughts and questions. We would be happy to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Turtle Tank Setup Ideas”
  1. Hi. I have a 75 gal tank I am going to use for my first turtle. Are turtles solitary or would it like a friend? Looking at male Map turtles that only get 5 in long.

    1. Hey Charley,

      You could put some fish in the tank. I would recommend Koi Fish or Comet Goldfish. Also since map turtles aren’t too big, you could also just get 2 map turtles for your 75 gallon tank. You would just need to make sure you have a basking are that fits both of them.

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