Turtle Tanks and Aquariums | Getting Started Guide

Basic Requirements

A well setup turtle tank

This is a basic setup, but it is well thought out and will be very easy to clean.

Many people think that a standard fish aquarium will also suit a turtle, but this is not always the case. Even a small turtle needs lots of room to move around and turtles do not have stunted growth when placed in a small tank. A 75 litre tank is the absolute minimum that we recommend for small turtle species. A 150 L tank is our “ideal size”, but anything larger than this will also be suitable. The tank shape is equally important and the best kind of tank is a long tank, which is commonly known as a breeder tank. Choosing a tank is dependent on the species and how many turtles you will be keeping in the tank. The next step after purchasing your turtle tank is to set it up correctly.


Beginners turtle tank

Another simple design that will work well and be very easy to maintain.

The following is a basic guide to getting your turtle tank ready for your new turtle. For more specific details on your species please ask your local turtle breeder, pet store or vet.

Water depth

A general rule is that the water depth for any aquatic turtle should be about as deep as the turtle is long.


The heating requirements for your turtle will depend on the species of turtle that you are keeping. Temperate species are happiest at about 18°C-24°C, but can cope with temperatures up to about 27°C. As you would expect, tropical species require more warmth and are much more sensitive to cold. As a general rule, tropical species should be kept above 27°C, but you should check this with a professional.


Turtles, like all reptiles, need two special sources of light. The first type of light they need is a simple heat lamp. Turtles are cold blooded and they will use this heat lamp to heat themselves up. The other type of light that your turtle needs is a full spectrum UV lamp. These provide much needed UVB rays, which provide your turtle with enough vitamin D. Without this your turtle could become deficient, which can cause health problems. Alternatively, you can place the tank in a position where it will receive natural sunlight.

Land areas

The ideal turtle tank will have a land area where the turtle can come right out of the water. This is referred to as a basking area and is a good area for your heat lamp so the turtle has a place to warm themselves. This basing area can be created with rocks or you can purchase a specially designed turtle ramp. These have suction cups that stick to the glass of the aquarium so that you can place the ramp where it is needed. You can also make your own land area out of household items such as plastic/plexiglass.

Hiding places and plants

Turtles also enjoy a place to hide and having enough rocks will give your turtle a nook or cranny for hiding. On your land area a simple box or small log is a good hiding area. Plants can also be added to provide cover, but be aware the turtles will eat real and even fake plants at times.


The choice of substrate is very important because turtles have been known to eat small gravel, which can be harmful to their health. A sand base or medium river rock is usually the best choice. Always rinse your substrate before using it in your turtle tank!


Filtration is the most important consideration when setting up a turtle tank. Turtles do almost all of their eating and defecation in the water, which means that harmful toxins will build up in the tank if it is not filtered/cleaned regularly. Many people don’t realise that turtles are sensitive to the same chemicals as fish. You should ensure that you have a filter capable of cleaning the water and removing all old food particles. Make sure the tank doesn’t have any “dead spots”, which is simply a place where the filter current doesn’t clean.

Tank Maintenance and Cleaning

Cleaning a turtle tank.It is good practice to change the water in your tank at least once a week. A 50-100% water change is recommended. If you are adding tap water then you should remove chlorine from the water as well and seek advice about any other water treatment that may be necessary. Many people use aquarium salt and turtle water conditioner, but it is important to seek the advice of a professional for the best advice for your tank. A complete tank clean is advisable once a month and at this time it is also a good idea to clean out your filter. At this time it is also a good idea to inspect your tank and ensure that it is in good condition.

About the Author

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *