Turtle Tank Guide

A proper turtle habitat is key to keeping them healthy. This is where your pet will spend most of their lives and it needs to be the best home it can be for your turtle. Here is a guide to make sure your turtle has the nicest place possible



The first thing you’ll want to consider is the size of your turtle. A turtle might start off weighing a few grams, but many can grow to be as heavy as 100 pounds. You’ll need to do advance research on the type of turtle you’re getting so that you can buy a habitat that will suit the one you choose. You can also plan to have your habitat grow as the turtles needs for a larger habitat and “go as you grow”. It is up to the owner’s personal preferences.   Make sure you’re providing an appropriate environment you’re your turtle or tortoise.

Some turtles hibernate, while others don’t. Not allowing your turtle to hibernate or brumate, can cause health problems down the road. Keeping a turtle is from a tropical environment demands keeping the habitat temperature consistently warm year-round.  Best reptile practices for turtles mean always having bigger habitat than what you think you’ll need. A crowded turtle cannot thrive or do well. Most turtles and tortoises in the wild occupy half to one-mile areas so even if a habitat for a small turtle is 50 gallons it is far healthier for the animal than a 5-gallon tank. If possible, provide turtles with outdoor space to roam around.  They do not thrive if never outside. Consider placing your turtle’s habitat outside whenever the weather permits and if it’s properly outfitted for the outdoors do that it is left alone, and no predators can disturb your pet. A balcony or porch with screening to ensure it cannot escape and AstroTurf is excellent to let a tortoise sun itself if a city-dwelling tortoise.



You’ll want to consider purchasing the following for your turtle’s tank:

A habitat: there are plenty of different materials you can use for this:

Christmas tree boxes, kiddie pools and plastic tubs or troughs are excellent habitats. A fish tank is only a best if you have an aquatic turtle. Plastic open containers are often better aquariums, as they’re easier to clean and weigh less than glass aquariums.

Sunning Rocks Most species of turtles like to lie out and soak up the sun. You need to make sure any rocks in a turtle or tortoises’ habitat are bigger than the size of your turtle’s head. Many turtles will consume those rocks if they’re too small. Nice big slate pieces for gardens make great additions to a turtle habitat as lizard sun decks.

A thermometer or temperature gauge: these are used to check the temperature of the water

Food: both fresh and pelleted and nutritionally complete

Both UV Light and a heat lamp: UV Light mimics the natural light of the sun. Use a timer to follow the day and night patterns of the seasons. All turtles and tortoises need a UV light specific to reptiles and provides a gradient range of temperatures throughout the habitat. Reptiles internal body functions, including digestion, are temperature dependent.  Reptiles need temperature gradients to do things internally.

You’ll want to replace the bulbs a few times a year to keep the temperature and wavelengths emitting at the right level. The sun is very Vitamin-D from it helps them absorb calcium from that they imbibe. Temperatures can drop into the 60s or 70s at night so there is no need for a red nightlight for turtles.

Many turtles, like the Russian tortoise, spend time underground, you’ll also want to build habitats for them to “hide” under, like they do in the wild.  Build them hidey-holes and burrows. Try using a dome-shape, hallowed wooden log and wet it periodically to keep the environment humid. With an aquatic turtle, you need to check the water frequently monitor the ammonia levels and de-chlorinate the water, Hess said.



Anytime you are handling either the turtles or the tank, you should either use gloves or wash your hands immediately afterwards. Turtles can carry bacteria like Salmonella so always be careful.

You should place the heat lamp on one side and the UV light on the other side. This creates a larger gradient and allows both hot and cool areas. Avoid putting them in a place with radical temperature shifts or drafts and never near the kitchen as turtles can carry Salmonella bacteria.



When cleaning your turtle tank, always remove everything from it and empty it completely.

Once you’ve emptied the habitat, clean the tank with a very dilute warm water bleach solution to kill any bacteria and then permit let the tank to soak for ten minutes.

Rinse off the cleaning solution with clean plain water and leave it air dry for a few hours.

Replace all the substrate (either peat moss, aspen, wood shavings, coconut shells or crushed walnut shells) with fresh materials.

Soak rocks in mild soapy water, trim back plants and remove any algae. Rinse all soap from rocks before replacing in habitat.


Frequency of tank cleaning is dependent he kind of turtle you have and how messy they are.  A moist tank ideally should be cleaned once or twice a month. A dry tank should be cleaned at minimum every few months.  Deep cleanings are required periodically.



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