Turtles are one of the most popular pets, especially with kids preferring the quiet reptile over other noisy and troublesome pets. However, for new turtle pet owners and hobbyists, it is important that we take maximum care of these creatures and house them properly so that they can live a longer and healthier life.
It is recommended that we think about the habitat of the turtle before actually making a purchase. If you buy a turtle first out of excitement, you may be in for a rude awakening. The turtle needs a habitat modeled on its natural environment in the wild. Some turtle enthusiasts buy the reptile with zero knowledge about how it should be cared for so that it can survive in its new or adopted facility that is very dissimilar to the wild natural environment.
The most crucial things to consider while building a tank for turtle are proper heating, ventilation, lighting, clean water, and the right food for turtles.
What to Have While Planning a Turtle Tank
- Make sure to have a relatively large tank for the turtle. They need a proper amount of water and land!
- Having a water changing kit specifically designed for aquariums is crucial. These kits empty and refill the container properly and seamlessly. Make sure that the hose is of good quality and approved to be used with drinking water.
- A proper basking area where the aquatic turtle can expose himself to the sun or the heat, which is a vital aspect for his health, sustenance, and survival.
- Sufficient and proper illumination to provide a warm environment.
- The turtles are a species that require temperature in a particular range to survive; therefore, heaters must be placed in the tank to maintain temperatures in a particular range. Glass heaters should not be used. The turtle can smash this fragile equipment. Instead, use stainless steel hearts with a heater packaging to protect it from malfunctioning due to constant disturbance, and also to protect turtles from electrocution. Two thermometers are also required to record the temperatures of the water and the basking area of the aquarium.
- A filter is required to keep the water in the tank clean. If no filter is installed, the water in the tank must be changed every few weeks, which may be a hassle for some people.
- To check the chemical properties and water quality, the aquarium water testing kits or test strips should be utilized. For a newbie, the strips are recommended, but for experienced pet owners, the kits are recommended.
Other miscellaneous things that can be added to the tanks without actually affecting the environment are air pumps, decorations, pebbles, etc. These things can be added but are not mandatory. These efforts improve the overall appearance of the aquarium.
Aquarium Tank (Size, Shape, and Type) for Turtles
It may sound ridiculous, but make sure that the tank you buy (used or new) must be built to hold water. As discussed previously, there are tanks available in the market designed to keep land-specific animals (also called terrestrial reptiles). These tanks are fragile, and when water is filled, they tend to break and create a messy situation. Therefore, it is vital to choose a leakage-proof tank that can hold fish.
When selecting a tank, size is the most important aspect. The tank must be large enough to house the turtle even when it grows older. The basic rule is to get a tank that can hold ten gallons (40 liters) of water for every 2.4 cm length of its upper shell when the turtle grows to its full size. Following this rule, you do not have to buy a bigger tank if your pet turtle grows in size over the next few years.
The tank capacity mustn’t be too small either. A smaller tank will require consistent cleaning, and if it is too cramped, then your turtle will struggle to swim as well. Therefore, the tank must be big enough so that the turtle can swim without obstructions. The water is spread over a larger area so that it does not require cleaning now and then. A bigger tank will also more than one turtle to swim without bumping into each other or quarreling.
Depending on the species of turtle you have, you may need a tank customized according to their swimming needs. For instance, some turtles require a large vertical swimming space to survive. They include Red Earned Sliders, while others (Musk Mud, etc.) require shallower tanks due to their poor swimming skills.
The depth of the tank, no matter which turtle species you have, must be greater or equal to the width of the turtle so that it can smoothly flip back if it turns upside down in the water. If the turtle turns upside down, and the water capacity is low, it will struggle to regain its natural shape; as a result, the turtle may die due to drowning. For example, if your turtle’s width is 4 inches you need AT LEAST four inches of water depth.
Landing Area / Basking Area
One of the important aspects of building a turtle aquarium tank is the basking area. Turtles are reptiles that require a dry surface on which they can climb and dry up or SUN themselves. Various platforms such as the turtle dock are available in the market, but you can use anything that serves the purpose like a rock, a log, etc. Remember that in the care of an indoor fish tank, the turtles bask in the turtle basking lamp, not in the natural sunshine. The platform, whatever it may be, must be elevated enough so that it doesn’t get moist, and the turtle can ascend it to enjoy its basking adventure.
For a newbie, the best basking platform is a plastic turtle dock that can float and adjust to various water depths. It also ensures that there is ample space for turtles to swim underneath its base.
Hard surfaces, like rocks or logs, can be used too. Care must be taken to boil or sanitize the decor taken from a natural environment outdoors to kills algae, germs, or any other organisms. Moreover, the rock must not have any sharp edges. The rock must be smooth from all sides to prevent the turtle from seriously hurting itself if it touches the surface.
Mostly, the pet owners employ metal heat-proof tank covers that are cheap and readily available in the market. These covers prevent the substances from outside the tank from entering the aquarium and also prevent turtles from exiting the tents, which they attempt sometimes.
It is strictly not recommended that you use any type of glass or Plexiglass cover on top of your tank. These covers prevent UVB rays that are essential to turtle’s survival from entering the tank and can shatter due to heat from the basking lamp due to their fragility.
When you remove the tank cover to clean the habitat or supply feed to the turtle, it is advisable to place the cover as soon as possible to prevent overheating of the surroundings and an increase in basking temperatures. If you intend to leave the tank open from above for a prolonged period, then it is safer to turn off the basking lamp to prevent the tank from overheating.
This is a broad topic, but just to give you an idea, the turtles need an adequate supply of specialized illuminations, such as:
- Artificial daylight