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How to Create The Best Turtle Tank for Your Pet

Last Updated - May 26, 2022

No matter what type of turtle you own, your pet reptile must have a cozy turtle tank to call home. In this guide to turtle tanks, we're making a list of all the supplies you'll need to create your own turtle tank. And we'll answer a few FAQs along the way to ensure your pet gets the best turtle tank possible.

We've Rounded Up Everything You Need to Set Up a Turtle Tank

Reptile Tank

First things first, you'll need to purchase the turtle tank itself. Turtle tanks are similar to fish tanks, usually varying between sizes and accessories. You'll want to do a little research before making a purchase to ensure you get the correct size and style for the turtle species you own.

What Size Tank Do You Need For A Turtle?

The minimum tank size you need depends entirely on the size of your pet turtle. But in general, the bigger the tank, the more space, the better. As a general rule, you should have at least 10 gallons of water for every one inch of shell length.

Smaller species require at least a 30-gallon tank, and larger turtles will need a tank that's upwards of 75 to 125 gallons. If you've purchased baby turtles, smaller aquariums can accommodate them, and you will need to upgrade to a larger tank as your turtle grows.

The red-eared slider is the most popular pet turtle in the United States. If you are thinking of getting one or already have one, the best tank size is between 20-50 gallons depending on the age. Full-grown turtles require large tanks of a minimum 50-gallon water tank.

What Kind Of Tank Does A Turtle Need?

Due to their durability and versatility, glass or acrylic are undoubtedly the most popular turtle tank materials. Turtles spend most of their time in the water, so you'll likely want an aquarium with a screened top.

What Are The Best Turtle Tanks?

overall 

4.7/5

Price

$$$$

Sturdiness

Durability

Easy To Assemble

Tetra Deluxe Aquatic Turtle Aquarium Kit

This Deluxe Aquatic Turtle Aquarium Kit from Tetra is the perfect choice for first-time turtle owners. The complete kit includes everything you need to have a happy, healthy pet: a basking platform, heating lamp, boxwood plant mat, screen top with dome lamps, and a decorative filter with cartridges. Plus, it comes with Tetra food and water care product samples to get you started. The 20-gallon tabletop tank is well-suited for small aquatic turtles.

Material

Glass

Size

33.93 x 15.81 x 17.69 inches

What We Like

  • Ideal for aquatic turtles
  • This kit includes all the essentials needed for success
  • Includes a 3-stage filtration
  • Dome lamps are incorporated into the screen top for warmth and prime basking

What We Don't Like

  • Tank can be heavy for some
  • Lock lid can be flimsy

overall 

4.9/5

Price

$$$$$

Sturdiness

Durability

Easy To Assemble

Repti Zoo Sliding Door Reptile Terrarium

This Repti Zoo Sliding Door Reptile Terrarium makes a great addition to any reptile parent's repertoire. It can be used for lizards, snakes, and bearded dragons, in addition to aquatic turtles.

The front doors slide open for easy feeding and maintenance, then lock shut to keep your pet securely inside. A fixed front window panel offers the perfect spot for reptile dens and aquatic parts. Its screened top provides ample airflow and natural light. A raised, waterproof bottom frame accommodates a substrate heater beneath.

Material

Glass, Aluminum, Metal

Size

48 x 18 x 12.6 inches

What We Like

  • Screen top provides ventilation and lets in light
  • Raised, waterproof bottom frame is the ideal spot for a substrate heater
  • Front doors can slide separately, so it’s easy to feed your pet
  • Specially designed lock for extra security
  • Easy assembly and maintenance

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive
  • Tank can be heavy for some

Zoo Med Wood Tortoise House

Best Tortoise Tank

overall 

4.2/5

Price

$$

Sturdiness

Durability

Easy To Assemble

Zoo Med Wood Tortoise House

Zoo Med's Wood Tortoise House makes the perfect home for your pet tortoise or box turtle. The versatile reptile enclosure can also be used outdoors to provide your pet with some natural sunshine and fresh air.

It's crafted from all-natural fir wood with sturdy metal components like a wire safety cover with lockable latches. A private, weatherproof sleeping area provides a safe place for your turtle to rest or hide from perceived danger. Its expandable, modular design makes it a favorite amongst professional tortoise keepers.

Material

Wood

Size

36 x 24 x 12 inches

What We Like

  • Complete tortoise home with natural fir wood sidings and metal components
  • Features a weatherproof, private sleeping area and lockable wire safety cover
  • Designed for indoor and outdoor use

What We Don't Like

  • Can take some time to assemble

Filter

Aquatic turtles spend a good deal of time in the water. A strong filter will keep your turtle's tank clean and ensure they've got a healthy space to swim around. The most popular styles are a canister filter or an internal aquarium filter.

Do Turtle Tanks Need A Filter?

Water filters are essential to the health and well-being of your turtle. They're notoriously messy animals that produce a lot of waste. A heavy-duty filtration system that helps remove bacteria and toxins for a healthier, happier pet is essential.

What Is The Best Turtle Tank Filter?

overall 

4.5/5

Price

$

Easy To Clean

Noise Level

Suction Power

TetraFauna ReptoFilter Terrarium Filtration System

This TetraFauna ReptoFilter Terrarium Filtration System uses a 3-stage Tetra filtration system to keep the tank water clean and remove odors. The versatile design works in shallow water as little as two inches deep and in larger terrariums up to 50 gallons. It's easy to set up, easy to conceal, and easy to clean. Install it behind aquatic plants and rocks to create a relaxing water feature in your turtle's tank.

Tank Size

Up to 50 gallons

Size

30 x 17 x 11 inches

What We Like

  • 3 stage filtration
  • Designed to work in as little as 2 inches of water
  • Perfect for creating a waterfall feature you and your pets can enjoy
  • Uses ultra activated carbon to remove odors and discoloration

What We Don't Like

  • Can be loud

overall 

3.5/5

Price

$$

Easy To Clean

Noise Level

Suction Power

Zoo Med Turtle Clean 30 External Canister Filter

Keep your aquarium looking its best with this Turtle Clean 30 External Canister Filter from Zoo Med. With a sponge, activated charcoal, and bacteria-absorbing ceramic, it combines mechanical, chemical, and biological filtering systems. A spray bar provides greater aeration while running smoothly and quietly, thanks to the calibrated anti-vibration bushings. Its space-saving design is available for both 15 and 30-gallon tanks and filters at a rate of 160 gallons per hour.

Tank Size

Up to 30 gallons

Size

12.25 X 7.25 X 7.25 INCHES

What We Like

  • Combines mechanical, chemical, and biological filtering systems
  • External canister system is perfect for filtering turtle tanks, vivariums, box turtle pools or turtle tubs
  • Works with a sponge, activated carbon, and bacteria-absorbing ceramic media for more efficient filtering
  • Features an aerating spraybar, hose-connecting device, adjustable flow control system, and easy-to-open filter head
  • Space-saving design

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive
  • Can be difficult to set up
  • May not circulate the entire tank

Heater

Next, you'll want to add a heater to keep your aquatic friends nice and cozy. In addition to keeping your pet comfortable, keeping an ambient temperature helps improve your turtle's health. The water temperature should be kept around 72-77 degrees F, and the basking spot should be between 85 to 90 degrees F.

Do turtles need heaters?

Turtles are cold-blooded, so you'll need to provide an external heat source to keep them warm. Aquatic turtles need both a water heater and a basking heater for adequate temperature regulation.

What Is The Best Turtle Tank Heater?

overall 

4.5/5

Price

$

Easy To Read

Easy To Use

Accuracy

Zoo Med Turtletherm Aquatic Turtle Heater

This Zoo Med Turtletherm Aquatic Turtle Heater works in a variety of turtle habitats. The submersible heater mounts securely to glass tank walls with a large suction cup. For added safety, the unit automatically shuts off when it is removed from the water. Choose between 150-watt and 300-watt options depending on the size of your tank.

Size

2.5 x 7 x 12 inches

What We Like

  • Designed for a variety of different turtle habitats
  • Two watt size available
  • Easy to mount
  • Features an automatic shut-off for added safety
  • Space-saving design

What We Don't Like

  • Suction cup may not be strong

overall 

4/5

Price

$

Easy To Read

Easy To Use

Accuracy

Zilla Reptile Terrarium Heat Mat

This Reptile Terrarium Heat Mat provides your pet with a nice, cozy spot to curl up for a nap. It's designed for desert and tropical reptile species, amphibians, and arachnids. The heating pad attaches easily to your turtle terrarium with an adhesive mounting. Its energy-efficient carbon filter heats uniformly with optimal heat transfer. Choose between 4, 16, and 24-watt options that accommodate every shape and size tank.

Size

Multiple size available

What We Like

  • Ideal for desert and tropical reptile species
  • Provides an ideal external heat source
  • The carbon filter gives off uniform heating with zero hot spots
  • Energy-efficient and made without hazardous wires
  • Comes with adhesive mounting

What We Don't Like

  • Can be hard to use

Light

Turtles need both UVA and UVB light to stay healthy. Like humans, they need the sun's rays to produce Vitamin D and absorb calcium. It's essential to provide your reptile with a comfortable place to bask in a warm light.

Should I Leave My Turtle's Light On At Night?

There's no need to keep your turtle's light on overnight. Most turtles will bask for several hours each day. Some will need between 10 to 12 hours of UV light per day, so they'll be just fine in the dark for a few hours. In fact, turning the light off at night helps recreate a natural environment.

What Lights Do I Need For My Turtle Tank?

overall 

4.6/5

Price

$

Durability

Easy To Use

Accuracy

Zoo Med Reptile Lamp Stand

This practical Reptile Lamp Stand from Zoo Med is designed to safely suspend a lamp fixture or dripper above your reptile's enclosure. The base plate fits securely underneath the terrarium to keep it from getting knocked over. With adjustable knobs to change height and length, the lampstand can fit terrariums from 20 to 100+ gallons. A convenient on/off switch and safety clip keep power cords out of the way but still easily accessible.

Material

Aluminum, Metal

Size

20.625 x 8.5 x 3 inches

Recommended Tank Size

 From 20 gallons to over 100 gallons

What We Like

  • Designed to safely suspend a lamp fixture or dripper above your reptile enclosure
  • With adjustable knobs to change the height and length to fit your unique needs
  • Base plate goes underneath the terrarium to prevent it from getting knocked over
  • Features a convenient on/off switch and a safety clip to keep power cord out of the way
  • Sturdy

What We Don't Like

  • Can be hard to assemble

overall 

4.6/5

Price

$

Durability

Easy To Use

Accuracy

Fluker's Sun Dome Lighting Fixture

Fluker's Sun Dome Lighting Fixture makes an excellent choice for any reptile enclosure. The spring-loaded swivel head clamp attaches securely to the rim of any tank or terrarium. Constructed from high-quality aluminum and a ceramic socket, it's designed to increase the UVA and UVB output of the lightbulb inside. Its six-foot-long heavy-duty cord boasts an integrated switch for easy on/off control.

Material

N/A

Size

N/A

Recommended Tank Size

N/A

What We Like

  • This lighting fixture makes it easy to bath your reptile in soothing warmth and light
  • Features a 6' heavy duty cord with integrated on/off switch
  • Quality aluminum construction with ceramic socket, with highly polished aluminum inside to increase UVB & UVA output
  • Supports bulbs rated up to 100 or 160 watts
  • Sturdy

What We Don't Like

  • Can be hard to assemble and flimsy 

Decor

Unlike other reptiles and amphibians, your turtle tank should stay relatively sparse. Turtles are known for destroying tank decorations and turning unnecessary substrate into a waste-filled mess. Remember, the more complex your tank is, the more laborious it will be to clean.

What Do Turtles Like In Their Tanks?

The best tanks offer your shelled companions plenty of space to bask, splash, eat, and rest. At a minimum, your turtle needs some gravel or sand, a few driftwood pieces, a pool, plants, and a basking platform. Because turtles can be pretty destructive, stick mainly to tank decor made from natural materials instead of plastic that's potentially harmful if swallowed.

Best Decors To Add To The Tank

Zoo Med Turtle Dock

Zoo Med Turtle Dock

Provide your turtle with a relaxing place to lounge with this floating Turtle Dock from Zoo Med. It's designed with a submerged ramp for easy access and a dry basking area for maximum heat and light exposure. A self-leveling feature automatically adjusts to the water height for added stability. With three sizes to choose from, it can be used in all sorts of reptile and amphibian tanks.

Eco Terra Reptile Cave

It's essential to give your pet a safe, comfortable place to hide out, like this Eco Terra Reptile Cave. Providing your turtle with a bit of protection and privacy can help reduce stress and keep your pet happy. Crafted from faux rock, it adds a natural look to the habitat. With three size options to choose from, it's suitable for almost any reptile or amphibian.

Substrate Source Cholla Wood Aquarium & Terrarium Driftwood

Create a natural-looking space for your pet turtles with these Cholla Wood Aquarium and Terrarium Driftwood Pieces from Substrate Source. They're made from the dried husk of a Cholla cactus, giving them a soft, porous texture that's perfect for reptile habitats. Each set comes with three hand-selected pieces measuring approximately four inches long.

Plants

To add a natural flair, you can add java ferns, java moss, anubias, and anacharis. If you are going to add plants, opt out of artificial and opt-in on real plants.

Water Treatment

Your tank needs to be filled with enough water so your turtle will not drown. There should be enough water for your turtle to rotate, dive, and totally submerge. Your aquatic turtle's water should also be treated with a water conditioner and tested for ammonia and nitrite levels regularly.

Using water conditioners in your water will help keep your pet safe, healthy water to drink and soak in. It will remove chlorine and other contaminants from tap water to keep your turtle tank clean.

Best Turtle Water Treatment Products

overall 

4.6/5

Price

$

Scent

Value

Easy To Use

API Turtle Water Conditioner

This API turtle water condition is formulated specifically for turtles—designed to make tap water safe by removing chlorine and chloramines and detoxifying heavy metals.

Size

4 or 8 oz

What We Like

  • Compatible with all API products
  • Can be used in small ornamental pond with koi fish
  • Can be used for frogs and amphibians, including African Dwarf Frogs
  • Formulated specifically for use with turtles
  • Can be used in aquariums also containing freshwater fish

What We Don't Like

  • Need repeat use to see result

overall 

4.7/5

Price

$

Scent

Value

Easy To Use

TetraFauna AquaSafe Reptile & Amphibian Water Conditioner

TetraFauna Aquasafe Water conditioner instantly makes tap water safe for your turtles. Liquid water conditioner that quickly neutralizes harmful chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals such as copper, iron, and zinc. It also contains colloids that protect skin and can be used for other reptiles and amphibians.

Size

3.38 oz

What We Like

  • Instantly neutralizes harmful chlorine
  • Instant result in seconds
  • Contains colloids to protect the skin of turtles
  • Affordable

What We Don't Like

  • Bottle size is small for large tanks

API Water Test Kit

Best Water Test Kit

overall 

4.7/5

Price

$$

Easy To Read

Accuracy

Easy To Use

API Water Test Kit

This API Water Test Kit includes 7 bottles of testing solutions, 1 color card and 4 glass tubes with a cap. It helps monitor water quality and monitor 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

What We Like

  • Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate
  • Including 7 bottles of testing solutions, 1 color card and 4 glass tubes with cap
  • Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
  • Easier to use than the strip

What We Don't Like

  • Chart can be hard to read, especially nitrate
lara grisko the pet staff

About the Author

Lara Girsko

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.

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