Aquatic turtles require a large and complex habitat. Creating a suitable habitat is essential in maintaining a healthy and happy turtle. Basically, you will need a large habitat that contains water, a dry area for sun basking, a heat source, and a UV light source. This post will discuss tank size and water maintenance.
Tank Size and Water
Aquatic turtles spend most of their time underwater. These are some guidelines for calculating how large of a tank and how much water you need to provide for your turtle. Aquatic turtles are 5-11 inches in length on average, depending on the species.
Depth of tank: 1.5 to 2 times the length of your turtle’s shell
Example: An 8-inch turtle needs water that is 16 inches deep (8×2)
Length of tank: 4-6 times the length of your turtle’s shell
Example: An 8-inch turtle needs a tank that is between 48 inches (4 feet) long (8×6)
Number of gallons: 10 gallons per 1 inch of shell
Example: An 8-inch turtle will need 80 gallons of water
For the above depth and length examples I used the higher end of the recommended guidelines, but I do believe that a turtle with more room to swim will be a happier and healthier turtle. Your aquatic turtle will spend most of its time underwater (swimming, eating, sleeping), so space and cleanliness and crucial.
It is very important for the water to remain clean. The water will become soiled by food particulate and also your turtle’s waste (remember, they go to the bathroom in the water.)
Cleaning the water in your turtle’s tank is a really big job and a big commitment. I was in the fish and aquatic turtle section of a pet store once and a young man asked the underwater specialist what type of filter he could buy so that he would never have to clean his turtle’s tank. The employee looked very puzzled and tried to explain that there was no filter with that power – that the young man must clean the water himself – and that young man argued! This young man didn’t do his research before adopting a turtle – that much was clear.
You MUST remove soiled water and add fresh water to your turtle’s tank. Otherwise, your turtle will become sick and may die.
Many turtle owners do a complete water change once per week. So, if you have an 8-inch turtle, this means you will be emptying and replacing 80 gallons of water. Other turtle owners change 50% of the water weekly, and every 3-4 weeks do a complete water change. When all of the water has been removed from the tank, the sides of the tank should be cleaned as well.
Think about your home and your access to fresh water. How will you remove the water? How will you refill the tank?
Jennifer Kean is a writer and pet-lover who owns two rescue kittens (lifetime cat owner too!) and has a 40 gallon fish tank!