Turtle Habitat


Current turtle tank setup:


How to take care of a turtle? Well a correctly setup aquatic turtle habitat is key to his long healthy life. To ensure your habitat has the essentials, refer to my suggestions on this page and the “Hatchlings” page. With my experience and after consulting with my turtles (I wish) here is a basic needs list that the turtles need to stay healthy and happy:

1. Tank: An aquarium (not terrarium) that is built to hold water. A rule of thumb when sizing your turtle for their tank is each inch of your turtle (from front of shell to the butt of the shell) needs 10 gallons. This means a fully grown female red-eared slider will require a 120 gallon tank while a male will need 60-80 gallons. This is something to plan for as your turtle grows

Suggest Tanks: Pick up your aquarium (meaning it can hold water) at a Pet store. They are much cheaper in store and you can save big on sales like the dollar per gallon at Petco or 50% off during Black Friday this year.

I would stick to the 10 gallon per inch of your turtle to ensure he has ample space to move around.

For example, from head to tail your turtle measures 4 inches I would suggest a 40 gallon tank.

2. Lights: UV lights are required for your turtle to regulate its temperature and bask as well as obtain the essential UVB light for a healthy shell and body. Lighting requires both bulbs and a safe fixture.



Greaaaat Bundle packages exist for turtle lighting and the basking (halogen) light lasts about 6 months while the full spectrum light (flourescent) lasts a year! The halogen boasts a ‘Tuff” build too for turtles splashing and kicking.
Zoo Med Combo Pack Turtle Lamp





Light Fixture

The double mini deep dome lamp fixture is perfect for the two bulbs you need for your turtle tank. I purchased a larger fluorescent when I first got my turtles so I had to go with the regular size deep dome and one mini deep dome. These fixtures are great because they have a ceramic grip you can grab hold of when the lamp is on and the rest of it is extremely hot.
Zoo Med Mini Combo Deep Dome Lamp Fixture



Light Fixture Stand

This lamp stand is made for the deep dome lamp fixtures sporting adjustable height and length and has an on/off switch right on the post. You do not need the stand if you have a screen top. I just put the lamps right on top of the metal screen top of my tank which works perfectly well, you just might want to keep the water level a little lower to make sure you don’t scorch your lil guy.

Zoo Med Reptile Lamp Stand



3. Basking Dock: Turtles need a place to exit the water and absorb heat from a heat lamp. It is important that the dock resides directly under the heat lamp and is accessible to the turtle with a ramp or slope. A few that you can buy are shown below but I have found these are not a good fit for my full grown sliders. I have been making my own docks which is actually pretty fun and you can make it awesome or simple as you want. I talk about it in my recent post: Turtle Basking Dock DIY Above Tank

The Zoo Med Turtle Dock is awesome especially for smaller turtles. These puppies suction cup to the side of your tank and float with the rising and falling of your tanks water level. There is a convenient ramp for your turtles to climb up and it comes in many sizes. The largest size is great for turtles up to about 6 inches as the weight of my bigger turtle Moses has just recently become to great for the medium sized dock and the side of it dips in the water when she tries to mount it. I actually made my own turtle basking dock with PVC, eggcrate, reptile and reptile turf which came out great, I’d suggest doing this if you like to take on little projects like that because you can make it as big as your heart desires.

Zoo Med Turtle Dock


The Zoo Med Floating Turtle Log is also fantastic. It looks great in the tank and I feel it gives a bit of a natural touch to your turtles word. The log floats freely in the tank with just the top above the water. It is easy for the turtle to slliiiide up onto and its hollow giving them a fun little hiding place. Its a good place for fish to hide too! I’ve had this in my tank for over 2 years now and the turtles love it. Just be sure the log stays in range of the basking lamp so the turtles can get their tan on.

Zoo Med Floating Turtle Log

4. Filter: In order to keep the tank water clean and without harmful chemicals, a powerful filter must be used for your turtles.

See Best Turtle Filters for my recommendation!
Still, with a turtle filter you need to keep the water quality in check. Many cities and towns have chlorinated crappy water that your turtle should not live in. An easy solution to this is the water instant water cleaner:

Reptisafe is exactly what your turtle tank needs to clear chlorine, heavy metals and stimulates a natural slime coat. I suggest the biggest bottle you can get because it will last years.

Zoo Med ReptiSafe Water Conditioner, 64 oz


EasyStrips are a simple and cheap way to check your water quality. It literally take 61 seconds to check Nitrate, Nitrite, Harndess, Chlorine, Alkalinity, and pH! All essential attributes to keep at safe levels. The bottle comes with a convenient scale that you hold your test trip up to to compare your results. It also says if your result is safe for inhabitants of your tank.

Tetra EasyStrips 6-in-1 Test Strips



5. Food: What do turtles like to eat? They will take a nibble of whatever you put in the tank (well try to at least). Turtles need proper food to obtain essential nutrients so that they grow strong healthy with hard shells. There are tasty food formula pellets that can be purchased making feeding your turtle easy and hassle free. These pellets contain all the appropriate nutrients your turtle would usually get from its food in the wild. Be sure to look at the size of the pellets to make sure your turtle can fit one in their mouth, they range from tiny nerd size to like Reese’s Puff size I would suggest buying the biggest container you can bring yourself to buy to save money. If would like to give your turtleyturt a more natural diet their are easy ways to fill their hungry bellies including leafy greens, freeze-dried shrimp or krill, crickets, superworms, rosy red minnows and even pinky mice? (ew to that last one) These can all be obtained at your local pet store.


I’ve been feeding my turtle ReptoMin for some quite some time now and they love it, well they love just about anything they can put in their mouth but this gives them the nutrients they need. I just sprinkle about as much as they can eat in a few minutes once a day.

Tetra ReptoMin Sticks Reptile Food





If you want to spoil your shell guy get him some of these tasty treats! Bugs!

Fluker Aquatic Turtle Medley Treat




6. Heater: If you live in a colder climate, red-eared sliders water temperature should be 76-84 degrees, any lower can be dangerous for the turtles. Note: Heating element should be robust to stay intact when rough housed by a turtle.
This is a fantastic heater that comes in various sizes (wattages). “Shatterproof and nearly indestructible” this heater is perfect for a turtle as they will run into it, smack it, spank it, and do everything to try and break it but don’t worry, this knight can take the heat, I mean give it. each size comes with a suggested tank size and a thermostat built in.



If you do not need a heat in the tank or it is the summer I would suggest having this little guy to make sure your tank AND basking area are at the right temperatures for your turtle. For a Red-Eared slider this means a minimum of around 72 degree water and a basking spot that reaches around 90 degrees.

HDE LCD Digital Aquarium Thermometer






The Zilla Power timer has been a life saver for me and my turtles. You can set this 4 of the 8 outlets on power center to turn on and off when you want while the other 4 are regular outlets. So I have my basking lamps set to turn on during the day, currently 12 hours, and my two filters run constantly, all on this one power center. Truly a great investment especially if you leave your turtles for a few days or just forget to do it.

Zilla 24/7 Digital Timer Power Center




Additional Info:

How to clean a turtle tank? Cleaning your homies home can be a neusence but enuring you have the right filter and don’t over feed them can go a long way to keep your water crystal clear and free of toxins.

Dirty glass: rub of algae and grime with a clean cloth. I have a dish towel that I use exclusivel for the tank.

DON’T use cleaning solutions like windex, or dish soap or any other cleaning chemical. These are poison to your turtle and any fish friend that might be living with him.

Dirty Water: Change the water. Dirty water can be dangerous at it suggests an unsafe build up of nitrates and nitrite that can harm your turtle. If it is only a little murky, try changing half of the water.