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Housing the Aquatic Turtle

Indoor, decorative setup.

Indoor, decorative setup.

Aquatic turtles are hardy animals. They are simply to stubborn to give in easily, an attribute one really has to respect. With Red Earred Sliders being one of the more popular and common aquatic turtles kept as a pet, there have been many creative examples of how to build a habitat for your turtle and how to maximize space,

Successfully housing a Red Earred Slider in a low maintenance habitat that meets their needs requires not only some planning and some trial and error but also space (the more the better). You may have seen the 'gallons per inch' standard, 10 gallons per inch of turtle. Which is alright, if you are taking into account the space that will be used up by decorations, basking spots and other fish in the tank.

Let me illustrate … You have a 4 inch, fast growing turtle and the standard rule of thumb is 10 gallons to 1 inch, therefore at minimum you need a 40 gallon space for the turtles habitat. You add rocks to create a basking spot, plastic plants, ten goldfish and when all is said and done, your 40 gallon tank just became 25 gallons of open space. Kinda cramped. Even if you have a hanging basking spot, your providing the minimum for 4 inches, and that turtle is growing steadily still. Within a few months that new habitat will be completely inappropriate.

Go big or go home, go as big as you can when you first get your pet turtle, it is much more cost, time and effort effective. I have touched on this a few times, because it really does make your time as a pet owner more enjoyable and thus a more positive experience. Your tiny turtle will grow and will grow quickly, regardless the size of the tank you put it in.

When you purchase your turtle and start with the twenty or thirty gallon tank, you run the risk of getting caught up in what I call the endless upgrade cycle. Bigger tanks, need stronger filtration, more sand and larger heaters. You see what I mean I am sure.

Stock Rubbermaid bin housing.

Stock Rubbermaid bin housing.

Importance of the Right Set Up

I am not going to tell you that you have to house him in a all glass aquarium tank that takes up half a room. I am not going to advise that you are a bad pet owner for using Rubbermaid bins or failing to dig a huge hole to fill with water in your backyard.

I have encountered so many different ways that people happily and successfully keep their pet turtles, whether it's a snapper, cooter, painted or slider. And that is what is most important that however you house them, it works for both of you. I personally, after thirty years of tank maintenance am all over low maintenance, but those who are new turtle owners, are quite often innovative and creative turtle keepers coming up with many ways to house their brand new pet.

In around 1940 a labourer brought home a small bright green turtle for his childless wife to care for. They had no idea how to care for it and since then the turtle has been living with this family like a dog or cat would. He has his small 'wading' pool, a eating dish and a warmed spot just for him. He has never been in a tank. His shell is a little knobby from to much protein, but otherwise healthy and thriving. People with limited spaces or even private rescues successfully use rubbermaid tubs or smaller tanks with an elaborate 'dry area'. Those watching the finances, have made use of old kiddie pools or stock tubs.

What one needs to consider is pros and cons of their set-up choice. If you take those into consideration, no matter what kind of set-up you come up will be a successful one.

Dips tank when younger.

Dips tank when younger.

Pros and Cons To Consider

All glass aquarium is by far the most popular choice for keeping turtles ... there are many other options, so long as you are aware of the pitfalls of your choice housing, they are all manageable.

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Glass Aquariums

  • You can see your turtle and their space, clearly.
  • A nicely set up tank can be colourful and with a clean lined or decorative stand adding a whole new level to your room.
  • They are easier to clean in my opinion, as they do not need to be completely emptied and with glass tanks, the larger the tank, the easier to maintain.
  • The main downfall of all glass tanks is when the tank is not properly maintained, it can be an eyesore.
  • They may leak or otherwise break, possibly causing property damage, but any standing tub of water can do that.

Kiddie pool housing

Kiddie pool housing

Kiddie Pools and Ponds

  • Great outdoor, seasonal housing.
  • Kiddie pools can be purchased new, from garage sales or ads for sale, perfect for the cash conscious.
  • Ponds can be expensive and time consuming, particularly garden ponds. Where a kiddie pool sits above ground, ponds are buried in the ground with filtration.
  • If using as an outdoor pond, easily add a few inexpensive items to create a safe habitat for the turtle from predators.

Stock pond

Stock pond

Tubs - Stock and Rubbermaid

  • Excellent for turtle sense of security, particularly when sick and being isolated, or perhaps new and being acclimatized.
  • Tubs are more easily moved and in a sense much less fragile.
  • Perfect for limited room, those who are financially seeking cheaper alternatives.
  • Great for do-it-yourselves projects, temporary housing or smaller turtles.

Bottom line

No matter how you house your turtle, so long as you provide water, food and a warm place for the turtle to bask, you will have a happy turtle and a great new pet that doesn't make you want to toss into the nearest lake.

More great resources


Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on December 14, 2011:

I like the idea of housing the turtle in a kiddie pool. Gives that plaything a special use when the kids aren't busy with it, and gives the turtle something new. Voting this Up and Useful.

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