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REPTILE / new pets

A Set-up Guide for New Turtle Parents

Tips for health, home, food and fun


4 things to know about aquatic turtles

  • Experience: Beginner
  • Size: They grow about 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) long
  • Lifespan: Turtles live as long as 15 to 25 years
  • Habitat: Turtles live in semi-aquatic environments

How do I set up my turtle’s home?


Aquatic turtles can live in a tank or pond, in groups, and with larger fish (they’ll eat small fish). These guys are strong swimmers and need an aquarium that’s at least 55 gallons in volume. It should have a screened lid and a filter. Line the aquarium with gravel, which you can vacuum clean.

Heating and lighting

Your turtle’s habitat should have two thermometers (one for water temperature and another for the dry side of the tank).

  • Hang a heat bulb over the dry side of the habitat if tank temperature dips below 70 F overnight, you’ll want to get a night-specific heat lamp for your reptile friend.
  • Use an underwater heater to maintain water temperature.

These are the best temperature ranges for turtles:

  • Water temperature should be kept between 72 and 77 F (22 to 25 C) day and night
  • The wet side of your turtle’s habitat should be kept at 75 to 85 F (24 to 29 C)
  • The dry side with a basking spot should be 85 to 90 F (29 to 32 C)
  • At night, when the basking light is turned off, the temperature inside the tank should remain 65 to 75 F (18 to 24 C)


  • Aquatic turtles are most active during the day. If you keep them away from daylight, light their home with a UVA or UVB bulb for 12 hours a day.
  • Wondering about the shell games that go on in the dark? Get a night-specific bulb to check it out.

How can I decorate my turtle’s home?

  • Use aquarium gravel to create a sloped area above the water level or you can utilize a landing dock.
Shop 55-gallon aquarium Shop underwater canister filter Shop water temperature thermometer Shop thermometer for basking spot Shop heating lamp Shop habitat decor

How do I handle my turtle?

Your turtle likes to be lifted at the midsection, not by the legs. Keep an eye on kids around your turtle, and always wash your hands before (and after) handling your turtle.

How can I keep my turtle healthy?

Let your turtle settle into its new surroundings for the first three or four days after you bring them home. If you see any of these symptoms, take your turtle to the vet for a check-up:

  • Hiding most of the time
  • Minimal eating or drinking
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen joints
  • Discharge from eyes, nose or mouth
  • Skin discoloration
  • Droppings that are runny for more than two days

If you have more questions about your pet’s health, talk to a PetSmart store associate or a veterinarian familiar with reptiles.


  • ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after contact with any pet or its habitat.
  • Adults should assist children with hand washing after contact with a pet, its habitat or aquarium water.


Pets purchased at PetSmart are part of our exclusive Vet Assured™ program, designed by PetSmart veterinarians to help improve the health and well being of our pets.

Our vendors meet a high standard in caring for pets and screening them for common illnesses. This program also includes specific standards for in-store pet care.


If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.