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REPTILE / new pets

How to Take Care of an Aquatic Turtle


5 Cool Facts About Aquatic Turtles 


  • 1. Aquatic turtles make great beginner pets! 

  • 2. They can grow up to 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) on average. 

  • 3. These awesome pets are a long-term commitment, living up to 15 to 25 years. 

  • 4. Aquatic turtles are semi-aquatic animals. This means they spend some of their time in the water and some of their time above the surface. 

  • 5. These pets prefer to have their own space - not to be housed with other turtles. While they do not have teeth, their bites can still hurt! So it’s best to keep multiple pet turtles in separate habitats. 


Things to Know When Learning How to Take Care of an Aquatic Turtle: 


Turtles make great pets. They’re beautiful, interesting and have been around for many years. There are several things to know about before bringing them home, like their habitat, their diet and what reptile supplies you need to take care of them.


How Should I Set Up My Aquatic Turtle’s Aquarium? 


  • Aquarium Size - Your pet turtle is a strong swimmer and needs plenty of water to swim around in. A good rule of thumb is that an aquatic turtle aquarium should be 10-gallons (40-liters) of water per 1 inch (2.5 cm) of turtle shell. Make sure to have an area at the top of the tank that’s above water for them to bask. Increase the size of your aquarium as your turtle grows. 
  • Filter - Turtles produce quite a bit of waste. You’ll need a good aquarium filter to help keep that water clean. 
  • Substrate - Never use aquarium gravel for your turtle because they could eat it, which could be very dangerous. Substrate isn’t required for a turtle tank. You can use bigger rocks and other aquarium décor to still make your turtle’s tank look natural without the risk. 
  • Heating - Use an underwater heater to maintain the perfect water temperature. If your turtle's tank temperature gets too cold, you can also use a heat lamp to help warm it up and give your turtle the perfect place to bask. 
  • Temperature - Speaking of temperature, your aquatic turtle's dry area needs to be cool on one side and warm on the other. Their cool side should be kept at temperatures ranging between 75-85° F (24-29° C). The warm side/basking area should stay between 90-95° F (32-35° C). Their water should stay between 72-77° F (22-25° C). Their nighttime temperature should stay between 65-75° F (18-24° C). Use two aquarium thermometers, one under water and one in their dry area to keep an eye on it. 
  • Lighting - Reptiles need a 12-hour day/night cycle. Use a UVB bulb and basking bulb, each with a timer, near your turtle’s dry area to mimic the sunlight and control the temperature. 
  • Water - Water quality is critical to your turtle’s health. Change 50% of the tank’s water at least once a week. Completely replace that water at least once a month, if not more. Use dechlorinated water and water conditioners to get the desired water quality. Use a water testing kit to test the quality of your water at any time. 


What Should I Feed My Pet Turtle? 


  • Pellets - Turtle pellet food should be their primary food source. Give your pet pellets once a day, making sure to remove whatever they do not eat using an aquarium net after 15-minutes have passed. 
  • Vegetables - Turtles love vegetables. Feel free to feed them dark, leafy greens 3-4 times a week. 
  • Insects - Turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plants. Feed your pet aquatic turtle crickets, mealworms, waxworms or feeder fish once a week as a treat. 


Tips for Handling Your 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. ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.


When Should I Call My Turtle’s Vet? 


Before you bring your pet turtle home for the first time, make sure you have found a vet for them who’s familiar with reptile care. Other than their regular care, your pet turtle should go to the vet for a check up if they show any other following signs


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


Information in this article isn't intended to diagnose, treat or cure your pet and isn't a substitute for veterinary care provided by a licensed veterinarian. For any medical or health-related advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet, contact your veterinarian.