Turtles are wonderful pets and a joy to keep but unless you have an understanding of their basic needs, you may have trouble with these creatures. Most turtles are either entirely aquatic, living completely underwater, or semi-aquatic, meaning they need access to land as well as water. Turtles also have specific requirements in regard to tank parameters such as water temperature and filtration. The water in your turtle tank needs to be maintained at a certain quality to ensure that your turtles thrive. If you want to make sure your turtles stay happy and healthy you need to learn the basics of turtle care.
Basic Tank Set-up
Before you bring home your turtle you need to set up his tank and, to do so, you need to know whether your turtle is aquatic or semi-aquatic. Some of the most common species of aquatic turtles kept as pets are soft-shelled turtles and the most popular semi-aquatic turtles are red-eared sliders and painted turtles. The first thing to consider when setting up a tank for your turtles is tank size – some species of turtle can grow up to 12 inches long and thus require very large tanks. If you are thinking about keeping more than one turtle, be sure to start with an aquarium no less than 20 gallons in capacity.
In addition to tank size, you also need to think about the set-up and the type of equipment you will use. To keep the water in your turtle tank clean, you will need to invest in a quality aquarium filter which will remove solid and dissolved waste products from the water. You should also think about purchasing an aquarium heater to keep the water in your turtle tank at a stable temperature between 75° and 82°F. You may also want to include a heat lamp positioned over a large rock to provide your semi-aquatic turtles with a place to bask. For the most part, tank decorations should be sparse. Offer your turtles several rocks and branches to climb on to get out of the water but be sure to leave plenty of open space for swimming as well.
One of the most important things you need to include in your turtle tank is UV lighting. Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles require regular exposure to this type of lighting in order to maintain healthy shell growth. Without proper UV lighting, your turtle could develop metabolic bone disease, or soft shell syndrome. To prevent this from happening to your turtles, invest in a quality lighting system that incorporates UVA and UVB light using bulbs that are specially designed for reptiles.
Tips for Maintaining a Turtle Tank
As your turtles eat they will also excrete waste and this waste will build up along the bottom of your tank. To prevent this waste build-up from affecting the water quality in your turtle tank you need to perform routine water changes on a weekly basis. Using an aquarium vacuum, siphon the dirty water from the bottom of the tank, removing up to 20% of the tank volume. Once you have removed the dirty water, replace it with fresh tap water treated with a dechlorinating solution. In addition to performing regular water changes, you might also consider installing an EcoBio-Stone in your turtle tank. EcoBio-Stones are made from porous volcanic cement and are infused with beneficial bacteria. Once these bacteria are introduced into your tank they will rapidly multiply and begin working to maintain the nitrogen cycle in your tank, converting harmful toxins like ammonia into less harmful substances such as nitrates. By ensuring the maintenance of the nitrogen cycle in your turtle tank, an EcoBio-Block will help to keep your tank water clean and clear.