How to Set Up a Turtle Terrarium

Written by laura ross
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
How to Set Up a Turtle Terrarium
Red-eared sliders are common freshwater pets and should be cared for properly. (turtle image by ultraman from

Semi-aquatic turtles are fun, active, energetic pets that need to be cared for properly. These animals are sold as babies and grow considerably in size the first few months of life, as do other species of turtles. When designing your turtle's home, you need to take growth into consideration. Caring for a turtle is a rewarding hobby, especially if you construct your turtle's terrarium as a beautiful, natural display piece in your home.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 20 gallon aquarium (minimum size) with mesh or glass lid
  • Large smooth, flat rock(s)
  • Fresh water
  • UVB lighting
  • External filter

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Choose the species of turtle that is right for you and the space that you have. Turtles grow to all different lengths and many have different types of habitat requirements. Be sure that you can care for the turtle that you purchase. Red-eared sliders can grow to at least a foot in length while snapping turtles grow even longer. Mud and musk turtles stay smaller in size, at about 6 inches in length, as do the Reeve's turtles.

  2. 2

    Purchase an aquarium that is suitable to the size of the turtle that you plan to purchase and that has a glass, mesh or other type of lid. Even if you want to purchase a baby turtle, it will save time and money by setting up an appropriately sized tank now since your turtle will grow considerably in the first few months. Turtles are at least semi-aquatic so the terrarium you purchase needs to be water-sealed. If you are unsure whether or not the tank you are looking to purchase can hold water, ask an employee at the pet or fish store you are shopping in.

  3. 3

    Position the smooth, flat rocks in one section of the aquarium. Stack the rocks so that when the water is added, this section will be above water. If you find one large rock that suits this purpose you can use that rock instead of multiple smaller ones. The turtle needs to be able to completely remove him or herself from the water. This is an important part of your turtle's habitat because many turtles are semi-aquatic and require a dry area where they can bask. Basking is a natural behaviour that you want your turtles to be able to exhibit.

  4. 4

    Pour in enough fresh water so that your turtle has ample swimming space, but can still stick his or her head above water to breathe. The height of the water level should be between 6 to 8 inches high, but will depend on the size of your turtle. Check to see that the flat rocks in the aquarium are still above the water level.

  5. 5

    Select a lighting system that is appropriate for your turtle. All turtles require UVB radiation for calcium uptake and to lead a healthy life. The bulbs that contain UVB radiation are sold in reptile and pet stores. There are even some bulbs that combine heat and UVB radiation into one bulb, which can simplify the set-up process and eliminate the need for a water submersible heater. The lighting should be positioned directly above the basking spot created for the turtle with the above-water flat rocks. Ensure that the lighting is positioned the appropriate distance between the turtle's basking spot and the bottom of the light bulb to prevent burning your turtle or poisoning it with too much radiation. The appropriate distance will be noted on the box of the bulb you purchase.

  6. 6

    Set up a filtration system that has a generous flow rate. Turtles produce a considerable amount of waste. To prevent excessive water changes, an external filtration system should be utilised. The size and type of filtration system will depend on the type of turtle you decide to purchase. Canister filters are popular filtration systems commonly used in turtle tanks. While the initial purchase of a canister filter can be pricey, the time and effort saved from not having to constantly change your turtle's water and for maintaining a healthy tank for your turtle will be a huge pay off.

  7. 7

    Bring your turtle home and enjoy watching him or her explore the new habitat. Be sure that every part of your aquarium is functioning properly before introducing your new pet.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.