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The best size of aquarium for your turtle is dependent on a variety of factors, including the type, size, and how many turtles you have, and whether you want to breed. Also, take into consideration personal preferences with regard to how much time and effort you want to put into maintenance and upkeep. The larger and more elaborate the setup, the more attention it requires.
Turtle breeds grow at different rates, so you either should consider the potential size your turtle eventually will grow to when selecting a tank, or be prepared to upgrade the size as necessary to accommodate your turtle’s growth. In general, aquatic and semiaquatic turtles require a tank that has dry and wet space, and the wet space should be wide and deep enough for the turtle to turn itself over without hitting the aquarium walls or obstacles. For baby turtles, select nothing smaller than a 20- or 30-gallon tank to start. Longer tanks might be more appropriate than short, tall tanks, as they will provide more usable space for the turtle.
Tortoises and box turtles are easier to maintain than aquatic turtles, as they require only desert substrate and a shallow water dish for submerging themselves. Long tanks are more appropriate than short, high-walled habitats to promote roaming, with a 2-by-3 foot tank serving as the most adequately sized environment for a single small turtle. As the turtle matures, increase tank size accordingly, maintaining an aquarium floor space that is six times larger than the turtle.
If you plan to breed your turtles, you will need enough tank space to accommodate a sandy area for your turtles to lay eggs. Turtles that don’t have access to appropriate egg-laying conditions may fail to release their eggs, which can result in medical problems, or they may lay them in an open, inappropriate area, like on a basking platform.
Turtle Tank Showcase
In addition to being functional, turtle habitats also can be decorative, serving as a showcase in your home. If you decide to deck out your turtle tank with driftwood, slate caves, rock caverns and other design elements that take up space, take the occupied space into account when determining the appropriate tank size you need. For example, if you have a 30-gallon tank that contains 50 percent decorations, you only have 15 gallons of space available for your turtle habitat, and, therefore, should move up to a minimum of a 60-gallon tank.
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; An Overview of Common Semi-Aquatic Turtles; David T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D
- Michigan State University: Caring for Your Pet Turtle
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Starting Out with Semi-Aquatic Turtles; David T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D
- UC Davis: Care of Desert Tortoises
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images