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What Should I Put in My Snapping Turtle Aquarium?

| Updated September 26, 2017

Taking on a pet snapping turtle requires some work. Snapping turtles are aquatic, meaning they mainly live in water, and grow on average to be more than a foot long. They grow quickly, so you’ll need to keep up with your turtle’s growth by giving him the largest aquarium you can afford. When setting up your turtle's aquarium, keep in mind that snapping turtles are messy and love to bite everything they come in contact with.

The Aquarium

Snapping turtles need lots of room. In fact, it is recommended that the aquarium you're planning to use holds 10 gallons per inch of snapping turtle, and these turtles can grow 4 inches in a year. The aquarium should be wide to provide adequate movement, too. Their water needs to be cleaned every week because your turtle will foul the water.


The water temperature should be between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the water depth at the same height as your turtle’s body width. He needs to be able to swim, but he also needs to be able to rest on the bottom of the aquarium and stick his head into the air for breathing, which is the snapping turtle’s usual habit.


Substrate is the flooring of your aquarium. It is recommended that if this is your first snapping turtle, you don’t use any substrate to start. Whatever you decide to use, your snapping turtle will kick up and try to bury in it, because in nature, snapping turtles like to nuzzle down in pond mud. Don’t use gravel, because your turtle will eat it and become sick.


Your turtle will like to bask in the light of your reptile lamp. You can put out a log for him to climb on, or use a smooth rock that comes out of the water. Use a lamp with UVB lighting and make sure there is no glass between the light and the aquarium, because glass cuts out UVB light, which your turtle needs to stay healthy.


Get the strongest filtration system you can afford. Your snapping turtle will dirty up the water easily and will need the cleanest water he can get.

What to Stay Away From

Don’t put plastic plants and other objects that your snapping turtle can eat and get sick from in the aquarium. Remember, he will try to eat anything in his environment. Use only natural plants and objects for your turtle’s aquarium.